As the 2011 regular season draws to a close, we once again turn to ESPN NFC-East blogger Dan Graziano for a look at which Redskins are the best at their position in the division.
While I have lobbied for certain players throughout the season, I do defer to Graziano for a more global perspective on the division. I don’t have to agree, but it’s not my list.
After reaching a high-water mark of eight Redskins on the bye week edition of this list, the Redskins have sunken to as low as five in some weeks, and six in most others. However, through sustained effort and great individual performance, the Redskins have again risen to eight honorees on the final list of the season.
This was the most by any team in the NFC East, as the Cowboys had seven, the Giants had six, and the Eagles had six of the 27 honors.
These is the complete list of Redskins on the ESPN All-NFC East team:
Fullback: Darrel Young, Redskins. Dallas’ Tony Fiammetta got the press, but Young was a consistent mauler all season.
Center: Will Montgomery, Redskins. Kept playing well as the rest of the line crumbled around him.
Outside linebacker: DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys; Brian Orakpo, Redskins. Ware among the sack leaders again. Orakpo and rookie Ryan Kerrigan should be a force in Washington for years to come.
Inside linebacker: London Fletcher, Redskins; Sean Lee, Cowboys. An old war horse who’s still the best at what he does, and a youngster who’s burst onto the scene.
Safety: Kenny Phillips, Giants; O.J. Atogwe, Redskins. Injuries limited Atogwe, but he played well enough when in there to earn the spot over the Cowboys’ disappointing guys. Phillips has emerged as one of the best in the game.
Punter: Sav Rocca, Redskins. Real tough call here between him and the Giants’ Steve Weatherford. Rocca had just one touchback all year. That’s precision.
Kick returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins. Not one guy in this division ran a kick back for a touchdown all year.
Punt returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins. Not one guy in this division ran a punt back for a touchdown all year.
Darrel Young came into training camp as the dark horse for the starting fullback position behind incumbent Mike Sellers. Young took the position and ran with it, proving to be an upgrade at the position and a playmaker in an offense in need. When healthy, Young is the best that this division has to offer, and he closed out the season on a strong note.
Will Montgomery supplanted Giants’ center David Baas early in the season and produced admirably against bigger, taller, stronger nose tackles throughout the season. He was one of two Redskins linemen that started every game this season between center and guard, and he didn’t botch a single snap all season. This was a great effort from Montgomery, who has flourished in the Shanahan offensive system.
London Fletcher and Brian Orakpo were the leaders of a productive linebacker corps this year, and both took big steps forward in their second years in the system. Fletcher led the league in tackles by a wide margin, and Orakpo registered at least eight sacks for the third year in a row, something that hasn’t been done since Dexter Manley. A superb effort from both of these men, as both were worthy of Pro Bowl recognition.
Oshiomogho Atogwe was brought to Washington early last offseason as a free agent, and was intended to be paired with LaRon Landry at safety. Together, the pair suffered through multiple injuries this season, but Atogwe still found a way to produce. With three interceptions, it could technically be considered a down year for the ball-hawking safety, but with multiple years left on his contract, Redskins fans can hope that he’s just scratching the surface in Washington.
Sav Rocca went kick for kick with fellow punter Steve Weatherford this year, and edged out the Giant at the very end. Along with putting up franchise numbers in average, he also had one touchback in 66 attempts, a feat that was only matched by one other punter in the NFL. He also downed nearly half of his punts inside the 20 (28), tying his career-high and good for eighth in the NFL.
Brandon Banks considers a successful return to be one that ends in the opposing end zone, something that he was unable to accomplish this season. No returner in the NFC East was able to accomplish that, due in part to the change in kickoff rules, and partially due to penalties on his longest returns. Despite that, Banks led the NFL in return yards with 1,502 and was more than deserving of the top spot in the East.