Totally Biased: Numbers Don’t Lie [NFC East]

In the third of eight articles, our resident NFL writer, Travis Rand, takes a look at the true stars of the NFC East!

After the success of my first piece in the Numbers Don’t Lie series, I am here to deliver the second installment, featuring the very defense heavy AFC North. With players like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Reggie Nelson, Haloti Ngata, Troy Polamalu, and Lamar Woodley currently occupying roster spots in this division, you might be expecting a clean sweep of the offense. Not too fast. I’ve dug up some gems that deserve a little bit of credit on the other side of the ball.

Be sure to let me know what you guys think with some comments below. And as always, thanks for the support!

Just in case you missed them: #1. Numbers Don’t Lie [AFC East] … Published October 13th (Through Wk. 5) #2. Numbers Don’t Lie [AFC North] … Published October 16th (Through Wk. 5)

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Dallas Cowboys: Sean Lee, LB

Sometimes, albeit rarely, you just like to take pleasure in being right. I have been a huge Lee fan since his days at Penn State, and he has really developed a nose for the ball. An absolutely excellent linebacker, Lee is often overshadowed by the freakishly good DeMarcus Ware. Ware easily takes the crown when it comes to rushing the passer, but Lee is one of the best run stopping LB’s in the NFC.

“The things I have seen of him is that he just runs around, and you see one energizer bunny that’s on that defense outside of DeMarcus Ware, it’s definitely Sean Lee, man. He’s just one of those high-motor guys that’s always around the football. Any time you have a high motor, you’re always going to look for somebody who’s always around the ball. He’s one of those guys that’s always around the ball. I really, really appreciate how he plays the game.” – Ray Lewis on Sean Lee

Perhaps just as impressive as being a running back stuffing stalwart, Lee is also 3rd in the NFC for inside linebackers when he drops back into pass coverage, holding quarterbacks to a measly 71.8 quarterback rating. Lee is quickly becoming a feared defender in the NFL, and it’s just a matter of time before football fans are truly able to see him for what he is. Just as valuable to the Cowboys as DeMarcus Ware.

Pro Football Focus Says: Lee’s overall rating is +11.1, the exact same as Patrick Willis’, who is often thought to be the best interior linebacker in today’s NFL.

Philadelphia Eagles: Demeco Ryans, LB

The Eagles have been known in recent years to make a big splash during the offseason, but this past August, Demeco Ryans failed to attract the same attention in the press when he was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. Looking to shed some contract obligations, the Houston Texans let Ryans go for a box of cookies. Well, actually, a 4th round pick, so I guess that would be a box of Oreo’s, not that generic junk.

Ryans has been sensational this year, especially against the run, sporting a nice +6.9 rating, good for 7th for ILB’s. This is a huge improvement over Ryans’ rating last season [+2.3], which didn’t even crack the top 20. Ryans didn’t exactly fit well into Wade Phillips’ defensive scheme in Houston, but he’s helping improve a young Philly defense.

Pro Football Focus Says: Ryans’ ability to rush the QB is improving as well, coming in at a +1, up from his -2.5 last season.

New York Giants: Prince Amukamara, CB

Before each and every NFL Draft, NFL fans around the world each fall in love with multiple prospects, and there are more than a handful that you wouldn’t mind being drafted by the local GM. As is the case with I’m sure about 99% of other fans, it almost never works out in your favor. You like player A, but the GM drafts player B. Next year, you decide you’re OK if they pull the trigger on player B, but ownership gets together, and it turns out, they like player A. Once in a while though, your prayers are answered. 

On April 28th, 2011, the Giants GM, Jerry Reese, answered my prayers, when Big Blue selected Amukamara with the 19th overall pick. Amukamara was coming off a slightly disappointing season at Nebraska, but prior to his senior year, he was the highest rated senior by ESPN draft scouts with a 7.3 grade. Off to a rocky start in his rookie season, missing time with injuries, and not finding the starting lineup often, Prince was pushed into a starting role this season when he made his return from a foot injury. 

Since making his season debut, Amukamara has done phenomenal. With 16 balls thrown his way, versus only 7 catches, his catch percentage is at 43%, good for 7th in NFL. It doesn’t stop there however. Perhaps the most impressive of his stats, Amukamara is in coverage 20.1 times per reception allowed. That means that every time he allows a reception, you can expect Prince to go about 20 more throwing plays before allowing another reception. If Amukamara continues his dominance, the Giants will be on step closer to another title run.

Pro Football Focus Says Wikipedia Says: Prince Amukamara is next in line to become the Chief of one of Nigeria’s biggest tribes, of which his father currently presides. He has five sisters, named Passion, Promise, Peace, Precious, and Princess. You can’t make this stuff up.

Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB

The Washington Redskins gave up a motherlode of draft picks for the rights to Griffin, and amazingly, he’s making the deal look like a good one. Griffin’s overall rating of +17.3 is not only good enough for 5th overall, its a whopping 16.9 points higher than fellow rookie Andrew Luck. Griffin also tops the rush category for QB’s, slightly ahead of Aaron Rodgers.

What surprised me most about Griffin however, was his ridiculously high completion percentage. After you take away his 11 dropped passes, 3 passes thrown away intentionally, and his 6 passes that were thrown as he was hit, Griffin has the highest percentage in the NFL, at a robust 82.7%. Of course, that’s a lot of conditions, but still, a win is a win.

Griffin has a tough second half with the Skins, with big division games, and contests with the Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals. It’s going to be tough to snag a wild card in a loaded NFC, so the Skins will have to play big against division rivals. They can get a nice start with a win in New York this Sunday.

Pro Football Focus Says: Just another leaderboard for Griffin to commandeer…

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