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Ranking the NFC East: Interior defensive lines

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It’s early July, and there’s not much to do except to make lists and rank players... so let’s get to it!

Training camp starts in about three weeks, and we’re about 5 weeks from the preseason opener against the Patriots.

Basically, we have nothing to do but wait.

So, I thought we could do what we did last year at this time: let’s rank the NFC East, one or two position groups at a time. Last year, I didn’t ask readers to rank defensive lines; however, I thought we’d take a stab at ranking interior defensive lines for 2018.

Interior DL play can be really difficult to quantify. These guys get more stats than, say, offensive lineman, but they are often the most invisible players on the field — especially in 2-gap systems, or where they often are simply asked to “eat space” by demanding double-teams to free up other players, especially linebackers, who rack up the tackling stats.

The fact that the base defensive schemes in the division are diverse also makes comparisons a bit of an ‘apples to oranges’ exercise, but — hey! — it’s the deadest part of the off-season. What else you gonna do?

The Redskins, of course, invested their first round draft pick in the DL for the second year in a row, and — again, for the second year in a row — spent it on an Alabama defensive lineman. In 2017 it was Jonathan Allen; in 2018, it was Daron Payne. The ‘Skins double-dipped in the latest draft by taking Tim Settle, from Virginia Tech, in the 5th round. With Matt Ioaniddis returning healthy and Stacey McGee back for his second season as a Redskin, there is an expectation for the first time in several years that the Redskins interior DL will be able to both control the running game of opponents and get a disruptive interior push on the passer. I’m sure Redskins fans everywhere will have their fingers crossed that the team can turn last year’s weakness into a strength.

The “big” name for the Giants, of course, is Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison, but Dave Gettleman looked to the draft to reinforce the defense that Jerry Reese had tried to buy in free agency a couple of seasons ago. In the 3rd round this year, the Giants took BJ Hill, and in the 5th round they selected RJ McIntosh, investing two of their 6 draft picks in the interior of the defense after spending big to sign Nate Solder and drafting Will Hernandez for the offense. I get the feeling that Dave Gettleman is trying to make a statement about what kind of football will be played by the Giants with him in charge.

The Eagles interior DL — with one big exception — is largely unchanged from last season, and given that the defensive front 7 played outstandingly all season, and that Philly won the super bowl, they certainly deserve a lot of respect. Fletcher Cox is one of the best veteran D-linemen in the game, and Haloti Ngata — who will be remembered forever as the man who ended RG3’s career — was signed away from Detroit in free agency this year, adding another big name to the fearsome front 7 of the NFL champion Eagles.

The Cowboys have some concerns with their starters; Maliek Collins broke his foot in May (though he is expected to be back for the regular season), and David Irving is suspended for the first four games. Unsurprisingly, some of the Cowboys faithful have wondered out loud whether Jerry Jones should pursue Jonathan Hankins (who, at the time of writing, remains a free agent). See if this excerpt from Blogging the Boys sounds familiar to any Redskins fans:

“Rod Marinelli, and the Cowboys’ front office, has completely ignored the nose tackle position for years in Dallas. Instead of going after big names or spending high-draft picks on nose tackles, the Cowboys have instead settled for guys released at the roster cutdown, undrafted free agents, or castoffs from other teams.”

Dallas didn’t really do anything at all in the draft or free agency to improve the interior defensive line from 2017 aside from trading to get Jihad Ward, a 23-year-old who had underperformed his draft position for two years with the Raiders and was suddenly available when Jon Gruden was hired as the new coach and personnel guy.

Redskins

  • Jonathan Allen
  • Daron Payne
  • Stacey McGee
  • Matt Ioaniddis
  • Anthony Lanier
  • Tim Settle, Ziggy Hood, Phil Taylor

Giants

(I’m guessing a little bit about their depth chart — help me out Giants fans)

  • Damon Harrison
  • Dalvin Tomlinson
  • BJ Hill
  • Kareem Martin
  • RJ McIntosh
  • Kerry Wynn
  • Robert Thomas, Josh Mauro, Jordan Williams, AJ Francis, Josh Banks, Jaron Jones

Eagles

  • Fletcher Cox
  • Haloti Ngata
  • Timmy Jernigan
  • Elijah Qualls
  • Destiny Vaeao
  • Craig Winston, Aziz Shittu, Bruce Hector

Cowboys

  • Maliek Collins
  • David Irving (4 game suspension)
  • Jihad Ward
  • Brian Price, Richard Ash, Antuwaun Woods, Daniel Ross, Lewis Neal

Poll

Which team with a base 3-4 defense has the best interior DL?

This poll is closed

  • 84%
    Redskins
    (1209 votes)
  • 15%
    Giants
    (221 votes)
1430 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which NFC East team has the best overall interior DL group for 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    Redskins
    (532 votes)
  • 5%
    Giants
    (82 votes)
  • 60%
    Eagles
    (969 votes)
  • 1%
    Cowboys
    (32 votes)
1615 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which NFC East team has the WEAKEST overall interior DL group for 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Redskins
    (53 votes)
  • 15%
    Giants
    (236 votes)
  • 0%
    Eagles
    (12 votes)
  • 80%
    Cowboys
    (1209 votes)
1510 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who is the best interior defensive lineman on this list?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Jonathan Allen
    (229 votes)
  • 2%
    Daron Payne
    (46 votes)
  • 1%
    Matt Ioannidis
    (18 votes)
  • 8%
    Damon Harrison
    (134 votes)
  • 0%
    Dalvin Tomlinson
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    BJ Hill
    (0 votes)
  • 68%
    Fletcher Cox
    (1086 votes)
  • 1%
    Haloti Ngata
    (26 votes)
  • 0%
    Timmy Jernigan
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    Maliek Collins
    (5 votes)
  • 1%
    David Irving
    (25 votes)
1577 votes total Vote Now