Much to the delight of Cowboys fans, the roster featured a lot of Cowboys players, but still represented a well-balanced view of the offensive talent in the NFC East. Natan followed up the article offensive talent with an article on the defensive talent in the East, and this time the Cowboys didn't fare quite as well.
Here's a summary of the choices for the 2017 All-NFC East Defensive Team:
First Team: Ryan Kerrigan (Redskins), Brandon Graham (Eagles)
Second Team: Jason Pierre-Paul (Giants), Oliver Vernon (Giants)
First Team: Fletcher Cox (Eagles), Damon Harrison (Giants)
Second Team: Timmy Jernigan (Eagles), Maliek Collins (Cowboys)
First Team: Jordan Hicks (Eagles), Nigel Bradham (Eagles), Sean Lee (Cowboys)
Second Team: Mychal Kendricks (Eagles), Devon Kennard (Giants), Mason Foster, (Redskins)
First Team: Janoris Jenkins (Giants), Josh Norman (Redskins)
Second Team: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Giants) and Eli Apple (Giants)
First Team: Malcolm Jenkins (Eagles), Landon Collins (Giants)
Second Team: Rodney McLeod (Eagles), Byron Jones (Cowboys)
Frankly, there isn't really much to get upset over in this ranking. The Giants had the No. 2 defense last year as measured by Football Outsiders' DVOA, and the Eagles were not far behind at No. 4. Natan has both teams dominating the all-NFC East defensive team with eight selections each.
The Cowboys are ranked 17th overall in DVOA, and the Redskins are at No. 25, and Natan gives both teams three players from the 22 NFC East defensive all-stars. For the Cowboys, those three players are Sean Lee, Byron Jones, and Maliek Collins.
And those three names highlight an interesting dynamic in this 22-man NFC roster: The Cowboys are the only team whose selections are all home-grown. Of the Giants players on this list, only three are original Giants draft picks. The Eagles have four of their draft picks on this list, the Redskins just one.
Of course, that doesn't change the fact that the Cowboys only have three players on this list in total, but it shows that the three other NFC East defenses are heavily fortified with free agents - not that I'd mind having some quality free agent additions on the Cowboys defense. But Nolan Carroll and Robert Blanton probably aren't going to make this list next year.
The other interesting point about this list is the inclusion of Maliek Collins. His inclusion shows that a) Ben Natan has been paying close attention to what's going on with the other NFC East teams, and b) Collins is not being ignored/underrated quite as much as many Cowboys fans like to believe.
The 2017 Cowboys defense will look markedly different from last year's version. The team has big hopes for 2016 redshirts Jaylon Smith and Charles Tapper, a reasonable expectation that Anthony Brown will improve even further in his sophomore season, and has got to be excited about the seven defensive draft picks from this year. So the Cowboys might have more players on the 2018 All-NFC East Defensive Team.
It's unlikely they'll be able to match the seven-player total they had on the All-NFC East offensive roster. But any improvement has got to be seen as a bonus for the Cowboys. Their defense 2016 didn't stop them from going 13-3 and securing the No. 1 seed in the NFC, though a better defense might have helped them beat the Packers in the divisional round.
And perhaps that's the biggest takeaway from this look at NFC East offenses and defenses. The Cowboys rode their offense all the way to the divisional round of the playoffs last year, and there's little reason to believe the offense will achieve anything less this year. Except this year, the defense may just turn out to be good enough to get them to the NFC Championship game - and perhaps beyond.