Earlier this week we took a look at the Dallas Cowboys X-factor player on offense as well as the rest of the NFC East. This time we are going to look on the opposite side of the football and see which players these teams need to produce in order to have a successful year defensively. All four teams have made moves to get better on the defensive side of the football, some signed players to lucrative deals while others decided to go with the younger and less expensive rookies and lower-tier free agents.
Outside of the Washington Football Team, the rest of the NFC East is coming off horrible defensive seasons. The teams will be looking to the players below to make an impact or change their fortunes on defense. Here are the defensive X-factor players in the NFC East.
Dallas Cowboys - Randy Gregory
A solid pass rush can help to cover up even the worst defensive secondaries, conversely a strong secondary gives the pass rush the time it needs to hit the quarterback. In this case, we’re going with the pass rush and that’s where Gregory comes into play. As much as we enjoy seeing DeMarcus Lawrence get to the quarterback, he can’t do it alone. Lawrence needs someone opposite him to get pressure and sacks on quarterbacks. Last season Gregory showed that he still had the speed off the edge to affect the quarterback with 3.5 sacks and 12 quarterback hits in a limited amount of snaps. If Gregory can continue to pressure the quarterback opposite Lawrence, then the Cowboys would be able to help protect a secondary that is a huge question mark heading into the season.
New York Giants - Leonard Williams
The Giants already know what they are getting when Williams takes the field, but the big difference now is he won’t have the run-stuffing defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson next to him to give him more chance to make plays. Williams is going to be looked upon to lead this defensive line and make sure that their ability to stop the run continues to be a strength. Williams is a gifted defensive tackle that can get upfield and also anchor and hold up against the run. Now that he’s received his big payday is that effort that he’s shown trying to get the contract going to continue or will he take a step back in play because of the money and losing Tomlinson?
Philadelphia Eagles - Anthony Harris
The Eagles have been known to have a strong defensive front that has wreaked havoc but last season that defensive front just didn’t seem to get the job done. That exposed the secondary even with the addition of Darius Slay. The main reason looked to be their play at the safety position after letting Malcolm Jenkins go back to the New Orleans Saints. To fix those problems the Eagles have signed an effective free safety in Anthony Harris to help solidify the back end of their defense. Harris will need to hit the ground running while learning a new defensive scheme if he wants to be able to help turn around the secondary. The Eagles got a good player here with the potential to do big things.
Washington Football Team - Chase Young
The Washington Football Team goes as Young goes on defense and it’s not even close when comparing him with the rest of the defensive players. Last season Young took the NFL by storm and made so many left tackles look foolish at times when trying to stop him. This season will be a little bit different, there’s more tape on Young and he won’t be able to just win on his special gifts as much as he did last season. He will have to build on that and added more tricks to his game in order to beat tackles that have now faced him, and the inevitable double teams. Young is an extremely talented player and if he continues to get better no quarterback is safe.