The Philadelphia Eagles finished first in the NFC East at 13-3 and took two of the four postseason awards chosen by our NFC East reporters, Tim McManus (Eagles), Todd Archer (Dallas Cowboys), Jordan Raanan (New York Giants) and John Keim (Washington Redskins).
Coach of the Year -- Eagles' Doug Pederson: This was a slam dunk. The other coaches in the NFC East -- Jason Garrett, Ben McAdoo/Steve Spagnuolo and Jay Gruden -- went a combined 19-29. Pederson’s Eagles finished the regular season with a 13-3 record and the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.
The Eagles blew past expectations in Pederson’s second year. Most predictions had them hovering near the .500 mark, in part because of concerns about whether Pederson was in over his head. He proved a capable leader, navigating his group past key injuries to left tackle Jason Peters, running back Darren Sproles, linebacker Jordan Hicks, cornerback Ronald Darby and, ultimately, quarterback Carson Wentz.
Before tearing his ACL in Week 14 against the Los Angeles Rams, Wentz was having an MVP season, aided in part by the QB expertise of Pederson, as well as offensive coordinator Frank Reich and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo.
“You want to play for him,” Wentz said of Pederson. “He understands from our position -- obviously as a quarterback, but just as a player -- he's a former player, so he's been through it, so he knows when to kind of crank it up, when to tone it back. So he is definitely a player's coach.”
For his efforts, Pederson is the easy winner in the NFC East and is a legit candidate for NFL Coach of the Year. -- Tim McManus
Offensive MVP -- Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz: For most of the season, there was not a player in the league performing at a higher level than Wentz.
He took off in his second year as a pro, throwing for close to 3,300 yards with 33 touchdowns to seven interceptions (101.9 QB rating) in 13 games. Despite missing the last three-plus games of the regular season with a torn ACL, Wentz finished second in touchdown passes, one behind Seattle’s Russell Wilson (34).
Driven by Wentz’s big-play ability, the Eagles led the league in scoring for much of the year (they finished third with 28.6 points per game). The offensive drop-off when Wentz got injured -- the Eagles had a league-high 47 percent conversion rate on third down with Wentz compared to 23 percent under Nick Foles, for instance -- reinforced how vital Wentz was to the operation.
If he didn’t get hurt, he had a real shot at winning league MVP. While it won’t happen now, there’s no doubt he was tops in the division this year.
“There hasn't been a better player on the field when he stepped onto the field this year -- whenever we play someone, he is the best player the moment he steps on," tight end Zach Ertz said. "He gives us a chance to win every single game. That's what a franchise quarterback does, that's what an MVP does." -- Tim McManus
Defensive MVP -- Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence: The last time the Cowboys had a pass-rushing threat, his first name was DeMarcus. In 2017, DeMarcus Lawrence did a DeMarcus Ware imitation, picking up 14.5 sacks that earned him the NFC East's Defensive Player of the Year Award from the NFL Nation reporters.
Lawrence showed flashes of pass-rushing brilliance in 2015 when he led the Cowboys in sacks with eight, but injuries played a part in his not recording a sack in 2014 as a rookie and just one (as well as a suspension) in 2016. A second back surgery after the ’16 season cleared up the issues, and he opened 2017 with at least one sack in the first seven games of the season. His 14.5 sacks were tied for second-most in the league and the most by a Cowboy since Ware had 19.5 in 2011. The coaches credited Lawrence with 43 tackles to go along with 52 quarterback pressures, six tackles for loss, one pass deflection, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
“He’s a racing lizard out there,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said during the season. “He's all over the place. Just concentrate on what we can control. His deal since he's been here is, 'I am going to play hard.' He plays hard, that's why I just love the guy. There's nothing that slows this guy down. ... All the sacks are great. I love how he plays the game.”
Lawrence picked the right time to have his best season, with his rookie deal expiring. The Cowboys will either attempt to sign him to a long-term deal or place the franchise tag on him with the hopes he can replicate his 2017 success in 2018. -- Todd Archer
Rookie of the year -- Giants tight end Evan Engram: This was an easy call. The NFC East wasn’t filled with great rookies, and Engram was the Giants’ top weapon this season. For an extended stretch, he even served as Eli Manning's No. 1 receiver because of injuries to Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard.
No matter the role, he produced. Engram, a first-round pick, had 64 receptions for 722 yards and six touchdowns in 15 games. That ranked him near the top of all three major receiving categories among rookies. It was second only to Jeremy Shockey in catches and yards for a Giants rookie tight end.
Engram’s production was especially impressive given the struggles of rookie tight ends in recent years. The six first-round tight ends from the previous 10 drafts averaged 39 catches, 406 yards and two touchdowns in their rookie seasons. Engram blew those numbers away by midseason. The 4.4 speed he flashed during the pre-draft process showed on the field in NFL games.
“He’s fast," Manning said during the season. "He gets to his top speed quickly, and once he gets rolling, he’s rolling."
Opposing teams took notice. And they adjusted their defenses along the way. Engram admitted seeing defenses roll in his direction as the season progressed. It didn’t stop him from producing or being an easy choice as NFC East Rookie of the Year. -- Jordan Raanan