Who will be the MVP in the NFC East? Will it be a quarterback returning from injury or a running back returning from a season interrupted by suspension? Our NFL Nation reporters take a look.
Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter: Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott. He was the biggest difference-maker for the Cowboys in 2016, keeping the pressure off Dak Prescott. He played in 10 games in 2017 because of a suspension and finished 17 yards shy of 1,000 yards on the season. He has rushed for at least 80 yards in 23 of his 25 career games. Jerry Jones believes Elliott will be a different runner than he was a year ago because he will not have the off-field burden that surrounded him all last season. The Cowboys certainly hope so. He makes the offense go. He is the one player on that offense that can score every time he touches the ball. He can make the big plays. He can make the tough plays. He has a nose for the end zone.
John Keim, ESPN Washington Redskins reporter: Eagles QB Carson Wentz. And that’s with a lot of hesitation because he’s coming off the knee injury and it’s uncertain when he’ll even be ready to start. It sounds as if there’s a chance he’ll be ready for Week 1. As someone who chronicled Robert Griffin III’s return from a knee injury, I would advise against two things for athletic quarterbacks: fancy slogans and rushing back. Wentz used his athleticism to escape many bad situations last year. However, when injured he was a legitimate MVP candidate. If the Eagles repeat, he’ll be a big reason. Wentz threw 33 touchdown passes before getting hurt last December; his development as a passer will enable him to ease back into using his full quarterback repertoire.
Tim McManus, ESPN Philadelphia Eagles reporter: Eagles QB Carson Wentz. He was on his way to league MVP last season before tearing his ACL and LCL in December against the Rams. He did more than expected in practice this spring and showed off some decent mobility — encouraging signs as Wentz pushes to be back in the lineup Week 1. It takes some quarterbacks a full season until they return to full form following ACL surgery, and it’s possible that ends up being the case here. But Wentz is extremely motivated to reclaim his place as a top-tier QB and guide the Eagles back to the Super Bowl after missing out on the postseason festivities last season. He has one of the best offensive lines in the game and is working in a creative offense loaded with playmakers, which should help his cause and make for a relatively smooth re-entry.
Jordan Raanan, ESPN New York Giants reporter: Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott averaged the most rushing yards per game in the NFL last season (98.8) by a wide margin. What held him back was that self-induced six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. If Elliott can stay out of trouble and on the field and run behind that Cowboys offensive line for a full 16 games, he’ll make a run at 2,000 yards. He’s that good. Dallas’ offensive line is that good, especially if second-round pick Connor Williams slides in seamlessly at left guard. Elliott, with his 27 touches per game, will be in line not only for the division’s MVP, but for the NFL’s MVP. My backup choice would be Carson Wentz (who would have won the NFL MVP if he hadn’t hurt his knee last season). He’s the best player in the division, except that it may take time for him to return to his previous form. So Elliott is my selection.