In the final 20 days before the start of the regular season, we are counting down the top 20 players in the NFC East. For a full explanation, see this post.
No. 11 -- London Fletcher, Redskins LB
The oldest player on this list, Fletcher is well known as the heart, soul, leader and conscience of the Washington Redskins' defense. The Redskins put rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III's locker next to Fletcher's because they wanted the future of their franchise to learn as much as possible about how to carry himself on and off the field. Fletcher is a vocal leader and a leader by example. If he's getting on a teammate's case to get in shape, the teammate is hearing it from someone who keeps himself in the best shape of anyone on the team. If he's getting on a teammate's case for not hustling, the teammate is hearing it from someone who flies to the ball at full speed on every play.
But Fletcher isn't just here for his intangibles. Fletcher remains, at 37, one of the most productive defensive players in the league. He was credited last year with a league-leading 166 tackles. He has not finished outside of the top seven in that category since 2003. He has not missed a single game in his professional career, which began in 1998 with the St. Louis Rams. Fletcher got a two-year contract from the Redskins this offseason because of what he means to the team on and off the field, and as the Redskins have spent the past couple of years overhauling the roster and transitioning to youth and a more promising future, he's only proven himself more valuable.
There is likely to come a time when Fletcher is no longer the player we've come to expect him to be. But 2011 showed no signs that that time is imminent, and there's little reason to expect anything less than continued excellence and dependability from the Redskins' leader in 2012.
Rankings so far:
12. Michael Vick, QB, Eagles
13. Tyron Smith, T, Cowboys
14. Brian Orakpo, LB, Redskins
15. Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys
16. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys
17. DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles
18. Osi Umenyiora, DE, Giants
19. Evan Mathis, G, Eagles
20. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants