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June 30th, 2017

Four NFL Players Poised to Have a Breakout 2017 Season: NFC East Edition

Dustin Schandevel @D_Schandy24
Paul Perkins NFC East

Who is ready to breakout in 2017 from the NFC East? (Brad Mills / USA TODAY Sports)

We’re covering division five of eight today! We’re getting there. If you haven’t liked my picks, I could go full Jimmy Butler and post my phone number but my mom doesn’t like me talking to strangers. Okay, let’s get to the good stuff.

NFC EAST

DALLAS COWBOYS

Maliek Collins NFC East

Maliek Collins is my breakout candidate for the Dallas Cowboys. (Ken Blaze / USA TODAY Sports)

Player — DT Maliek Collins, 2nd season, age 22

For the most part, a breakout candidate is one who is overlooked due to other star players on the roster or mediocre past play. For Collins, it was very easy to be overlooked during his rookie season.

We all know what Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott did in their first NFL seasons, but what Collins achieved might surprise you.

Collins broke his foot at the start of offseason activities last year and missed most of everything before the season. No one really expected much out of him and he outdid expectations.

Collins played in 61.9% of the team’s regular season defensive snaps last year, highest among defensive lineman on the roster. He finished the year with five sacks and 17 tackles, both good enough for second most among D-Line.

In an interview during Cowboys mini-camp, Collins said he wants to follow the footsteps of former NFL greats at his position.

“The standards are basically written. Me being a three-technique, the standards are in the history books of what three-techniques have done in this system. I like to say that’s the standard. The people like John Randle, guys like Warren Sapp or (Keith) Millard, who started the system. (Anthony) McFarland, those types of players.”

With a healthy offseason under his belt, expect big things from Collins in his second season. Hopefully, we’ll see more of this.

NEW YORK GIANTS

Paul Perkins NFC East

Paul Perkins is my breakout candidate for the New York Giants. (Jamie Sabau / Getty Images)

Player — RB Paul Perkins, 2nd season, age 22

You have to feel good about Perkins heading into next season. Coming off a rookie season sharing touches with Rashad Jennings, Perkins is the clear starter for ’17.

Michael Fabiano of NFL.com slotted Perkins at #12 on his list of breakout players for next season. Check out his reasoning.

“The tape watchers out there will tell you that Perkins didn’t perform well as a rookie, but the G-Men showed a lot of confidence in him by not adding a major impact running back in the offseason. He should easily lead this backfield in touches.”

Giants running backs coach Craig Johnson has been impressed with Perkins this offseason.

“I really like what Paul Perkins has been doing so far. He ended last season playing like a guy that is ready to take over the job. There is nothing so far in the offseason to show he’s not going to be able to handle that role.”

With only a small sample size, it’s unknown just how good Perkins will be next year. But the explosiveness is there, and we can expect more highlights like these in the coming year.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Jalen Mills NFC East

Jalen Mills is my breakout candidate for the Philadelphia Eagles. (Tim Hawk / NJ.com)

Player — CB Jalen Mills, 2nd season, age 23

Before I say anything about Mills desperately needing to have a breakout year in ’17, check out this dude’s hair. It’s incredible.

#BirdGang?

A post shared by Jalen Mills (@greengoblin) on

His twitter handle is @greengoblin. I wish I were making this stuff up. Anyways…..

In his rookie year, Mills didn’t exactly make anyone proud. He finished last in Pro Football Focus’s cornerback rating with a 34.5 overall. He also allowed a catch for every 7.1 coverage snaps, finishing 112 out of 117 qualifiers. Not exactly what you want to see but we’ll give him a rookie pass, right?

This offseason though, he’s been trending up. Mills is entering ’17 as a starter (99% certain) and he needs to put last year behind him to help gain respect back for the Eagles secondary.

Why do I believe in him? Because his teammates do. Read what teammate Malcolm Jenkins said about Mills back in April.

“I’m more impressed by his mentality and approach to the game. I think that’s, at the corner position, probably 90% of what it is. And he also has the athletic gifts, but his competitiveness and willingness to work and get better day in and day out is something that has been impressive since he got here. It hasn’t changed. I think as we push a little bit more load onto him, I think he’s built to handle it.”

The Eagles saw two starters go at the corner position and Jenkins thinks it’s the perfect opportunity for Mills to step up.

 You lose two starters, I know we’ve got a lot of faith in Jalen Mills. I’m excited to watch him really mature into a starting cornerback because I think he’s going to have a breakout season.

More importantly, Mills has been showing flashes of greatness during the offseason. Matt Lombardo of NJ.com wrote Mills “looks like a #1 cornerback” when recapping a day of Eagles mini-camp in mid-June. He went on say that Mills was arguably the best player on the field.

I’m giving Mills a rookie pass and expecting bigger things from him in ’17. If he fails me, I’ll still respect his hair.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Samaje Perine NFC East

Samaje Perine is my breakout candidate for the Washington Redskins. (Nick Wass / Associated Press)

Player — Samaje Perine, 1st season, age 21

Ah yes, another rookie breakout candidate. These are the most fun because I can either look really smart or really foolish, but you’ll probably forget I picked him anyways.

Perine was a flat-out stud as an Oklahoma Sooner as he became the school’s all-time leading rusher after three seasons with 4,122 yards. He also finished with 49 touchdowns, 21 of those coming in his freshman year. His play was impressive.

Why do I think he can breakout in his first season? He’s going to see a lot of playing time in ’17. Redskins current starting RB Rob Kelley had a decent rookie year but fell off toward the end of the season. If Perine can start off strong, he can slowly pry away the starting gig from Kelley.

During rookie mini-camp, Perine’s play caught the eye of Head Coach Jay Gruden.

“You see him out there running around – were you impressed? Yeah, so was I. I like guys who come in here and love football and he does. He’s a very smart guy. You can tell that he’s going to be a very hard worker and, of course, he runs hard.”

Keep your eye on Perine this year, I have a feeling he’s going to do big things.

Next stop: AFC East.

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