League's top two runners rush to the top of NFC East awards

Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 1,434 yards and six touchdowns in 15 games, and he also had a career-best 77 receptions. Roger Steinman/AP Photo

The Dallas Cowboys pulled away in the second half of the season to win their third NFC East title in five seasons, and their excellence was reflected in division awards handed out by ESPN reporters Todd Archer (Cowboys), John Keim (Redskins), Tim McManus (Eagles) and Jordan Raanan (Giants):

Rookie of the Year: Saquon Barkley, Giants

Forget rookies. Barkley led the entire NFL with 2,028 yards from scrimmage. He finished second in the NFL with 1,307 yards rushing and set a rookie record for a running back with 91 receptions. That is the same number of receptions Odell Beckham Jr. had when he was named Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2014. And he’s a wide receiver. Barkley actually exceeded expectations during an impressive rookie season after being the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft. It reached a point where the Giants centered their offense around the running back, not Beckham, as the season progressed. Teams were concentrating their attention on stopping Barkley first and foremost, and they were still having trouble most weeks. Barkley clearly won over his Giants teammates, who considered him their 2018 team MVP. "He's going to be great, probably one of the greatest ever,” tight end Evan Engram said. He blew away the field for this honor in the NFC East. -- Raanan

Offensive MVP: Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys

Elliott makes the Cowboys go. He made them go in 2016 when he led the league in rushing as a rookie. He made them go this season in leading the NFL in rushing for the second time in three seasons. With a passing game that struggled early in the season, Elliott still succeeded. With the arrival of wide receiver Amari Cooper, his game skyrocketed, with four 100-yard outings in a six-week span. Elliott led the league in scrimmage yards and is just one of four players in NFL history to eclipse 1,900 from scrimmage twice in his first three seasons, joining Eric Dickerson, Edgerrin James and LaDainian Tomlinson. Elliott led the Cowboys in receptions, too, setting a franchise record for most catches in a season by a running back. “They drafted me the No. 4 overall pick,” Elliott said. “I’d like to think that I’ve fulfilled all the expectations that they’ve expected of me.” -- Archer

Defensive MVP: DeMarcus Lawrence, Cowboys

A year ago, Lawrence had his breakout season with 14.5 sacks and his first Pro Bowl appearance. The Cowboys put a $17.1 million franchise tag on him because they wanted him to show he was not a one-hit wonder. He did not repeat the sacks total -- although he still led the Cowboys with 10.5 -- but his overall game was just as effective. He led Dallas in tackles for loss and quarterback pressures and even had an interception. “How he plays, that's the most important thing to me; from the run to the hustle, you never see him take a down off in the rush,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. “If you put a reel of all of his good rushes, he might lead the league in good rushes. ... His effort, he’s one of the best guys I’ve ever been around.” Now that Lawrence has put up consecutive successful seasons, the onus will be on the Cowboys to reward him with a long-term contract. He is the “war daddy” owner Jerry Jones had been searching for since DeMarcus Ware’s departure. -- Archer

Coach of the Year: Jason Garrett, Cowboys

Garrett entered the season on the hot seat and that seat got hotter when the Cowboys opened 2018 with a 3-5 record. But he steadied everybody and everything for a team that went on to clinch the division with one game to play. Two moves made big differences: the trade for Cooper and the promotion of Marc Colombo to offensive-line coach. Linemen were not buying into what Paul Alexander was teaching, and Garrett decided to make a big move at midseason. Garrett has led the Cowboys to three division titles in five seasons and has had just one losing season since being named the full-time head coach in 2011. Ultimately, however, he will be judged on postseason success. -- Archer