Doug Baker’s 2008 NFL All Pro Team: Offense

The season is almost over and I am going to present my NFL All-Pro Team.

In this article I am presenting the starting offense, kicker, and the offensive player of the year. As always there can be many, many arguments why one player may be more deserving than another for the All Pro team. Generally I take into account the entire season and not just the most recent set of performances. For example, Peyton Manning very well could be the best quarterback today, but he struggled early in the season and didn’t even make the team this year.

On the offensive side of the ball we’ve had many great performances this year. Drew Brees has a chance to break Dan Marino’s record for most passing yards in a season. Kurt Warner has rejuvenated the perennially moribund Arizona Cardinals. Adrian Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings young, tough running back leads the league in rushing and has single handedly willed the Vikings to victory. His performance in against Green Bay was a great example.

We’ve got new young offensive lineman in the league like Ryan Clady and Joe Thomas who may make this list for years to come. And we have some old crusty veterans like Kevin Mawae who keep plugging along.

There were some really tough calls this year. Peyton Manning not on the list? Dallas Clark getting beaten out by Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez? Wes Welker an All Pro? What about Brandon Marshall? Roddy White? Reggie Wayne? Come on, give me a break!

And why is Tom Brady on the cover? Because he was last year’s offensive player of the year, the NFL MVP, and unfortunately the biggest loss to Patriots fans like myself, and the league for those who are real football fans.

So here are my picks for this year’s NFL All Pro team on offense.

2008 ALL PRO TEAM: OFFENSE

QB: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

QB: Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals

This is the toughest year to pick the best quarterback in the league that I can remember. For the past several seasons it was simply, do you choose Peyton Manning or Tom Brady? I am very, very torn on this pick for several reasons. First, winning games is a key criterion for the quarterback position. Brees’ Saints are not going to make the playoffs. How often does a non-playoff quarterback make an All Pro team? Second, I think Peyton Manning’s knee injury slowed him down at the start of the season but he may be playing the best football right now, but you have to take into consideration the entire season. Meanwhile, Kurt Warner at times is a turnover machine and he has the best weapons at wide receiver of any QB in the league.

I am going with Drew Brees at the quarterback spot because I have to ask myself who has played the best football at this position over the course of the year (and don’t start telling me Philip Rivers has a better QB rating, I don’t care). That would be Brees because the Saints have lost some tough offensive shootouts this year, which is why their record is poor. Also, Brees has had an inconsistent running game behind him and injuries at wide receiver so he has had to get used to new players at the position. Finally, the defense has not always played up to snuff, putting even more pressure on Brees and the offense. He has thrown 16 interceptions but even so, without Brees the Saints would be cellar dwellers.

RB: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

RB: Clinton Portis, Washington

Adrian Peterson is cited as the most violent runner in football, and he is. He has taken the Vikings on his back at times and willed the team to a win. He has great vision, great power, and great will to win. I have been utterly impressed with him all year.

Portis deserves the second spot because he has been the Redskins offense and the offensive line has not played that well this season. Even though I think he is a jerk he is a great back and has at times carried the team. He’s been banged up late in the season but still keeps on ticking. Brandon Jacobs has missed too many games at this point to keep his place on the team.

FB: Le’Ron McClain, Baltimore    Ravens

FB: Mike Sellers, Washington Redskins

McClain has actually played a lot of tailback this year and has done an excellent job running the ball, blocking at the fullback position, and catching passes out of the backfield. Fullback is a weird position and a dying one in the NFL.

Mike Sellers does everything for the Redskins and is always solid when he’s in the game. He’s one of the more reliable players on the team.

Lawrence Vickers of the Cleveland Browns, to me, is the best pure fullback in the league but he’s been injured too much this season to get a spot on the team.

WR: Andre Johnson, Houston Texas

WR: Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

WR: Anquan Boldin, Arizona Cardinals

WR: Wes Welker, New England

This was an easy pick. Andre Johnson has had a phenomenal year and leads the league in receiving yards, despite having two quarterbacks in Matt Schaub, who has been injured, and Sage Rosenfels, who is, well, Sage Rosenfels.

Larry Fitzgerald is just phenomenal. Every time I see the Cardinals play Fitzgerald is fabulous. He was one of the few highly touted rookie wide receivers coming out of the draft the past several years that has turned out to be every bit as good as advertised.

Anquan Boldin, Fitzgerald’s counterpart is equally good. What a big, tough man this is. He had his jaw broken on a vicious hit against the Jets that required screws to put it back in place and came back to be the same tough, dependable receiver he was before. Big hats off to Anquan.

And finally, I know in terms of being a big play receiver, Wes Welker doesn’t belong here. Who are you going to take when starting a team, Randy Moss or Wes Welker? But in a pass oriented league, the slot position has become very important. He has to make tough catches over the middle for New England to be successful. And nobody can question his toughness after the nasty hits he has taken this season.

Brandon Marshall of Denver will be a great receiver but he had a really rough spot in the season and is a bit of a head case. Reggie Wayne of Indianapolis is great but Welker may end up leading the league or coming in a close second in number of receptions.

And Roddy White of Atlanta has had a great year and really got completely robbed of this prestigious honor by getting nudged aside by Welker.

I know there will be screams and moans on choosing Welker over these great players. Go ahead and moan. For his position in the slot, he may not be the fastest, but he is the toughest and most dependable and is just as valuable to his team as any receiver in the league.

TE: Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

TE: Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City Chiefs

Easy pick with Witten here. He is pretty much the go to guy for Dallas in the passing game, and he is a great blocker as well.

Gonzalez has really come on like gang busters the second half of the season and leads the league in catches by tight ends, despite playing on a woeful team (although the offense isn’t as terrible as the defense).

Dallas Clark of Indianapolis misses out by just a hair on this list. And if Chris Cooley of Washington would block worth a damn he might get a look as well.

C: Nick Mangold, New York Jets

C: Kevin Mawae, Tennessee Titans

The center position is really a flip of the coin between these two great linemen. I think the reason I am going with Mangold is he did a better job of handling Albert Haynesworth than Mawae did of handing Kris Jenkins in the Jets win over the Titans earlier this year.

G: Chris Snee, New York Giants

G: Steve Hutchinson, Minnesota Vikings

G: Alan Faneca, New York Jets

G: Derrick Dockery, Buffalo Bills

Offensive line is always tough to pick. I watch about four to five games a week and I pay more attention to line play on both sides of the ball than anything else, but there aren’t any statistics to go by. It all comes down to does the player do his job on the line of scrimmage or get beat, which can sometimes be a subtle distinction depending on the play call.

I have seen a lot of the Giants and Vikings this year and to me Chris Snee is the best offensive lineman in the league. He can pass block, run block, pull, and makes blocks down the field. He’s the complete package at guard.

Steve Hutchinson is not quite as athletic as Snee but he is a great run blocker. I think he is a bit weaker at pulling and downfield blocks.

Faneca has also come on late in the season and really has played well opening up holes for Thomas Jones and protecting Farve. He and Mangold are part of the reasons the Jets are anywhere in the playoff hunt this year.

Dockery plays on a bad team but every time I see him he stands out to me. In the Bills last game against the Jets he slid over and pretty much kept Kris Jenkins, one of the best defensive tackles in the league, in check.

Note that Leonard Davis lost his spot on my team because of his spotty (ha ha) performances.

T: Ryan Clady, Denver Broncos

T: Jammal Brown, New Orleans Saints

T: Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns

T: Michael Roos, Tennessee Titans

That Ryan Clady and Jammal Brown didn’t make the Pro Bowl is a joke. And that Chris Samuels of the Redskins did is an even bigger joke. Samuels has had a lousy season.

That said, Clady may be the best rookie tackle I have ever seen. He’s going to be a super star, big money tackle for years to come barring injury.

I know Jammal Brown has been hurt the past few games, but he has been a big reason why Drew Brees has had a good season. He’s a great pass blocking tackle.

Joe Thomas and Michael Roos have also had great seasons. Thomas is in only his second season and he, like Clady, is a very impressive young tackle.

K: Stephen Gostkowski, New England Patriots

K: John Carney, New York Giants

No kicker really stands out this year as particularly outstanding or had those seminal games where he would be a shoe in for the All Pro team. These two outdoor kickers sometimes play in tough conditions and come through more times than not.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Peterson leads the league in rushing and without Peterson the Vikings are not in the playoff hunt. He has willed his team to victory in several games. Despite it multiple fumbles against the Atlanta Falcons, he is the real offensive star of the league this year.

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