Doug Baker’s 2008 NFL All Pro Team: Defense

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

In this article I am presenting the starting defense, punter, kick returner, and the defensive player of the year.

The players are listed in order of selection. For example, Justin Tuck and John Abraham are first team all pro, while Jared Allen and Julius Peppers are second team.

Given that most teams run a 3-4 or 4-3 defense, I am picking four defensive linemen and four linebackers, so I have a 12 man team on defense. For linebackers I don’t pick inside and outside linebackers, I just pick the best linebackers in the league regardless where they play in their respective defensive schemes.

2008 ALL PRO TEAM DEFENSE

DE: Justin Tuck, New York Giants
DE: John Abraham, Atlanta Falcons
DE: Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings
DE: Julius Peppers, Carolina Panthers

I think Justin Tuck is the best defensive lineman in the league. He is definitely the toughest to block one-on-one. He can also play effectively at either end or tackle.

John Abraham has had a great year in Atlanta and lead the league in sacks for much of the season.

You have to love the motor Jared Allen has on defense. He is relentless whether he is rushing the passer or playing the run. Like Justin Tuck, Allen is a defensive lineman that can sometimes take the game over on defense.

The last spot came down to Julius Peppers and Mario Williams of the Houston Texans. I lean just slightly toward Peppers because he has come on late in the season to carry the Panthers defense along with linebacker Jon Beason.

Even though Mario Williams didn’t make the team, he is proving that the first pick in the draft Houston used on him wasn’t such a bad move after all.

DT: Albert Haynesworth, Tennessee Titans
DT: Kris Jenkins, New York Jets
DT: Shaun Rogers, Cleveland Browns
DT: Jamal Williams, San Diego Chargers

Albert Haynesworth and Kris Jenkins are both defensive player of the year candidates and dominate the line of scrimmage from the tackle position. They are clearly the two best tackles in the league.

Kris Jenkins, in some ways, has had a more impressive year than Albert Haynesworth because he doesn’t have the same level of talent around him.

Shaun Rogers usually dominates the line of scrimmage in the first half of games. I have seen him completely manhandle centers in games and, despite his huge size, he may be the fastest defensive tackle off the ball in the NFL. His weakness is he gets tired and fades in the second half.

Jamal Williams has been one of the most consistent defense tackles in the league on a less than stellar defense. He should have made the Pro Bowl.

Haloti Ngata of the Baltimore Ravens deserves an honorable mention for a spot on this definitive All Pro team.

LB: James Harrison, Pittsburgh Steelers
LB: DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys
LB: Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens
LB: Joey Porter, Miami Dolphins

LB: Antonio Pierce, New York Giants
LB: LaMarr Woodley, Pittsburgh Steelers
LB: Lance Briggs, Chicago Bears
LB: Jon Beason, Carolina Panthers

James Harrison is the most dominate linebacker in the league this year. He is a one man wrecking crew and makes the entire defense better.

DeMarcus Ware has really come on late in the season to lead the league with 20 sacks. The past several weeks he has torn up opposing offensive lineman and catapulted himself into the discussion of defensive player of the year.

Ray Lewis has found the fountain of youth this year and is back to being the dominant middle linebacker we are used to seeing roam the field for the Ravens. He is the seminal middle linebacker of his generation, just like Mike Singletary was of his.

Joey Porter is a jerk and I blanch at having to put him on this list, but alas I must. He has had a great year in the reformulated Dolphins defense and is back to trash talking and backing it up by smacking around the opposing offensive players.

I am surprised Antonio Pierce did not make the Pro Bowl. While he benefits from having a great defensive line in front of him, he plays the run and the pass equally well and is vital to the success of the Giants defense, especially given their weak secondary.

LaMarr Woodley has been the Robin to James Harrison’s Batman in Pittsburgh. Woodley anchors the opposite side of the line and takes advantage of the attention the offense has to give to stopping Harrison and Troy Polamalu.

Lance Briggs, in many respects, has taken over the mantle of best defensive player on the Bears’ team. His outside pass rushing skills are superlative and he plays well against the run too.

Jon Beason is one of the best young linebackers in the league and I expect him to become a dominant one in the near future. He’s smart and tends to be in the right place at the right time on most plays.

Patrick Willis of San Francisco and DeMarco Ryans of Houston got jobbed out of spots on my team but deserve mentions for their outstanding play this year.

SS: Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers
SS: Adrian Wilson, Arizona Cardinals

Troy Polamalu is head and shoulders above any other strong safety in the league. He has an unbelievable nose for the ball and has made some of the most spectacular interceptions I’ve ever seen. He’s the complete package, playing the run and pass equally well. And he’s one of the smartest defensive players in the league. He has impeccable timing on blitzes and seems to always be in on every play.

Adrian Wilson has been a consistently good strong safety for the past several years. He also has a good nose for the football and is a tough tackler.

FS: Ed Reed, Baltimore Ravens
FS: Nick Collins, Green Bay Packers

What can you say about Ed Reed that hasn’t already been said? The guy is a ball hawk and is the best free safety I’ve seen since Ronnie Lott and Charles Woodson. He is a phenomenal, dynamic player.

Nick Collins has had a great year for the Packers playing both the pass and run. Given the weakness of the defensive line, the secondary was put in tough spots all year long and for most part came through.

CB: Antoine Winfield, Minnesota Vikings
CB: Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland Raiders
CB: Charles Woodson, Green Bay Packers
CB: Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee Titans

Antoine Winfield is an underrated cornerback even though he made the Pro Bowl. He is the best cornerback in the league playing the run and making tackles, and as the season wore on was not thrown against too often. I’ve seen him take over a few games, particularly the wild shootout the Vikings had against the Saints this year. He is one of my defensive player of the year candidates.

Nnamdi Asomugha is probably the best cover corner in the league. It’s too bad he plays on the terrible team.

Charles Woodson is one of the anchors of a Packers secondary that showed a penchant for producing turnovers and keeping Green Bay in games that otherwise might have gotten out of hand. He is getting a little older for the cornerback position but is still one of the best in the league when healthy.

Cortland Finnegan is a fiery young corner that is brave against the run and somewhat of a ball hawk when he sees it coming his way. He could develop into a perennial pro bowler at this position.

P: Mike Scifres, San Diego Chargers

In the games I have seen, Scifres punts have made the most difference in his team’s chances of winning. The unusual spin he has on the ball makes the return game a bit hard for opposing teams and he has a great punting average.

KR: Leon Washington, New York Jets

I have seen Leon Washington singlehandedly turn games around with his kickoff and punt returns. He’s been a real difference maker this year as a kick returner and third down back.


DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:  James Harrison, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Harrison is the best linebacker in the league and makes the whole corps of good linebackers in Pittsburgh even better. He’s been a beast this year and has blown up some excellent offenses.

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