It’s time for the definitive and most prestigious NFL All Pro team selection. For defense, given the prevalence of the three-four and four-three defenses I pick four defensive linemen and four linebackers.
So without further adieu, here is this year’s NFL All Pro defensive team.
DE: Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings
DE: Trent Cole, Philadelphia Eagles
I have seen some people say that Jared Allen doesn’t deserve to be in the running for defensive player of the year. I disagree. He has been a machine all year long. Even though his sack totals have declined over the last half of the season, I frequently see him double and sometimes triple teamed. And what’s most impressive about Allen is his motor never stops. He doesn’t quit until the whistle blows, which often results in him whacking the quarterback or making after stop seemingly being out of the play.
The other defensive end spot was harder to choose. I’ve been very impressed with Will Smith of the New Orleans Saints, but I have to give the nod to Trent Cole of the Philadelphia Eagles. Cole has 12.5 sacks (fifth in the league) and plays the run as well as he does the pass.
Aaron Schobel of the Buffalo Bills and Dwight Freeney of the Indianapolis Colts were also in the running.
DT: Kevin Williams, Minnesota Vikings
DT: Haloti Ngata, Baltimore Ravens
Kevin Williams has had a great season on the interior of the Vikings defensive line. He is an immovable force who can stuff the run and take up blockers as Jared Allen heads for the quarterback. This year I would rank him at the top defensive tackle in the league. His running mate Pat Williams is also excellent.
Haloti Ngata of the Baltimore Ravens has had one of his best years at defensive tackle. He has been dinged up a bit lately and missed a few games. The Ravens clearly missed him when he was out. He not only takes up blockers so the linebackers can make plays, but he makes plays himself.
Chris Hovan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Casey Hampton of the Pittsburgh Steelers were also in the running.
Vince Wilfork of the New England Patriots has not had the kind of year I’m used to seeing out of him, but he has played well down the stretch, when not injured.
Where is the $100 million man Albert Haynesworthless? Not on this team.
LB: Elvis Dumervil, Denver Broncos
LB: Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49’ers
LB: London Fletcher, Washington Redskins
LB: Curtis Lofton, Atlanta Falcons
Choosing the starting linebackers was very difficult this year as there are many deserving candidates.
Elvis Dumervil of the Denver Broncos stands out the most. He leads the league with 17 sacks and is a candidate for defensive player of the year honors. The amazing thing about Elvis is that despite his smaller size, he gets around, and sometimes through, behemoth defensive tackles. He, Brian Dawkins, and Champ Bailey are the primary reasons the Broncos are playing better defense this year.
Patrick Willis of the San Francisco 49’ers leads the league in tackles and is the perfect middle linebacker for a four-three defense and a Hall of Fame linebacker coach, Mike Singletary. He is a solid playmaker and the anchor of the defense.
London Fletcher has had a very, very solid year and clearly deserves a trip to the Pro Bowl. Not only is he one of the leading tacklers in the league, but he provide leadership on a defense that at times seems rudderless. And he is always playing hard, even when his team is getting smacked in the face.
Too bad Curtis Lofton plays on a non-playoff team. He has been a solid, young leader on the Falcons squad and is one of the leading tacklers in the league.
Really, don’t you think Brian Cushing, the phenomenal Houston Texans rookie linebacker deserved to make the All Pro team? Me too, but he just barely got edged out by a nose. His former University of Southern California teammate Clay Matthews, Jr. also deserves a little love for his play at the linebacker spot.
Dhani Jones of the Cincinnati Bengals also deserves to be mentioned, as well as the ageless Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens.
DeMarcus Ware only recently started playing like he did last year, so he is out of here.
SS: Adrian Wilson, Arizona Cardinals
I almost had to flip a coin between the Adrian Wilson and the rejuvenated Brian Dawkins, who has helped revitalize a once moribund Denver Bronco’s defense. It was a very close call but I have the edge to Adrian because I think he is slightly more likely to make the dynamic plays.
Troy Polamalu, one of my favorite players, has missed too many games to be considered.
FS: Darren Sharper, New Orleans Saints
Darren Sharper has been phenomenal this year for the Saints with his big time hits (a little bit too much headhunting for my liking though) and nine interceptions, tied for the most in the NFL.
With Ed Reed hurt, this was a pretty easy choice.
CB: Darrelle Revis, New York Jets
CB: Charles Woodson, Green Bay Packers
Darrelle Revis shut down the New England Patriots’ Randy Moss once and played him quite well the second time. This after talking smack before the game. When you can back up big talk like that against one of the most talented receivers in the league, that’s pretty impressive. Revis has been a shut down corner that can also make the big plays when the ball is coming his way. Right now, he may be the best cornerback in the league.
Charles Woodson has had a resurgent year and has come on very strong this year. He’s picked off eight passes this year and has been a very important cog in the Green Bay Packers defense.
Others deserving mentions include Nnamdi Asomugha of the Oakland Raiders. He has been a mainstay at the top of the heap the past few years. This year teams are starting to throw at him more so he might not be as scary a cover corner as he was in the past, but he’s still one of the best.
Champ Bailey of the Denver Broncos continues to be one of the best at the position.
Finally, Antoine Winfield, who is one of my favorite players because he’s a small cornerback who likes to come up and smash running backs in the face, has missed several games and just came back from injury. He has struggled a little the past few games but when healthy ranks right up there with the best.
P: Shane Lechler, Oakland Raiders
Shayne Lechler might break the NFL Record for punting average in a season this year. Right now he leads the league with a 51.1. The record is held by Sammy Baugh of the Washington Redskins who had a 51.4 in 1940.
Special Teamer: Melvin Bullitt, Indianapolis Colts
Melvin Bullitt is the only special teamer that has stood out to me this year, mainly in the first half the season.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Before naming the defensive player of the year let me say that there are several candidates that are very deserving of the award. You cannot go wrong choosing any single one of them for the honor. This year there is no clearly dominant defensive player like a Bruce Smith, Reggie White, or Lawrence Taylor. It’s tough, tough call.
The candidates are:
Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings. The first half the year he was a sack machine. The second half he has been double and triple teamed quite often and has been controlled a bit more. He is still one of the most disruptive defensive forces in the league.
Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets. This young cornerback has elevated himself to the top of the heap at his position and has locked up against some of the best receivers in the league one-on-one. He has been a key to the Jets ability to blitz without getting burned.
Charles Woodson, CB, Green Bay Packers. This 12 year veteran is having a phenomenal year for the Green Bay Packers and is an extremely important cog in their defense, especially with Al Harris hurt. Without Woodson, the Packers would be in serious trouble on the defensive side of the ball.
Darren Sharper, FS, New Orleans Saints. Sharper is a 13 year veteran who is perennially one of the best playmakers in the league at free safety, although he is often overshadowed by the Ed Reed of the Baltimore Ravens. He is one of the key reasons the Saints defense is significantly better than last year.
Elvis Dumervil, LB, Denver Broncos. Leading the league with 17 sacks, Dumervil has really kicked his game up a notch compared to last year. He seems to play better as a edge rush in the three-four, which better suits his size and skills. Denver is another team that has significantly improved on defense this year, and along with Brian Dawkins and Champ Bailey, Dumervil is a big reason for the turnaround.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings. Jared Allen was my midseason defensive player of the year and I see no reason why he should lose his spot. I’ve seen him get double and triple teamed too many times this year to buy the argument that he somehow doesn’t stack up against other defensive ends in the league because of his stats. I know what I have seen most of the year, a defensive player who wreaks havoc on offenses.
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
As with defensive player of the year it’s hard to choose one person out of a small group of deserving candidates, but in this case I do believe one stands out. The candidates are:
Brian Orakpo, LB, Washington Redskins. Orakpo has had a fine rookie season but he really only started really impressing too late in the season to be in serious contention for this awarded.
Clay Matthews, Jr., LB, Green Bay Packers. Despite his smaller size, Matthews has proven to be a very tough player and playmaker for the Green Bay Packers. He has had a handful of truly phenomenal games and gets very serious consideration for this award.
Jarius Byrd, S, Buffalo Bills. He is one of three players with nine interceptions on the year. It’s hard to deny him.
Brian Cushing, LB, Houston Texans. Cushing is just too hard to ignore for this award. He has been consistently good the entire season. Every week he puts up numbers that are hard to argue with and leads all rookies with 128 tackles. Despite having Mario Williams and DeMarco Ryan on the same team, Cushing has established himself as the Texan’s best defensive player.
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Brian Cushing, LB, Houston Texans