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Jon’s 2013 NFL All Pro Team (Defense)

January 15, 2014

 

All Pro

DT

1st Team: Jurell Casey/Gerald McCoy-Most All-Pro teams had McCoy and Suh as their 1st teamers but I just didn’t see it as to me Jurell Casey put on a show and looked like the best DT in the league after Geno Atkins went on IR around mid season. Casey had more tackles (55) and sacks (10.5) than McCoy or Suh but was overlooked due to the Titans poor season and the fact that he was drafted in the 3rd round instead of the Top 5 like Suh and McCoy. It always amazes me how the media still holds on to draft labels years after and it obviously influenced them this year. Another thing to think about with Casey over Suh is that Suh had Nick Fairley and Ezekiel Ansah next to him on the defensive line, two outstanding young players in their own right, while Casey was working with a bunch of no names in Sammie Hill, Ropati Pitoitua, Karl Klug and Derrick Morgan. Morgan is an above average starter but the rest are just your run of the mill types which shows just how special Casey is since his elite production came with little help.

2nd Team: Jason Hatcher/Ndamakong Suh-Suh wasn’t nearly as productive as he’s been in the past but he’s without a doubt one of the 3-5 best DTs in the game and deserves praise. He didn’t have the elite year I’ve come to expect from him so I think his 1st team All Pro selection is rather silly but he’s still a top level defender and sneaks on my 2nd team due to Atkins injury. Hatcher doesn’t sneak on though as he just flat out bust through the front door with a league leading, for a DT, 11.0 sacks and was one of the lone bright spots on the Cowboys defense this season. Some will argue that no Cowboys defender deserves an All Pro selection after the atrocious season they had but football is a team game and Hatcher was by no means the reason for their woes. Anthony Spencer missed all 16 games, DeMarcus Ware missed 3 games and limped around noticeably in numerous others and Jay Ratliff never suited up for the Cowboys so Hatcher was often alone out there. The fact that by the end of the year he was the team’s best defender statistically and the clear leader on the field as well is a testament to his heart and work ethic as many a good man wouldn’t have been able to handle the stress he was put under. It’s too bad it’s also likely the last time we see him in a Cowboys uniform as his elite season should earn him a lucrative offer that the Cowboys won’t be able to match.

DE

1st Team: Robert Quinn/JJ Watt-In my opinion these are the two best defensive players in the NFL right now. The fact that they came out of the same draft, along with Von Miller and Aldon Smith too, is stunning and should eventually turn that draft into the greatest pass rush draft in NFL History. I don’t usually do this but I wanted to post my bio on Robert Quinn as a fun little look back on one prospect I absolutely got right. Some context is due as Robert Quinn was drafted 14th Overall by the St. Louis Rams and fell right around where most analysts had him at. Mel Kiper, Todd McShay and Mike Mayock all had him outside their Top 5 and most had them outside their Top 10 so it was a surprise to many when my rankings came out and Quinn was at #1. After a mediocre rookie season where he only had 5.0 sacks while Von Miller had 11.5 and Aldon Smith had 14.0 I questioned my judgment but Quinn steadily progressed and joined the others in the upper echelon of pass rushers. As the youngest of the three and coming off the best season of any of them I am confident that I chose the best pass rusher of the group and the one that will battle JJ Watt for years to come for DPOY. Here is my analysis of Robert Quinn written by me in April 2011, “Quinn to me is a future Pro Bowl pass rusher who has elite lean, hand fighting technique, balance, and motor as well as above average arm length, short area burst, long distance speed, and collegiate production. He reminds me a bit of John Abraham in how he rushes the passer and seems to me to be the best pass rusher in terms of polish and future upside. I truly believe that the team that gets Quinn will be extremely lucky as he is the best pass rusher to come out in years and clearly better than anything in the past two drafts (better than Orakpo, Maybin, Pierre-Paul, Morgan, etc.). Top 5 grade and in a very weak year at the upper echelon in the draft he is my #1 Overall player.”

2nd Team: Mario Williams/Greg Hardy-Two guys who kind of came out of nowhere this year as Williams had a down year (a bit overdramatized due to his huge contract) in 2012 and Hardy was still a young pup growing into his own last year. This season they were absolute beasts with 13 and 15 sacks, respectively, and at only 25 years of age Hardy might be thinking he can score a similar contract to the one Williams got from Buffalo. I have my doubts though as Hardy was surrounded by elite talent in his front seven and that help caused him to be my #4 DE and barely make the list. I actually almost went with Chandler Jones as he had far more tackles than Hardy and seemed to be more consistent week in and week out but Hardy finished strong with 8 sacks in his final 3 games which propelled Carolina to the #2 seed. Unfortunately it didn’t help them go on to victory last Sunday but the late season dominance was enough to convince me he was worth the 2nd team All Pro selection.

LB

1st Team: Navarro Bowman/Robert Mathis/Luke Kuechly-It’s always weird comparing ILBs with pass rush specialist OLBs like Mathis as they’re like apples and oranges but for this All Pro team they will all fall in as linebackers. Mathis was elite this season with 19.5 sacks and 8 forced fumbles (both led the NFL). I have a sneaking suspicion that he will win the DPOY award this season but I don’t think he deserves it. I went solely by the eyeball test in judging this but was pleasantly surprised to read that Profootballfocus agreed with me and didn’t even have Mathis as a finalist. The reason is simply because Robert Quinn and JJ Watt had such elite seasons and, while NFL writers hate to vote major awards to players on losing teams, I have no such qualms of giving an award to a deserving player. Mathis had a great season and forever removed any doubt that he was simply feeding off Dwight Freeney’s scraps but he only had 61 QB pressures in 2013 which was dwarfed by Robert Quinn’s 91. Mathis is an All-Pro but not a DPOY candidate in my opinion. In fact I’d say he wouldn’t even be my top candidate out of these three linebacker candidates as Bowman impressed me far more with his all around game. In 2013 he dominated as a tackler (145 tackles), rusher (5 sacks) and big play artist (4 FF and 2 INTs including his game sealing 89 yard TD against the Falcons to clinch a playoff spot). Kuechly was the least deserving of the three linebackers yet he had another great season and his late season surge, which included a 24 tackle performance against the Saints that Troy Aikman called the greatest linebacking performance he’d ever seen, got him in as the 3rd linebacker.

2nd Team: Kiko Alonso/Vontaze Burfict/Karlos Dansby-Alonso actually was in the lead ahead of Kuechly for most of the year yet fell back in the end as he stopped making as many big plays. He still ended the season with 4 INTs, 2 sacks, 1 FF and 2 fumble recoveries so he was around the action but most of those stats came in the first half. Nonetheless he’s my pick for defensive rookie of the year, ahead of Ezekial Ansah and Sheldon Richardson who both had great inaugural seasons, and should be a good one for years to come. Burfict led the league in tackles with 171 so he obviously deserves to be on this list but misses the 1st team as he’s a non-factor in coverage and the NFL is becoming more of a passing league by the day. Dansby on the other hand was an absolute terror on passing downs as he led all linebackers with 19 passes defensed (better than all but 5 defensive backs as well!) to go along with 4 INTs (2 of which he returned for TDs), 1 FF, 1 fumble recovery, 6.5 sacks and 122 tackles. If his tackle total had been a little higher (20th is hardly dominant for a linebacker-that’s their #1 job) he probably would have edged out Kuechly for the 3rd spot on the 1st team. All in all the linebacker group was stacked and cases can be made for Lavonte David, Daryl Smith and DeAndre Levy as well.

CB

1st Team: Richard Sherman/Joe Haden-Sherman was a lock as he led the NFL in interceptions with 8 and was often times dominant with his rare combination of size, instincts and ball skills. He was inconsistent this year but he shined brightest when they needed him so he was a 1st teamer all year in my mind. The other spot though was up for grabs all season and eventually I gave it to Haden as the kid dominated in some tough matchups. He shut down AJ Green (9 receptions for 59 yards TOTAL in 2 games!), Steve Johnson (2-19), Mike Wallace (1-15), Dwayne Bowe (1-7) and even Calvin Johnson (3-25). He was dominant throughout and is the most unheralded cornerback in football right now.

2nd Team: Aquib Talib/Patrick Peterson-Peterson is going to someday be great but right now he’s still too inconsistent to even be a real candidate for the 1st Team. He rounded out the 2nd team but was always my #4 CB. Talib on the other hand was neck and neck with Haden as he also dominated his one on one matchups and did it on a bigger stage. The reason he ended on the 2nd Team is because he looked bad on and off the field against Steve Smith in their matchup. He was burned repeatedly by Smith and then looked like a punk by trying to start a fight during the game. It was a performance that I couldn’t quite forget and it kept Haden ahead of him.

S

1st Team: Earl Thomas/Eric Weddle-Earl Thomas is far and away the best safety in football, period. Then the hunt was on for #2 and it was a tough one as Weddle was dominant against the run (115 tackles-2nd among safeties) but didn’t show up too much in the passing game. In years past he was more of a big play threat but teams didn’t seem to throw his way this year. Nonetheless he makes the 1st team as few other safeties made big plays, only 7 safeties this year had 4 or more INTs and a number of them like Antrel Rolle, Jim Leonhard, Quintin Demps, Aaron Williams and Ed Reed got them because they struggled in coverage so they were thrown at a lot-aka were picked on. Jairus Byrd didn’t make the list this year but, even in a season where he missed 5 games and was a bit performer in a number of others, he still got his share of interceptions (4 on the year-22 for his 5 year career). If I were a GM he’d be the #1 guy on my list this offseason if I was trying to upgrade a secondary as the guy is an absolute ballhawk. At only 27 years old he has another 4-6 more good seasons in him on the back end and someone should pay handsomely for his services.

2nd Team: Troy Polamalu/Kam Chancellor-I have been at the front of the “Polamalu is washed up” chorus line so let’s not confuse my selection of him to my 2nd team as simply “going with a common name.” Troy struggled the past few years and, while he isn’t back to his old self completely, he showed far more flashes this year than he has since at least 2010. He was 5th in the NFL with 5 forced fumbles, had 2 sacks and 2 INTs as well but the best statistic was that he played in all 16 games for only the 2nd time in the past 5 years. Chancellor didn’t really play like an All-Pro this year but with William Moore, Eric Berry, Jairus Byrd and Dashon Goldson all having down years somebody had to get it. Chancellor is essentially a linebacker out there and gives his team all of the benefits (huge hits, big tackle totals) and the negatives (mediocre coverage, forces his team to play him near the line of scrimmage most plays) of one. They re-signed him recently, a smart move by him, as he would be a different player if he wasn’t lining up next to Earl Thomas.

Awards:

MVP: Peyton Manning

OPOY: Peyton Manning

DPOY: Robert Quinn

Rookie OPOY: Keenan Allen

Rookie DPOY: Kiko Alonso

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