Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

05 Jan 2006

2005 Every Play Counts All-Pro Team

by Michael David Smith

Most of the members of my All-Pro team didn't make the Pro Bowl. I'll leave for you to judge whether that represents an oversight on my part or on the part of the Pro Bowl voters, but I will say that from my observations, the Pro Bowl voters tend to select older players, better known players, and players on winning teams. I certainly have plenty of experienced, famous and playoff-bound players on my squad, but I'd rather recognize a young, up-and-coming player than one whose reputation precedes him.

Quarterback -- Peyton Manning, Indianapolis

As great a passer as Manning is, what really separates him from other quarterbacks is his ability to avoid the pass rush. The San Diego game was the first time the pass rush made much of a difference because Manning gets rid of the ball so quickly. He didn't have the gaudy numbers he had a year ago, but Manning is still football's best quarterback.

Running back -- Larry Johnson, Kansas City

Tiki Barber of the Giants is great, and he's a more complete back than Johnson, but Johnson is the league's best pure runner by such a wide margin that there's really no other choice. Prorate his starts to a 16-game season and he breaks Eric Dickerson's record for yards in a season. And he did it running behind an offensive line that was without its best player, Willie Roaf, for half the season. Dick Vermeil didn't recognize early in the season how far superior Johnson was to Priest Holmes, but when Holmes' injury left him no choice but to make Johnson the focal point of the offense, Johnson quickly became the best back in the league. If you saw the Chiefs' touchdown drive in the first quarter against the Chargers, you saw a back with amazing speed and power. (You also saw some great blocking by tight end Jason Dunn on San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman. Has any team ever had a better blocking-receiving combo at tight end than Dunn and Tony Gonzalez?)

Wide receiver -- Steve Smith, Carolina and Santana Moss, Washington

Smith is an easy pick. A lot of big-play receivers are freelancers who don't run good routes, but Smith does it all. No team relied on one receiver more than Carolina, which meant no receiver faced tighter coverage than Smith. Moss got off to a great start, then slowed down a little bit in the middle of the year when teams started using more press coverage and safety help to keep him from getting deep. But his addition did a great deal to open up the Joe Gibbs offense. In Gibbs' first stint in Washington he used Gary Clark as a speedy receiver who was always a threat to pick up additional yards after the catch, and Moss is filling that role now. He was this year's best off-season acquisition.

Tight end -- Antonio Gates, San Diego

Some tight ends have speed but aren't strong enough to take on a strongside linebacker at the line of scrimmage. Others are tough enough to go over the middle for a few yards but don't stretch the field. Gates does it all. This guy is 25 years old, didn't even play college football, and is by far the best tight end in the league. Is there any doubt that he'll be in Canton in 20 years?

Fullback -- Lorenzo Neal, San Diego

A couple of decades ago, fullbacks carried the ball regularly. In this era of fullbacks used almost exclusively as lead blockers, though, there hasn't been one better than Neal. The amazing thing about Neal as a blocker is that when the Saints drafted him in 1993 out of Fresno State, they thought he'd be a running back, not a fullback. And he was, gaining 175 yards in his first two games as a rookie only to be lost for the season with an injury in the second game. In his second season the Saints told Neal he'd have to learn to be a blocker, and the rest is history.

Right tackle -- Willie Anderson, Cincinnati

I seriously considered Kareem McKenzie of the Giants or Alex Barron of the Rams. Barron will be a great one, but he had too many mental mistakes this season. McKenzie's arrival had such a huge impact on the offense that he was impossible to ignore -- McKenzie has great feet, which he shows against speed rushers, and great power, which he shows when he blocks down on defensive tackles. But when McKenzie suffered a late-season hamstring injury, Anderson moved ahead of him. He's probably the best run-blocking tackle of the last decade, but as this is the first time Cincinnati has made the playoffs in 15 years, not many people have noticed.

Guard -- Mike Goff, San Diego and Steve Hutchinson, Seattle

Hutchinson is one of those linemen that every high school coach ought to show his players. Perfect technique, doesn't take plays off, gets out of his stance in a hurry, etc. Goff and Kris Dielman quietly developed into the best pair of guards in the league this year. The best thing about Goff is the way he clears space in short-yardage situations. If the Chargers need a yard, they know they can get it running right behind Goff.

Center -- Tom Nalen, Denver

A tough choice between Nalen and LeCharles Bentley of New Orleans. Nalen got the nod because Bentley is supposed to be the more powerful of the two, but he struggled against the Lions' big Shaun Rogers in Week 16. Nalen has been the one constant on the Denver offensive line going back to the Terrell Davis years, when the Denver line has made a long succession of running backs into stars.

Left tackle -- Kevin Shaffer, Atlanta

I initially planned to install Walter Jones in this spot. And if Roaf had been healthy all year I probably would have picked Roaf. But as I watched Shaffer late in the season, I was consistently amazed by how well he moved. Left tackles just aren't supposed to be so quick out of their stances that they can handle speed rushers or reach the second level to hit linebackers the instant the ball is snapped. He did have the occasional lapse, and Simeon Rice outplayed him both times they met. But those two games don't nullify the whole season, and Shaffer had several outstanding games. Some have accused the Falcons' linemen and their coach, Alex Gibbs, of dirty play, but I didn't see any of that from Shaffer. I just saw consistently excellent technique.

Defensive end -- Kyle Vanden Bosch, Tennessee and Jared Allen, Kansas City

No one combines rushing the passer and stopping the run as well as Allen. Against Washington, in the first meeting of Dick Vermeil and Joe Gibbs since 1982, Allen (who was born that year) had three sacks and recovered two fumbles. Against Denver, Allen snuffed out the Broncos' screens, stopping Tatum Bell for a gain of a yard and Kyle Johnson for a loss of three on screen passes. Against the Jets, Curtis Martin ran towards Allen twice and had a gain of two and a loss of three to show for it.

Vanden Bosch doesn't stop the run as well as Allen does, but he's a terror in the pass rush. After entering the season with four sacks in his four-year, injury-plagued career, he turned into the best pure pass rusher in football.

Defensive tackle -- Ian Scott, Chicago and Pat Williams, Minnesota

Neither Scott nor Williams made the Pro Bowl. I like the quickness of Atlanta's Rod Coleman, and I like his discipline against screen passes, but in general I think tackles who rush the quarterback get too much credit, while tackles who stop the run get too little. So that left Scott and Williams as the two best choices. Williams' presence made a big difference on Minnesota's run defense, which improved from terrible to mediocre, and his absence made a big difference on Buffalo's run defense, which declined from great to terrible.

Scott was the unsung member of the Chicago line. His best game came at Detroit, when he didn't have a single tackle but routinely got such a quick first step that the Lions were forced to use both center Dominic Raiola and guard Kyle Kosier on him. That left Brian Urlacher unblocked for a game-high nine tackles. Those are the little things that rarely get noticed but turn a defense into the best in the league.

Inside linebacker -- Mike Peterson, Jacksonville

I often think middle linebackers get too much credit when they have a good pair of tackles in front of them. Peterson is the opposite – most of what we hear about the Jacksonville defense centers around tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson, but I'll take Peterson for his ability to stop the run, take on fullbacks and drop into pass coverage.

Outside linebacker -- Keith Bulluck, Tennessee and Joey Porter, Pittsburgh

Picking Bulluck gives me two Titans on defense, which is odd, considering that Tennessee has one of the worst defenses in the league. But both players are deserving. The All-Pro team is a collection of individuals, and just because their teammates haven't played well doesn't mean Bulluck and Vanden Bosch should be ignored. Bulluck does everything. He plays the run and the pass and is incredibly quick, often making tackles even when plays go away from him. He led the league in a stat we call Defeats, which combines turnovers, plays stopped for a loss, and conversions prevented on third or fourth down.

Want a linebacker who can rush the passer? Porter is your man. Want a linebacker who can drop into coverage? Porter is your man. Want a linebacker who can contain the running back when he tries to break one outside? Porter is your man.

Cornerback -- Al Harris, Green Bay and Ronde Barber, Tampa Bay

For the first 10 weeks or so, Harris had a heroic season. When all around him failed, he consistently shut down the top receivers on opposing teams. Toward the end of the year he started to look like all the losing was weighing on him, and he wasn't quite his dominant self. But he was still plenty good, and I don't want to ignore the best first half of the season that any defensive player had this year. Barber, like his identical twin brother, has shown no sign of slowing down after his 30th birthday. As good as he is in pass coverage, the most impressive thing about him is his run support. Most cornerbacks are back on their heels on running plays, but Barber explodes toward the opposing running back like a linebacker.

Free safety -- Chris Harris, Chicago

I considered Darren Sharper of Minnesota, but a lot of his interceptions just seemed to be bad passes that happened to float in his direction. Then when I watched the Christmas night Vikings-Ravens game, Sharper missed some tackles and generally didn't look impressive, and when he intercepted a pass it happened because he left receiver Mark Clayton open and got lucky when Kyle Boller overthrew him. That left me with Harris. I thought it might be a little early to put Harris on an All-Pro team, but he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, and in a year when no free safeties stood out, I liked rewarding the one new starter on the vastly improved Bears defense.

Strong safety -- Gibril Wilson, Giants

Kenoy Kennedy of Detroit looked like a lock for this spot at the season's halfway mark, but he, like just about everyone on the Lions, gave a dreadful performance on Thanksgiving and then just phoned it in the rest of the year. That left an opening for Wilson, one of the best young defensive players in the league. He can tackle, he can cover, and he can even blitz – after Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora, Wilson is third on the team in sacks. Wilson was a fifth-round pick in 2004 and Harris was a sixth-round pick in 2005. The second day of the draft has some gems.

Punter -- Donnie Jones, Miami

Seattle drafted Jones in 2004 and released him after the season. For Miami he instantly became the best punter in football. His hang time always gives his coverage units plenty of time to get downfield and make the tackle.

Kicker -- Neil Rackers, Arizona

Great distance on kickoffs, great accuracy on field goals, easy selection.

(Ed. note: When I read this, I had to go check the numbers. You'll notice that our special teams numbers have Arizona far ahead of everyone else in field goals. But they're also far behind everyone else in net kickoffs. How can Mike say that Rackers is the best kicker in the league? Because Arizona's kickoff coverage is astonishingly bad. Based on kick distance only, Rackers ranks third. He led the league in touchbacks. But Arizona allowed three kick return touchdowns and allowed 28.3 yards per kick return, highest in the league. Yikes.)

Kickoff Returner -- Terrence McGee, Buffalo

Some players just have a great natural feel for kickoff returns, and McGee is one of them. His straight-line speed isn't as good as some of the league's other top returners, like Jerome Mathis of Houston. But for finding holes in the coverage and accelerating through the holes, there's no one better.

Punt returner -- B.J. Sams, Baltimore

One of the few bright spots for Baltimore was the way the tiny Sams (who's listed at 185 pounds but looks smaller) bounced around the field returning punts. Few players can get to full speed as quickly as Sams does.

Special teams coverage -- David Tyree, Giants

It's no accident that the Giants' special teams were outstanding all year with Tyree on the field, but fell apart against Minnesota when Tyree was out with an injury. This is a position the Pro Bowl voters get wrong often, but they were right this year.

Coach of the year -- Lovie Smith, Chicago

When Rex Grossman went down in preseason, the talk around Chicago was that the season had already ended. Instead Smith guided his great defense to the top of the NFC North. He has done a marvelous job coaching Chicago.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 05 Jan 2006

105 comments, Last at 06 Aug 2006, 3:44am by That Dude

Comments

1
by little red tractor (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 10:11am

Hard to argue, particularly with the corners. Barber just seems the consumate pro. Possible future Hall of Famer?

2
by Setzer (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 10:41am

Good to see some love for David Tyree. After suffering through the Fassel-era Giants, who seemed to treat special teams as an afterthought, it's amazing to watch Tyree down so many punts inside the 5. Also, his tackles are textbook. Finally, I believe he blocked a punt this year as well.

3
by DNL (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 10:57am

Seriously, thanks for the Tyree mention. I was shocked -- in a good way -- that the unsung hero of the NYFG was, well, sung by the Pro Bowl selectors.

4
by Yakuza Rich (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 11:03am

Terence Newman and Roy Williams got jobbed. Newman didn't allow a pass longer than 23 yards all year and allowed 0 TD's. I believe he had 1 pass interference call. Teams simply refused to throw his way.

Aaron Glenn and Parcells both put the blame on Glenn for Santana Moss' TD's in week 2. But, Roy got the blame for it by people who don't understand coverage schemes. He made big plays all year long, was fantastic against the run, and pretty good in coverage as well.

Personally, I'd take Walter Jones and Matt Lepsis any day over Kevin Shaffer who wasn't even in my top 5 at the LT spot. How Casey Wiegmann wasn't a consideration at center is laughable.

Biggest joke? Chris Harris. A pretty good looking rookie who stinks in pass coverage. Greg Wesley got hosed.

And have you seen Jared Allen against the run? Peeee You

5
by James, London (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 11:51am

Another fine column. EPC has been consistently excellent all year.

I don't see anything like as much football as I'd like to, but a how close were Mack Strong at FB, and Levi Jones at LT?

Every time I saw Seattle this year Strong 'got his man' when leading Alexander, and the season Alexander had must reflect credit on Strong.

Levi Jones played as well as any LT I saw this year, and against the Colts he was dominant.

I'm suggesting that Neal and Shaffer are undeserving (and you've seen far more football than I have), rather I'm interested as to why they made the cut and Neal and Jones didn't.

Oh, BTW, how was the UK? Did you see the Rose Bowl?

6
by Mike W (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 12:20pm

BRETT FAVRE!!!

Just kidding.

7
by someone (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 12:26pm

Re.4

Rubbish. Williams was at least partially responsible for both those plays. Its got nothing to do with "not understanding coverage schemes".

8
by Yakuza Rich (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 12:57pm

Dallas was in a Cover 4 in those plays. Williams' responsibility was to play man to man with Chris Cooley in those situations. It ain't rubbish when the coach says otherwise. And before you start to use the "he's protecting his stars", we are talking about Parcells who is also blaming Glenn for the problems. Glenn is also a "Parcells guy."

Every time I hear an announcer use the excuse that the safety is supposed to always play deeper than the deepest, they really don't understand the concepts of coverage schemes in the NFL very well.

9
by JonL (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 1:04pm

RE: #8

That wasn't the only time Roy Williams got burned in coverage, though. It seems to happen at least once or twice a game.

10
by JonL (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 1:06pm

Also, and not to belabor a point, but Dallas ranked 31st this year in TE coverage. That has to speak to something.

11
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 1:10pm

I was surprised to see Jared Allen in there. He certainly has a reputation reflected in post 4. I expected to see Umenyora in at DE... although I don't know how good he is against the run, the Giants have a good run defense.

I don't see how people can write that "Santana Moss slowed down in the middle of the season" (not the first place I saw it). He was second in receiving yards, right? Did anyone really expect him to put up 1700 yards? I'll concede he did slow down, but at the end he picked it up again.

Is it hard to evaluate secondary players without extra tape? Maybe you have access to extra footage, but on TV its easy to see how the lines are playing, but harder to get a read on what's going on in the secondary.

12
by Yakuza Rich (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 1:16pm

They rank #31 against TE's because they put their free safeties Keith Davis and Willie Pile on TE's. And if you have ever seen Pile and Davis in coverage, you'd understand why they want to keep them away from WR's as much as possible.

As far as Roy being burned, outside of the first Giants game at the very end (where he actually blew an assignment, didn't really get "burned") and against Tony Gonzalez, teams had minimal success passing against him.

13
by Led (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 1:17pm

Re: Manning avoiding the rush -- not to instigate another Peytom Branning debate, but Brady is also excellent at getting the ball out quickly, particularly this year. It's an underappreciated skill for QB's and often OL's get flack because of indecisiveness by the QB or his inability to step up in the pocket and deliver the ball under pressure. It might be the a skill that separates the Mannings and Bradys from the Bledsoes and Testaverdes. Well that and the ability to differentiate jersey colors on a consistent basis.

14
by Yakuza Rich (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 1:20pm

#11.

Umenyiora is probably worse against the run than Allen, IMHO. You want to know why Umenyiora was power rushing Willie Roaf instead of looking to use his speed?

Because the NYG coaching staff knew they had a serious problem stopping the run with his speed moves and with the injuries to the LB's at the end of the year, teams could run at Umenyiora with ease. So, Osi power rushed Roaf, Samuels, and Sims for the most part to help against the run and was suddenly ineffective.

Personally, Strahan was my All-Pro DE. The guy constantly harrasses the QB and is terrific against the run.

15
by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 1:22pm

Okay, lets try this.

<Player> clearly <was/was not> an All-Pro because <reason unrelated to DVOA, actual plays made or not made or any other objective measurement>. <subjective All-Pro ranking> is way better than this. <unrelated Player-supporting or -denigrating comment, preferably with poor spelling and/or chat-acceptable spelling>

16
by Rocco (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 1:32pm

How can you disrespect the Patriots by not putting any of them on your all-Pro team? Rodney Harrison will be visiting you shortly.

Unless, of course, this is a plot by the Pats fans running the site to fire up the team by providing them more reasons to play the disrespect card. :)

17
by Sam O (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 1:33pm

Yakuza-

You obviously know a lot about football, and maybe your opinions are right, but calling MDS's selections "laughable" and a "joke" just make you sound like an arrogant prick.

18
by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 1:34pm

Terrell Owens clearly was an All-Pro this year because he only had low stats from having to spend all his time and money feeding his family after the Eagles kicked him out for wanting to be paid the entire Eagles Salary Cap. If those cowards would have let Him play all year with Brett Farv, he'd be having way better numbers than Smith and Moss. Vic Carucci"s All-Vic team is way better than this. Steve Smith suks cause he broke his leg last year and missed the hole season. U just kant relie on Him. How can U have him on ur team? Plus hez two small too B seen by the refs, so that was the only reason he had to grab one of them and get dejected from the game. The refs alwayz C Owens cuz hes always in the endzone Cuz!. I bet you wood put Owens on your list if you wernt such a Delhomme and McNabb butt-boy. This websight suks.

19
by DJAnyReason (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 1:35pm

Boutros Boutros-Gali clearly was an All-Pro because he's got a cool name. The UN All-Stars All-Pro team is way better than this. Peytun Mannenng is teh suxor!!!!1!oneone

20
by Paytonrules (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 1:42pm

Why Peterson over Urlacher? Urlacher is everybody else's all-pro so I'm curious as to the reasoning.

Mind you I'm not saying you're wrong - but that is a big deviation from most other writers and is worth a mention.

Love shown for Ian Scott finally! He makes as many if not more plays than Tommie Harris - but lacks the marquee name.

21
by Yakuza Rich (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 1:47pm

17.

In MDS's own column about Harris earlier this year he pretty much admitted that Harris was bad in coverage. Unless Harris is playing at an LT level when it comes to rushing the passer and stopping the run, I would think pass coverage is pretty important for a free safety.

Footballoutsiders.com likes to pride itself as not looking at silly stats like total yards to determine the best defense. It likes to look past the hype, but in the Harris selection I just can't help but think there's some major fanboy-ism going on there.

It would almost be like him voting for Lamont Jordan as the Running Back because he was the best receiving back in the league this year. Sure, a receiving back can be effective as a run stopping free safety. But, they are not good at what their duties call for them to do (in Jordan's case, he was at least saddled with Kerry Freaking Collins and that sad Oakland O-Line).

I didn't just blindly call the Harris selection "a joke." I at least showed why it was a joke. Give me some credit :)

22
by Yakuza Rich (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 1:49pm

20.

Look at Peterson's stats, they are right up there with Urlacher's. Personally, I think there should be a voting for 2 ILB's since so many teams run the 3-4 scheme these days.

23
by James, London (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 2:05pm

Ok, I've just re-read my last post (#5), and there is a rather large typo:

"I’m suggesting that Neal and Shaffer are undeserving (and you’ve seen far more football than I have), rather I’m interested as to why they made the cut and Neal and Jones didn’t."

should start "I'm NOT suggesting..."

I hope that was obvious anyway, but in the light of the war that looks like it's going to start any time now, I thought I'd make it explicit...

24
by Daniel (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 2:07pm

Brooks Bollinger clearly belongs on the All-Pro team cuz he plays over his head every game and always gives his all to win, even when he doesn't win. Manning is just a stat padding lozer who chokes when he plays the Pats. Brady takes it up the ass and everyone knows that Bill Belly-chick plaz every position and thatz why the Pats win. Palmer's only good because his helmet's orange so it's easier to see on a green field, while Bollinger is freaking wearing camaflouge in his green unis every game, and it's harder for his receivers to see him. Jake Plummer plays in denver and used to throw interceptions and he suks. McNabb is an uncle tom cuz he doesn't run enough so he suks. Lefty qb's all suck (like righty firstbasemen), so that takes care of vick, feidler, brunnelll, and dellhome. rothereibslerger iz only gude cuz of cowher's giant jaw scaring the other team, and besides he has no thumb: who would you rather have: a qb with all 10 fingers, like bollinger, or a qb with only 9? i rest my case: brooks bollinger = all pro qb. peace out y'all.

25
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 2:15pm

I would need to at least quadruple my current football watching, from the current average of three games per week, in order for me to have even a minimally informed opinion on most all-pro selections. I wonder, how many people paid to opinionate about the NFL actually watch more games than I do? Unless somebody is consuming huge amounts of coach's tape, I don't know how they can really be informed as to who the best players were, which is why I'd like to see Jaworski's picks.

I did think that Pat Williams had a truly great year, but I see more Vikings games than any others. I also thought Sharper's performance was a little overrated.

26
by Nelphonious of Pennefielde (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 2:18pm

Hah!At last hole opened up for FO by performance over reputation arguments that haunt and trivialize the PROBOWL SELCTION PROCESS annually,forget the joke game itself.Do we have a reliable,complex, tested stat for rbs that elevate Larry Johnson over Alexander and Barber in 2005?How about for kickoffers who double as field goal attempters?-is Racker really a secret slacker? Punters? similar to the QB rating formula that is at least thorough,do out of bounds inside 20,lack of return yards,lack of touchbacks figure in as much gross length? Not yet!Outdoor games vs. indoor games played.FO STAFFERS= give us your CONSENSUS Pro Bowl selections based on YOUR positional seasonal formulas!FIRST, SECOND AND HONORABLE MENTIONS!Best way to slay sentimental, reputation picks over real performance.

27
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 2:19pm

It might be hard to find a position (DE over Allen or LB over Bulluck), but there has to be some room for Adalius Thomas on this team. It isn't a coincidence that the two games where the Raven defense finally imploded -- Jacksonville and Cincinnati #2 -- were games where Thomas was unable to play at his full versatility. He certainly din't get abused like Allen did against the Giants.

28
by Sam (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 2:31pm

Daniel, you forgot Leftwich who, despite his name, is a righty. Otherwise, fantastic post.

29
by admin :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 2:39pm

The problem with comment 15, as funny as it is, is that these are Mike's SUBJECTIVE choices. The rest of the FO staff would probably disagree with some of them, but that's cool, this is his column. So people can quibble with them in subjective ways all they want.

Jared Allen, by the way, had a 90% stop rate, which tied Michael Strahan for the highest in the league for a defensive player who made at least 50 plays. He can play the run. KC's problem is that the defensive backs can't play the run.

30
by Israel (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 3:00pm

Funny that the only steeler is Joey Porter. Porter made the Pro-Bowl but the locals - myself included - thought it was mostly on reputation. Not unlike last year.

Then he goes and has these wonderful games to end the regular season to prove he really belongs there. And you at FO say he has really been that good all year.

31
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 3:24pm

If you had said "linebackers" instead of "defensive backs", I would understand your point, Aaron. And I'm certainly not going to ignore the stop rate you quoted.

But to absolve Allen by saying that the problem was the corners and safeties couldn't tackle the guy who had already gotten past Allen (or the LB) is a bit of a head scratcher. While Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister may have been better in run support that the Chief corners, Thomas was better at making that skill less necessary. We may be looking past each other here a bit; part of the problem with finding a spot for Thomas on the team is the hybrid nature of the position as he played it.

I just think that if you propose someone in a discussion like this, you have to come up with whom he should replace. And that leads to Allen, or perhaps Bulluck.

32
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 3:28pm

RE #13

Led, you be right. This is why rookie QBs often have trouble, as in David Carr's first year. Er, forget that last remark.

A QB can make his OL look good or bad in the stats columns. But there's more to avoiding the sacks, involving peripheral vision, experience, maybe even hearing the guy coming three steps away, two steps away, one step away--THROW.

Another overlooked issue (except by coaches) is how they hold the ball. Unless your hands are the size and strength of barrel hoops, you need to keep two hands on the ball and/or keep it high when you stand back in the pocket. So many QBs, esp. late in the game, hold it in one hand at their waist (watch Vick sometime, and McNabb too, I think--Freeney had 3 sacks and 3 strips on McNabb in one game). Then in come the strippers and force a fumble just by wrapping one arm and falling.

I've learned a lot just watching Manning over the years. Do you recall everyone mocking his "happy feet" 4-5 years back? Do you recall hearing it recently? His dad (if memory serves) taught him to keep the feet from planting until the last second, so you can always move away from the rush and avoid knee injuries from low collisions (i.e. if the foot is planted, the only "give" is in the knee joint. If your feet are moving, it's just a harmless sack. He hops around a lot back there, but the only time he missed a snap (and it was only one play) due to injury was a direct up the gut pass rush sack in which the DT planted his helmet on Manning's chin as he went down and broke his jaw. (Fairness disclosure: it was only one play not because Manning came in spewing blood from his mouth 30 seconds later, but rather because backup Mark Rypien threw an INT on the next play, the half ended shortly thereafter, and Manning was wired-up and gauze-packed over halftime for the rest of the game.)

Getting back to all those little things he attends to, that's why the guys who know--the former QB talking heads on TV, just babble on and on about Manning. He attends to every freakn' detail from the snap, to drop back, standing there, how to hold the ball, looking off DBs, play action (well documented ad nauseum), footwork, and then throw mechanics.

I have seen less of Brady in general, but what I have seen in the past couple years impressed me a whole lot more than what I saw, say, 3-5 years ago (last year's meltdown in Miami excluded). In fact, I never gave much credibility to the Brady side of "the whole debate," because his D was so much better--I thought he was pure gold under pressure, but otherwise less than great.

Now weirdly, he IS catching up to Manning as a QB and the Colts D is catching up to NE.

This may just be one of those monster dynasty vs dynasty rivalries for another 8 years or so.... And we're lucky enough to watch it. Let's hope neither guy gets hurt.

33
by Steve Z (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 4:28pm

Re: #30

Since Porter, Haggans and Farrior each had performance hindering ailments this year and since the defense is designed for the linebackers to provide most of the pressure on the passer, they tend to get the bulk of the blame when the Steelers fail to harass and sack the quarterback. All three are probably healthier now than they were for much of the season. Their play has reflected that fact.

Oh, and I would imagine Steeler fans are a bit spoiled, especially about the play of their linebackers. We set the bar high.

34
by admin :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 4:51pm

Tom, the game against the Giants was one game out of 16. Allen was excellent against the run in most of the other 15. More importantly, I was not arguing that Allen is better than Thomas. I was arguing comment number four which says "And have you seen Jared Allen against the run? Peeee You." You have a point that Thomas was good this year, but that doesn't mean Allen sucks against the run.

35
by Yakuza Rich (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 5:25pm

Aaron,

Take a look at Allen's run defense skills against Washington, Denver, and Dallas. Okay, Denver runs well against everybody. Washington was inconsistent early, but still has Chris Samuels. Dallas? Backup left tackle Torrin Tucker was killing him all day on run plays.

Running at Jared Allen wasn't a problem for opponents this season.

36
by emcee fleshy (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 5:31pm

As an ATL guy, I find the Kevin Shaffer pick questionable for two reasons.

1) He's a left tackle for lefty Mike Vick. Question - would he look as good if he were blocking on Drew Bledsoe's blind side?

2) Simeon Rice is the primary reason that TB has owned Atlanta over the past several seasons. An Atlanta LT's entire season should be judged on how he does against Rice. Because (as you pointed out) he got beaten by Simeon Rice in both of the TB games, this can't be considered a successful season.

37
by emcee fleshy (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 5:37pm

Instead of Shaffer, how about a little love for Atlanta FB Justin Griffith?

I think that Griffith accounts for much of the difference between Falcons' mediocre pass blocking (when he's running routes) and successful run-blocking (when he's lead-blocking).

38
by MarkB (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 5:39pm

Where's Koren Robinson? He got a vote for Comeback Player of the Year.

39
by MarkB (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 5:47pm

By the way... is there a computer program that inserts a Rodney Harrison crack in every thread? Or is there just one Gomer chirping in from Mom's basement every day?

40
by VarlosZ (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 6:00pm

"Strong safety — Gibril Wilson, Giants"

As President of the Gibril Wilson Fan Club, this made me happy.

41
by Andre w (A.B.) (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 7:01pm

Shaffer may have had only two bad games (v. Rice), but Walter Jones only had one (v.Umenoriya). And Shaun Alexander had about 20 TDs running to the left. How many rushing TDs did Atlanta back have when running to the left? This seems like a no-brainer to me.

42
by smashmouth football (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 7:03pm

I have to agree with fellow Ravens fan Tom Kelso--FO is snubbing Adalius Thomas. I really think you would be hard-pressed to compare AD to anyone else because of his extreme versatility. He lines up as a pass rush end, then before the snap switches to linebacker, or sometimes into a safety position. And he does everyone one of these roles well. BTW, sometimes he's still a gunner on special teams--270 lbs. and faster than most RB's.

Another player who deserves some FO love is FB Tony Richardson of the Chiefs. No disrespect for Lorenzo Neal, but Richardson is a battering ram. Guess I still remember him running over Ray Lewis.

43
by Andrew (A.B.) (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 7:03pm

Not sure if anyone posted this, but Dr. Z's All-Pro ballot is always a good read. Click on the link for my name right below this.

44
by BillT (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 7:07pm

Funny that the person mainly responsible for B.J. Sams ever being with the Ravens, when the heach coach and GM weren't that interested, just got canned as a scapegoat for Billick and Newsome's problems putting together a decent offense.

45
by BillWallace (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 7:13pm

You could replace Seans Talyor and Springs for Newman and Horsecollar Williams in that Cowboy homer comment and turn it into a Skins homer comment. But I think the OP suggestions are probably better.

46
by andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 7:16pm

22- the positions in each scheme differ enough, that you'd really have to vote for:

4-3 DE (2)
4-3 DT
4-3 OLB (2)
4-3 MLB
and
3-4 DE (2)
3-4 NT
3-4 OLB (2)
3-4 ILB (2)

47
by NFC Central Freak (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 7:31pm

Will:

As I have mentioned previously I do tape and watch every game involving the NFC North nee Central. I also watch other games based on some personal preference be it a "marquee" event or particular players facing off.

MDS always provides an interesting perspective, and I think his list is better than just about anything else available.

My only quibble, and quibble it is, is the absence of Walter Jones. Jones is simply an astonishing tackle. I have watched him his entire career, and I could count on one hand the number of times I saw him lose a matchup. Just an amazing player.

I will toss the question back to the critic and ask if NOT Chris Harris then who? I am excusing myself for the obvious bias being a Bears fan.

But if you do list Darren Sharper then we have nothing to discuss. Others have been more kind but Sharper is purely guessing these days. He IS a very smart player so more often than not he guesses right. But he doesn't force well, he has lost a half step, and he does miss time due to injury as his body is slowly breaking down with age. (I think the ability to play the game on a consistent basis is a very valuable skill and part of MY assessment process.)

The Al Harris pick is intriguing but I think MDS is understating how badly Al collapsed in December. I don't know if he was hurt or just tired from carrying the defense, but Harris was simply undressed by ordinary receivers after smothering the rest. Very odd.

If Shaun Rogers played hard every down he would be the most dominant defensive linemen in football. I saw him several times this year simply throw 300 lb. offensive linemen out of his way. Maybe Michael has some insight as to the enigman that is Mr. Rogers.

I only saw him twice but Chad Johnson impressed the heck out of me. I know Cincy looks to have a lot of weapons, but I wonder how much of TJ getting open is because everyone on the D is looking for Johnson. Struck me as a tough sucker as well. That and he makes me laugh.......

48
by Vince (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 7:47pm

I agree with #36. Shaffer looked good at times, but disastrous at others. He was dominated for two games by Simeon Rice.

I watched about four Seahawks games. I did not see the Giants game, but I did watch the Falcons game, where Jones lined up virtually every play across from former pro bowler Patrick Kerney, and simply placed Kerney on the football field where he (Jones) wanted him. Dominating is an insufficient word.

I always watch Jones when the Seahawks play, simply because I am never short of amazed at how well he does his job. I remember one play where he got beat, because I cursed loudly in surprise, and had to explain to my roommate why I was making so much noise.

Walter Jones is the best player in football.

49
by thad (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 8:08pm

re 10
Dallas gave up 52 catches to TE's, which was 20th in the league, and 32 first downs, which was 13th in the league.
I think i missed a lot of those games where Williams got burned so often. He did have 10 passes defensed, which is good for a safety.

50
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 8:20pm

Re #43: You're right, Z's list was a very good read. Denver linemen finished as the top-rated tackle, the top-rated center, and the third-rated guard... and none of them made the pro bowl. I think Z's on to something, though, since... well... you know, Denver had the #1 ranked rush offense (according to DVOA), and finished with the third-fewest sacks allowed in the league.

51
by putnamp (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 8:49pm

#41,

Jones' game against Umenyiora wasn't really a bad game - he got "beat" on two plays, but I recall both being dubious. This is the best I can recollect, and sadly I cannot find the sources for these as it's several weeks old:

Play 1 he was actually on someone else, and nobody was on Umenyiora - Jones was picking up a blitz, I think, and the line didn't shift. I'm not sure if this is accurate or not, but while Umenyiora got the sack, Jones wasn't actually defending him.

Play 2 he ended up tripping over someone else, and so Umenyiora didn't really do anything special to break free, it just worked out well for him.

I'm clearly a homer, so take this with a grain of salt, but at least a few people who watched the game tape indicated to the press that there was little, if any, concern about Jones' play that game. Could just be spin control.

In the interest of disclosure, a number of people also say they thought Jones was getting outwitted and seemed to be having trouble. These were mostly fans watching the game, I don't know how much to trust their judgement, but it lends some credibility to the idea that Jones played a bad game that day.

52
by Joon (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 8:49pm

Re: #47

not to nitpick, but if you watched every game involving the NFC north, shouldn't you have seen chad johnson and the bengals 4 times this year?

53
by Luke (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 9:05pm

#48

Can't agree more. That Giants game, Walter did not have a bad game. He got beat on 2 plays and dominated on the other 50. Which goes to prove Osi is a very good DE indeed.

54
by Malene, cph, dk (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 9:32pm

hm... I think Walter Jones belongs as well... however, I must say that I saw a few games with a lot of plays where he looked just a tad less impressive than usual - holding a bit, letting the pocket get quite small, yet the announcers would typically talk over the replays gushing over that ATL game where he destroyed Kerney. I just think this year he might have gotten too much credit for that one personal blowout matchup. Plus, Kerney really is a dream matchup for somebody like Jones - he's got the probowl rep, yet seems to have very little lower body strength compared to the time he looks to have put into those triceps. Also, he's got a very quick first step, yet doesn't really establish leverage right away. Jones would block him simply by getting out of his stance.

Anyway, didn't see enough of Levi og Schaffer to pick them over Walter.

55
by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 10:20pm

Aaron - I'm surprised that Allen's stop rate comes out so high. What I've seen would suggest otherwise (good ol' anecdotal evidence). Did he just look bad against the run against NFC East teams?

And after all that he got bashed last year, it would be nice to see more props given to Newman for the way he played this season. I'm looking forward to seeing what the FO game charting project turns up in this regard.

56
by thad (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 10:42pm

Hey kibbles one of the ways I like to judge o-lines is
1. percent of runs that are first downs
2. sack %
3. stuff %

Denver FD% NFL average
27 t(1st) 21
Denver sk % NFL average
4 t(1st) 7
denver stuff % NFL average
10 t(6th) 13
Can't say I am too surprised about the pro bowl snub, I always felt a lot of it was based on reputation

57
by Playit (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 10:43pm

I think Newman gets very little respect here because unlike many teams in the league the Cowboys don't assign CBs to gaurd specific receivers in Zimmer's scheme. Newman plays either RCB or covers the slot reciever in 3 reciever sets. What this amounts to is football outsiders saying that Dallas was 24th against #1 recievers. However Newman was virtually unstoppable this year. I prefer the method that KC Joyner uses (Where CBs are measured by depth of route and completions), and I think at the end of the year it will show that Newman was far and above the best CB in the league this year.

By the way, Only two times this year did Zimmer use Newman in one on one coverage against a specific reciever. The second half of the Dec 18th Redskins game against Santana Moss and the following week against Steve Smith. In both instances he kept both players from recording a single catch (Smith caught one pass when Newman was not covering him) even though both were targetted several times. And those would be your two All-Pro selections. Against Tamba Bay Smith had 106 yards and 103 yards respectively. Moss had 79 yards against Tamba Bay. Green Bay was forced to double Smith the entire game to limit him to two catches.

58
by Playit (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 10:51pm

As for Roy Williams...

Roy's primary responsibility is to stop the run first and then to cover a very limited space in covererage. He is often at the site of a long catch, not because it was his responsibility, but because his original target didn't enter or stay in his zone of responsiblity and he was then attempting to provide help in deep coverage.

It's worth noting that while Dallas had the 30th Ranked D-Line against the run, they were ranked 3rd in allowing runners of 10+ yards. The Cowboys have ranked high in this stat for every year that Roy has played SS, and poorly in the one year that he played FS. Chicago ranked 16th in this stat.

59
by thad (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 10:53pm

Sorry kibbles denvers sack % was 5%
tied for 2nd, my goof.

60
by Ron Mexico (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 11:20pm

Re:#39

Making fun of Rodney Harrison should be mandatory. He's just another whiny little Patriot.

Re:#42

Guess I still remember him running over Ray Lewis.

Who hasn't run over Ray Ray? I'll bet he wets his pants every time he hears the words "Dan Kreider" or sees the number "35"....

61
by Björn (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 11:22pm

Thad (56),

Denver has been in the top ten for Adjusted line yards for the last four years, including second this year.

And I really don't understand your numbers...

62
by D (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2006 - 11:53pm

I like them all excapt for Strong Safety-Troy Polomolu Duh. and Punt Retuner-Antwan Randel El talk about getting to speed quickly. Good job on the others. I see you took into acount some of the intangibles.

63
by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 1:11am

Roy Williams (DAL) = Most overrated player of the year

64
by Beige Tangerine (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 1:38am

I'd like to be the first to accuse MDS of pro-doorag bias in his receiver ratings.

I present as evidence:
1
2

Who's with me?

65
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 2:42am

I'm a Redskins homer... and honestly I would be one of the first people to spout off from the the "Roy Williams is overrated" bandwagon.

I went back and watched three Cowboy games. Week 5 vs. Eagles, Week 6 vs. Giants, and Week 7 vs. Seahawks.

vs. Eagles observations:
Whoever made the comment that teams don't throw at Newman was spot on. Every pass went Henry's way. Both Williams and Henry had good games... Dallas front 7 had an excellent game, which makes their good game impact minimal... but they still had good games. Newman wraps up against the run very well.

vs. Giants:
The same thing with Newman/Henry. Eli was constantly throwing to the right, on Henry. Newman played well all 4 quarters and OT... again I didn't get to see much but run support, and he helped contain Tiki. Williams did well until the very end of the 4th quarter.

It is here that the Giants made their comeback, and they did it with plays to Shockey. Three plays stand out.
1) Deep pass on the right side to Shockey. Williams is helping on Burress to the right, they had a LB on Shockey and Shockey got behind him. Williams took a poor angle and whiffed on Shockey, allowing him to get 10 more yards.
2) 4th and 10. Williams definately has man coverage on Shockey. He comes off the LOS and crosses left. Eli hits Shockey 7 yards downfield in stride, and Williams attempts a horsecollar, but can't bring Shockey down. If Williams had made the tackle Shockey probably is short, again.. bad angle.

Williams redeems himself on a goal line stand. He forces Jacobs to fumble and recovers it. I have to give him credit for this good play as well... and if the Cowboys offense makes a first down he saves the game. But the offense sputtered and had to punt, setting up...

3) Giants are on the Cowboys 23. They are in the shotgun formation with Shockey on the right. It's the SAME PLAY AS NUMBER 2! Cowboys bring a 7 man blitz... leaving man-man on the receivers. No one really guards Shockey as Williams drops deeps. Shockey catches the ball in stride after cutting left and runs into the end zone. Williams gives him a horsecollar for good measure as he crosses the goal line.

vs. Seahawks:
In this game they both are strong against the run. Williams doesn't get picked on much in pass coverage and has a good game. Newman doesn't. The Seahawks threw it to his man probably as much as the first two games combined. In the first 3.5 quarters Hacket and Jurevicious were beating Newman by a step or so, but Hasselbeck couldn't deliver the ball that well... they were open... not wide open but open. Newman had one good pass defense but that was it. He also picked up an interception off a pass dropped by Warrick.

They both are decent tacklers, Williams doesn't wrap up as well as Newman... and they both are good at coming on the blitz. I think people don't like Williams because he is a dirty player... he leads with his helmet a lot (and gets away with it) and the horsecollar, which he has to use because he sometimes doesn't take the best angles (are poor angles and "cheap shots" traits of safeties in general?)

I wouldn't mind seeing Newman on the Redskins.

66
by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 3:04am

In re: 64, he could be biased towards receivers 5-10 and under with 5 years in the league too...you nevah know.

67
by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 3:14am

Also on LJ and EDick...I love some LJ but I don't think that pro-ration based on starts is really the right way to look at this, pro-rate on attempts. LJ averaged a sick 5.2 YPC, he started 9 games if I remember correctly, but ended up with a healthy 336 rushing attempts. Push that workload to a punishing 400 carries and he gets to 2080 yards. A little bit shy of Dickerson's mark. I think the YPC for Dickerson during '84 was 5.6 or so. Mind Bending. Unlikely to be broken unless someone wants to push and RB till the wheels fall off.

68
by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 3:25am

And if anyone is going to challenge 5.6 YPC it's going to be LJ...as soon as he gets traded to an NFC West Team...with a strong left side...like ummm maybe the Seahawks. Looking back on it, he eats cupcakes for breakfast. In the 2002 season when he topped 2000 in college his YPC was 8.02. He had games of 257, 279, 327, 279 against Northwestern, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan State respectively. The MSU total came all in the first half as he cooled his heels on the bench for the second half...maybe if he rolled up 600 yards in a game and 2500 on the season he would have won the Heisman. IIRC Carson Palmer won it that year, so it's a little hard for me to call it a complete injustice...now if it were Jason White...that would be a different story.

69
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 3:41am

... and I'll add in my observations from the games against the Skins.

I don't have tape of Game 1, but the Dallas defense shut down the Skins save but 2 plays. We can presume Newman and Williams had good games.

Game 2 paints a whole different story. Both of them had as many bad plays as I saw in the other 4 games combined.

1) Portis bounces a run to Newman's side for 20 yards. Moss blocks Newman out of the play, and Williams horsecollars Portis out of bounds. I swear I'm not exaggerating the Williams horsecollar, and I know its legal because he grabs the jersey... but.
2) Redskins sweep to Newman's side and Dockery turns Newman around... Betts (in for Portis) bulls through Newman for a gain of 10 yards. Newman shaken up for the next play... which is...
3) Gibbs must've realized Newman was shaddowing Moss. He calls a pass down the right sideline, Brunell places the ball perfectly and Moss catches it at the 1. I am 100% sure Williams is supposed to be helping, and he is slow to get over... and as he is "helping" he's dogging it like Randy Moss.
4) 3rd and goal. Brunell rolls left and Williams forgets to guard Cooley in the back of the end zone. In fairness, no one was covering Sellars, Cooley or had containment on Brunell during the play. The Redskins flooded his zone area...
5) 3rd Redskins TD drive. Newman is still out. Screen pass to Moss that goes 35 yards. Williams is blocked by Jon Jansen... he is in on the tackle 15 yards further down (no horsecollar, for those keeping score).
6) 30 yard TD to Cooley. Cooley catches the ball, avoids a tackler and Newman completely blows the tackle... he just lowers his head, shoulders and body and doesn't even use his arms to wrap up (why!?).
7) 2nd and Goal for the Redskins. Sweep to the left (Newman's side). Randy Thomas wipes out Newman, and Portis wipes out Williams... Portis gets under Williams and flips him over... an awesome play.
8) Ladell Betts 1 yd TD. Cooley blocks Williams and Betts goes through the hole.

A game like that makes me wonder if they don't benefit from playing behind a good front 7. When the front is stopping the run and pressuring the QB, the margin for error is less. When the front doesn't do that, they have problems. I just watched the Cowboys vs. Cardinals from Week 9, and once again Newman and Williams play great, but again they didn't get much of a chance to play great because the front 7 played so well.

70
by PerlStalker (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 3:50am

From the Dr. Z list:
Center - Tom Nalen. I really didn't want to pick him again, mainly because he started that nonsense about not talking to writers.
Ah, yes. The infamous don't-talk-to-the-press thing that Denver's line has. That's a wonderful reason not to select someone for your Pro Bowl list. Sure. That's like picking Clinton Portis because you get twelve guys for the price of one.

71
by Playit (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 3:54am

Re #65

I'm not sure I think Roy had a great year, but I do think he had a better year than about 29 other Strong Safties. Also, I don't think he's a dirty player. Horsecoller has become one of the most misunderstood terms this year, with annoucers and fans using it any time a person is tackled from behind. The rule is very paticular to a certain set of events that was found to cause injury, not simple tackling someone from behind by grabbing the pads. The injuries were identified to result from pulling the player down from behind while simultaneously pinning the runners legs down to the ground with the tacklers legs. Simply pulling the player down from behind without trapping the legs did not result in the increased injury risk. Thus far Roy has not tackled anyone in this manner this year. As for last year, it wasn't illegal, and the players weren't instructed not to tackle in that manner.

As for leading with his head, I hear that all the time from Skin's fans. Last year Coles took several shots from Roy across the middle that ended up on Gif files as "proof" of Roy leading with his helmet. But it was never what I saw upon looking at them. I guess I don't have the eye for it that they do. Either way, Roy is far from the most fined players in the league, even far from the most fined Safeties. It would be hard to call him the dirtiest players at the position? I'd try to compare him to other hard hitters at the position and see how he ranks in the fines catagory.

As for Newman... He really has had a great year. I'll split the difference with you and say I'd like to have both Newman and Springs on my team.

72
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 4:21am

I just indulged myself with another Cowboy game, their last one at the Giants. Again, the Dallas front 7 put some pressure on Eli.. and it was hard to judge how well they played. They didn't have many "good" plays, but not a lot of "bad" ones either.

If Newman doesn't shut down the #1 receiver week-week he's not an All-Pro. I don't understand why they had Glenn on Burress, the whole day and why Newman was in the slot sticking with Toomer or giving a weak bump on Shockey when in zone. Against the Seahawks Newman was matched up against Hackett a lot. If he is your best CB than put him on the best WR. It seemed like he did match up well with S. Moss and Owens from what I saw.

My impression of Williams is that he is slow in pass coverage... there were a few times where he had a slow jump, or someone got deep behind him and after the play he would be standing around. His run defense was okay, but he made a lot of shoestring tackles. I'd like to compare his average stop and stop rate with other safeties.

Ugh... now I feel dirty for watching all that Cowboy footage. I also witnessed Williams horsecollar Tiki Barber and Anquan Boldin.

73
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 4:38am

Williams did injure Portis with the tackle There was a head-head shot on Coles, and also one on Gardner to end the Monday night game last year. It just doesn't seem right that you have a rule was instituted because your tackling style ends up breaking peoples legs, and you don't get a reputation as a "dirty player". I know that if you grab onto part of the jersey you are within the bounds of the rule, which is why it has never been called this year (much to the chagrin of offensive players/coaches everywhere). I'm still waiting for the first "Personal Foul, Horsecollar"...

I'd say he's probably better than 24 strong safeties at least... I haven't seen enough footage to be a good judge others. I think that's fair enough.

It seems like the Cowboy ILBs are really bad at pass coverage and play the run too much. Even on passing downs they aren't dropping back, but seem to get stuck in no man's land... not really pressuing the QB and not in good position to defend the underneath passes.

74
by Travis (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 4:42am

Re: 51

Walter Jones is a deserving perennial All-Pro, but he (and the entire Seattle offensive line) had a poor day against the Giants.

A contemporary account:

The Giants defensive line notched three sacks and drew four holding penalties (though one was killed by an offsetting defensive holding call). Hasselbeck, pestered and decked much of the afternoon as his once-secure pocket collapsed around him, tossed an interception under pressure and also was flagged for intentional grounding.

Other relevant statistics from that game that might say something about Seattle's line play: Seattle did not make a first down on 8 of 15 drives (I don't know what the NFL average is, but it only happened to the Giants in 2 of 15 drives in that game). Also, Alexander ran for 3.5 yards/carry, his 3rd lowest average of the season.

The best description of the sacks I can find:
Umenyiora had two sacks in the final five minutes of the second quarter for the Giants. The first came when he rushed outside, took a good shove from Jones, but reached back to knock the ball out of Matt Hasselbeck's hand. Jones recovered the fumble, but Umenyiora got a sack even though Hasselbeck was not knocked down. The next came when Umenyiora pushed Jones back, coming up with a sack after Hasselbeck stayed in the pocket.

Jones also committed a holding penalty with 1:53 to go in the 4th quarter that wiped out a 15 yard run, leaving the Seahawks with 2nd and 20 from their own 15. The subsequent 3-and-out gave the Giants an opportunity to attempt a game-winning FG in regulation.

From what I remember of the game, in the 2nd half Seattle put TE support on Jones's side to help contain Umenyiora. I can't recall Seattle doing so in any other game.

75
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 5:52am

Re #56: Aaron did a little bit of digging into the whole "% of runs that get a first down" stat last year, and found out that the top 5 players in first downs per run were also the bottom 5 players average yards to go per carry. It's sort of like kickoff return yardage- usually the team that leads the league in kickoff return yardage was also the team that faced the most kickoffs during the season.

I think yards-per-carry, success rate, and DVOA are all better measures of the potency of the running game.

Re #70: Ah, yes. The infamous don’t-talk-to-the-press thing that Denver’s line has. That’s a wonderful reason not to select someone for your Pro Bowl list. Sure. That’s like picking Clinton Portis because you get twelve guys for the price of one.
In Z's defense, he DIDN'T not pick Nalen to his all-pro squad because of the media thing. He just said that he wished someone else would have played better so he didn't HAVE to. I think you're preaching to the choir here, since Z seems to try to leave his prejudices against certain players at the door when picking.

Now, as for the REST of the pro-bowl voters...

76
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 5:53am

Also, sorry for the double dip, but it's worth noting that Zimmerman honored 3/5ths of Denver's line, but left off the guy who actually DOES speak to the media- George Foster. Just goes to show that he's more concerned with play than personality.

77
by putnamp (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 6:29am

#74,

and at the same time, you found the link I was looking for. How fortuitous, yet.. not :)

Anyway, what I was trying to say was that Jones' play that day wasn't as bad as it was made out to be, because, per the link, the first sack was him batting the ball down, and the second was hard to avoid given that Hasselbeck was in the pocket for a prolonged period.

I don't get the Seahawks on my local TV very often, so I couldn't say one way or the other whether they brought Stevens in to help against Umenyiora.

78
by someone (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 10:35am

Re.8

It is true to say that Williams'primary coverage responsibility was Cooley on both plays. However, his secondary coverage responsibility was Moss, and whether it be late reactions, not enough speed, etc, he didn't get there in time. He got looked off by Brunell on the first throw, and probably got slightly out of position, but had to play the inside receiver until the ball was in the air, so it was very well executed by the Skins. Fact is though, he wasn't fast enough to get over in time. On the second throw, he played the ball not the man and got beat, as did Glenn. I find it hard to believe people look at a slot WR on a 12 yard out and use this as an excuse for a safety being beaten on a go route in the fourth quarter, with the score 13-7, with the CB playing the streaking WR to the inside. Parcells didnt say it wasn't his play - he said it wasn't "really" his play. In other words he was partially at fault. Big difference. The bottom line is a S playing those two plays perfectly doesn't get beat. Your statements about not understanding coverages is at about the same level as the original reaction by others blaming Williams for it all. If you think people overreact, I suggest not overreacting yourself.

79
by someone (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 10:39am

Parcells reaction at the Wednesday press conference after the game:

"No, it wasn't really his play, OK? It wasn't really his play. I was asked that question after the game, and I told you whose play it was."

I don't read that as Williams being completely exonerated from both plays at all. I read it like Parcells feeling he was receiving an unfair level of criticism, but that doesn't mean he wasn't partially responsible.

80
by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 10:58am

re: #63 - "Roy Williams (DAL) = Most overrated player of the year"

You're kidding, right? How is he overrated when he has been BASHED all season long? You're just spouting a cliche at this point.

I've said this before in other threads on FO. Williams, at worst, is average in coverage. But he's one of the best, if not the best, run support safety out there. It hasn't helped that the free safeties he's been teamed with for two years - the ones who are supposed to be the primary cover guys - are replacement level players.

81
by keir (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 11:46am

While I deeply respect the denver o-line for their no speak to the media policy I think it's really costing them in terms of pro-bowl selections.

I can't understand why fans are given a third of the vote. Most would just vote for whoever is on the cover of the latest madden or in a tv commercial.

If I was Tom Nalen or Matt Lepsis I would be seriously pissed

82
by Yakuza Rich (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 1:25pm

****3) Gibbs must’ve realized Newman was shaddowing Moss. He calls a pass down the right sideline, Brunell places the ball perfectly and Moss catches it at the 1. I am 100% sure Williams is supposed to be helping, and he is slow to get over… and as he is “helping� he’s dogging it like Randy Moss.****

Aaron Glenn was covering on that play.

Newman does cover the #1 WR a lot, just not every down. He plays the slot in nickel situations.

Fact is, he didn't allow a TD all year long (STATS,Inc. has him giving up a TD to KC on a play that wasn't his responsibility since he was playing the short zone and Kennison was going deep over his zone which was supposed to be covered by Keith Davis who bit on a play action) and his long reception allowed was 23 yards.

Most teams operate in the same fashion as the Cowboys do with Newman in that they don't have him follow the #1 WR all over the field on every play. I don't see why he should be discounted for his play when he practically shut down every WR that came his way.

83
by footballlover (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 2:11pm

Just two complaints.
FB: Dan Krieder, anyone notice that he has led every Steeler rusher since 2000. Parker, Bettis, and Staley have run for a combibed 8991 yards behind him. He is averaging 7 ypc this season. He is my fullback.

DT: Casey Hampton, he is a runstuffer by trade. He dosen't get stats because he is usually double or triple teamed. Just watch him and you will see that when he plays it seems the opposing lineman looks like he is on wheels. He was responsible for the safety in Minnesota. he has chased down plays form behind, lets see some safetys do that.

84
by DavidSEA (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 3:09pm

LJ may be a great running back but he didn't start every game... If he had he would have had the 2-3 bad games as well. Shaun Alexander is the league MVP and should have been the one picked for RB in this chart. But as normal for this site the Seahawks are considered a sub par team becuase they play in a corner of the country no one cares about until they have to come here. When Shaun Alexander runs up 200 plus yards against the Colts in the SB maybe then you will believe!!! The Seahawks have the best OL, Full back and Running back in the league with a top 5 QB. You can say fluke all you want but the Hawks are like the NE of the last few years, they find a way to win now.

85
by Yakuza Rich (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 3:44pm

83.

FWIW, I had Hampton on my All-Pro team. He's been great this year, especially since Farrior and Foote were injured. Teams still couldn't run the ball very successfully against Pittsburgh. So, you weren't the only person to notice Hampton.

86
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 4:03pm

Yakuza Rich,
I thought I made it clear.. Newman was shaken up on the play before so Gibbs threw it to Moss. I came out of that excercise with a high regard for Newman, but I still don't understand why he's used in the slot a lot. Most starting CBs are covering a #1 or #2 WR... and a Nickel CB comes in for the slot guy in those situations. You don't see Champ Bailey matched up against Housmanzadah or Chris Perry, do you?

87
by Michael David Smith :: Fri, 01/06/2006 - 10:15pm

Thanks, everyone, for your comments, and sorry I haven't responded to any, as I've been in London for most of the last two weeks. (Yes, you can watch American football in London -- I had a great time watching the Rose Bowl at the Sports Cafe on Haymarket.)

I did want to respond to a few things. First, some people seem to take issue with my comment that Johnson would break Dickerson's record if you prorate his stats to 16 games. But the thing is, Johnson wouldn't just break Dickerson's record, he'd obliterate it. He gets more than 2400 yards if he keeps the pace up. So even if you think that Johnson's yardage would decline by 25 percent over another seven games, he'd still break Dickerson's record. The guy is absolutely amazing.

Also, Will Allen raises a great point in No. 25. I watch a whole lot of games (the DirecTV Superfan package is awesome), and I supplement that with stats and reading the opinions of people like Dr. Z. But there's no question that I don't know nearly as much about any of the players I selected as, say, his position coach does. I think I've got a good all-pro team here, but if you saw all 16 Chargers games and think I'm wrong about Lorenzo Neal, for instance, you might very well be right.

88
by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Sat, 01/07/2006 - 1:29am

MDS, I'm one of those people that disagrees with your asessment of Johnson's breaking of Dickerson's record. Pro-rating over starts is absolutely the wrong way to look at this. Sure he started 9 games, but he had 399 yards on 75 carries in the 7 that he didn't start. So removing that, and he's at 1351 yards in the 9 games where he started. Pro-rate that and we get to 2400 yards on the ground.

Consider that LJ had 261 carries over the last 9 games. Pro rate that over the season and he's at 464 carries on the year. That's an unheard of workload. I think Jamal Anderson had like 410 carries during his big season, but I can't find anyone who's even close to 464, if you have someone, point me to it.

Again, I don't disagree with your inclusion of LJ in the EPC Pro-Bowl team. I think he's had a remarkable season, even if he only got 9 games as a starter. I think the fact that he's done it on a team that doesn't have a high powered passing game makes it even more impressive. Everyone know's he's getting the ball about half of the time. I just don't think you can pro-rate based on his starts and get to a projected rushing total. Taking his YPC and multiplying it by a reasonable workload is a better measure. I don't think he'll never challenge for the single season record...if there's a player currently who can do it, I think it's him, I just don't think it's a given that he would have done it this year had he been given all 16 starts.

89
by Michael David Smith :: Sat, 01/07/2006 - 7:44am

How many carries is a reasonable workload? The fewest carries he had in any game as a starter was 22. If we assume he'd get 22 carries for seven games at 5.2 yards a carry, that's an additional 800 yards, which would surpass Dickerson's mark.

I agree with you that it's silly when people start talking about a guy gaining 2,000 yards because he has 500 in the first four games. But we're talking about a guy who could slow down considerably over another seven games and still break the record.

Is it possible that he'd break down before getting that many carries? Sure. But the thing that most impresses me about Johnson is his consistency.

90
by Playit (not verified) :: Sat, 01/07/2006 - 5:38pm

Regarding Newman covering the slot reciever...

Parcells stated at the beggining of the year that he felt the hardest position to play in coverage was the slot reciever, which is why he moved his most talented CB into that coverage. I think that has a lot to do with the way the Cowboys run their coverages. Either way, Parcells is honest to a fault when it comes to these kinds of issues and I certainly trust his assesment over my own.

Also, there are several players that make thier living in the slot. Anquan Boldin comes to mind. He was held to his second lowest total yards in the game he played against Dallas this year.

Mostly I think this always comes back to the central issue of judging CBs. We stat guys like to have measurables to rank the players. Ints, Passes Defended, Tackles, ect... But the players that are playing the best coverage are the ones that offenses avoid. Newman shut down his opposition this year. I haven't seen that from either Barber or Harris as I pointed out above.

91
by Playit (not verified) :: Sat, 01/07/2006 - 5:48pm

Re #80

I think putting up Gibril Wilson for SS highlights how strongly MDS thinks of run responsibility at SS. The Giants were 24th in the league at giving up runs of over 10+ yards this year. All this while the D-Line ranked 9th, 13th, and 15th respectively for Adj Line yards, Power Success, and Stuffed rank. Safety was the weakest link in the Giants rush D.

If you are going to rank a SS based on both his run support and pass protection (weighted towards his primary responsibility of run support) then I think it would be hard not to select Roy.

92
by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Sat, 01/07/2006 - 6:35pm

That's fair enough to assume a normal workload of 22 carries per game (which would work out to a season of 415 carries, still high, but not ridiculous) and have LJ beat Dickerson's record of 2105.

Of course the defenses faced during the first 7 games of the chiefs stretch had a Rush Defense DVOA of -8.36% on average. The last 9 games had a Rush DVOA of -.11%. His YPC was higher in the first 7 games, but that may be a function of splitting time, and fresh legs on worn down D's (I haven't checked when in the game the bulk of his carries came). I'm not saying there's no way he could have done it had he started all games, I'm just saying it's not a slam dunk. I think it's more like a three pointer, with some weak coverage.

Shaun Alexander faced D's that were on average 2.26% rush D DVOA. Just saying, maybe LJ should do a one year switch with SJ or SA to see if he can beat the record.

PS. Good to see you're still on London time.

93
by Jon (not verified) :: Sat, 01/07/2006 - 9:00pm

I cannot believe you didn't put Jamal Williams at DT. The DT is the most important player in a 3-4 defense and Williams plays on the best run defense in the league. Also, what's Larry Johnson doing at Runnning Back. Granted, he had a great season, but he plays behind the best O-line in football with or without Willie Roaf. Shaun Alexander scored 28 TD's and Tiki Barber is a much more multi-dimensional threat coming out of the backfield than LJ. THis was a GREAT year for running backs. Alexander, Barber, Johnson, LaDanian Tomlinson, and Edgerrin James would all have been MVP candidates in a normal year. If LT hadn't gotten injured versus Oakland, he might have scored more touchdowns than Alexander. Add Reggie Bush and maybe D'Angelo Williams to that mix next year and you've got a lot of marquee running backs.

94
by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Sat, 01/07/2006 - 9:03pm

Jon, Seattle doesn't have a bunch of turnip sacks on O-Line either and they've played the NFC West 6 times this year. Tiki is fantastic, but I think LJ is a better pure running back than either of those guys. I don't think it's a stretch to have LJ as the all pro at the running back spot.

95
by Lindsay (not verified) :: Sun, 01/08/2006 - 3:38am

MDS, I'm interested in your runner-ups for Punters. I didn't really "buy" your explanation for Donnie Jones (no offense, but it seemed kinda bland) and while I'm not arguing with it, I just wonder who else you considered. From my prospective, Michael Koenen from ATL had a great season, especially for a undrafted free-agent. Everybody only talks about the Saints game with the 58-yd FG and the Bears game (1st half, anyways), but he had good distance, great hangtime, and was even a threat to kick a long FG.

I admit I didn't see a lot of Donnie, so I can't argue with that. But who else did you consider?

96
by Michael David Smith :: Sun, 01/08/2006 - 8:40am

Yeah, Rowdy Roddy, you noticed that the jet lag is making me awake at weird hours. It always takes me a while to get acclimated when I go across multiple time zones. I struggled to stay up for the end of Jags-Patriots, and now I've been awake for a couple of hours already.

The Chiefs don't have the best line in the NFL. A couple of years ago they did, but not anymore. Priest Holmes looked mediocre at best behind the same line.

Lindsay, I think Mike Scifres of San Diego gets the best hang time, and you're right that Koenen had a good year. Also Jason Baker in Carolina. But I like Jones the best for his combination of length and hang time.

97
by Yakuza Rich (not verified) :: Sun, 01/08/2006 - 11:33am

Matt Furtek:

***You don’t see Champ Bailey matched up against Housmanzadah or Chris Perry, do you?***

Well, not Chris Perry. But Bailey will match up against guys like Eric Parker, Keyshawn, etc. Most defenses in the NFL don't have their CB's follow one WR on every play or even the majority of the plays. They allow the WR's to line up and then they adjust accordingly.

And being able to play the slot effectively is considered a good thing, not a bad thing. Hell, Rhonde Barber has done it for years.

98
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Mon, 01/09/2006 - 12:42pm

Re: Newman on the Slot
Good explanation in #82. I was sold on Newman, just most of the time I think of the nickel back covering the slot receiver, not one of the starters. I guess that's probably because the coaching staff feels that Glenn is fast enough and better at covering a split out receiver... maybe Glenn is more comfortable that way.

99
by BAS (not verified) :: Mon, 01/09/2006 - 2:44pm

Thank you for recognizing Al Harris and his shut down of #1 Wide outs this season. Nice to see someone pays attention.

100
by Confused (not verified) :: Sat, 01/14/2006 - 4:54pm

The picks of Shafer at LT, Scott at DT and Harris at FS are all ridiculous. Sorry.

Let me suggest Walter Jones, Shaun Rogers and Sharper/Sanders at FS

101
by Sid (not verified) :: Sat, 01/14/2006 - 9:41pm

I disagree with Ian Scott, Chris Harris, and Kevin Shaffer. Walter Jones would be my replacement for Shaffer.

RE: 32

Then in come the strippers and force a fumble just by wrapping one arm and falling.

Strippers on a football field? Oh my. What is the world coming to?

102
by jc (not verified) :: Thu, 03/02/2006 - 10:19pm

Well, at least someone thinks Steve Smith is worth a damn. Apparently being over half of a team's offense is not enough to be MOST VALUABLE PLAYER. Shaun who?

103
by Joe Mama (not verified) :: Thu, 03/02/2006 - 11:01pm

I from Minny and l disagree with lots of your rinks because only ONE viking was in there. For starters, what about Randy Moss and T.O. So they had bad seasons. They are still ONE of the best. And what about Pro bowl FS Darren Sharper or Pro Bowl KR Koren Robinson.How about Mewelde Moore he did good for one of the worst O-lines this year. I know The Vikings aren't great, but we have lots of IR players and 2 pro bowlers you didn't include. Peace. MOSS

104
by Micah Lafreniere (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 10:39pm

Demmrio williams should of been in there.

105
by That Dude (not verified) :: Sun, 08/06/2006 - 3:44am

Newman plays the slot because playing the slot requires the most quickness, agility, and athleticism. You don't have the sideline to help you out like the boundary corners do.