Wednesday, January 25, 2012
All-AFC North team: Special teams
By Jamison Hensley
It's time to unveil my All-AFC North team, which is based on performance this season, and not past reputation. Let's start with special teams this morning and continue with the coaching staff this afternoon. Defense will come out Thursday, and offense will wrap it up Friday.
Of course, tell me who I left off, who should have been on and any other opinions in the comments section below.
Kicker: Phil Dawson, Browns. The only consistent offensive weapon on the Browns, he hit seven field goals of 50 yards or longer, which tied San Francisco's David Akers and Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski for most in the NFL. It is also tied for the third-most in NFL history. The pick here was going to be Bengals' Mike Nugent (33 of 38, team record 132 points) until he missed four field goal attempts in the last three games (which includes one miss in the playoff game at Houston). Dawson's conversion rate (82.7, 24 of 29) wasn't the best in the division, but his percentage was hurt by struggling long snapper Ryan Pontbriand. The bad news here for the Browns is Dawson is a free agent this offseason.
Punter: Sam Koch, Ravens. This was an extremely mediocre season for AFC North punters. No one from the division ranked in the top nine in punting average or in the top 13 in net average. Koch gets the nod over the Bengals' Kevin Huber. Koch's career-best 46.5-yard average led the division. But he wasn't the clear-cut selection. His 21 punts inside the 20-yard line ranked third in the AFC North.
Returner: Antonio Brown, Steelers. This was one of the toughest calls on the entire All-AFC North team. You could make a legitimate argument for Brown or the Browns' Josh Cribbs. On kickoff returns, Brown (27.3) had a better average than Cribbs (25.0). On punt returns, Cribbs (11.3) had a better average than Brown (10.8). They both returned one punt for a touchdown. What put Brown over the top is the fact he's the only player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards returning and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.