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Friday, December 28, 2012
Three division players on Clayton's All-Pro

By Jamison Hensley

The three AFC North players who made John Clayton's All-Pro team are all deserving.

The Browns' Joe Thomas is the best left tackle in the game. Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins is one of the league's top defensive players. And the Ravens' Jacoby Jones has been the most dangerous kickoff returner in the league this year.

The one argument I have with the team is the omission of Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green. While there is no debate that the Lions' Calvin Johnson should be an All Pro, Clayton chose the Texans' Andre Johnson as his second receiver. It appears that Green wasn't in the discussion:
There wasn't much drama in selections for the offensive skill positions. Lion wide receiver Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice's single-season yardage record and is eyeing the 2,000-yard plateau. I went with Andre Johnson of the Texans over Brandon Marshall of the Bears in a close call at the other receiver spot because Johnson's 100-catch season has taken the Texans farther than Marshall's presence in Chicago has.

My case for Green over Johnson is the supporting cast. Johnson is playing on a Houston offense with Arian Foster at running back and 10-year veteran Kevin Walter at the other receiver spot. Green doesn't have the same caliber of running back to force safeties to move closer to the line and he's been playing alongside rookies Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones. In other words, the defense's entire focus is on Green.

The reason I would choose Green over Marshall is impact. The Bengals are 4-1 when Green goes over 100 yards receiving, and his 21-yard catch with eight seconds remaining Sunday set up the winning field goal to put Cincinnati in the playoffs. Marshall has made 62 of his 113 catches when the margin is at least 15 points. That's not exactly producing in crunch time.