At long last, we start to unveil ESPN.com’s All-AFC South Team.
We’ll start with the offense.
It’s a tough assignment.
The second guy at some spots -- like Houston running back Arian Foster -- is superb, while the top guy at other spots was hardly as good and was not so clearly better than his competition.
But we forge ahead.
WRs: Wide receivers were not great this season, with Andre Johnson missing too much time to be eligible and not one Jacksonville player at the position worth a look. Indianapolis’ Reggie Wayne remained productive on a team that played three bad quarterbacks and was unable to have many offensive days of note. Tennessee’s Nate Washington topped 1,000 yards and was a prime third-down target. He blossomed in a season when the Titans were desperate after Kenny Britt was lost early on.
LT: Houston’s Duane Brown gets the nod after a fine season. He was probably the second-best guy (to center Chris Myers) on one of the very best lines in the NFL. But Tennessee’s Michael Roos was very steady again and Jacksonville’s Eugene Monroe emerged as a player closer to the kind the Jaguars expected and need him to be. Both deserve mention.
LG: I struggled to find a left guard that was worthy of a spot here, so I reluctantly leave the spot open. The second-best guard in the division was Houston’s Mike Brisiel and, like Jacksonville’s Uche Nwaneri, he plays on the right. One film-watcher I spoke with said I should just go with the entire Texans group, but others thought left guard Wade Smith dropped off from his 2010 performance. Tennessee’s Leroy Harris pass-blocked well like all the Titans, but was part of the team’s run struggles.
C: Myers led Houston’s line, perhaps the best in the NFL. He’s super smart, efficient and effective. He’s also very much the group’s tone-setter and leader. Considering how much the team's scheme relies on the unit working together with lateral movements and cutting, Myers' leadership is incredibly valuable.
RG: A lot of Jaguars linemen were in and out of the lineup as the team had to shuffle and leaned on one rookie, Will Rackley. Nwaneri may have even outranked Monroe as the steadiest guy on a line that help spring Maurice Jones-Drew for a league-high 1,606 yards on a team that could hardly throw the ball.
TE: Not a great year for guys at a position that could be stacked if everyone was healthy for the full season and producing as they are capable of doing. I was leaning toward Tennessee’s Jared Cook based on a solid finish. But Cook didn't do enough early and scouting associates steered me to Owen Daniels, who was not at his best but was still a threat who helped offset the stretches without Johnson.
QB: Matt Schaub didn’t play enough for the Texans to offset Matt Hasselbeck's season. While Hasselbeck didn’t maintain the high level of play he showed early on, he was the most consistent and productive guy in the division and the only quarterback not named Warren Moon to pass for 3,500 yards for the Titans/Oilers.
FB: Greg Jones of the Jaguars blocked for the best running game in the division and the most productive running back in the division. Case closed.
RB: If we weren’t in a quarterback-dominated era and if running well translated to winning more, then Jones-Drew of the Jaguars would be in the running for offensive player of the year. Such things are not happening in today’s NFL. That does not detract from his remarkable season, which is what took to win this spot over Foster.