Time for the All-NFC South defense for the 2009 season.
In the end, the selections were made by me. But statistics and input from scouts, coaches and front-office employees was used. Here’s the defense.
Defensive end: Will Smith, Saints. He’s been labeled as an underachiever at times. But that tag didn’t fit this year. Smith had a strong season and was the most consistent player on this defensive line.
Defensive end: Julius Peppers, Panthers. At times, he was absolutely dominant. At other times, he seemed to disappear. Just another usual year in Peppers’ career.
Defensive tackle: Jonathan Babineaux, Falcons. Best player on Atlanta’s defensive line. Would have had an even better season if rookie defensive tackle Peria Jerry didn’t get hurt and was able to play next to him all year.
Defensive tackle: Sedrick Ellis, Saints. When he’s healthy, he’s the best defensive tackle in the NFC South.
Linebacker: Jonathan Vilma, Saints. Should get more attention than he does. He’s easily the best player on the New Orleans offense.
Linebacker: Curtis Lofton, Falcons. Became an every-down player this season. The next step is to make the Pro Bowl and that will happen if the Falcons start winning big.
Cornerback: Chris Gamble, Panthers. Closest thing division has to a shutdown corner.
Cornerback: Aqib Talib, Buccaneers. In a tough call, I’m taking Talib over New Orleans’ Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter. That’s mainly because Greer and Porter each missed significant time with injuries. Plus, Talib is pretty darn talented, when he’s focused on football.
Safety: Darren Sharper, Saints. The veteran stepped into a new team and became an instant turnover machine.
Safety: Roman Harper, Saints. This guy took some abuse from fans in the past. But this year showed he can be pretty effective when he’s got some talent around him.