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Wednesday, September 3, 2008
All-NFC South: Defense, specialists

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

We unveiled the inaugural preseason All-NFC South offense. Today, it's time for the defense.

DEFENSIVE ENDS: John Abraham, Atlanta and Julius Peppers, Carolina.

Peppers

Anyway you look at it, Peppers was a huge disappointment last year. But a bounce back is very possible from a guy who had some big seasons in the past and still remains one of the best athletes on the planet. Abraham is the most dependable pass rusher in the division. New Orleans' Will Smith and Charles Grant and Tampa Bay's Gaines Adams have enough talent to crack this team at any moment.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES: Chris Hovan, Tampa Bay and Jonathan Babineaux, Atlanta.

A tough call because the division doesn't have as much at this position as it did back in the days when Warren Sapp and Kris Jenkins were arguing over who was the NFL's best defensive tackle. I almost took a leap and included New Orleans rookie Sedrick Ellis, based purely on potential. But it's not right to put a guy on this team until he's taken an NFL snap. Ellis may be on this team at the end of the year. For now, we'll go with the two most solid (although far from spectacular) defensive tackles in the division.

LINEBACKERS: Derrick Brooks, Tampa Bay, Jon Beason, Carolina and Michael Boley, Atlanta.

Brooks

Yeah, Brooks has lost a step and doesn't dominate the way he once did. But he's going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He's also the best player ever in the NFC South, so he's got to be on this team. Beason and Boley are in their prime. If Jonathan Vilma has the impact the Saints think he will, he'll be on this list at the end of the year.

CORNERBACKS: Ronde Barber, Tampa Bay and Mike McKenzie, New Orleans.

Carolina's got the best trio of corners in the division with Ken Lucas, Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall, but none of them stand out like Barber and McKenzie. You can make an argument that Barber is a system player, but the results have been very good for a very long time.

SAFETIES: Roman Harper, New Orleans and Tanard Jackson, Tampa Bay.

Had to go with a strong safety and a free safety and that meant some serious searching. At strong safety, I went with Harper in a very close call over Carolina's Chris Harris. I like Harris' tackling ability, but Harper's better in pass coverage. At free safety, I'm taking a leap with Jackson because there's not a true center fielder in this division. Jackson had ups and downs in the preseason, but played very well as a rookie last year.

PUNTER: Josh Bidwell, Tampa Bay.

Bidwell is one of the league's most consistent punters and he's coming off one of the best seasons of his career.

LONG SNAPPER: Jason Kyle, Carolina.

You may never have heard of Kyle. That's a good thing. It means he's doing his job very well and he's been doing that for a long time.