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Thursday, November 12, 2009
The All-NFC South midseason defense

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas

Time for the midseason All-NFC South defense.

Defensive end: Julius Peppers, Panthers. Peppers has a division-high seven sacks and has been dominant at times. Problem is, at other times, he’s disappeared. Same old story.

Defensive end: Will Smith, Saints. He has 6.5 sacks. Not bad for a guy who faced a possible suspension in the preseason and has often been called an underachiever.

Defensive tackle: Jonathan Babineaux, Falcons. Probably the most underrated player in the NFC South. Definitely the best defensive tackle.

Defensive tackle: Sedrick Ellis, Saints. Yes, he’s banged up right now. But he was playing at a very high level before he got hurt. He’s a big part of the reason ends Smith and Charles Grant are playing to their potential.

Linebacker: Thomas Davis, Panthers. He just went on injured reserve and will miss the rest of the season. But this guy was the best linebacker in the division through the first eight games.

Linebacker: Curtis Lofton, Falcons. The guy’s become an every-down player and he’s leading the NFL in tackles.

Linebacker: Mike Peterson, Falcons. Yes, I’m well aware that entering the season there was a strong consensus that Jon Beason, Jonathan Vilma and Barrett Ruud were the best three linebackers in the division and I thought I’d go that route as I started this project. But once I really started looking at it, I couldn’t. Davis and Lofton have outperformed them. The final spot came down to Vilma and Peterson and I could have gone either way. Both have played well and been the leaders of their defense. I went with Peterson, though, because we’re about to get very heavy with Saints.

Cornerback: Jabari Greer, Saints. Best cornerback in the division -- by far.

Cornerback: Tracy Porter, Saints. Chris Gamble and Ronde Barber have bigger names. But Porter is playing better than them.

Safety: Darren Sharper, Saints. He’s been the best defensive player in the division … maybe in the entire NFL.

Safety: Roman Harper, Saints. I’m making it a sweep for the Saints’ secondary. I considered Atlanta’s Erik Coleman and Thomas DeCoud and Tampa Bay’s Tanard Jackson would have gotten consideration if he wasn’t suspended for four games. But Harper is playing at a high level now that he’s got some talent around him.