Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC South [Print without images]

Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Midseason All-NFC South team

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

With no team worse than 4-4 and three teams with winning records, the NFC South has had a very strong first half. You could assemble an all-star team from the division that would hold up pretty well against any of the seven others.

That's what I did. With some input from scouts and coaches, I assembled the All-NFC South midseason team. A couple of notes: When it came to picking positions like offensive tackle, linebacker and safety, I didn't necessarily break it down to left and right tackle, middle or outside linebacker or strong and free safety. I just went with the players who've been the best so far this season.

Here's the team:

OFFENSE
Quarterback: Drew Brees, Saints. Jake Delhomme and Matt Ryan are having very good seasons. But no player has meant more to his team than Brees has to the Saints.

Running back: Michael Turner, Falcons. Perhaps the best free-agent signing in the entire NFL.

Fullback: Ovie Mughelli, Falcons. Has only one carry, but he's been opening a lot of holes for Turner.

Wide receiver: Roddy White, Falcons. Emerged as a No. 1 receiver amid last year's turmoil. But, now, it really matters.

Wide receiver: Steve Smith, Panthers. Missed the first two games due to suspension, but he's still the most explosive player in the division.

Tight end: Alex Smith, Buccaneers. In a division where tight ends aren't big factors, Smith has been solid with three touchdowns and a two-point conversion.

Tackle: Jordan Gross, Panthers. Closest thing the division has to a dominant left tackle.

Tackle: Jamaal Brown, Saints. Not having his best season, but he's still a better-than-average left tackle. If you insist on a right tackle, Tampa Bay's Jeremy Trueblood would get the nod because of his run blocking.

Guard: Justin Blalock, Falcons. Strong run blocking has been a big reason why Turner and Jerious Norwood have thrived.

Guard: Jahri Evans, Saints. Most consistent player on a line that keeps Brees from rarely getting pressure.

Center: Jeff Faine, Buccaneers. Tampa Bay made him the league's highest-paid center and he hasn't disappointed.

DEFENSE
End: John Abraham, Falcons. Already has 10 sacks and Falcons have done a good job of keeping him fresh by limiting his snaps.

End: Julius Peppers, Panthers. At times, he's looked like the dominant player of old, which is much more than he did last year. He gets a slight nod over Tampa Bay's Gaines Adams, who is emerging fast.

Tackle: Jonathan Babineaux, Falcons. Quietly has anchored the interior of a defensive line that's been far better than anybody expected.

Tackle: Chris Hovan, Buccaneers. Not spectacular by any means, but the Bucs have yet to allow an opposing running back to gain 100 yards.

Linebacker: Jon Beason, Panthers. He's become what Dan Morgan always was supposed to be for Carolina.

Linebacker: Barrett Ruud, Buccaneers. He's having a breakout year and continues to get better.

Linebacker: Derrick Brooks, Buccaneers. Yes, New Orleans' Jonathan Vilma, Carolina's Thomas Davis and Atlanta's Michael Boley and Curtis Lofton got strong consideration here and putting any of them on this team would be valid. But Brooks gets the nod for lifetime achievement, leadership and for helping the development of Ruud.

Cornerback: Chris Gamble, Panthers. Very quietly, he's become a shutdown corner.

Cornerback: Ken Lucas, Panthers. Has been solid on the field. But his acceptance of Steve Smith's apology for a fight in training camp has brought harmony in Carolina.

Safety: Tanard Jackson, Buccaneers. He's got a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Isn't that what you want from a safety?

Safety: Chris Harris, Panthers. He's always been a big hitter, but his pass coverage has improved dramatically this year.

SPECIALISTS
Kicker: Matt Bryant, Buccaneers. His only misses have come from 49, 51 and 51 yards and his strong performance days after losing his son was one of the most impressive games any player has had this season.

Punter: Josh Bidwell, Buccaneers. Already has put 18 punts inside the 20-yard line.

Return man: Reggie Bush, Saints. He's returned three punts for touchdowns and has the potential to score any time he touches the ball.