NFC South: All-NFC South offense

All-NFC South team: Offense

January, 24, 2012
It was a big year for offense in the NFC South. The New Orleans Saints set all sorts of records. The Carolina Panthers lit up scoreboards and, when the Atlanta Falcons were on, they sometimes were spectacular.

That made for some difficult choices, but here’s my All-NFC South offense.

Tackle: Jordan Gross, Panthers. He’s getting along in years, but Gross is still the best tackle in the division.

Tackle: Jermon Bushrod, Saints. This was a really tough call because Tampa Bay’s Donald Penn seemed destined for this spot, but his play slipped as the Bucs collapsed and lost their last 10 games. I refuse to put any offensive lineman from Atlanta on this team, so I’m going with Bushrod almost by default. I know he made the Pro Bowl, but I’m not convinced Bushrod is anything more than an ordinary left tackle. But he’s better than any other tackle the NFC South had to offer.

Guard: Carl Nicks, Saints. He might be the best guard in the NFL.

Guard: Jahri Evans, Saints. If Nicks isn’t the best guard in the NFL, then Evans is.

Center: Ryan Kalil, Panthers. He’s becoming a Pro Bowl regular and might be the best center in the league.

Wide receiver: Steve Smith, Panthers. Rookie quarterback Cam Newton came along and revitalized Smith’s career. But I also think Smith deserves a lot of the credit for Newton’s success.

Wide receiver: Marques Colston, Saints. I went back and forth on this one between Colston and Atlanta’s Roddy White and Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams also got some consideration. I’m joking. Williams didn’t get one bit of consideration. White’s numbers were slightly better than Colston’s in terms of catches and receiving yards. But Colston missed a couple games with a broken collarbone and still had very nice numbers in an offense where there are a ton of other options. White had nice numbers, but he didn’t look like the dominant receiver he was a year ago. White led the league in drops.

Tight end: Jimmy Graham, Saints. This one was easy. Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez had a very nice season and is the best tight end in history. But Graham had one of the most prolific seasons ever by a tight end in only his second season. Graham should only continue to get better and, if he stays healthy, he could eventually pass Gonzalez as the best tight end ever.

Fullback: Jed Collins, Saints. In his first real NFL season (Collins was with Cleveland in 2008), he emerged as a steady role player in the league’s best offense. Collins didn’t have much in the way of numbers, but his blocking was a key factor in the offenses’ success. If Atlanta’s Ovie Mughelli hadn’t gotten injured, he’d be in this spot. But Collins is a worthy replacement.

Running back: Darren Sproles, Saints. Sproles ended up with an NFL record for all-purpose yards. Out of the backfield, he contributed as a runner and receiver and created enormous matchup problems for opposing defenses.

Running back: Michael Turner. Yeah, I'm going with two running backs because it's my team, I can want and there are two guys that deserve to be on here. Turner looked slow for most of the second half of the season. But he still rushed for 1,340 yards and 11 touchdowns. That's not a bad season by any measure.

Quarterback: Drew Brees, Saints. He threw for a league-record 5,476 yards and also passed for 46 touchdowns. Brees has been great for a long time, but he took his game to another level. He’s the reason the Saints won 13 games without a defense.

All-NFC South offense

January, 20, 2011
We continue our All-NFC South team now with the offense.

Tackle: Donald Penn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He got his big contract at the start of training camp. Penn then went out and showed he deserved the big money. While the rest of Tampa Bay's offensive line was going through a bunch of injuries, Penn did a great job of protecting Josh Freeman's blind side.

Tackle: Jordan Gross, Carolina Panthers. It's hard to put anyone from Carolina on this offense because the Panthers were so dismal on offense. I might be giving Gross a pass because of his reputation from past seasons. But show me another tackle in the division who's better than Gross.

Guard: Carl Nicks, New Orleans Saints. One half of the best guard tandem in the league.

Guard: Jahri Evans, New Orleans Saints. The other half of the best guard tandem in the league.

Center: Todd McClure, Atlanta Falcons. New Orleans' Jonathan Goodwin and Carolina's Ryan Kalil got strong consideration here, but the Saints already have strong representation on the offensive line, and I couldn't bring myself to put more than one Carolina player on this offense. Atlanta's offensive line was too good as a unit to not have someone on this list. McClure's the veteran anchor of this line.

Tight end: Kellen Winslow, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's a very close call between Winslow and Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez. Their numbers were very similar. I'm going with Winslow. Gonzalez already has received enough attention throughout his career. Winslow was infamous in his Cleveland days, but he's been on his best behavior and has been productive since coming to the Bucs.

Wide receiver: Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons. Had a monstrous season and now has to be considered one of the best receivers in the league.

Wide receiver: Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A fourth-round draft pick, Williams was instantly dominant at a position where it often takes players a few years to develop.

Running back: Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons. Had some ups and downs, but still is the most dependable running back in the division.

Running back: LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Went from being cut by Tennesee in the preseason to becoming Tampa Bay's feature back. He didn't fully get put in that role until close to midseason, but he still rushed for 1,000 yards.

Fullback: Ovie Mughelli, Atlanta Falcons. Did a great job blocking for Turner and protecting Matt Ryan.

Quarterback: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints. This wasn't his best season, and Ryan and Freeman got strong consideration for this spot. They're also getting strong consideration for the division's MVP award and Offensive Player of the Year, which will be announced Friday. But, at least at quarterback on the All-NFC South team, I had to stick with Brees. He threw too many interceptions. But he also led the division in passing yards and touchdowns.

Here's the All-NFC South offense

January, 7, 2010
It's time to name our second annual All-NFC South offense.

Quarterback: Drew Brees, Saints. Best player in the division, period. If Brees wasn’t already on a level with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, leading the Saints to 13 wins (including some big games) put him there.

[+] EnlargeDrew Brees
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesDrew Brees threw for 4,388 yards and 34 touchdowns this season.
Running back: DeAngelo Williams, Panthers. He gets the nod in a close one over teammate Jonathan Stewart. Williams missed some time late in the season because of an injury. But he still showed enough to get selected to the Pro Bowl. Stewart, Michael Turner, Cadillac Williams and Pierre Thomas all get honorable mention.

Fullback: Brad Hoover, Panthers. Very quietly, this guy just goes out and does his job every week and he’s been doing it for a long time. Some scouts and coaches will tell you that Hoover plays at a Pro Bowl level. He’s also a big part of the reason why Stewart and Williams became the first pair of teammates in NFL history to rush for 1,100 yards.

Tight end: Tony Gonzalez, Falcons. He somehow got snubbed in the Pro Bowl selection. But Gonzalez isn’t going to be overlooked here. Gonzalez came in and did exactly what the Falcons wanted and showed no signs that age is catching up to him. Tampa Bay’s Kellen Winslow gets an honorable mention for having a productive and peaceful season.

Wide receiver: Marques Colston, Saints. He showed what he can do when healthy. He’s Brees’ favorite target and a mismatch for most defensive backs.

Wide receiver: Roddy White, Falcons. Some people say White let up a bit after signing a big contract. That’s not true. His reception and yardage totals weren’t far off what he did last year and he also scored four touchdowns more than he did a year ago.

Tackle: Jordan Gross, Panthers. Yeah, I know he missed the final seven games, but he’s still the best offensive tackle in the division.

Tackle: Jon Stinchcomb, Saints. He’s steady and he got his first Pro Bowl berth this year. He’s got to be doing something right.

Guard: Jahri Evans, Saints. Nature of his position means he often goes unnoticed, but this guy had the best season of any offensive lineman in the division.

Guard: Davin Joseph, Buccaneers. New Orleans’ Carl Nicks got heavy consideration, but I’m going with Joseph, in part to give the Bucs some representation on this squad. But also because Joseph is a solid player.

Center: Jonathan Goodwin, Saints. He’s another guy you don’t hear much about. But he anchored an offensive line that protected Brees very well and cleared the way for the Saints to have an effective running game.