Picking the best of the NFC West
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Not every all-division team is the same. The one I put together for the NFC West heading into the 2008 regular season tried to respect positional integrity.
The Rams' Richie Incognito might not rank as one of the five best offensive linemen in the division, but he was a clear choice at right guard -- almost by default -- over Seattle's Rob Sims, Arizona's Deuce Lutui and San Francisco's Tony Wragge.
Positional integrity broke down at running back, where Frank Gore and Steven Jackson were simply too good to ignore. Most teams don't use traditional fullbacks extensively, anyway. Gore could probably dabble at the position on willpower alone.
The Cardinals' Reggie Wells might be one of the more underrated players in the division. He might play left tackle if the Cardinals lost Mike Gandy, a transition most guards would struggle to make.
Speaking of underrated, I had a hard time leaving Torry Holt off the team but we needed a tight end to help at fullback and beat linebackers in coverage. The Rams' Randy McMichael got the call over the 49ers' Vernon Davis, who hasn't done it long enough.
Five of the 11 defensive players come from the Seahawks, no surprise after Seattle sent four Pro Bowl starters to Hawaii from that side of the ball. All four made the list: Patrick Kerney, Lofa Tatupu, Julian Peterson and Marcus Trufant. Free safety Deon Grant earned a spot on the all-division team thanks to his blend of athleticism, smarts and experience.
Cardinals strong safety Adrian Wilson would flourish in our defense with Willis, Tatupu and Peterson providing insurance in coverage. Niners cornerback Nate Clements would maximize his Pro Bowl talents with Kerney, Leonard Little, La'Roi Glover and Darnell Dockett giving quarterbacks very little time to hold the ball.
We hereby designate Gore, Anquan Boldin, Glover and Tatupu all-divisional team captains. And we pledge to keep close watch over several players with the potential to earn a spot on this team next time: Seattle's Leroy Hill, Arizona's Karlos Dansby, San Francisco's Davis, Manny Lawson and Joe Staley come to mind.
Older players to watch include Rams cornerback Fakhir Brown, Rams tackle Orlando Pace, Seahawks guard Mike Wahle, 49ers linebacker Justin Smith, Rams quarterback Marc Bulger and Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner. Who else deserves mention?