Thursday, January 5, 2012
2011 All-NFC West Offense
By Mike Sando
A look at my all-NFC West picks for the 2011 season, beginning with the offense:
- San Francisco's Michael Crabtree had competition from Doug Baldwin and Brandon Lloyd for the second receiver spot behind Larry Fitzgerald. Baldwin was the best on third down. Lloyd made the most spectacular grabs. Crabtree was a starter within the division all season and an aggressive blocker. He also caught more passes. Baldwin would have made it if we had space for a slot receiver. But with Crabtree making a few big plays, including an outstanding grab for a 41-yard gain at Seattle with the NFC's second seed on the line, he had the edge.
- Arizona's Daryn Colledge edged out the 49ers' Mike Iupati at left guard. Colledge, as a seasoned veteran, was more consistent. Iupati was outstanding on his best plays. Colledge, signed from Green Bay in free agency, upped the standard for the position. I thought he was strong as a run blocker in particular.
- Seattle's Max Unger overcame a slow start to beat out Arizona's Lyle Sendlein and San Francisco's Jonathan Goodwin at center. Unger picked up his game beginning with the Seahawks' strong rushing performance at Dallas. He looks like a long-term starter.
- The right side of the offensive line won out by default. The 49ers' Anthony Davis was the only right tackle in the division to start all season. Seattle's Breno Giacomini finished the season strong and could remain the starter next season. St. Louis' Harvey Dahl was an easy choice at right guard even though he finished the season at right tackle.
- The NFC West produced four strong candidates at running back. Seattle's Marshawn Lynch was an easy choice after leading the league in rushing since Week 9. He was a threat after contact, as a receiver and even when opponents seemed to have him tackled. The Rams' Steven Jackson edged out the 49ers' Frank Gore for the other spot mostly because Gore's production diminished as the season progressed. I didn't like leaving off Gore, because I respect the way he plays, but he also dropped too many passes this season.
- Alex Smith was the easy choice at quarterback.
Those were the primary considerations. I'll be back with defense and special teams. The chart breaks down my all-division choices for offense since 2008.
The comments section is now open. As always, let's work through our differences with civility and restraint.