Thursday, November 10, 2011
Midseason All-NFC South offense
By Pat Yasinskas
We’ve already unveiled our midseason All-NFC South defense. Now, it’s time for the offense.
As I said in the post on the defense, that’s not exactly the strong side of the ball in this division. The offense is the strong side and there were lots of tough choices. I felt I had to reach in a few cases on the defense. On the offense, I felt like I was forced to leave off some very good players.
Here’s the offense:
Tackle: Jordan Gross, Panthers. He’s been one of the best in the business for a long time. Gross has weathered some tough times, but, like a lot of other Carolina veterans, he’s been energized by the arrival of rookie quarterback Cam Newton.
Tackle: Donald Penn, Buccaneers. He’s gone from an undrafted free agent in 2006 to the Pro Bowl last season. Penn’s play has continued to improve this season and he’s one of the few Tampa Bay players who has performed consistently well this season.
Steve Smith is enjoying a career revival and already has as many receptions through Week 8 as he had all of last season.
Guard: Carl Nicks, Saints. Lots of people say Nicks and teammate Jahri Evans form the best guard tandem in the business. I think their play has fallen off a bit this year, but that might be because there’s been a lot of shuffling on the rest of the offensive line. But, on pure talent, Nicks remains an elite guard.
Guard: Davin Joseph, Buccaneers. I’m taking him over Evans (and Carolina’s Travelle Wharton, who got some consideration) because Joseph has been consistent.
Center: Ryan Kalil, Panthers. Carolina had the franchise tag on Kalil before signing him to a big contract in the preseason. Kalil hasn’t disappointed. He’s one of the league’s top centers and still has more upside.
Tight end:Jimmy Graham, Saints. In a division that’s loaded with talented tight ends, Graham stands above the rest, even though he’s only in his second season. He’s become a huge part of the offense and is on pace for somewhere around 100 catches. He presents all sorts of matchup problems for defenses and makes the Cover Two almost useless against the Saints.
Wide receiver: Steve Smith, Panthers. He’s having one of the best years of his career and no one has been more energized by Newton’s arrival than Smith.
Wide receiver: Marques Colston, Saints. Although Colston missed some time with a broken collarbone, he’s putting up nice stats. I picked him over Atlanta’s Roddy White, who slipped a bit in the first half of the season, but could explode at any time.
Running back: Michael Turner, Falcons. He’s on pace for almost 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. Perhaps the best news of all is Turner has his yards per carry average back up to 4.4, after it dipped to 4.1 last season.
Running back: Darren Sproles, Saints. I’m going with two running backs because it’s my team and I can make the rules. I’m also going with two running backs because Sproles deserves to be on this team. We knew this guy was a decent player in his San Diego days. But the Saints have put him in positions where he’s been great.
Fullback: Ovie Mughelli, Falcons. Yes, Mughelli’s done for the season with an injury. But, before that happened, he was clearly the best fullback in the NFC South. He provided excellent blocking for Turner and also was a bit of a threat as a receiver.
Quarterback: Drew Brees, Saints. He’s on pace for more than 5,000 passing yards and he clearly has been helped by the arrival of Sproles, a player Brees helped recruit. His 11 interceptions are a bit troubling, but you’re going to have some turnovers when you throw as often as the Saints.