Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL Nation [Print without images]

Tuesday, September 2, 2008
The inaugural preseason All-NFC South squad


Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

With ESPN.com's new NFL Blog Network, I've decided to do something that's never been done before. I'm going to pick a preseason All-NFC South team.

We'll start with the offense today, unveil the defense tomorrow and, after the season, we'll go back and do it all over again -- when it actually will be based on production, not speculation.

Here goes:

Brees

QUARTERBACK: Drew Brees, New Orleans

Jake Delhomme and Jeff Garcia also have been to the Pro Bowl and they could get there again this year. But Brees is the safest choice of the four quarterbacks because there are no questions about his health or age.

RUNNING BACK: Michael Turner, Atlanta

I know, Turner's never been a starter before and the Falcons probably aren't going to be very good. But, remember, this is all speculative. Besides, there aren't a lot of choices here. If this were a lifetime achievement award, Deuce McAllister and Warrick Dunn would be worthy. But it remains to be seen how healthy McAllister is and Dunn may be nothing more than a third-down back. Reggie Bush and DeAngelo Williams are question marks and I'm not going to anoint Carolina rookie Jonathan Stewart before he's ever taken a snap, although I think he's going to be good. Tampa Bay's Earnest Graham is solid, but there's not much upside. I'm going with Turner because there aren't questions about his age or health and he's got upside.

FULLBACK: Mike Karney, New Orleans

Close call here because Carolina's Brad Hoover, Atlanta's Ovie Mughelli and Tampa Bay's B.J. Askew are all pretty much the same guy as Karney. They're all solid blockers and none of them are real threats with the ball. Karney gets the nod because he's got an All-Pro selection (2006, second team) on his resume.

Shockey

TIGHT END: Jeremy Shockey, New Orleans

This is the easiest choice on the entire offense. Shockey's the only true pass-catching threat in the division at this position.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Steve Smith, Carolina and Marques Colston, New Orleans

Roddy White and Joey Galloway also got consideration, but you can't beat Smith and Colston. In fact, if you could put them together, their contrasting size and style might make the perfect receiver duo.

CENTER: Jeff Faine, Tampa Bay

The Bucs paid him a ton of money to anchor their offensive line. Faine's a pro's pro and he's already become the leader of this line.

GUARDS: Jahri Evans, New Orleans and Justin Blalock, Atlanta

Very quietly, Evans has developed into a very solid player. Blalock gets the nod over Tampa Bay's Davin Joseph, who is out with a broken foot. Blalock's only a second-year pro, but the Falcons are expecting big things from him. Blalock's presence at left guard is one reason why the Falcons are comfortable starting rookie Sam Baker at left tackle.

GrossBrown

TACKLES: Carolina's Jordan Gross and New Orleans' Jammal Brown

Yeah, I know, they're both left tackles. But this is a paper team and there's flexibility. Besides, Gross has spent a large chunk of his career on the right side. If this team ever had to take the field, I'd put Gross on the right side and Brown on the left because they're the two best tackles in the division.

KICKER: Carolina's John Kasay

Until he had a dismal preseason, Tampa Bay's Matt Bryant would have been in the argument. Atlanta's Jason Elam also got strong consideration. Bottom line: If I needed someone to kick a field goal to win a game, Kasay's the guy.