NFL Nation: Al Wilson
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
ESPN.com's all-decade top-25 player list is top heavy with players from the AFC West.
Only three players on the list spent a major portion of their careers in the division, but they're all in the top 10. It was the only division to boast three of the top-10 players. They are running back LaDainian Tomlinson at No. 3 (San Diego), cornerback Champ Bailey at No. 6 (Denver) and tight end Tony Gonzalez at No. 10 (Kansas City).
Tomlinson was the highest ranked nonquarterback on the list. Bailey was the highest ranked cornerback and the second-highest ranked defensive player on the list and Gonzalez was the only tight end on the list.
What are your thoughts on the AFC West's influence on the list?
|Best of the best: Michael Strahan, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Randy Moss.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Ranking the 25 best NFL players of the decade seemed easy.
AFC West blogger Bill Williamson sent an initial list to me for review. The list appeared strong. I suggested a couple minor tweaks.
The hard part came when we considered those who fell just short of the list.
Guard Alan Faneca has gone to eight Pro Bowls this decade. John Lynch and Will Shields went to seven. Brian Dawkins, La'Roi Glover, Kevin Mawae, Olin Kreutz, Matt Birk, Larry Allen, Chris Samuels and Zach Thomas went to six. Ronde Barber, Keith Brooking, Al Wilson, Julian Peterson, Donovan McNabb, Antonio Gates, Jason Witten and Chad Ochocinco were among those with five.
None of them made the top 25 list. Had all of them made it, only six spots would have remained for the 25 players you see in the chart.
We settled on five quarterbacks, four receivers, four offensive linemen, three linebackers, three defensive ends, two running backs, two safeties, one cornerback, one tight end and zero defensive tackles (few dominated consistently for extended periods).
Seven of 10 league MVPs this decade made the top 25. Marshall Faulk, Rich Gannon and 2003 co-MVP Steve McNair were the exceptions.
Ben Roethlisberger made the list despite only one career Pro Bowl appearance. It's not his fault Manning and Brady play in the same conference.
It's fairly common for personnel folks, scouts and coaches to lean on friends in the business and to place extra value on their opinions.
Jacksonville offensive line coach Andy Heck was an assistant at UVA when the Cavaliers staff recruited Monroe out of Plainfield (N.J.) high school.
"Being in Indianapolis for the NFL combine, I got to be around him," Heck said. "I was actually on the field working these guys. I did go to Virginia's campus and work Eugene out. Even back from my days as a coach at Virginia I had some exposure to Eugene as a high schooler.
"I have gotten a chance to know Eugene and I'm close to the Virginia program having been there and this is a top-flight character guy. The things I'm most excited about are his work ethic, determination, serious approach to football and anything he wants to be good at, really."
While Monroe worked out of a two-point stance a lot at Virginia, he comes into the league as a top-flight pass protector whom the Jaguars say has the characteristics that will allow him to grow as a run-blocker.
The Titans were helped by input from a former offensive lineman, Tom Ackerman, in 2005 when they grabbed left tackle Michael Roos out of Eastern Washington in the second round. This time they had insider insight on Britt at No. 30.
Offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger worked with receiver Rod Smith in Denver, and as Britt prepared for the draft in Arizona, he said he worked three times a week with Smith.
Heimerdinger squeezed all the information he could out of Smith, and it helped him add to what the scouting department already had gathered.
"[Smith] told me about his work ethic and the way that Kenny had worked for him and the things that he had tried to help Kenny with," Heimerdinger said. "He said Kenny did all the things that he was trying to help with and improve on. We had talked and did the background on him. I really wanted to find out from Rod what his work ethic was like, plus his brain. Rod said he handled everything good. Everything he gave him and every challenge he gave him, he worked hard at."
Additionally, quick notes on Indianapolis and Houston at the end of the first day:
-- In Indianapolis, the Colts passed on Evander Hood in the first round, but moved up five spots in the second round to address their hole at defensive tackle, tabbing USC's 6-foot-4, 304-pound Fili Moala.
I counted and came up with 98 total draft picks for Bill Polian running the Colts since 1999 -- including two Saturday.
Moala is just the fifth defensive tackle and only the second taken as high as the second round. Larry Tripplett was the 42nd pick in 2002. Moala was 56th. Polian gave up a fifth-rounder, No. 165, to move from No. 61 in the second round.
-- Texans new defensive coordinator Frank Bush said Brian Cushing was Houston's target for a good while. And while he didn't want to pressurize the expectations, Bush also couldn't help mentioning Cushing's qualities remind him of two very big names he's worked with.
"He was my guy ever since I've watched him early in this season and throughout the combine," Bush said. "I guess he reminded me of another player I coached a little while ago. His demeanor, his intensity, and the way he played the game -- he reminded me of a player I coached at Denver. I like everything about him and hopefully he can bring us some impact on the defense."
"Who?" asked a reporter. "Al Wilson?"
"Al Wilson was one of my favorite players. Bill Romanowski, that type of intensity. I say that tongue-in-cheek because I don't want to put all that other stuff on that kid so that he plays football that way."
Around the AFC West:
The word is that weakside linebacker D.J. Williams might be out 3-4 weeks with an MCL injury. More information is expected Tuesday. But Denver put two players -- running backs Michael Pittman and Andre Hall -- on the injured reserve list Monday and likely would have done the same with Williams had it been a more serious injury.
Denver is expected to add a couple of players to the 53-man roster Tuesday morning. It wouldn't be a surprise to see running back P.J. Pope promoted from the practice squad. The team will surely add a running back.
The Chiefs were looking at running backs as well Monday. It wouldn't be a surprise if they add some players, including a running back as early as Tuesday. Kolby Smith is out for the year after suffering a knee injury Sunday.
The name of former Oakland coach Lane Kiffin has been connected to the pending coaching opening at Tennessee as well as at Washington and Clemson. The rumblings around the league is that Kiffin, despite a 5-15 record, is being helped by the fact that Oakland has nosedived after he was fired. Even though Oakland was 1-3 under Kiffin, they were competing hard. Under interim head coach Tom Cable, the Raiders are 1-3 and have been outscored 87-13 in their losses under Cable.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
|Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire|
|Al Wilson finished his career with 712 tackles and 21.5 sacks.|
In what was supposed to be remembered as the fist start of Jay Cutler's NFL career, I remember it as the beginning of Wilson's retirement.
Wilson was taken off the field on a stretcher after a violent collision with a teammate. He lay motionless for several minutes. The Invesco Field at Mile High crowd began to chant his name. Wilson was a fan favorite.
After Wilson was taken to a local hospital, the Seahawks made a furious comeback against Denver's shell-shocked teammates, who were clearly shaken by Wilson's injury.
He suffered a neck injury, but in typical Wilson form, the former amateur boxing champion was back at practice three days later and finished the season.
Still, there was a toll from the injury. He was going to be traded to the New York Giants the next spring but the deal was scuttled when he failed a physical. He missed the entire 2007 season. Wilson was cleared to play this year and he had a couple of workouts. But Wilson ultimately decided that his long-term health wasn't worth risking.
While Wilson has been gone from the league nearly two years, his formal departure needs to be noted with respect. This was an intense, fiery leader on the field. In his prime, Wilson was one of the nastiest linebackers in the league. Off the field, Wilson was down to earth and friendly. He'd talk to you all day long and it didn't have to be football.
I covered Wilson for three seasons in Denver. He goes down as one my favorites players I covered, in any city, any sport.