I originally posted this on The Sporting News in December of 2007. No one read it. I've decided to give this slop a second home.
This is a team comprised of players who are not generally considered media divas. They are respected by their peers, get kudos from TV analysts the few times they are mentioned each season, but certainly aren't on ESPN's 24 hour watch like a T.O. or Farve are.
QB: David Garrard / Jacksonville : After a brief rumbling from incumbent Brian Leftwich being unceremoniously dumped just before the season began, Garrard has quietly held onto the ball and directed the Jags into serious Super Bowl contention.
FB: Mike Sellers / Washington : This versatile, huge hybrid TE/ FB can even play along the offensive line, if needed. Sellers scores often as Washington's only goal line threat.
RB: Fred Taylor / Jacksonville : 10,000 yards+ in 10 seasons. 1,000 yards+ in 8 seasons. Pro Bowls made? ZERO! Detractors point to low TD totals, but Taylor hasn't been asked to score them since 2002. Scored 37 TD's his first 38 games before Del Rio adjusted his role to keep him healthy.
WR: Derrick Mason / Baltimore : 2000 might have been his finest season with 895 yards on 63 receptions to go with 1132 kick return yards and 662 yards in punt returns. He did not make the Pro Bowl somehow. That may be the theme of his career, being over looked. Now, in his 11th season, he still is the go to guy who consistently produces weekly Still, not many notice.
WR: T.J. Houshmanzadeh / Cincinnati : Just broke Carl Pickens team record for receptions in a season. Carson Palmers favorite target and go to guy when they NEED it, T.J. is content doing his job as Ocho Cinco gyrates for the cameras. May still not get to a Pro Bowl yet this season.
TE: Chris Cooley / Washington : Shockey and Witten get all the press in the NFC, while the AFC has a long list of TE's who get respect. Cooley is not flashy or outspoken. All he has been since his first day is the go to guy in Washington quietly.
T: Matt Lepsis / Denver : Lepsis is finishing his career part of Denver lore. The tradition of exceptional linemen may end with him too, but that is yet to be seen. Lepsis has been dependable through much of his career and has helped Elway, Plummer., and Cutler all look good.
T: Chad Clifton / Green Bay : May be best remembered for being put on the IR due to a vicious cheap shot by Warren Sapp 50 yards away from the ball. One big reason Farve maintains his games played streak is that he can rely on Clifton to protect his blind side week in, week out.
G: Eric Steinbach / Cleveland : Cincinnati misses him BIG TIME, and his presence has been a calming influence on Joe Thomas. Either run or pass, Steinbach generally shuts down whomever he lines up against.
G: Benji Olson / Tennessee : Olson is another stalwart in the long Oiler tradition of great guards in Munchak and Matthews. Since 1999, Olson has started in every game he has played in and only missed one game. Like Munchak and Matthews, Olson is versatile enough to play all over the line.
C: Dominic Raiola / Detroit : One of two sets of brothers who play Center in the NFL (brother Donovan plays for the Rams. Gene Mruczkowski, with Miami, has a brother who plays for San Diego named Scott), Dominic is the only one who starts, and has every game in 6 of his 7 NFL seasons. Raiola has done so well that he forced Damien Woody to play Guard.
CB: Antonio Cromartie / San Diego : So over looked that he wasn't even on the NFL's Pro Bowl ballot until week 12 despite leading the NFL in INT's and passes defended since week 1 pretty much.
CB: Leigh Bodden / Cleveland : Defends the run better than most CB's in the league and is very adept at picking off or defending passes. Very much the definition of over looked.
SS: Donte Whitner / Buffalo : Marv Levy was scoffed at for picking Whitner so high, saying he may even be a second rounder. Levy has looked as smart a GM as he was a coach. Whitner quietly has played himself into the upper echelon of the NFL SS along with Sanders and Polamalu. The Bill's D has been decimated by injury, losing many starters, but Whitner has held the unit together and made them above respectable into the classification of pretty good. Next year, they will be very good.
FS: Kerry Rhodes / NY Jets : Rhodes plays in the shadow of future Hall of Famer Ed Reed in the AFC, but make no mistakes on how good this 3rd year player is. Rhodes has put together an outstanding season thus far with 5 INT's, 2 FF's and a TD. Last season he had 5 sacks to go with 4 INT's. A playmaker in a young Jets secondary that shows a lot of promise.
OLB: James Harrison / Pittsburgh : Yet ANOTHER in a LONG line of linebackers who came to Pittsburgh and stand out to Pro Bowl stardom. Jack Ham, Andy Russell, Jack Lambert, Greg Lloyd, Chad Brown, Kevin Greene, Jason Gildon, Levon Kirkland, James Farrior, Kendrell Bell, Joey Porter, and now Harrison. Amazing!
OLB: Ernie Sims / Detroit : Yet another Millen pick that was questioned. This time, however, the pick looks correct. Sims is amongst the league leaders in tackles and is a force all over the field. Sims shows a natural leadership that should anchor the Detroit D for many years.
ILB : Patrick Willis / San Francisco : The reason he makes this list simply is because you do not hear his name mentioned much in Rookie of the Year honors. He has my vote over Peterson easily. Willis leads the NFL in tackles! He has recorded double digits in tackles every game until the recent win against the Bengals. This kid looks like the second coming of Willie Lanier!
MLB: Kirk Morrison / Oakland : Quietly having a great season. Has 3 INT's as well as being amongst the league leaders in tackles. Can cover the TE or RB in pass situations. One of few every down MLB's left in the NFL.
DE: Aaron Kampman / Green Bay : This is the second straight excellent season put together by Kampman. Maybe he will finally go to a Pro Bowl? His game ramped up once his responsibilities changed. His first 4 seasons, Kampman had 12.5 sacks with 7 passes defended. The last 2, he has 26.5 sacks (so far) with no passes defended.
DE: Jared Allen / Kansas City : Allen has always been an above average pass rusher. This season, however, is his contract season. He not only is terrorizing NFL QB's at the rate of a sack per game, but Allen is finally playing the run more consistently. At only 25 years old, Allen has a very bright future ahead.
DT: Darnell Dockett / Arizona : Dockett is having a very good season on a defense destroyed by injuries. 8 sacks and 2 FF's to go with 51 tackles thus far is certainly worthy of Pro Bowl stature.
DT: Haloti Ngata / Baltimore : Ngata gets lost in shuffle with all the names the Ravens D has, but none of the schemes would work without his athleticism. Ngata can often be seen defending passes in zones or even man coverage. At 6 '4 340, Ngata also will rush in a 2 point stance standing next to Ray Lewis behind the line of scrimmage.
NT: Kelly Gregg / Baltimore : Guys like San Diego's Jamal Williams or Pittsburgh's Casey Hampton get more press, but Gregg has more tackles than any interior lineman the past 3 seasons. High motor guy who is a team leader, Gregg doesn't get a lot of sacks due to the Ravens scheme of the DT's occupying the other teams blockers while the LB's and DE's come from angles, yet he is the teams best lineman.
P: Adam Podlesh / Jacksonville : Dan Sepulveda of Pittsburgh got all the hoopla coming in off the draft, but the Jag's draft pick has worked out fine too. Podlesh has shown an excellent ability to hang the ball in the 20 and has a respectable net average.
K: Rian Lindell / Buffalo : The Bills should thank Seattle for cutting Lindell in favor of Josh Brown. Brown has gone 111- 140 with 6 kicks blocked, while Lindell has never has a kick blocked and has gone 114 - 136 in Buffalo, a much tougher place to kick. Lindell hits 50 yarders with regularity too. Thanks to Seattle, Buffalo may possibly have the best kicker in their franchises history.
Coach: Jack Del Rio / Jacksonville : Everyone has jumped on the band wagons of either Mike McCarthy of Green Bay or Brad Childress of Minnesota, but I think Jack Del Rio deserves Coach of the Year accolades. The media put him on "the hot seat" for cutting Brian Leftwich. Many called it a power struggle, even though Del Rio tried to explain it was more a mechanics of the team issue. Six games into the season, Garrard went down and suddenly their 3rd string QB was the only back up. Del Rio kept the team together and the Jags went 2-1 in Garrards absence. The defense also suffered the loss of Pro Bowl DT Marcus Stroud, yet continue to stop opposing teams consistently. Results in thus far show Del Rio right for the QB change, as they keep winning.
GM: Ted Thompson / Green Bay : Just a few years ago, it appeared the Pack was ready to hit rock bottom. The roster was old and over paid, yet hadn't won anything important in many years. Thompson took a tough stance and started clearing out the roster. It took two seasons. With smart draft picks, free agent pick ups, and the hiring of Mike McCarthy, the Packers are winning, have the youngest team and are the most under the cap. Their future is certainly promising beyond Brett Farve.
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