Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Annual All-Joe team: Honoring those who won little acclaim
By Larry Weisman, USA TODAY
The 17th annual All-Joe team honors the overlooked, the overachievers, the hard-working guys named "Joe" (but not the Plumber) who don't grab the headlines.
AFC ALL-JOE TEAM
• OT: David Stewart, Tenn. Nicknamed "Big Country." No missed starts since jumping into the lineup in 2006; Jared Gaither, Balt. Huge figure who can shut down top pass-rushers; Ryan Clady, Den. A No. 1 pick who stepped right in and gives line hopes of a return to greatness.
• OG: Bobbie Williams, Cin. A team captain who hasn't missed a game since 2006 appendectomy; Brad Butler, Buff. Bills' ground game faded when he went out, perked up (150 yards in three of four games) when he returned; Mike Brisiel, Hou. Texans run to the right side a lot. Helped clear the way for star rookie RB Steve Slaton.
• C: Jason Brown, Balt. At the heart of a sound run-blocking line that also protected a rookie QB; Justin Hartwig, Pitt. Steadying influence inside with first-year starters flanking him at both guard spots.
• TE: Marcedes Lewis, Jac. Growing into sound receiver, had most receiving yards by a Jaguars TE in eight years; Dallas Clark, Ind. Dependable receiver who can run in the open field; Heath Miller, Pitt. Excellent blocker on the edge who takes shifts on kickoff, punt and field goal special teams.
• FB: Ahmard Hall, Tenn. Former U.S. Marine was undrafted, now a three-year starter for a run-loving team; Vonta Leach, Hou. Takes on LBs so Slaton can hit the holes.
• RB: Sammy Morris, N.E. Old plugger overcame injuries and helped the Patriots' ground game do the same; Maurice Jones-Drew, Jac. Topped all RBs in receptions and receiving yards.
• QB: Matt Cassel, N.E. Who knew? Passed for 400 yards in consecutive games, which Tom Brady never did; Kerry Collins, Tenn. Another rebirth for ancient head.
• WR: Vincent Jackson, S.D. First Chargers receiver to surpass 1,000 yards since 2001; Kevin Walter, Hou. Became a clutch receiver but Texans love his downfield blocking; Dwayne Bowe, K.C. Rips through tackles. Most catches and yards in first two seasons of any Chiefs player in history.
• K: Phil Dawson, Cle. Last player left from the '99 expansion Browns, set club record for FGs this season; Rob Bironas, Tenn. Tremendous accuracy, plus power on kickoffs.
• KR: Ellis Hobbs, N.E. Explosive returner who is also a starting cornerback; Joshua Cribbs, Cle. Only player in NFL the last two years to lead his team in kickoff return yards, punt return yards and special teams tackles.
• Off. coord.: Dan Henning, Mia. Coached power running in the past, now big on guile and trickery.
• Coach: Bill Belichick, N.E. Might have been his finest coaching job, with no playoff berth to show for it.
NFC ALL-JOE TEAM
• DE: Trent Cole, Phi. Plays in the opponent's backfield; John Abraham, Atl. Had nearly half (16.5) of Falcons' 34 sacks; Aaron Kampmann, G.B. Solid, steady, rock-like presence.
• DT: Jonathan Babineaux, Atl. Penetrator who makes tackles for losses, becoming a sound inside pass-rusher; Barry Cofield, N.Y. Giants. Underrated run stuffer overshadowed by marquee pass rushers; Mike Patterson, Phi. He and Broderick Bunkley anchored the inside for a defense that allowed 92.5 rushing yards a game. A shared honor here.
• ILB: London Fletcher, Wash. Has missed one start in last 10 years, always leads his team in tackles, never makes the Pro Bowl; Barrett Ruud, T.B. "Never comes off the field," former coach Jon Gruden said of his leading tackler; Gerald Hayes, Ariz. Active guy with three consecutive seasons of more than 100 tackles.
OLB: Thomas Davis, Car. Second on Panthers in tackles with career-high 136, nine for loss; Chad Greenway, Minn. No sacks in '07, 5.5 in '08. Back-to-back seasons with more than 100 tackles; Danny Clark, N.Y. Giants. Moved in after Mathias Kiwanuka returned to DE.
• CB: Chris Gamble, Car. Five-year vet is second on Panthers' all-time list with 20 picks, had career-high 103 tackles; Sheldon Brown, Phi. Seven-year vet has played in 96 consecutive games, third-most as his position among active players; Corey Webster, N.Y. Giants. Led team in passes defensed and tied for team lead with 3 INTs.
• S: Kevin Payne, Chi. Missed most of rookie season with broken arm, bounced back to lead Bears with four INTs. Tanard Jackson, T.B. "A relentless worker," says new head coach Raheem Morris. Quintin Mikell, Phi. Now the equal of backfield mate Brian Dawkins.
• P: Donnie Jones, St. Louis. Gross punting average of 50 yards ranks second in NFL history; Chris Kluwe, Minn. Six punts of 50 or more yards … in one game.
• PR: Will Blackmon, G.B. Scored twice on returns; Reggie Bush, N.O. Three TDs on punt returns despite limited playing time.
• ST: Kevin Burnett, Dal. Team's leading special teams tackler also plays MLB in nickel and dime coverage schemes; Garrett Wolfe, Chi. Smallest guy on the team became special teams force.
• Def. coord.: Jim Johnson, Phi. Crafty old blitzer restored Eagles defensive intensity.
• Special teams: Dave Toub, Chi. Bears remain masters of blocked kicks, field position and directional punting.
• Long snapper: Chris Massey, St. Louis. One bad snap in eight years and also gets downfield to make tackles on punt coverage team.