Monday, January 09, 2012

Marshal Yanda named to SI's All-Pro team

My All-Pro team. As promised, here's the All-Pro team I filed to the Associated Press last Monday, the day after the regular season ended:

Receivers: Calvin Johnson, Detroit; Victor Cruz, New York Giants. Very tough to leave off Wes Welker, who won the receptions crown by 22 catches, but Cruz was just so dominant late in the year.

Offensive line: LT, Joe Thomas, Cleveland. LG, Carl Nicks, New Orleans. C, Scott Wells, Green Bay. RG, Marshal Yanda, Baltimore. RT, Eric Winston, Houston. Brian Waters of New England was close at guard, but I love the year Yanda had, and how he played so well in pain late.

Tight end: Rob Gronkowski, New England. As great as Jimmy Graham was this year, Gronkowski's one of the best all-around tight ends to come into the league in decades.

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay. Stunning that Rodgers got 47.5 of the 50 votes, as good as Drew Brees has been.

Running back: Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville. When your foes know you're the only even remote offensive threat on the team, and you win the rushing title by 242 yards, that's impressive. (I'm supposed to name two backs, which I never do. The AP wants two, and I've explained for years if you have two backs and two receivers, how fair is that?

Fullback: Vonta Leach, Baltimore. A human anvil.

Defensive line: Jared Allen, Minnesota, and Justin Smith, San Francisco (ends); Haloti Ngata, Baltimore, and Sione Pouha, Jets (tackles). Smith played outside, or end, on four-fifths of the snaps he played this year, so I can't figure out why he'd be listed as a tackle.

Linebackers: Tamba Hali, Kansas City, and DeMarcus Ware, Dallas (outside); Derrick Johnson, Kansas City, and NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco (inside). So many good players here, and I feel terrible for not including Terrell Suggs, who could have placed at either end or OLB. He's ferocious. Hali and Ware were special too, especially the day Hali terrorized Rodgers in Green Bay's only loss of the year.

Secondary: Darrelle Revis, New York Jets, and Johnathan Joseph, Houston (corners); Eric Weddle, San Diego (free safety) and Kam Chancellor, Seattle (strong safety). Joseph was a big reason the Texans improved drastically, and Weddle became a premier roaming safety this season.

K: David Akers, San Francisco ... P: Andy Lee, San Francisco ... Return: Patrick Peterson, Arizona. Akers set the field-goal record. Lee had the highest gross plus net averages. Peterson had four return TDs.

MVP: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay. See last week's column for reason.

Off. player: Drew Brees, New Orleans. Not a copout. The best stat season ever by a quarterback deserves this.

Def. player: Justin Smith, San Francisco. Tape-watchers marvel how he never takes a play off. Watch how he caught Jeremy Maclin from 15 yards behind to clinch the Philly game in Week 3.
Off. rookie: Cam Newton, Carolina. Best season a rookie's ever had, I'd say.

Def. rookie: Von Miller, Denver. Slowed by bum thumb late. Edges Aldon Smith.

Coach: Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco. Great candidates this year. Only one premier one.

Assistant coach: Wade Phillips, Houston. Took the 30th-ranked defense of 2010, lost Mario Williams early, and turned it into second-ranked D.

Comeback: D'Qwell Jackson, LB, Cleveland. Missed the last 26 games with two separate pectoral tears. This year, led the AFC in tackles.

Executive: Mike Brown, Cincinnati. Good draft netted long-term weaponry. Good trade raked Raiders over coals for Carson Palmer.

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