Wednesday, January 17, 2007

2006 All-Ed Team

If John Madden can do it, why not me?

So what does it take to get on my team? Much like Madden, I like attitude and a good work ethic. But I also like success. Stats don't hurt either.

Without further ado, here is the first annual "All-Ed Team".

QUARTERBACK: Tom Brady, Patriots.
Most people would take Peyton Manning. While I have great respect for Manning, I want a winner at quarterback. I want a guy who can put the team on his own shoulders and carry them if necessary. While Manning is capable of doing that, I want the best man for the job.

I limited my search to guys who threw over 500 passes this season (sorry Phil Rivers) and guys whose teams made the playoffs (sorry Carson Palmer). These are the guys whose teams relied on them to win a lot, and they did. Then I came up with my own statistic: team wins per pass attempts. In other words, the biggest contribution was made to team wins every time these guys put the ball in the air.

The winner? Tom Brady, with .023 wins per pass attempt. Manning was second with .021.

Considering Brady came into this season without his favorite receiver (Deion Branch, who went to Seattle), it is amazing that
his stats only dropped a little from last year, but still remained quite respectable. Brady achieved just as many wins as Manning while throwing to no-names like Reche Caldwell and Ben Watson.

RUNNING BACKS: LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers, and Frank Gore, 49ers
Tomlinson is a no-brainer. I won't beat the dead horse with why I picked him. There are plenty of articles out there if you don't know why.

Gore will require a bit of defending. For running backs with over 200 carries, Gore led them all in average yards per carry, with 5.4 yards. Considering he did this on a mediocre/bad team like the 49ers makes this accomplishment even more impressive. By comparison, LT only averaged 5.2 yards/carry on the awesome Chargers.

Anyone who watched Gore this year will tell you: this guy is special. He reminds me a lot of Marshall Faulk when Faulk was in his prime.

So why not Steven Jackson (Rams) or Larry Johnson (Chiefs)?

Jackson did not impress me as much as Gore did, mostly because the Rams had a much better passing game than the 49ers, so teams did not stack the line on Jackson like they did with Gore.

As for Johnson, the Chiefs over-utilized him, leading to his big numbers.

FULLBACKS: Lorenzo Neal, Chargers
I want the guy who helped Tomlinson put up those audacious numbers. Too many times this year during Charger games, I watched replays of great Tomlinson runs which included a great block by Neal.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Marvin Harrison, Colts, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Bengals
I don't want guys like Terrell Owens on my team. I want guys like Marvin Harrison, who quietly put up the big numbers (95 catches for 1366 yards and 12 touchdowns) without glorifying themselves.

Speaking of not glorifying themselves, while Chad Johnson led the NFL in receiving yards (1369 yards), T.J. Houshmandzadeh led the Bengals in receptions (90) and receiving touchdowns (9), in spite of the fact that "Housh" missed the first two games of the season with an injury.

TIGHT END: Antonio Gates, Chargers
Aside from the fact Gates was the blocking tight end for the best running back in the NFL, just look at his receving numbers against the other tight ends:

Receptions: 71 versus 89 for Kellen Winslow of the Browns (Gates was 4th in this category)
Receiving Yards: 924 versus 900 for Tony Gonzalez of the Chiefs (Gates was 1st)
Receiving Touchdowns: 9 versus 8 for Alge Crumpler of the Falcons (Gates was 1st)

Gates is the best tight end in the game, period.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Washington Redskins
Why do you think Joe Gibbs wants to come back next year? Because he knows he has the first piece of a championship team in place with the best offensive line in the NFL.

There are certainly better individual blockers on other teams. But as a unit, there are none better overall than the Redskins.

The 2006 version of the "Hogs" were fifth in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass attempted, with .040. The Colts led the NFL with .026. However, the Colts were 18th in the NFL in rushing yards per game (110.1), while the Redskins were fourth with 138.5.

The Falcons led the NFL in rushing yards per game with 183.7, but they were also 31st in sacks allowed per attempt (.112).

Why not San Diego's offensive line? While the Chargers were second in rushing yards per game (161.1), they were also 11th in sacks allowed per attempt with .060.

KICKER: Robbie Gould, Bears
You have to love a kicker from the "Windy City" who leads all NFL kickers in scoring.

PUNTER: Brian Moorman, Bills
One of the better accuracy punters in the NFL.

KICK RETURNER: Justin Miller, Jets
If you want to know why the Jets made it to the playoffs, look no further than Justin Miller, who gave the Jets offense a short field to work on with his 28.3 yard kick return average. This was when he didn't take it all the way for a touchdown, which he did twice last season.

When you consider Miller did this while starting at cornerback for the Jets, that makes his dominant kick returning even more impressive.

PUNT RETURNER: Devin Hester, Bears
This was a close one between Hester and Pacman Jones of the Titans. They both had three touchdown returns. They both averaged over 12 yards per return.

The edge went to Hester with 11 returns of greater than 20 yards, versus 6 for Jones. Add in the fact that Jones is a showboat, and Hester wins running away.

OVERALL DEFENSE: Baltimore Ravens
I was going to name individual defensive players, and I will, but as I looked over the numbers, I could not get away from Baltimore. There were Ravens all over the defensive stats in every category.

Defensive sacks? Second in the NFL with 60, just one behind San Diego.

Run defense? Second in the NFL with 75.9 yards per game allowed, behind only Minnesota with 61.6. The Ravens also allowed only 3.3 yards per carry, second only to Minnesota with 2.8 yards per carry. However, the only reason Minnesota ranked so highly was because teams did not bother to run on them: Minnesota ranked 31st in passing yards allowed per game.

Pass defense? The Ravens were 6th with 188.2 yards allowed per game. The five teams ranked ahead of them had the following ranking in run defense (meaning teams did NOT have to pass on them as much): 25th (Oakland), 32nd (Indianapolis), 23rd (New Orleans), 11th (Carolina), and 8th (Miami). Realistically, the Ravens ranked 3rd in pass defense, with only 11 passing yards allowed total more than Carolina (3011 to 3000).

Interceptions? Baltimore was first with 28.

Add in the fact the Ravens play defense with an attitude, and it is hard for me to name an "All Ed" defense without them. Just add the following players to the Ravens defense, and you can stop anyone.

DEFENSIVE LINEMAN: Aaron Kampman, Packers
There was not much good to say about the Packers this year, but Aaron Kampman was their best defensive end since Reggie White. With 15.5 sacks and 89 tackles, Kampman was a dominating defensive end.

LINEBACKERS: Zach Thomas, Dolphins, and DeMeco Ryans, Texans
Sorry, no love here for Shawne "Mr. Steroid" Merriman. Let him prove he can get 17 sacks without the juice, and we'll talk. Until then, let's give some love to the guys who do it without much help from their teammates.

Zach Thomas has always been a monster in the middle, and this year was no exception. He led the NFL with 165 total tackles (103 solo tackles) while defensing 10 passes.

On the other hand, DeMeco Ryans was a solo tackle monster, leading the NFL with 125. Just imagine how good Houston would be if they had another player making tackles?

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Champ Bailey, Broncos, and Asante Samuel, Patriots
When teams realized they could not exclusively throw to Darrent Williams (God rest his soul) side of the Denver defense, they learned a painful lesson: Champ Bailey is still a shutdown corner. With 10 picks, Bailey showed why he is the best corner in the NFL.

When you watch the Patriots play, the name you will inevitably hear on pass defense is Asante Samuel. The Patriots seem to find ways to get Samuel into position to make plays, and he does. Whether it is interceptions (10), tackles (64), or passes defensed (14), Samuel is all over the pass defense for the Patriots.