The qualifications for making this team are vague at best. It primarily is meant to recognize players who have great seasons or are just great players who fly somewhat under the radar because they play on bad teams, play in small markets, or are overshadowed by more well known teammates. Some are just players I like. Some of them are no brainers, but others may not be. It isn’t necessarily an exact roster, but the point is, it’s my team, and I’ll put whoever I want on the roster, so there.
The only rule of exclusion is that I don’t include players who make the Pro Bowl. Those guys are either too obvious or have already been recognized by people who matter. So here we go, the 2007 All RamTank Team:
QB: David Garrard (Jaguars)
Garrard was one of only three quarterbacks in ’07 to have a passer rating over 100. (His 102.2 was second only to Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.) He also finished the season with a league low 3 int’s. His 2,500 passing yards don’t seem impressive, but remember that he only threw the ball 27 times per game in Jacksonville’s run oriented offense. Garrard has been able to make plays all season - evidenced by his game winning run in the divisional playoffs at Pittsburgh – leading the Jags to 13 wins in the regular season.
RB: Jamal Lewis (Browns)
1,304 yards, 4.4 Ave, 20 Att/g. I thought this guy was washed up heading into the ’07 season, but I had clearly underestimated Lewis and his determination to regain his reputation as one of the league’s top backs. Lewis was the key to the Browns winning 10 games this year. I never thought that he could return to “workhorse” status, but he averaged 20 carries and got stronger as the game went on every week.
RB: Brandon Jacobs (Giants)
If there is one guy in the league that I would never want to tackle (and there are hundreds) it had to be Jacobs. He weighs more than half of the DE’s and about all of the LB’s in football. He managed to rush for over 1,000 yards despite missing five games. I was surprised this year by his receiving ability out of the backfield. No one in New York will be clamoring for Tiki Barber anytime soon.
WR: Wes Welker (Patriots)
No one had more catches than Welker in ’07, but more surprising was that Wes finished 11 th in receiving yards at 1,175. 58% of his league high 112 receptions went for first downs, helping the Patriot machine to win 16 games.
WR: Brandon Marshall (Broncos)
I didn’t think much of Marshall coming into the season. I thought that the Broncos were foolish for not having drafted a WR last April. But Marshall stepped up with 102 catches and seven TD’s. Marshall was the only thing that prevented defenses from dropping eight or nine in the box against the run all season, allowing the Broncos to at least be competitive.
WR: Greg Jennings (Packers)
Jennings finished just shy of 1,000 yards receiving, but he found the end zone 12 times for the Packers. His 17.4 yards per catch was third in the league among receivers with at least 50 receptions. Jennings plays bigger than his 5’11’’ frame; just ask the Broncos if Jennings makes big plays. Marshall and Jennings will be the hot “third year” fantasy WR’s next season.
TE: Kellen Winslow (Browns)
This is a no brainer. Winslow could have made the Pro Bowl this year. He was just as good as Gonzo or Gates. There are some guys in some conferences at some positions that never make it to as many Pro Bowls as they should because certain guys always dominate the position. (Like ILB in the AFC. If you weren’t Ray Lewis or Zach Thomas, you weren’t making the Pro Bowl from 1998-2004. No matter how good a season you had. Just ask Fred Taylor about this.) That may happen to Winslow over the course of his career.
OT: Tony Pashos (Jaguars)
Right Tackles don’t get enough love these days. I think Pashos is one of the best run blockers in the league. He may not be the best OT in football, but I love watching teams run the football, and both Baltimore and Jacksonville have leaned on the run with Pashos.
OT: Michael Roos (Titans)
Roos is another guy who’s a little too unsung for his run blocking ability. Look at how the Titans have been able to run the football the past two seasons. Roos has long arms and good balance, which help him in pass protection. The O-line in Tennessee was the only positive part of the offense last year.
The Packers had the second most prolific offense this year (only .2 yards per play behind New England). They got knocked for a lack of a running game early on, but that changed over the second half of the season. The development of second year guards Colledge and Spitz has greatly contributed to the resurgence of Brett Favre and the Packer offense.
OG: Eric Steinbach (Browns)
Eric Steinbach is the answer to two pertinent questions for the ’07 season: “Why was the Brown’s offense so much better this year?” and “What the hell happened to the Bengal’s offense this year?” I think that Steinbach is every bit as good as (or better than, frankly) any of the Pro Bowl guys. The Bengal’s protections problems and running woes were somewhat predictable after letting one of the better lineman in the league escape to a division rival.
OC: Jeff Faine (Saints)
I always like Faine from his days at Notre Dame. I thought that the Saints wouldn’t skip a beat when I saw that they got him in the LaCharles Bently deal. Faine has always been a productive, “under the radar” type of player. The Saint’s offense got a huge overhaul when he was brought in, and guys like Drew Brees, Marquis Colston, and Regrie Bush got most of the credit (and rightly so). But Faine’s handling of the o-line has also been a big part of the new look in New Orleans the last couple of years.
DT: Darnell Dockett (Cardinals)
I love Tommy Harris, but he has no business being selected over Docket for the Pro Bowl. Dockett’s nine sacks led the Cardinals this season and were the most of any interior lineman in the league. Dockett may be the best pass rushing DT since Warren Sapp came into the league, but he is also a beast against the run.
DT: Bryant Young (49ers) There is a lot of sentiment that goes into this one. Young is the sole remaining Forty Niner from the ’94 Super Bowl team, and he retired at the end of the season. 35 tackles, 31 solos, and 6.5 sacks were a more than respectable way for BY to go out.
DT: Kelly Gregg (Ravens)
Gregg led all D-lineman with an eye popping 80 tackles! (The next highest in tackles for a DL was Jovan Haye with 68) Haloti Ngata gets most of the attention in Baltimore, because he’s awesome, but Gregg is one of the best interior lineman in the league as well.
DT: Jovan Haye (Buccaneers)
I was done adding D-lineman until I saw that the guy who was second in tackles (68) at the position also logged six sacks. Guys like this who play the run tough inside and can still pressure the QB are pretty rare, and running a cover two would be impossible without them.
Tangent 1: I know that stats don’t always tell the whole story, and that some things don’t show up on paper, but just how the hell did Jamal Williams (DT-SD) make the Pro Bowl? His 39 tackles and no sacks were surely instrumental to the Charger defense, (which finished 16 against the run mind you) but come on. I’m not saying he isn’t a great player, I’m just saying there must have been a few hanging chads in the ballot box.
DE: Mario Williams (Texans)
Did anyone else feel like Jason Taylor’s Pro Bowl invite was kind of an apology from the league for having to play on such a crappy team all year? Taylor is a guy who gets name recognition for post season awards, and Williams looks like he’s on his way to a similar status. His 14 sacks were second in the AFC among DE’s. Not a lot of people saw a ton of Texans football this year, but anyone who caught a glimpse was sure to have seen Williams harassing the opposing quarterback.
DE: Marques Douglas (Forty Niners)
Douglas has built himself from an undrafted player out of Howard into one of the leagues most consistent DE’s. His 71 tackles led all NFC D-lineman. Douglas is a tough guy who dominates the line of scrimmage and just makes life easier for those around him.
LB: Kirk Morrison (Raiders)
The Raiders didn’t win a lot of games this year, but the ones they did had a lot to do with Morrison. He covers a lot of ground, makes tackles everywhere, and picked off four passes in ’07.
LB: Karlos Dansby (Cardinals)
Dansby is a playmaker. That’s the bottom line here. His numbers aren’t much better then teammate Clavin Pace, but Dansby has a knack for coming up with big plays at crucial moments in games.
LB: Derrick Johnson (Chiefs)
Johnson flies all over the field for four quarters every Sunday. He forced five turnovers with his sideline to sideline hustle and is just fun to watch.
LB: Will Witherspoon (Rams)
I almost feel bad for the Rams defense for the sheer number of snaps they were forced to play over the first eight weeks of the season, but Witherspoon was consistently around the football the whole time. He finished with 110 tackles, forced two fumbles, and recorded seven sacks on a defense that was stretched to the limit most of the season.
Tangent 2: Again with the Bears. I love Lance Briggs too, but he’s in the Pro Bowl and Brian Urlacher isn’t? How did that happen? I realize that one guy is inside and one guy is outside, but come on again. Look at the lines. Briggs: 102 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery. Urlacher: 123 tackles, 5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries. Plus Urlacher is probably the best player in the league at his position. I don’t know, anyway…
CB: O.J. Atogwe (Rams)
Atogwe was second in the league in picks with eight, returning one for a score. The trials of Saint Louis’ defense have already been recounted, but O.J. tallied 75 tackles at the CB position, and was a strong player in a disappointing season for the Rams.
CB: Leigh Bodden (Browns)
Bodden has been one of the best cover corners in the league for the last three years, but you don’t see that if you don’t live in Cleveland. He came up with six INT’s and three fumble recoveries this season. Bodden bodies up receivers, and his sure tackling allows for a minimum yards per catch.
CB: Anthony Henry (Cowboys)
Henry totaled six picks this year despite missing three games. He is another one of those guys who showed a knack for making plays and always seems to be around the football. I don’t care much for the Cowboys, but Henry was one guy that I enjoyed watching this year.
S: Kerry Rhodes (Jets)
Rhodes is tough as nails. He didn’t have as good a year in ’07 as he did in ’06 (when he should have made the Pro Bowl) but he’s still one of the more underrated young players in the AFC. He gathered up eight total turnovers this year (5 int’s, 2 FF, 1FR) and filled a key role in the Jets defense.
S: Chris Hope (Titans)
Hope only played in 11 games this season, recording 49 tackles and two picks. He may be the most underrated player in the league. It’s no coincidence that the Steelers won a Super Bowl with Hope manning the secondary (while largely unnoticed due to Troy Polamalu) and the Titan’s all of the sudden had one of the league’s best defenses when Hope arrived in ’06. The man is a difference maker on defense.