Pats All Around
Dr. Z's 2007 All-Pro team is led by—surprise!—a quartet from New England's record-setting offense
THE UNDEFEATED Patriots, who set a record for points scored in a season, place four members of their offense on my 2007 All-Pro team. Tom Brady, who is also my Player of the Year, set an NFL record with 50 TD passes. But he had lots of help from big-play receiver Randy Moss and possession man Wes Welker. To accommodate Welker, who tied for the league lead in receptions, with 112, and excelled as Brady's hot man against the blitz, I lined up my unit the same way the Pats do, with three wideouts and no fullback. ( Cleveland's Lawrence Vickers would have been the choice at FB.)
The fourth Patriot All-Pro is guard Logan Mankins, an almost technically perfect lineman. At the other guard I found a semisleeper, thunderous drive blocker Jason Brown of Baltimore. Indy's steady Jeff Saturday won at center over yet another Patriot, Dan Koppen.
For many years I've neglected Cowboys tackle, Flozell Adams, but he shut down some of the league's most feared sackers this season. The other tackle spot goes to Buffalo's athletic Jason Peters, a converted tight end. Jason Witten, who had 96 catches and is a powerful blocker on the Cowboys' sweeps, gets the tight end nod over K.C.'s Tony Gonzalez.
Terrell Owens was a popular choice at wideout, but Reggie Wayne held the Colts' offense together with consistently big games. At running back, spectacular rookie Adrian Peterson was shut down on occasion, while it seemed Philly's Brian Westbrook never was. He led the league in combined rushing and receiving yards with 2,104, topping Peterson's total by almost 500 yards.
If I picked a Defensive Rookie of the Year it would be the 49ers' quick-striking inside linebacker Patrick Willis, who has uncanny ball instincts and pass-coverage ability. The position was so strong that I went with a 3--4 and awarded the other ILB spot to another rookie, Carolina's Jon Beason, a near replica of Willis.
K.C.'s furious pass rusher, Jared Allen, the NFL's sack leader (15 1/2), pairs with the Packers' relentless Aaron Kampman, whose motor never seems to run down. But the most destructive all-around D-lineman was Tennessee tackle Albert Haynesworth, who dominated the position.
Lance Briggs, a reminder of the days when the Bears' defense ruled the league, is the coverage outside backer. The Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware, a relentless pass-rush specialist who's also effective in coverage, mans the opposite spot. Bob Sanders, who transformed the Colts defense, is the strong safety, and Ed Reed, one of the veterans on a Ravens' D that came within an eyelash of upsetting the Patriots, is the free.
Dallas's Terence Newman made a heroic return from a nasty foot injury to recapture his mastery at cornerback. The other corner, San Diego's Antonio Cromartie, became a regular at midseason and still led the league with 10 interceptions.
Houston kicker Kris Brown was 5 for 5 from 50 yards or more, including the 57-yarder that beat Miami with one second left. At punter both Oakland's Shane Lechler and San Francisco's Andy Lee did the unthinkable, topping the 40-yard net-average mark. Lechler's 41.1 yards was a tenth better, so the edge goes to the man who now holds the NFL single-season record. My return man? The Bears' Devin Hester, who broke his own record for return TDs, with six. The 49ers' Michael Robinson isn't just a kick-coverage guy; he does a fine job blocking for the returner, so he's an easy choice as the all-around special-teamer.