EoF's 2012 All-AFC North Division Team
With the first preseason game in the books and the regular season a month away, we've put together the Eye on Football 2012 All-AFC North Division Team.
|Geno Atkins, Ray Rice, Joe Haden and Ben Roetlhlisberger are on the All-AFC North team. (US PRESSWIRE/Getty Images)|
With the first preseason game in the books and the regular season just a month away, we've put together the Eye on Football 2012 All-AFC North Division Team. You can see our other all-division teams here.
may have beaten the
twice last year but Big Ben has two Super Bowl rings (if you're unwilling to concede Super Bowl XL as legitimate, he still beat the
three years later, which is one more Lombardi Trophy than any other AFC North QB), and he's never lost to the
in the postseason.
RB: Ray Rice -- This isn't even close. Rice is one of the league's most versatile players and he's so important to the Ravens' offense that the organization franchised him in March before rewarding him with a five-year, $40 million deal in July.
RB: Trent Richardson -- This should give you some indication as to the state of running backs in the AFC North -- or, perhaps more accurately, the sea change in NFL offenses to now feature the passing game. Either way, Richardson makes the list based on his accomplishments at Alabama, regardless of what Jim Brown says.
WR: Mike Wallace -- If the Steelers have him atop their depth chart even though he's two weeks into his holdout, we feel comfortable listing him here. He's a game-changer.
WR: A.J. Green -- If he's not already, Green will be one of the league's top five wideouts by the end of the year. He was as responsible for Andy Dalton 's rookie success as offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.
WR: Antonio Brown -- We considered Torrey Smith here, too, but it came down to this: if we could have just one player -- Brown or Smith -- the choice wasn't close. Brown's our man.
TE: Heath Miller -- Unheralded because the state of the Steelers' offensive line often required him to block, Miller's an accomplished pass-catcher and red-zone target.
TE: Ed Dickson -- Jermaine Gresham and Dennis Pitta were 1a. and 1b. here. In our mind, Dickson's slightly more explosive and creates problems in the middle of the field for any secondary.
LT: Joe Thomas -- No brainer. The Cleveland Browns ' best player and Brandon Weeden 's best friend.
LG: Willie Colon -- The lack of talent at left guard in the division borders on criminal. Colon, a converted right tackle, wins by default, although we considered moving rookies Kevin Zeitler and David DeCastro over from right guard.
C: Maurkice Pouncey -- Alex Mack got some consideration here but when healthy Pouncey is one of the most athletic linemen in the NFL. He can pull easily from his position, getting out in front of plays and opening holes.
RG: Marshal Yanda -- A nasty interior lineman who excels as a run-blocker. He can also play right tackle in a pinch.
RT: Andrew Whitworth -- A left tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals , Whitworth is too good not to move to the right side for our purposes. We considered Michael Oher here, too, but prefer Whitworth, even if he's playing out of position.
-- He had 8.5 sacks as a rookie and that was as the Browns' only pass-rushing threat.
DT: Haloti Ngata -- When healthy, Ngata is unstoppable. This isn't hyperbole, he cannot be stopped. The problem, of course: he's battled nagging injuries in recent years. Still, he earns a spot here because even at 80-90 percent he's the best in the division.
DT: Geno Atkins -- a favorite of CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco, who wrote in his annual Top-100 list: "He was a dominant inside player last season, beating up on good guards at times. He has the quickness to get a pass rush, but he's strong enough to hold up against the run."
RE: Brett Keisel -- With Terrell Suggs on the shelf with an Achilles injury, Keisel gets the nod based on his longevity and consistency.
OLB: LaMarr Woodley -- With James Harrison aging, Woodley's the division's best pass-rushing linebacker.
ILB: D'Qwell Jackson -- He was finally able to avoid injuries in 2011 and shined. Younger and quicker than the ageless Ray Lewis , Jackson also got the nod over Lawrence Timmons and Rey Maualuga .
OLB: James Harrison -- He may be 34 and currently on the PUP list, but Harrison can still get to the quarterback and stand up o-linemen to disrupt a running play. The key: he has to stay healthy.
CB: Lardarius Webb -- Webb had a huge 2011 season and the Ravens rewarded him with a shiny new contract.
CB: Joe Haden -- Ike Taylor and Leon Hall were considerations here but we went with Haden because he's younger than Taylor and healthier than Hall, who tore his Achilles last season. He's the shining star in the Browns' secondary, a fast, physical playmaker.
SS: Troy Polamalu -- He's 31 and perhaps not as explosive as he was four or five years ago, but he's still Troy Polamalu. Quarterbacks and offensive coordinators hate facing him.
FS: Ed Reed -- Like Polamalu, Reed's best days may be behind him. But he's still a ball hawk and still better than anyone else playing the position.
-- He was 14-for-16 from beyond 40 yards last seaosn and, well, we just couldn't go with
after how the AFC Championship Game ended.
P: Sam Koch -- He has an amazing knack for changing field position and rarely hits a bad punt. That's all you want.
KR/PR: Josh Cribbs -- With Antonio Brown giving up full-time return duties, we're giving both jobs to Cribbs. With his size and speed, not only his he hard to bring down, but once he hits a seam he's hard to catch.
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