Last year, as an homage to Vinny DiTrani and Larry Weisman we chose a team of non-Pro Bowlers and All-Pros that deserved recognition.
In the early 1970s, DiTriani began this practice and we collected all those teams over the years and we thought they were very insightful and were great reads. Many great players he mentioned were chosen for All-Pro or the Pro Bowl the next year.
Weisman began his All-Joe team for USA Today later and was named for Joe Phillips—A nose tackle who was tough and gritty and who was someone who'd never make a Pro Bowl based on this position and lack of stats. So, Weisman began picking his own non-"All" team.
So, though it is a bit early, here is our team. Now, take note, you will see some missing guys that didn't get named to the Pro Bowl that should have, just a hint: We may be saving them for our own All-Pro team that will come out in about 2½ weeks.
Terry McLaurin of Washington fits this team to a "T". Not great numbers for a key to their offense. Sadly Chris Godwin went down this week with an ACL injury, he was having a great year. Adam Thielen just scores touchdowns.
Hunter Renfrow of Vegas and Michael Pittman of the Colts deserve special mention as well.
Dallas Goedert of the Eagles is our pick and the honorable mention is T.J. Hockenson of the Lions.
Lane Johnson has some personal issues that were more important than football. It takes a tough ham to take the time to deal with them, especially during the season. Well done. We hesitated to pick him because he might take up one of our All-Pro of All-NFC slots. We will have to see.
The other? Why not Andrew Whitworth at age 40? he was not one of the three best tackles in the NFL this year and didn't deserve to go the Pro Bowl, but he was still very good and deserves to get at least some recognition.
Joe Thuney of the Chiefs and Rodger Saffold of the Titans. Thuney is one of the NFL's best guards. Saffold is now in that old pro" section of his career where he's solid, sometimes stellar. But his career has been marked with a lot of nicks, missed time, injuries mostly minor. Kind of odd.
Brian Allen of the Rams. A classic All-Joe-type. And Allmost All-Pro. And would be an All-Madden-type guy, too. he was a starter, then had a major injury. Came back the next year was the first NFL player to catch COVID in 2020, it did a number on him and his rehab. He worked, sweated, got stronger, and won the center job and this year was highly rated by Pro Football Focus and was an alternate to the Pro Bowl.
Josh Allen. Not sure how he didn't make the Pro Bowl. This year and last year are not all that different in terms of his personal play. But he's a fit for this team anyway.
Austin Ekeler, an all-around type is our pick for running back. Jakob Johnson is our fullback—the old "guard-in-the-backfield" type of fullback.
The Titans Harold Landry and the Panthers Haason Reddick. In a league saturated with edge rushers these two were excellent but there was a lot of competition and not everyone can get the golden ticket to the Pro Bowl. Sam Hubbard is an honorable mention, though he's more of a pure defensive end while Landry and Reddick are linebackers in base and edge rushers in nickel.
We are picking the Williams'. Leonard of the Giants and Quinnen of the Jets. Toiling in poor programs and still playing well. They both play a lot of positions, 5-technique, 4-tech, 3-tech, 1-tech. Have even seen Quinnen head up on the center. They are quintessential defensive linemen that are difficult to block and can also gets excellent push in the middle.
|Leonard (l) and Quinnen Williams (r)|
The Rams nose tackle Greg Gaines is another Joe Phillips-type. He began the year as a rotational player but when Sebastian Josepth-Day went down Gaines became the starter and he impressed everyone, likely even himself. He can get his big body moving, he plays two-gap and gap-and-a-half well, and he can get some good pressure when pass shows. Good for the big boy. Larry Ogunjobi is a solid honorable mention.
Kyle Van Noy or the Patriots and Quincy Williams of the Jets (brother of Quinnen). Van Noy was a jack-of-all-trades, can cover, run, play off-the-ball, one the TE. All of it. Williams is a missile. When he's on the field he makes tackles for loss, forces fumbles. An up-and-comer.
As an inside 'backer we are going with the Texans Kamu Grugier-Hill. He's hurt now but hope he can be okay. He's a converted outside linebacker who has found his home inside with Houston. He makes a lot of tackles, gets pressure on the QB when asked to blits (3 sacks 5 QB hits), has a pick 6, and has forced a couple of fumbles. In a bigger market maybe people would know his name because when we've watched he sure stands out.
A.J. Terrell of the Falcons had a great year. And we just love Chauncey Gardner-Johnson's game. When we watch the Saints and he's covering the slot receiver he's in that guy's face, nothing him, knocking down balls, A feisty slot corner who can also blitz as well. He missed time and started only 11 games but was still very vital to the Saints defense.
Jalen Thompson of the Cardinals is very fun to watch. A good tackler and good range and a nice compliment to Budda Baker. Antoine Winfield, Jr. is a terrific player, too. There were lots of safeties we could have picked—Johnathan Abram of the Raiders comes to mind. It's a safety-driven league on defense with so many of them playing hybrid linebacker positions and in the slot, all over the place.
Punter and Kicker
Logan Cooke of Jacksonville has been excellent, very high in the metrics we like to look at when choosing punters. The same goes for Nick Folk or New England. He's the kicker.
Agree or disagree, let us know in the comments section.