Many new faces on All-NFL team

Posted Jan. 17, 2011 @ 4:29 p.m.
Posted By Dan Parr

There were players who had great games in 2010, and maybe even a few in a row. Others had amazing moments that we will not soon forget, but this team is not for those who simply flashed greatness. The following 27 players are not perfect, but they consistently delivered  elite performances, from the kickoff of Week One to the clock's final tick in Week 17. There are a lot of familiar faces on this year's list, but only six players return from the 2009 Pro Football Weekly/Professional Football Writers of America All-NFL roster. Here's our look at the best of the best in '10:

 

OFFENSE

QB Tom Brady / Patriots — It seemed like Brady could do no wrong. Only four of his 492 passing attempts were intercepted, and he set an NFL record for most consecutive passes without throwing a pick (339). He threw a league-high 36 touchdown passes while working with a receiving corps that lost its supposed star in an October trade. Brady made Randy Moss look a lot more expendable than some people thought he could and led New England to a league-best 14-2 record.

RB Arian Foster / Texans — It was a breakout season for Foster, who joined Priest Holmes as the only undrafted players to earn a rushing title since 1967. Foster, who had just 54 carries in his rookie year in 2009, rushed for 1,616 yards in '10. He was the only back in the league to gain more than 100 rushing yards per game, and he scored a league-high 16 rushing TDs.

RB Jamaal Charles / Chiefs — Charles finished second in rushing yards behind Foster and came within two-hundredths of a yard of matching Jim Brown's record for yards per carry (6.4). Charles had a manageable workload, splitting time in the backfield with Thomas Jones, who actually led the Chiefs in carries, and a lot of the team's fans were clamoring for the explosive Charles to get his hands on the ball more often.

WR Roddy White / Falcons — QB Matt Ryan set a Falcons franchise record for completions in a season when, fittingly, he connected with White on a screen pass during the opening drive against the Panthers in Week 17. White, Ryan's go-to guy, caught 32.2 percent of Ryan's completed passes this season, making a league-high (and a franchise-record) 115 receptions for 1,389 yards and 10 TDs.

WR Reggie Wayne / Colts — While the Colts were forced to discover what some unproven targets could do this season because of injuries to players like WR Austin Collie and TE Dallas Clark, Wayne was old reliable for Peyton Manning. Wayne finished second in the league in receptions (111), setting a career high in the process.

TE Jason Witten / Cowboys — He finished the season on a tear, scoring six of his career-high nine TDs in the final five games. Only White and Wayne had more receptions than Witten's 94, and he also led tight ends in receiving yards (1,002). He's not one-dimensional, though. Witten continued to prove that he's a dependable blocker.

C Nick Mangold / Jets — Some have questioned whether he was as dominant as he had been in 2009, but Mangold didn't do anything to harm his reputation as one of the league's better centers. Mangold's blocking up the middle helped clear holes for the Jets' rushing attack, which ranked fourth in the league, and it was rare to see him get pushed far into the backfield by a pass rusher.

OG Jahri Evans / Saints — This season didn't go as well as 2009 did for the Saints or Evans — he was penalized far more than in the past — but Evans is still considered one of the league's elite guards. Injuries forced the Saints to plug in backups at running back, but the rushers kept finding daylight on the right side of the line with the powerful Evans moving the pile.

OG Chris Snee / Giants — The Giants knew which blocker to get behind when they were a tough yard or two away from a first down. Snee, who is considered the best right guard in the game, was the gritty go-to guy in those situations, helping New York's powerful running game finish sixth in the league. Snee is feisty and plays with an edge.

OT Joe Thomas / Browns — It was another solid season for Thomas, who hasn't missed an offensive snap since the Browns drafted him third overall in 2007. He lived up to his reputation as the team's most valuable player on offense, dominating as both a run blocker and a pass blocker.

OT Jake Long / Dolphins — We already knew Long was one of the league's elite tackles. In '10, he showed us his toughness, playing with only one healthy shoulder for almost the entire second half of the season. He really had only one bad game — against Bears DE Julius Peppers — during that stretch and was stellar aside from that.

 

DEFENSE

DE Julius Peppers / Bears — Last offseason's free-agent prize earned his money in 2010. If players were judged on sack total alone, Peppers, who made eight sacks, wouldn't have made this All-NFL team. The numbers he produced might not be exceptional, but he generated consistent pressure, helped make the Bears a tough team to run against and contributed in other areas, including special teams. He blocked a field goal in Chicago's three-point win over Green Bay in Week Three.

DE Justin Tuck / Giants — The versatile Tuck stunted and twisted inside against guards, creating disruption up the middle, and he also was tough to stop off the edge. He drew frequent double-teams but made 11.5 sacks, forced six fumbles and recovered a league-high five fumbles.

DT Haloti Ngata / Ravens — Ravens observers say Ngata, who made the All-NFL team last year, had his best season in 2010. The 350-pound defensive lineman is one of the better interior pass rushers in the league, but he also lined up at end in some packages. Wherever Ngata went, he usually drew the attention of multiple blockers.

DT Ndamukong Suh / Lions — Suh, the lone rookie to make this team, burst onto the scene and was instantly one of the more effective inside forces in the league. He was excellent clogging up lanes vs. the run, just as the Lions expected he would be, but Suh surprised some with his success as a pass rusher, collecting 10 sacks.

OLB Clay Matthews / Packers — His impressive rise from making USC's football team as a walk-on continued in 2010. Matthews had six sacks in his first two games and went from a budding star to the PFW/PFWA Defensive Player of the Year, finishing with 13.5 sacks, which ranked fourth in the league.

OLB James Harrison / Steelers — He squabbled with the league, drawing fines for illegal hits, and even hinted at retiring because of his disagreements with the NFL, but the Steelers are glad he didn't hang up his cleats. The violently hard-hitting 'backer racked up 100 tackles, 10.5 sacks, forced six fumbles and picked off two passes for the league's No. 2-ranked defense.

ILB Jerod Mayo / Patriots — The third-year 'backer attacked more efficiently this season and was New England's top run stopper. He played nearly every snap for the Patriots' 3-4 defense, and his relentless play produced gaudy numbers. He made a league-high 175 tackles.

CB Asante Samuel / Eagles — Samuel did his damage early. He missed five games, and four of the final six contests, because of a knee injury but still made seven interceptions. While his tackling and run support have drawn criticism, he's one of the league's finer cover corners, and quarterbacks avoided throwing his way as the season wore on.

CB Darrelle Revis / Jets — Revis didn't have an interception for the first time in his four-year career, and he was credited with much fewer passes defensed than in 2009, but the declining numbers have a lot to do with quarterbacks' refusal to throw the ball in his direction. He's a true shutdown corner and is rarely caught out of position.

S Troy Polamalu / Steelers — Like Reed, Polamalu has a knack for the big play, tying his career high with seven picks in '10. His one forced fumble, which came when he blitzed and knocked the ball from Ravens QB Joe Flacco, helped the Steelers secure what proved to be a division-clinching win in Week 13. Some will say no other defender in the league impacts a game like Pittsburgh's eighth-year strong safety.

S Ed Reed / Ravens — Reed was recovering from hip surgery when the season began and he wasn't activated off the PUP list until Week Seven. From there, he delivered one of his more brilliant performances, making a league-high eight interceptions in only 10 games. Reed showcased his great instincts patrolling the back end for Baltimore.

 

SPECIALISTS

PK Billy Cundiff / Ravens — It was a career year for the Baltimore placekicker, who made 26-of-29 field-goal attempts. He was a weapon on kickoffs, too. His 40 touchbacks tied an NFL record for the era in which the league moved kickoffs to the 30-yard line. Only 38 of Cundiff's 79 kickoffs were returned, and none of them was returned for a touchdown.

P Shane Lechler / Raiders — All-Pro seasons are the norm for Lechler. He has had better years than he did in 2010, but that only speaks to just how high he has set the bar for himself. Lechler was second in the league in gross (47.0) and net (40.8) punting averages. He dropped 27 punts inside the 20-yard line and had only four touchbacks.

PR Devin Hester / Bears — Teams that were brave, or foolish, enough to give Hester a chance to make a return usually paid for it. He averaged 17.1 yards per punt return and took three back for touchdowns, lifting a Bears offense that often found itself in need of a boost.

KR Leon Washington / Seahawks — Some were wondering if Washington would return to the explosive form he showed while with the Jets, after suffering a severely broken leg during the 2009 season, but he showed no lingering effects from the gruesome injury. Washington, who was dealt to Seattle in the offseason, tied for the league lead in kickoff returns for TDs (three) and led the NFL in kickoff returns of 40 yards or longer (seven).

ST Eric Weems / Falcons — The diminutive wide receiver made his presence felt whether he was returning or covering kicks. Weems returned a kickoff and a punt for TDs in the regular season, and he led the Falcons in special-teams tackles with 16 (14 solo).

 

Pro Football Weekly's annual awards issue (dated Jan. 23) is on sale now, featuring All-NFL, All-Conference and All-Rookie teams, MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Most Improved Player of the Year, Executive of the Year and Assistant Coach of the Year — all selected by PFW editors and contributors along with members of the Professional Football Writers of America — as well as a Golden Toe Award selected by PFW editors only. The print edition also contains a preview of the draft outlook for the first four teams to make selections in April, as well as previews of the two conference championship games. The print edition is available at retail outlets around the country and also online at PFWstore.com, where you can purchase a print copy or an electronic (PDF) version.