One of my only gripes with our Team for the Ages contest is the lack of differentiating between positions in different schemes. For instance, we don't have nose guards vs. three-techniques at the DT position, or rush linebackers vs. traditional 'Will' backers along our second-level flanks.
But that just increases the onus on voters to ensure there's a nice variety on their roster, which I tried to do at the outside linebacker position with three drastically different styles of players in Lawrence Taylor (duh), Derrick Thomas and Derrick Brooks.
"LT" is arguably the most feared defender in NFL history, and his inclusion here was one of the few true no-brainers in this whole exercise. The second overall pick in the 1981 draft, Taylor was a first-team All-Pro in his first nine years in the league. That's absurd, much like his intimidating blend of strength, speed and sheer energy, which he parlayed into (at least) 132.5 sacks, plus nine picks, two TDs and Bill Belichick's ultimate praise: "The best defensive player I've ever coached, by a good margin."
Thomas, whose Hall of Fame career was tragically cut short by a fatal 1991 car crash at age 33, was a pass-rush artist. Like LT, Thomas was an absolute blur off the ball and pretty much unblockable with a head of steam. But he could also put together moves to get underneath his foe's pads and just devastate entire offensive game plans. That he also helped transform a down-and-out franchise into a perpetual contender speaks to his dynamic ability.
Brooks, who played the signature 'Will' spot in Monte Kiffin's Tampa-2 scheme, was a coverage, tackling and overall playmaking machine. It took a special kind of athlete and instinctive defender to wear such an important hat in one of the greater defenses in league history, and Brooks was tailor-made for it with special speed, smarts and consistency (208 consecutive starts; never missed a game in 13 seasons, including 11 Pro Bowls).
There are only seven days remaining to assemble your Team for the Ages, which automatically enters you in our contest to win tons of prizes, including an all-expenses-paid trip to Atlanta in February for the "Big Game." What are you waiting for? It's time to vote!