This season the NFL’s Pro Bowl team was voted on after only 13 games, making the team the “Players Who Played Exceptionally Well in 81 percent of the Games”. Ryan’s All Pro team includes players who played exceptional for the entire season.
Records were a non-factor in the selection, the criteria was the best player this season at every position. Without further ado, here are my 2008 selections for offense.
Note: my team is in a three wide receiver set because most of the time teams are leaving the fullback on the sideline in favor of a three wide receiver set. Offensive linemen notes are somewhat arbitrary, but notice that they all come from teams with top rushing attacks. Good ground games are mostly the doing of the line, more than the runner.
QB - Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans’ Saints quarterback came within 16 yards of breaking the great Dan Marino’s single season passing yards record this season.
Brees threw for 5,069 yards and 34 touchdowns this season, about 600 more yards and six more touchdowns than last season. He threw for over 300 yards in 10 games this season and over 400 yards twice.
This was all done with Marques Colston and Reggie Bush both missing time with injuries, and his leading receiver was Lance Moore.
The NFC Pro Bowl starter is Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals. Warner has thrown for 4,583 yards and 30 touchdowns while having two of the best receivers in football in Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald.
The Cardinals had three receivers with 1,000 receiving yards (Boldin, Fitzgerald, and Steve Breaston). Taking nothing away from Warner’s great season leading the once defunct Cardinals to the playoffs, Brees was just the better quarterback this season.
Other quarterbacks who would usually be in the discussion did not have the kind of numbers that Brees and Warner put up this season. Peyton Manning threw for 4,002 yards and 27 touchdowns. Philip Rivers of the Chargers equaled Brees in touchdown passes with 34, but threw for about 1,000 less yards with 4,009 yards.
Running Back - Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons
In his first year as a starter after many years backing up LaDainian Tomlinson, Turner was the best running back this season and one of the many reasons the Atlanta Falcons were able to turn it around. He ran for 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry and he only fumbled three times.
Like the quarterbacks, this one was also mainly a two horse race. Adrian Peterson of the Vikings was a close second with a great follow up season to his rookie year. He led the NFL in yards with 1,760, but only ran for 10 touchdowns. He averaged 4.8 yards per rush, but the thing that lost him his spot on the team was his nine fumbles.
DeAngelo Williams of the Panthers also has to be in the conversation, with 1,515 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns. He averaged 5.5 yards per rush and did not fumble once. He also added two touchdowns in the receiving game.
The NFC was loaded with running backs this season, as Williams did not even make the Pro Bowl. Clinton Portis was the other NFC back to make the Pro Bowl, but his numbers did not carry throughout the entire season. If this was a midseason All-Pro team, there would be no doubt he would be on it.
Thomas Jones had a great season with the Jets but his 1,312 yards and 13 touchdowns are not on Turner’s level.
Wide Receivers - Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, and Andre Johnson
On a team that had plenty of passes to go around, Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals had the best season of any wideout this year. He had 96 catches for 1,431 yards and 12 touchdowns. Fitzgerald opened coverages up to leave room for Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston to both have 1,000 yard seasons and help Kurt Warner return to being a great NFL quarterback.
Andre Johnson was one of the main reasons the Houston Texans were able to achieve anything on offense. He finished the season with 115 catches for 1,575 yards and eight touchdowns. If the Texans were able to get the ball to Johnson they usually won the game and if not they lost.
In the Texans’ eight wins, Johnson had 74 catches for 1,063 yards and six touchdowns. But in the Texans’ eight losses, Johnson had just 41 catches for 512 yards and two touchdowns.
The only player from Team Winless to make the list, Calvin Johnson had a great season despite not having Mr. Consistency at quarterback. He finished with 78 catches, 1,331 yards, and 12 touchdowns with the likes of Dan Orslovsky, Daunte Culpepper, and Drew Stanton throwing him the ball.
It is hard to list the three best receivers and not include Steve Smith of the Panthers. He finished with 1,421 yards and six touchdowns and is always a very dangerous target for Jake Delhomme. Those great stats were even with him missing the first two games. Fitzgerald’s teammate Anquan Boldin and Roddy White also deserve mention.
Tight End - Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City Chiefs
One of the easier choices to make, veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez of the Chiefs finished with yet another great season. He finished with 96 catches, 1,058 yards, and 10 touchdowns to lead all tight ends in all three categories.
Antonio Gates of the Chargers deserves mention with his 60 catches for 704 yards and eight touchdowns. Chris Cooley of the Redskins was great in the receiving game but Jason Campbell looked elsewhere in the red zone. Jason Witten had 81 catches for 952 yards and four touchdowns, but didn’t make the list because he stole too many passes from TO.
Guards - Rich Seubert and Chris Snee, New York Giants
The two Giants’ guards both made the team because of how dominant their running game has been all year. The 301 yards rushing including 215 yards by backup Derrick Ward in Week 16 against the Panthers were no mistake.
These two guys, and the entire line, lead the way for the best ground attack in the league and protect Eli Manning. Manning is so thankful for his lineman he invited the three offensive linemen that did not make the Pro Bowl to Hawaii anyway.
Center - Kevin Mawae, Tennessee Titans
The Titans’ center had another productive year anchoring a line that was home to one of the league’s top rushing attacks. Rookie Chris Johnson had a great rookie season and was runner-up for the Rookie of the Year award, and near the goal line LenDale White was almost a guarantee to score with great blocking from the line.
Kerry Collins was rarely sacked this season despite not being the most mobile quarterback in the league.
Tackles - Harvey Dahl and Jeff Otah
Harvey Dahl is the anchor on the Falcons’ line that has led Michael Turner and Matt Ryan to have such productive seasons. One of the main reasons rookie quarterbacks have so much trouble getting out the gate is because of a bad line on a bad team but Matt Ryan lucked out having a good line set up for him when he got there.
Otah of the Panthers has led the way for the running back tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to have such good seasons on the ground. He and Ryan Kalil are the reason the Panthers’ runners are so feared.