A little note on how I picked this team – the players all had to be on their current teams last season, or they were not considered for the team. Now on to the selections, and as always, feel free to debate.
Had I compiled this list last year, it would have been chock full of names like Manning, Clark, Saturday, etc. But, that’s how it goes in the NFL. All those guys have moved on to other teams (and other divisions), so this year we have names that might not have necessarily been there in the past:
OT Michael Roos, Tennessee– 112 games played and started, named to the All-Pro Team last year.
OT Duane Brown, Houston – Brown has played in and started 60 games and was named 2nd Team All-Pro last year.
OG Steve Hutchinson, Tennessee– Do I really need to explain this? Ok: 7 Pro-Bowls, 7 All-Pro Teams, 2000’s NFL All-Decade Team. Too bad the rest of the guys at this spot in the division don’t really measure up.
OG Uche Nwaneri, Jacksonville– The next most experienced player at a weak position.
C Brad Meester, Jacksonville– With Jeff Saturday out in Green Bay, the man with 177 games played AND started takes over the top spot at center in the division.
TE Owen Daniels, Houston – In a two-horse race between him and Jacksonville’s Marcedes Lewis, Owens is the better player.
WR Andre Johnson, Houston – Though Johnson has had injury issues, when he’s on the field he is undoubtedly the best receiver in the division now.
WR Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis– The “elder statesman” of both the Colts and the All-AFC South team. His resume speaks for itself.
FB Greg Jones, Jacksonville– The most experienced and best player in the division at a position that really isn’t all that critical (Indy doesn’t even have a FB on the roster). Helped Maurice Jones-Drew amass huge yardage last year.
RB Arian Foster, Houston – Arian Foster surprised many in 2010, leading the league in rushing, and did nothing but continue that into 2011. Expect huge things yet again this year.
RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville– Holdout notwithstanding, MJD should have received more MVP consideration last year. He was the NFL rushing champ in 2011, and that was with no passing game to support him.
QB Matt Schaub, Houston – Schaub is the unquestioned QB King in the division now that Peyton Manning has left for Denver. No other division QB comes close. Andrew Luck may get there at some point, but for now, it’s all Schaub.
All my Indianapolis readers will notice a rather glaring omission here: No Dwight Freeney or Robert Mathis. The reason is this: They are both no longer playing the defensive end position and we don’t know how well they are going to adjust to the linebacker spot. Without knowing that, I just can’t justify putting them on the All-Division team at this juncture. Also, since two teams in the division play the 3-4 and two play the 4-3, I tried to spread the love a little bit along the defensive line:
DE Jeremy Mincey, Jacksonville– Mincey had a kind-of break out season in 2011, with 8 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and an interception.
DE J.J. Watt, Houston – Watt had an impressive rookie campaign registering 56 tackles and 5.5 sacks. Look for even more improvement this year.
DT Jurrel Casey, Tennessee– 52 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble may not seem like much, but for a rookie last year as a 4-3 defensive tackle, it’s pretty impressive.
DT Tyson Alualu, Jacksonville– Alualu has never really wowed me, but he’s the best of the rest at the DT spot in the division.
LB Brian Cushing, Houston – Arguably the best defensive player in the entire division. Been a playmaker the minute he first stepped on the field.
LB Pat Angerer, Indianapolis– Non-Colts fans may not realize Angerer led all AFC South linebackers in tackles last year with 148.
LB Paul Posluszny, Jacksonville– A toss up between Posluszny and Daryl Smith. Posluszny has more tackles and interceptions, so I gave him the nod.
CB Johnathan Joseph, Houston – Joseph was named to the Pro-Bowl and All-Pro team in his first year in Houston.
CB Jason McCourty, Tennessee– 103 tackles from as a cornerback means you are doing something right.
S Antoine Bethea, Indianapolis – Bethea has averaged over 99 tackles since entering the league in 2006, and registered a career high 139 last year to go with 2 forced fumbles.
S Dawan Landry, Jacksonville – Landry barely beat out Tennessee’s Jordan Babineaux for a spot here, but Landry had more tackles (97 to 93), sacks (.5 to 0), forced fumbles (1 to 0), and interceptions (2 to 0) than Babs.
I was originally going to include the kick return and punt return positions, but there just isn’t a whole lot of experience in those areas on these teams, so I’m just going to limit this aspect of the All-AFC South team to the kickers:
K Rob Bironas, Tennessee– Bironas hit all but 3 of his 32 field goal attempts (90.6), including a long of 53 yards.
P Pat McAfee, Indianapolis – Houston’s Donnie James had more punts, but McAfee’s average was bigger (46.6 yards to Jones’ 44.3). Gotta go with the bigger leg. Also, McAfee is one funny dude if you ever read his tweets (@PatMcAfeeShow).