Right before the fourth of July holiday Dave Dameshek wrote an article about who he would have on a division all star team. In the first edition of this three part series, we compared our offense all star team with Damesheks. There were some minor differences, but overall they were pretty similar. Now it’s time to look at the defense.
The NFC West has come from being the laughing stock in the NFL to becoming the best division in football and it all starts with the defense. The 49ers have had on of the best defenses in football the last couple of seasons and the Seahawks had a top ten defense last season. Not to mention the Rams and Cardinals both have respectable defenses that could be in the top 10. This all star list was a hard one to choose, but here it is.
DE: Chris Long, Chris Clemons
DT: Justin Smith
OLB: Aldon Smith, Daryl Washington
ILB: Patrick Willis, James Laurinaitis
CB: Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson, Janoris Jenkins
S: Earl Thomas, Donte Whitner
Defensive end was pretty easy, it’s hard to deny what Chris Long and Chris Clemons have done throughout their careers. Long has two consecutive 10+ sack season while Clemons has three consecutive. I would go Robert Quinn or even Darnell Dockett here, but with Quinn having problems against the run and Dockett on the downside of a good career, Long and Clemons just are the obvious choice. Both players also play very important roles on their teams, and both teams would struggle without them.
At defensive tackle Justin Smith is without a doubt the obvious choice. Smith did have an off year only getting to the quarterback three times, but that doesnt mean he didnt have an impact. Smith had a career high eight stuffs last season. Smith is one of the star players on the stout 49ers defense. If he continues to play at a high level the niners will be in contenders in future Super Bowls.
At Outside linebacker, I have the other Smith on the 49ers, along with Daryl Washington. Aldon Smith had one of the best years in terms of stats in the league recording 19.5, 3 short of Michael Strahan’s record. Washington also had a pretty good year recording nine sacks. You really cant choose anybody else here. Aldon Smith and Daryl Washington are both young players and will be forces in the NFC West to be reckoned with for many years to come.
At inside linebacker I have Patrick Willis and James Laurinaitis. Patrick Willis has been a great player ever since he came into the league as well as the most underrated player in the NFL, Laurinaitis. In my opinion these two players are now the two of the best MLB in the NFL and they just happen to both be in the same division. Laurinaitis has been in the top ten in tackles throughout his entire career, and Willis may not be as high up there in tackles, but the guy still makes plays.
At cornerback I have Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, and Janoris Jenkins. It’s hard to argue against Peterson, the guy had 7 interceptions last season, he’s young, and he makes plays whenever he touches the ball. Sherman is one of the best cornerbacks in the league, PED’s or no PED’s, the guy at eight interceptions last season which is an incredible stat. I put Jenkins in there as an alternate or nickleback. Jenkins had 4 interceptions last season and returned three of them for touchdowns, which has only been done by a few players in NFL history.
Finally I have Earl Thomas and Donte Whitner at safety. Thomas along with Sherman makes Seattle one of the secondaries in the NFL. Thomas is by far the best safety in the division. The NFC West doenst have much of a selection for safeties, therefore Whitner is the next best bet. Whitner makes plays when it’s all said and done, he had 83 tackles last season and one interception that went for a touchdown.
DEFENSE (3-4)Defensive ends:Chris Long, Darnell Dockett
Defensive tackles: Justin Smith
Outside linebackers: Aldon Smith, Daryl Washington
Inside linebacker: NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis
Cornerback: Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman
Safeties: Earl Thomas, Donte Whitner
Dameshek and I did differ in a few areas, but once again, it was pretty similar. The NFC West not only is the best division in football, but overall, they have the best defensive groups in football which is why more teams in the playoffs will come out of the NFC West and will compete for Super Bowls. Offense wins games, but defense wins championships. This statement is 100% true when it comes to the NFC West.