Curran: A look inside my 2010 All Pro ballot


Curran: A look inside my 2010 All Pro ballot

By Tom E. Curran

For the past four years, I've been one of 50 voters for The AssociatedPress' year-end NFL awards. It's an honor to be on the panel because Iknow how much it means to the players. I remember once mentioning toRichard Seymour how many Pro Bowls he'd been to, and him telling me howmuch more important was to remember how many times he was All Pro.

When making my selections, I spent time talking to other writers about players they covered more frequently than I had. I also consulted one head coach, two general managers and two players for their input. I also did research on each player's stats and the dynamics impacting them on the field (i.e. team success, scheme, teammates).

Here's the team I came up with. I'll bold the guys I didn't select and put the selections I made in parentheses. Then I'll explain what the hell I was thinking.



QB: Tom Brady, Patriots

RB: Arian Foster, Texans; Jamaal Charles, Chiefs

FB: Vontae Leach, Texans (LeRon McClain, Ravens)

I get why Leach was selected. He was the lead blocker for Arian Foster. But my feeling is that the Ravens running game with McClain in there was a far more devastating attack. He helps make Ray Rice. The input I gathered also pushed McClain.

TE: Jason Witten, Cowboys (Antonio Gates, Chargers)

Gates caught 50 passes for 782 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2010. His YPC average was a ridiculous 15.6. He only played in 10 games, but in each one represented the most vital threat the Chargers had (especially when Vincent Jackson was out) and still couldn't be contained. Witten had his 94 catches in 16 games, 9 touchdowns and went over 1,000 receiving yards (1,002). Excellent player. But he wasn't as dominant at the position as Gates.

T: Joe Thomas, Browns; Jake Long, Dolphins (D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Jets)

I hated the effort of Jake Long in the season finale against the Patriots. Disinterested. Flat-footed. Lazy. That was fresh in my mind when I put my final list together three days after that game. Ferguson's a two-time Pro Bowler and he protects the blindside of one of the youngest starting quarterbacks in the league, Mark Sanchez. And Sanchez is getting enough protection to have big success and was only sacked 27 times. I went against input here in selecting Ferguson.

G: Logan Mankins, Patriots; Jahri Evans, Saints

C: Nick Mangold, Jets

WR: Reggie Wayne, Colts; Roddy White, Falcons

K: Billy Cundiff, Ravens

KR: Devin Hester, Bears


DE: Julius Peppers, Bears; John Abraham, Falcons (Justin Tuck, Giants)

Also was told to consider the Colts' Freeney and Mathis here. Hated to leave Abraham off, given the fact the Falcons were the No. 1 seed in the NFC this season. But Tuck had 11.5 sacks, forced five fumbles and recovered five fumbles. Abraham had 1.5 sacks more but neither caused nor recovered any fumbles.

DT: Ndamukong Suh, Lions; Haloti Ngata, Ravens (Vince Wilfork, Patriots)

This was a vote totally borne of what I'm looking at every week. Suh had 10 sacks; Wilfork had two. But Wilfork's versatility to play all over the line with far different responsibilities than Suh and to be the entire focal point of offensive game plans and STILL be unblockable? Had to go with him. Wilfork deserved this spot

OLB: James Harrison, Steelers, Clay Matthews, Packers (Terrell Suggs, Ravens)

I'm the only one who voted for T-Sizzle? I'm the only one who voted for T-Sizzle. He had 11 sacks and 53 tackles and he is just a devastating player. Matthews? I ain't buying. Solicited input brought me around to changing my vote to Suggs from Matthews.

ILB: Jerod Mayo, Patriots; Patrick Willis, 49ers (Ray Lewis, Ravens; Brian Urlacher, Bears)

It was hard to leave Mayo off here but I felt the early-season ineptitude of the Patriots defense forced me to downgrade. Statistically - as brilliant as Mayo's season was in total tackles (led the league by 26) - the Patriots were too weak to deserve a defensive lineman and inside linebacker. The votes show how close this race was (of 100 possible): Willis 28, Mayo 21, Urlacher 20, Lewis 18.

CB: Nnamdi Asomugha, Raiders; Darrelle Revis, Jets (Asante Samuel, Eagles; Devin McCourty, Patriots)

I went for production over reputation. Asomugha had 17 tackles and six passes defensed in 14 games. Revis had 26 tackles and 9 passes defensed in 13 games. Samuel had 7 picks and 14 breakups in 11 games with 22 tackles. McCourty had 7 picks, 17 passes defensed and 60 tackles. Seemed pretty easy to me.

S: Troy Polamalu, Steelers

S: Ed Reed, Ravens

P: Shane Lechler, Raiders

This is how the voting broke down.

QUARTERBACK Tom Brady, 50.

RUNNING BACK Arian Foster, Houston, 45; Jamaal Charles, Kansas City, 33; Michael Turner, Atlanta, 8; Adrian Peterson, Minnesota, 6; Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville, 5.

FULLBACK Vonta Leach, Houston, 17; Ovie Mughelli, Baltimore, 13; Le'Ron McClain, Baltimore, 7; Lawrence Vickers, Cleveland, 4; Greg Jones, Jacksonville, 4; Michael Turner, Atlanta, 1; Jason Snelling, Atlanta, 1; John Kuhn, Green Bay, 1; Marcel Reece, Oakland, 1.

TIGHT END Jason Witten, Dallas, 36; Antonio Gates, San Diego, 8; Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville, 3; Vernon Davis, San Francisco, 2; Rob Gronkowski, New England, 1.

WIDE RECEIVER Roddy White, Atlanta, 47; Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis, 18; Brandon Lloyd, Denver, 10; Calvin Johnson, Detroit, 8; Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City, 8; Andre Johnson, Houston, 5; Greg Jennings, Green Bay, 2; Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh, 2.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE Joe Thomas, Cleveland, 22; Jake Long, Miami, 21; Jason Peters, Philadelphia, 11; Sebastian Vollmer, New England, 7; D'Brickashaw Ferguson, N.Y. Jets, 6; Donald Penn, Tampa Bay, 5; Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati, 5; Kareem McKenzie, N.Y. Giants, 4; Jordan Gross, Carolina, 4; Chad Clifton, Green Bay, 4; Marshal Yanda, Baltimore, 2; David Stewart, Tennessee, 2; Michael Roos, Tennessee, 1; Michael Oher, Baltimore, 1; Tyson Clabo, Atlanta, 1; Matt Light, New England, 1; Sam Baker, Atlanta, 1; Damien Woody, N.Y. Jets, 1; Eric Winston, Houston, 1.

GUARD Jahri Evans, New Orleans, 24; Logan Mankins, New England, 15; Chris Snee, N.Y. Giants, 14; Carl Nicks, New Orleans, 13; Brian Waters, Kansas City, 12; Kris Dielman, San Diego, 9; Josh Sitton, Green Bay, 5; Brandon Moore, N.Y. Jets, 3; Ryan Lilja, Kansas City, 3; Steve Hutchinson, Minnesota, 1; Rich Seubert, N.Y. Giants, 1.

CENTER Nick Mangold, N.Y. Jets, 37; Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh, 11; Casey Wiegmann, Kansas City, 1; Alex Mack, Cleveland, 1.

KICKER Billy Cundiff, Baltimore 24; David Akers, Philadelphia, 10; Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland, 4; Rob Bironas, Tennessee, 4; Matt Bryant, Atlanta, 4; Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis, 3; Neil Rackers, Houston, 1.

KICK RETURN Devin Hester, Chicago, 43; Leon Washington, Seattle, 4; Jacoby Ford, Oakland, 2; Marc Mariani, Tennessee, 1.

DEFENSIVE END Julius Peppers, Chicago, 35; John Abraham, Atlanta, 21; Justin Tuck, N.Y. Giants, 16; Osi UmeN.Y.iora, N.Y. Giants, 9; Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis, 7; Trent Cole, Philadelphia, 4; Jason Babin, Tennessee,2; Jared Allen, Minnesota, 2;Robert Mathis, Indianapolis, 1; Cameron Wake, Miami, 1; Vince Wilfork, New England, 1; Justin Smith, San Francisco, 1.

DEFENSIVE TACKLEHaloti Ngata, Baltimore, 45; Ndamukong Suh, Detroit, 30; Vince Wilfork, New England, 15; Kyle Williams, Buffalo, 3; Justin Smith, San Francisco, 2; B.J. Raji, Green Bay, 1; Casey Hampton, Pittsburgh, 1; Jonathan Babineaux, Atlanta, 1.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER Clay Matthews, Green Bay, 39; James Harrison, Pittsburgh, 31; DeMarcus Ware, Dallas, 9; Cameron Wake, Miami, 9; Tamba Hali, Kansas City, 7; Lance Briggs, Chicago, 2; Terrell Suggs, Baltimore, 1.

INSIDE LINEBACKER Patrick Willis, San Francisco, 28; Jerod Mayo, New England, 21; Brian Urlacher, Chicago, 20; Ray Lewis, Baltimore, 18; Lawrence Timmons, Pittsburgh, 8; Jonathan Vilma, New Orleans, 1; Derrick Johnson, Kansas City, 1; A.J. Hawk, Green Bay, 1.

CORNERBACK Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland, 20; Darrelle Revis, N.Y. Jets, 19; Devin McCourty, New England, 17; Charles Woodson, Green Bay, 14; Asante Samuel, Philadelphia, 12; Tramon Williams, Green Bay, 8; Brent Grimes, Atlanta 3; DeAngelo Hall, Washington, 2; Champ Bailey, Denver, 2; Joe Haden, Cleveland, 1; Brandon Flowers, Kansas City, 1; Antoine Winfield, Minnesota, 1.

SAFETY Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh, 47; Ed Reed, Baltimore, 41; Nick Collins, Green Bay, 4; Darren Sharper, New Orleans, 1; Antrel Rolle, N.Y. Giants, 1; Malcolm Jenkins, New Orleans, 1; Michael Griffin, Tennessee, 1; Eric Weddle, San Diego, 1; Chris Harris, Chicago, 1; Michael Huff, Oakland, 1; Quintin Mikell, Philadelphia, 1.

PUNTER Shane Lechler, Oakland, 34; Mat McBriar, Dallas, 11; Sam Koch, Baltimore, 3; Donnie Jones, St. Louis, 2.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Giardi: After getting schooled, Butler's got to be better

Giardi: After getting schooled, Butler's got to be better

When the Patriots signed Stephon Gilmore in the offseason and then managed to keep Malcolm Butler around, the consensus was not only might this be the best 1-2 punch at cornerback the team has ever had, but maybe, just maybe, it was the best duo in the NFL this season. 

Newsflash: it hasn’t been. Not even close. 


The latest example comes from Sunday night in Denver. Gilmore returned from a three-game absence (concussion) to play well against Demaryius Thomas in that 41-16 win. The same can’t be said of Butler. He spent much of his day playing man-to-man versus Emmanuel Sanders and struggled mightily.

Butler’s issues started on the very first play. He got lost along the sidelines and surrendered a 31-yard catch. Butler initially had Sanders blanketed. The two were lined up outside the numbers along the left sideline. Based on the formation, and the alignment of safety Devin McCourty, it was pretty clear Butler was alone on an island. Sanders initially drove inside before straightening out his route. Then he cut sharply, working speedily to the flat. Butler had a good beat on the play but unwisely peeked into the backfield. That’s when Sanders turned up and found nothing but green grass.

“I would just say I’d just tip my hat to him,” said Butler. “It was a great route. He steered me in. Then he went up then went out then went back up so I thought that was it. It was a little more than I expected. You gotta learn from it and play it better next time.”

On the same drive, he was beaten again by Sanders, this time for 13 yards. The Pats defense tightened up and held Denver to a field goal but a pattern had already been established between the Patriots' 27-year-old cornerback and Sanders.

The next big play Butler coughed up came with 4:13 to play in the second quarter. Broncos QB Brock Osweiler summoned Sanders to come across the formation via motion but then sent him back as the wideout approached the tackle box. Butler overreacted, trying to jump out ahead of the motion while simultaneously looking into the backfield. It was then he realized Sanders had done an about-face. To his credit, Butler recovered and jumped on Sanders shortly after the snap of the ball, actually shoving the receivers’ right shoulder in an attempt to disrupt the pattern. 

As Sanders turned upfield, he appeared well-covered by Butler. But then another old habit that’s been hard for Butler to break appeared. He lost track of the ball once it took flight. Sanders slapped on the brakes and high-pointed the football while Butler watched, helplessly flat-footed. Chalk up another 23-yard gain.

“I would just say he underthrew it and I got pushed by,” said Butler. “I probably burst because I was expected the ball to come too. You just got to play it the best way you can. Things happen. He just made a great play. I was in good position but not good enough.”

Sanders caught one more pass on the drive, and should have had a touchdown in the second quarter, streaking past Butler toward the end zone. But Osweiler made a terrible throw, unable to even keep it in the field of play. Hence another field goal instead of a touchdown. Bullet dodged - and there were a few.

“You can’t win with three all day,” said Butler of the defense’s red-zone efficiency. “They’re very hard on us on protecting the red area and not giving up touchdowns in the red area. Bend but don’t break. That’s been the motto.”

The Patriots would break later and Sanders beating Butler was a part of it. The play coming about five minutes into the third quarter on Denver's only TD-scoring drive. The Broncos came out in trips, employing a bunch formation that had plagued the Patriots so often the first month of the season. Unlike then, the Pats handled communication perfectly and as Sanders worked toward the seam, Butler had good position and help toward the post, with safety Duron Harmon eyeballing Sanders the entire way. So did Butler do? He gave up outside leverage, with Sanders breaking hard to the flag. Butler’s footwork was a mess - he got spun around like he was auditioning for "Dancing With the Stars" - and was unable to recover until Sanders had picked up another 23 yards.

“Another good route,” said Butler. “He got me thinking inside and broke out. He’s a good player. A great receiver.”

There’s no denying Sanders’ talent, but Butler has got to be better and more consistent. He’s too often been lost in coverage or gotten caught gambling, eyeballing a big play that’s rarely come in 2017. With their issues up front, it’s the Pats secondary that’s going to have to lead the way. The corners have only occasionally played to the level expected of them. The clock is ticking. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and if you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: this is when the Patriots want to be playing their best football. About time Butler answered the call.