2014 PFF All-NFC South Team
Thomas Maney looks at the best of the NFC South as Carolina leads the way for this All-Division team.
2014 PFF All-NFC South Team
In a strange year seeing all four teams finish below .500, the NFC South had a repeat winner for the first time since its formation. The Carolina Panthers won four straight games to close the season and make it to the playoffs with a 7-8-1 record, narrowly edging out New Orleans and Atlanta. Fittingly, they led with 13 selections on the All-Division team, while the 2-14 Buccaneers have just two players represented.
Quarterback: Drew Brees (NO)
Brees finished as the highest-graded passer in the division for the fourth-straight season and led all QB’s with an 80.2% Accuracy Percentage.
Running back: Jonathan Stewart (CAR) and Pierre Thomas (NO)
One of the NFL’s more elusive rushers, Stewart finished the season having forced 56 missed tackles combined as a rusher and receiver, while also grading positively for his blocking. And with none of the division’s fullbacks standing out, Thomas makes the team after an outstanding season catching passes out of the backfield.
Wide Receiver: Julio Jones (ATL) and Mike Evans (TB)
Only four receivers forced more missed tackles this season than Jones, while Evans was a touchdown machine as a rookie in Tampa, reaching the end zone 12 times in just 790 snaps.
Slot Receiver: Jimmy Graham (NO)
With more than 38% of his snaps spent in the slot (>60% at any WR position), Graham makes the team as a slot receiver, where he gained 1.87 Yards per Route Run.
Tight End: Greg Olsen (CAR)
Olsen earned positive grades as a receiver, pass blocker, and run blocker.
Tackles: Terron Armstead (NO) and Zach Strief (NO)
Armstead played well enough in his first full season as a starter, also earning a spot on our All-Sophomore Team. On the right side, Strief didn’t reach is 2013 form, but had a great second half of 2014, grading negatively overall just twice after Week 8.
Guards: Andrew Norwell (CAR) and Trai Turner (CAR)
Another pair of teammates, Norwell was among the least penalized players at the position and graded positively in both facets in 696 snaps, while Turner surrendered just 11 QB disruptions in 13 games at right guard.
Center: Ryan Kalil (CAR)
Had a rough season in pass protection, but made up for it with consistently positive play at the point of attack in the running game.
Edge Defenders: Junior Galette (NO) and Charles Johnson (CAR)
Only a handful of players were more productive rushing the passer than Galette, who picked up 67 combined pressures on the season. Johnson bounced back from a down year in 2013 and rough first half of 2014. He was particularly great in Weeks 11 through 16, grading above +2.3 overall in each game.
Defensive Interior: Gerald McCoy (TB) and Kawann Short (CAR)
10 penalties hurt his overall grade, but it was still another great season for McCoy, who continues to outdistance all interior defenders not named JJ Watt as a pass rusher. For Carolina, Short improved on his rookie season with positive play as both a pass rusher and run defender.
Nose Tackle: Star Lotulelei (CAR)
Carolina’s other second-year tackle played a more limited number of snaps, but graded positively in all facets and collected 21 defensive stops.
Linebackers: Thomas Davis (CAR) and Luke Kuechly (CAR)
Few linebackers played as well in coverage as Davis, who allowed just 7.1 yards per reception. In fact, the only linebacker with a better grade in coverage this season was his teammate, Kuechly, who picked up a ridiculous 81 defensive stops in the middle.
Cornerbacks: Desmond Trufant (ATL), Josh Norman (CAR), and Bene Benwikere (CAR)
No sophomore slump for Trufant, who finished as our sixth-highest graded corner. Norman allowed just 0.77 yards per snap in coverage, while just two corners allowed fewer yards per reception than Benwikere with 8.6.
Safeties: Dwight Lowery (ATL) and Roman Harper (CAR)
Not many options at safety in this division, with the two highest-graded players not playing enough snaps to qualify. Lowery gets the nod for his work in the run game and absence of penalties in more than 1000 snaps. For the Panthers, Harper fared well as a blitzer picking up a sack, hit, and two hurries.
Kicker: Matt Bryant (ATL)
Our highest-graded player on field goals and extra points.
Punter: Thomas Morstead (NO)
Only two punters bested Morstead’s net average of 42.8.
Returner: Devin Hester (ATL)
Averaging more than 13 yards on punt returns and 25 yards on kickoffs, Hester finished as our second-highest graded returner behind Adam Jones.
Special Teamer: Eric Weems (ATL)
Notched 12 tackles covering punts and kickoffs.
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