Mid-Season All-AFC North Team
As part of our look back on the first half of the season, we’re breaking down every division and looking at the top performances from each position.
Here’s the AFC North, and links to the others:
Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger (PIT)
While the Steelers have seemed slow out of the blocks, you can’t fault Roethlisberger for that. He’s overcome injuries and a spat with his offensive coordinator (allegedly) to be playing as well as ever.
Running Back: Ray Rice (BLT)
While Rice has earned this spot, if Trent Richardson had been completely healthy then perhaps he’d have had more competition. As it is, the work of Rice as an every-down back deserves recognition.
Fullback: Vonta Leach (BLT)
Has he been as good as in previous years? Not quite. He’s still making his presence felt, though.
Tight End: Heath Miller (PIT)
His six touchdowns are second only to ‘The Gronk’ among tight ends, and his work with his blocking continues to impress. Just an all-around good player having one of his best years to date.
Wide Receivers: A.J. Green (CIN) and Torrey Smith (BLT)
Green is so good that teams have already realized if you shut him down, you shut down the Bengals’ offense. It’s still easier said than done. Pairing him with Smith is almost unfair. If one didn’t get you, the other would.
Tackles: Andrew Whitworth (CIN) and Andre Smith (CIN)
Two tackles from the Bengals, with Joe Thomas edged out for the left tackle spot. It’s tight, and there are other divisions in which he’d be the starter without question. Smith has something of a free ride, but Mike Adams is playing as well as any right tackle now, so watch out for him.
Guards: Clint Boling (CIN) and Marshal Yanda (BLT)
Has there been a better guard in football over the past few years than Yanda? (The answer is ‘no’, by the way). Boling has taken a big step forward in his second year, but will have to keep his level of play up with John Greco playing so well.
Center: Alex Mack (CLV)
The always dependable Mack never blows you away, but rarely lets you down.
Defensive Ends: Michael Johnson (CIN) and Carlos Dunlap (CIN)
With the Steelers’ duo missing time, it was an easy decision for us to go for a 4-3 to take advantage of this division’s strength. To that mind, we’re bringing the North’s most productive pass rushers, who just so happen to both be Bengals.
Defensive Tackle: Haloti Ngata (BLT) and Geno Atkins (CIN)
Ngata may have been slowed by an injury, but he’s still one of the hardest-to-block defenders out there. Atkins is a very different type of player, so good at getting up field, he’s the most destructive defensive tackle in the league and was also an easy choice for our Mid-Season All-Pro team.
Linebackers: Lamarr Woodley (PIT), Lawrence Timmons (PIT) and Vontaze Burflict (CIN)
Let’s be honest, this trio isn’t ideal. Woodley is versatile enough to play in both schemes and with his hand up or in the dirt. His added pass rush is always a welcome bonus. Timmons kind of gets the middle linebacker job by default, even though it’s not a role he’s exactly suited to. At least Burflict will be happy with his spot, much like Bengals fans are happy with his immediate contribution.
Cornerbacks: Sheldon Brown (CLV) and Joe Haden (CLV)
Lardarius Webb would have pushed for a place, but as it is the Browns’ defensive backs have done enough to hold off a rather lackluster challenge. Still let’s not take anything away from them, with both men grading positively.
Safeties: T.J. Ward (CLV) and Ryan Clark (PIT)
The Browns’ Ward continues to be active in the box, while Clark has stepped up in the absence of Troy Polamalu. A very underrated player.
Kicker: Justin Tucker (BLT)
Punter: Kevin Huber (CIN)
Returner: Jacoby Jones (BLT)
Special Teamer: Corey Graham (BLT)
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