Budding stars, reliable vets make up midseason defensive team
Midway through the 2007 season, who are the league's best players on defense? Len Pasquarelli shares his selections.
My midseason defensive All-Pro team is nearly split between the AFC and NFC. Two members of the undefeated Patriots made our elite 11: cornerback Asante Samuel and outside linebacker Mike Vrabel. For my offensive All-Pro team, click here.
Jared Allen, Kansas City Chiefs
Reasoning: Despite missing the first two games of the season because of a league-imposed suspension, the four-year veteran has 29 tackles, 8½ sacks, two forced fumbles and three pass deflections. He's been a monster so far, and has at least a half-sack in all but one game in which he's played.
Albert Haynesworth, Tennessee Titans
Reasoning: In his sixth season, Haynesworth has finally matured on and off the field and has become arguably the NFL's most dominant interior defender. He is strong and active and more athletic than people think, and he has posted 30 tackles, five sacks and three passes defensed.
Tommie Harris, Chicago Bears
Reasoning: Coming back from late 2006 surgery to repair a hamstring injury, Harris has regained most of the quickness and explosiveness that were his hallmarks. He still isn't playing the run as well as he did, but he is disruptive in the gaps and already has a career-high seven sacks.
Aaron Kampman, Green Bay Packers
Reasoning: The consummate self-made player, Kampman might be the NFL's best two-way end; he plays the run tough and has increased his sack total every season. After notching a career-best 15½ sacks in 2006, he has nine in eight games this season, along with 39 tackles.
Mike Vrabel, New England Patriots
Reasoning: The acquisition of Adalius Thomas, and the decision to use him inside, has allowed Vrabel to flourish again at his more natural outside spot. He has 47 tackles, 8½ sacks and five forced fumbles. In his 11th season, Vrabel actually seems a step quicker. Vrabel also has two touchdown catches as a tight end.
Barrett Ruud, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Reasoning: In his first season as a starter, Ruud has continued the tradition of terrific middle linebackers in the Bucs' defense. Not blessed with imposing physical tools, he is nonetheless very instinctive and gets to the football, as evidenced by his 79 tackles and three forced fumbles.
Keith Bulluck, Tennessee Titans
Reasoning: Consistently one of the best and steadiest outside 'backers in the league, Bulluck has only one Pro Bowl on his résumé. He gets overlooked in part because he doesn't rush the quarterback, but he does everything else well. He's excellent in coverage and has four interceptions and four passes defensed.
Asante Samuel, New England Patriots
Reasoning: He missed the entire offseason program and all of training camp and didn't open the season as a starter, but he still has been brilliant in picking up where he left off in 2006. A naturally gifted ball athlete, he has great short-area burst and has notched four interceptions and 16 passes defensed.
Bob Sanders, Indianapolis Colts
Reasoning: Pound-for-pound, Sanders is arguably the baddest man in the league and is a true difference-maker in Indianapolis' defense. At just 5-foot-8, he is a human torpedo, at his best when playing close to the line. The Colts are starting to use him more as a blitzer, too, and he has been effective in that role.
Sean Taylor, Washington Redskins
Reasoning: The addition of first-round strong safety LaRon Landry has permitted Taylor to back off the line of scrimmage and display his ball-hawking skills. He has five interceptions and nine passes defensed while demonstrating great range, but he is still a big hitter and has 38 tackles.
Charles Woodson, Green Bay Packers
Reasoning: Woodson revived his career when he signed with the Packers in 2006. At 31 and in his 10th season, he's still getting it done. A complete corner who comes up and supports the run, Woodson has 38 tackles to go along with his two interceptions and seven passes defensed.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
We've reached the midway point of the 2007 NFL season. Time for a review of the first half ... and a sneak peek at the second half.
Looking Back• ALL-PROS: Len Pasquarelli selects his top players on offense and defense, as well as top special teams performers. Offense/ST | Defense
• TEAM GRADES: Who passed? Who failed? Scouts Inc. analyzes every team's first half and hands out the grades. AFC | NFC
• Jeffri Chadiha picks out the surprises and disappointments on each team and also predicts each team's season record. Story
• Scouts Inc.'s Jeremy Green hands out his midseason awards. Audio
• ESPN experts pick the midseason award winners. Story
Looking Ahead• Which games will be most intriguing in the second half? John Clayton picks out his top ones. Story
• Who'll make the playoffs? Gary Horton makes his predictions ... all the way up to the Super Bowl winner. Story
SportsNation• Vote: First-half player awards
• Vote: Make your league predictions
• Vote: Who's an unwatchable pretender?
FantasyESPN.com's fantasy football experts tackled the midseason last week prior to Week 9. Here's what they wrote:
• Ken Daube: Midseason top 100 players
• Redrafting at the halfway point