Commentary

Vikings double up on defensive honors

Originally Published: January 5, 2010
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

In what has become a passing league, a defense has to be able to sack the quarterback and blanket wide receivers, and the ESPN.com All-Pro defense for 2009 can certainly do both.

But there was room, too, for some terrific defenders versus the run. Below is a look at the all-pro defensive unit:

For my offensive selections, click here.

Defense

Edwards
Edwards

Ray Edwards, LE, Minnesota Vikings

Reasoning: Partner Jared Allen gets most of the attention, but Edwards had a strong season, and there are only a few standout left ends. The fourth-year veteran was one of only a dozen linemen with 50 or more stops (he had 51), and he added 8½ sacks.


Williams
Williams

Kevin Williams, DT, Minnesota Vikings

Reasoning: Collected only half as many tackles as in '08 (30), but still one of NFL's most dominant inside players. He played some end earlier in his career and retains some of those pass-rush skills, as indicated by his six sacks, which tied for the league lead among interior linemen.


Ngata
Ngata

Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore Ravens

Reasoning: He registered 35 tackles after averaging 59 stops the past two years but still played at a high level. He doesn't penetrate a lot but commands double-team blocking, and that allows linebackers to make most of the plays. He's a strong anchor versus the run.


Ratliff
Ratliff

Jay Ratliff, NT, Dallas Cowboys

Reasoning: Not a prototypical nose tackle, but Ratliff penetrates more than most players at the position and can shoot the gap and be disruptive in the opponent's backfield. He recorded 40 tackles, six sacks (tied for NFL high for interior linemen) and two forced fumbles.


Freeney
Freeney

Dwight Freeney, RE, Indianapolis Colts

Reasoning: He missed two games completely and played only parts of five others but still had 13½ sacks and applied consistent pressure on the pocket. His spin and counter moves are among the best in the league. He added 24 tackles against the run.


Cushing
Cushing

Brian Cushing, SLB, Houston Texans

Reasoning: The defensive rookie of the year is the only first-year player to earn a spot on the all-pro team; he also made the Pro Bowl. An all-around defender, he had 134 tackles, five sacks, four interceptions, 14 passes defensed and two forced fumbles.


Beason
Beason

Jon Beason, MLB (4-3), Carolina Panthers

Reasoning: He's a pure 4-3 middle linebacker who flows naturally to the ball and simply makes a ton of plays. A good two-way player, as his well-rounded numbers show. He posted 142 tackles, three sacks, three interceptions, 10 passes defensed and a forced fumble.


Willis
Willis

Patrick Willis, ILB (3-4), San Francisco 49ers

Reasoning: A tackling machine and a leader, Willis helps the 49ers' defense in a lot of ways. He plays sideline to sideline and can cover in reverse. Unofficially, he led the NFL in tackles (152) and added four sacks, three interceptions and 11 passes defensed.


Dumervil
Dumervil

Elvis Dumervil, WLB, Denver Broncos

Reasoning: Some regard him as one-dimensional because he has no interceptions and only three passes defensed. But it's hard to ignore his league-best 17 sacks and four forced fumbles. A hybrid player, typical of a 3-4 outside linebacker, Dumervil usually moves to rush end on third down.


Woodson
Woodson

Charles Woodson, CB, Green Bay Packers

Reasoning: At age 33, he tied for the league lead in interceptions (nine) and added 18 passes defensed. The six-time Pro Bowler was among the top five cornerbacks in tackles (74). Woodson was a standout (four interceptions, 11 passes defensed) even after losing partner Al Harris to a knee injury.


Revis
Revis

Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets

Reasoning: The third-year veteran earned a second straight Pro Bowl berth by being the epitome of a shutdown corner. He faced many of the top wide receivers, played most of them man-to-man and never backed down. He had six interceptions and 31 passes defensed, six more than anyone else in the league.


Sharper
Sharper

Darren Sharper, FS, New Orleans Saints

Reasoning: Along with the rest of the New Orleans defense, Sharper wasn't nearly as good in the second half of the season (two interceptions, three passes defensed), but he tied for NFL lead with nine interceptions, returned three for touchdowns and set a record with 376 return yards.


Wilson
Wilson

Adrian Wilson, SS, Arizona Cardinals

Reasoning: He has proved over past two seasons that he is more than just a blitz/sack guy. Thanks to dramatically improved coverage skills, he had five interceptions, and his 13 passes defensed led all strong safeties. He stayed close enough to the line of scrimmage to record 74 tackles.


Special teams

Kaeding
Kaeding

Nate Kaeding, PK, San Diego Chargers

Reasoning: He's a strong-legged, clutch kicker whose self-confidence has grown the past few years. His 91.4 percent conversion rate (32-of-35) was best in the league among kickers with 30 or more field-goal tries. He was 3-for-4 from 50-plus yards.


Lechler
Lechler

Shane Lechler, P, Oakland Raiders

Reasoning: Maybe not the best directional punter, as a lot of his kicks are returned, but Lechler's the guy you want when you're back deep in your own end. He can really boom the ball out of trouble, led the NFL in both gross (51.1 yards) and net averages (43.9), and has led either the league or the AFC in five of the past six seasons.


Cribbs
Cribbs

Josh Cribbs, KR, Cleveland Browns

Reasoning: He's the Browns' best offensive weapon, and that's not even accounting for his work in the Wildcat formation. He had 94 total returns (56 kickoffs and 38 punts) and still averaged 21.1 yards. He scored four touchdowns, three on kickoff returns.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.