Kings of the South!
In 2017, the NFC South division proved to be the toughest division in the NFL and arguably the most talented as well. A simple review of each position will reveal at least one to two players from the South who could be considered a top three player in the league at their natural position. After careful consideration and debate, with assistance from members of the NFC South Invasion Facebook group’s admin team, Tee Word and Shon Scott have compiled the Ultimate roster of NFC South talent. While some teams are better represented than others, the rosters have taken into account several factors, including balance of power. We’ve presented the offensive selections, now we offer the defensive roster. The selections also include a brief reasoning for each selection and we of course welcome debate and input from the readers, so don’t pull any punches!
Without further delay, let’s start in the trenches with our NFC South all-star defensive line and linebackers:
Defensive Lineman: Gerald McCoy, Buccaneers – With ferocious speed off the snap, you don’t even have to wonder how Gerald McCoy ended up in the opponent’s backfield to blow up a play. His service against the run game is invaluable as McCoy demonstrates an impressive ability to close down running/passing lanes. McCoy is one of the best interior defensive linemen in the game, ranking 10th in both total pressures and pass-rush productivity among interior defenders this past season.
Defensive Lineman: Kawann Short, Panthers – Alongside McCoy on the defensive line, Short mirrors McCoy in explosive speed off the snap of the ball. Short is a meld of sheer power and athleticism, often leveraging his size to gain control of any opponent tasked with blocking him one-on-one. Short’s skill-set is ideal for collapsing a pocket en-route to the quarterback.
Defensive Lineman: Cam Jordan, Saints – Completing this line with formidable skill of his own, Cam Jordan’s skill-set demands you to account for him on every play. Not only will you have to worry about him interrupting the ground game, against the pass stellar protection is necessary to defend against this top tier linemen. He plays run and pass with equal dominance, leading the league with passes batted down from scrimmage.
Outside Linebacker: Kwon Alexander, Buccaneers – A super fast beast off the edge, Kwon has established himself as a versatile linebacker who will truly shine in support of the Ultimate defensive line. While speed is a hallmark of his game, his ability to diagnose a play will come in handy when he needs to find the football quickly. The idea of Alexander and Jones together is both reminiscent and scary.
Inside Linebacker: Deion Jones, Falcons – Developing into one of best coverage linebackers in his second season should come as no surprise if you’ve paid attention to Deion Jones’ level of play. Confirmation comes in the display of pure athleticism and a keen ability to play in space, one of the few linebackers who can play effectively against the pass to take a receiver out of the play. The exact caliber of player required for a respectable compilation of the NFC South’s best.
Inside Linebacker: Luke Kuechly, Panthers – How much do we really need to sell Luke as the centerpiece of this defense? Not only is Kuechly, arguably, the best in the division, he one of the best in the league. the perfect blend of football I.Q., speed, and natural ability, Luke will take this defense to the next level. Like Jones and Alexander, having Kuechly and Davis in tandem is a great fit alongside this mega-talented group of stars.
Outside Linebacker: Thomas Davis, Panthers – The veteran we look to on defense to drive the best performance out of this young talent is none other than Davis. A thirteen year warrior who has the experience of playing on the biggest stage in sports, Davis has just enough gas left in the tank to not only lead this defense of ultimate all-stars but to also perform at the same high level he has throughout his career. Sneaky good in coverage, Thomas has mastered the art of disguising his assignment and baiting opposing QBs into bad decisions.
Introducing the No-Fly Zone!
With this young, fast defense, it is important that some veteran leadership was present. After building a strong front seven, a who’s who of NFC South talent, building the back half was less complex then one might believe. Focusing on a mix of man coverage ability and zone defense efficiency, this collection of DBs will cause fits for most QBs they would face. The youth at safety is balanced by a couple of veteran corners and a young boss who is both aggressive and as physical as a fist-fight. For any QB who finds enough time to get their passes off, the long day will continue with the group of ball-hawks prowling the depths.
Cornerback 1: Marshon Lattimore, Saints – Would it be a genuine list of talent if the current defensive rookie of the year was not included on this team? Of course not! In 2017, Lattimore was able to prove to his teammates (and the league) that he was worthy of his first round draft status. An immediate impact player, Marshon brought physicality and and a nasty attitude to work every time he suited up. In honesty, there are flaws in his game, often being to grabby while the ball is in flight, but he was always in a position to make a play. Consider one side of the field to be a ‘trouble spot’ when opposing receivers enter the Marsh-Land.
Cornerback 2: Robert Alford, Falcons – Alford had a sneaky good season in 2017 and outplayed his highly-paid Falcons counterpart, Desmond Trufant. All Robert did was put himself in a position to make plays and effectively limited opposing receivers who ventured into his coverage area. He was comfortable in man or zone coverage, a key skill in a defense that is built on the ability to remain diverse and capable against any offensive alignment. Some may question his selection, but what shouldn’t be questioned is his ability when compared the other cornerbacks in the NFC South that were not added to the team.
Cornerback 3: Brent Grimes, Buccaneers – Veteran leader and ball hawk. Grimes is just what the doctor order to keep this talented group in check. Shifting from boundary corner to the slot or nickel position will put Brent in favorable situations to compensate for any lack of speed he has. Filtering routes in the shallow areas will play to Grimes strength of diagnosing a play and putting himself into position to break on a route and create a turnover. Having played for two of the four teams within the South division, Brent will feel right at home with this collection of bosses.
Strong Safety: Keanu Neal, Falcons – With boundary coverage on lock, the depths of the defensive backfield must be manned by solid defender. Neal fits the bill and adds hard-hitting and physicality. Within the structure of this defense, Keanu is the perfect fit and will find plenty of day work while supporting the run and bullying wide receivers and tight ends who dare cross the shallow part of the field. Settled into the back half in coverage, Neal and Williams solid tacklers who pack a punch but will also show range while grabbing interceptions on errant throws.
Free Safety: Marcus Williams, Saints – Despite one horrible play in his rookie season, Williams pleasant outplayed his draft selection spot. Marcus was active in run support but his greatest value is playing single high coverage and blazing from sideline to sideline to make a play. His truest value is playing smart, something that is absolutely critical as the last line of defense. This defensive back group will cause fits for the opposition play after play.
Introducing, your championship coaching staff:
Head Coach: Sean Payton, Saints – Payton has been to the mountain top and snatched the Ultimate prize as a head coach, he’s also the longest tenured NFC South coach. Sean has the intestinal fortitude to take risks and even go as far as hazing opposing fans to show how much he believes in his guys. With this loaded roster, Payton’s confidence will be at an all time high and fireworks should be expected.
Offensive Coordinator: Pete Carmichael, Saints – It is a well kept secret (maybe?) that many of the inventive and timely play-calls by the Saints are a product of the mind of Carmicheal. Though Payton gets all the credit, the bespectacled Carmichael has engineered some of the most pivotal drives of Drew Brees’ career in New Orleans. Paired with Payton, this machine will rage through any defense it faces. (Credit: Tommy McClellan of NFC South Invasion for this choice)
Defensive Coordinator: Dan Quinn, Falcons – The strongest defensive mastermind in the South, Quinn is sure to utilize every ounce of our soon-to-be-revealed defensive talent. Quinn took a struggling Falcons defense and transformed it into a top 10 unit over the course of three years. Dan was able to mold the unit without changing the original scheme much, he just used the players he had in the most effective way and continued to add talent on the defensive side of the ball.