The final instalment of analysis of our All Pro team looks at the back end of the defence, on the edge and inside. Five players have earned All Pro owners – our team has an extra spot at secondary compared to the AP All Pro team. That means that there is space for Jaire Alexander, who cruelly missed out on the official team. So who made the team then?
Xavien Howard (36), Jalen Ramsey (25), Jaire Alexander (23), JC Jackson (10), James Bradberry (7), Tre’Davious White (5), Malcolm Butler (2), Marcus Peters (2), Marlon Humphrey (2), Darious Williams (1), Herb Miller (1), Denzel Ward (1), Stephon Gilmore (1), Bryce Callahan (1), Carlton Davis (1)
Xavien Howard is our first pick, with 36 votes from the panel of 42. It’s well deserved, having led the league in interceptions with 10. In fact, Howard was unlucky to miss out on the Defensive Player of the Year award. Howard also forced a fumble and had 51 tackles.
Howard only allowed 51.5% completions on passes sent his direction and a rating of 48.3 over the season at a rate of 7.1 yards per target. Xavien Howard will be a critical piece of Miami’s defence over the next few years. His numbers could look very different next year as offences avoid throwing to Howard’s side of the field.
Ramsey headlines Rams’ defence
The next most popular option with 25 votes was Jalen Ramsey. The former Jag’s second season in LA went down a storm, as he was an integral part of a Rams defence key to the team making the playoffs.
Ramsey had only one interception and nine pass deflections but the low figures show how much teams avoid throwing his way. The Florida State alum had 44 tackles, two for loss, as his role varied through the year. Much like Howard, Ramsey allowed 50.7% completions and only five yards a target. His QB rate was higher though, at 68.6 but Ramsey has proven this season that he is the foremost cornerback in the league today.
Our final cornerback, Jaire Alexander, appears to be a mirror of the first two, particularly Ramsey. Alexander had an interception and a fumble, along with 51 tackles, two for loss. He was integral to the Packers securing the number one seed. Opposing QBs targeted Alexander was targeted 80 times, compared to 71 for Ramsey. The Packer allowed 51.3% completions on those targets and 4.7 yards/target, albeit at a QB rate of 67.4.
Who missed the cut?
There were a couple of harsh omissions to the team. While Stephon Gilmore entered the season as the top corner in New England, J.C. Jackson finished as the man. Third year Jackson had nine interceptions and 8.3 yards/target. Meanwhile, LA had another cornerback who was good enough for consideration on this list. Darious Williams had four interceptions and 18 pass deflections, as he paired with Jalen Ramsey to form a defence that stifled the passing game. Williams allowed 54% completions and a rate of 63.9 for opposing quarterbacks.
While there were 15 players who received votes, there was a clear divide between the top three and the field. The All Pro selections got 23 or more votes each, with fourth place gaining 10 votes. That’s a pretty definitive selection.
Tyrann Mathieu (17), Minkah Fitzpatrick (16), Jessie Bates (13), Jamal Adams (10), Budda Baker (7), Adrian Amos (5), Justin Simmons (5), John Johnson (3), Jeremy Chinn (2), Harrison Smith (1), Quadre Diggs (1), Micah Hyde (1), Jabrill Peppers (1)
Meanwhile there was hotter competition at safety, with four viable choices for the honour. Tyrann Mathieu and Minkah Fitzpatrick eventually got the nod, ahead of Jessie Bates, who was very hard done by and Jamal Adams. Surprisingly, Budda Baker, who made the AP All Pro team got just seven of the 42 votes.
Minkah Fitzpatrick was a key cog in the Steelers defence and earned 16 votes. The former Dolphin had four interceptions and a fumble recovery, on top of 79 tackles. In fact, Fitzpatrick was conspicuous in his absence at times this year as teams avoided throwing near him. Only half of the 26 passes thrown his way were caught, with another 4 of the 26 intercepted. He did allow 8.6 yards/target and 17.2 yards/completion due to lining up deep as a centre fielder.
Chiefs’ secret weapon
The Chiefs offence gets the headlines but the defence has played a key role in them retaining the AFC crown. Mathieu is one of the few individual performers to get the recognition they deserve. Mathieu had six picks, including a pick six, a fumble recovery and 62 tackles. While teams were more confident throwing at him than others, he is a playmaker, forcing key turnovers in the Chiefs run of one score victories.
Who missed the cut?
Jeremy Chinn had just two votes but figures to be on this list for years to come. He had two fumble recoveries, returned for TDs, on back-to-back plays this year. Add to that a sack, a pick and two forced fumbles, as well as 117 tackles. Chinn was a difference maker on the Panthers defence and the only real competition to Chase Young for the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Jessie Bates was another player to get overlooked for playing on an unfashionable team, running the top two picks close with 13 votes. Bates had three picks and 15 pass deflections. He also forced a fumble and had 109 tackles over the season on a poor Bengals defence. Just 54% of passes thrown at Bates were completed, right up there with the top players as he allowed 6.9 yards/target. He did miss 16 tackles though, an area to focus on over the offseason.
Budda Baker will be known for one play in the 2020 season. Much like that play, he came up just short of super stardom. Baker had two INTs, one of which he was caught by DK Metcalf on, and six pass deflections. He added two sacks, seven tackles for loss and 118 total tackles to the Cardinals’ effort. While his pass coverage may have let him down in terms of top figures, he was targeted just 42 times. Baker was a key weapon in the Cardinals defence and will be a key piece to build on.
What to make of Jamal Adams?
Then we have the President, Jamal Adams. Yes he set the record for sacks by a member of the secondary with 9.5 but he was a less reliable option on the back end due to this aggressive usage. Adams still had 83 tackles and a forced fumble, as well as 14 QB hits and 11 tackles for loss. But, 36 of the 46 passes thrown his way were completed, albeit for 438 yards, as he played close to the line. Adams allowed 9.5 yards/target and a QB rating of 106.3. He is an exceptional playmaker but the scheme sometimes left him exposed. He earned a solid 10 votes but it will be interesting to see how the Seahawks utilise Adams in 2021, after a boom and bust year.
That’s all from our UK NFL Media All Pro team. We hope you have enjoyed this series and thank you to all of our voters for taking part. Keep an eye out for our UK NFL Media awards as they are released later this week.
Image: Eric Christian Smith / Associated Press