We’re at the halfway mark of the 2013 season, so The MMQB is pressing pause to take a look back at the storylines, teams and players that made an impact or headlines in the first half of the season. After nine weeks of studying tape, Greg A. Bedard unveils his midseason All-Pro team and awards winners.
QB: Peyton Manning, Broncos. Believe it or not, I debated a while about this pick, with it coming down to Manning and Philip Rivers, and Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers close behind. It’s extremely difficult to ignore Rivers’ 72.2 completion percentage, and his lesser supporting cast. But Manning’s 29 touchdowns against Rivers’ 17 won out—for now.
RB: LeSean McCoy, Eagles; Jamaal Charles, Chiefs. McCoy leads the league with 777 rushing yards, and he’s fumbled just once. It won’t be long before critics knock McCoy as a “system back,” but Shady is just tremendous, especially in space. The only question is if he can last the season as the workhorse.
As for the second pick, Frank Gore, once the 49ers remembered he’s the man in their offense, has taken off and is having a great season, with seven rushes of 20 or more yards (compared to one for Charles). Still, you can make a convincing argument that there may not be a more valuable non-quarterback than Charles. He has accounted for 39 percent of the Chiefs’ yards, and half the offensive touchdowns, and is running with tremendous vision.
FB: Anthony Sherman, Chiefs. Bruce Miller is once again doing good work for the 49ers, but the young Sherman has been a little more consistent in the blocking department. Sherman’s trade from the Cardinals in May (for cornerback Javier Arenas) was a huge boost for the fullback.
TE: Jimmy Graham, Saints. He won’t be mistaken for pre-surgery Rob Gronkowski with his mediocre blocking skills, but Graham’s the most dynamic weapon of the group at this point. His 15.2 yards per catch average and 10 touchdowns are well above the followers, like Jordan Cameron, Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten.
WR: Calvin Johnson, Lions; A.J. Green, Bengals. Oh boy, this one was a doozy. You could make a convincing case for any number of guys, including Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, Jordy Nelson, Pierre Garcon, Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Wes Welker and DeSean Jackson. In the end, the tiebreaker was the most talent. The last three off were Brown, who leads the league with 61 receptions, Bryant (first among outside receivers with eight touchdowns) and Nelson, who has been terrific all around virtually the entire season. Brown was knocked out because he’s been a little aided by the Steelers trailing so much. Nelson’s 43 catches just aren’t enough. And Bryant’s been held under 50 yards three times.
OT: Joe Staley, 49ers (L); Doug Free, Cowboys (R). What made this choice so difficult was the fact that there are no longer any dominant left tackles in the game. There are plenty of good ones, like Nate Solder, Andrew Whitworth, Joe Thomas and Jordan Gross. But there are none that make you say, “That guy is Canton bound.” Solder probably has the highest ceiling—he might indeed win this in his second season at left tackle before the year is over—but Staley gets the nod for now because he’s had the higher degree of difficulty: Packers, Seahawks, Colts, Rams, Texans and Cardinals. You can make an argument he didn’t allow a sack in any of those games. And Staley is the toughest and most rugged of the bunch. On the right side, Free has done such terrific work that you could call him the league’s most improved player. He’s been a standout, especially on the ground.
OG: Evan Mathis, Eagles (L); Louis Vasquez, Broncos (R). Mathis is simply the best guard in the game, and it’s not even really close. Just a phenomenal athlete and top-notch technician. Vasquez was one of the most underrated free-agent signings of the offseason, coming over from the rival Chargers and instantly stabilizing a line that has endured injury woes at left tackle and center. The Broncos have the league’s best pass-blocking line (Manning surely helps), and needs to be represented.
C: Chris Myers, Texans. Houston hasn’t gotten the results it’s used to out of the zone blocking scheme or in the standings, but that’s been more about the quarterback play than anything. Myers has been a rock-solid standout in every game except against the Chiefs and nose tackle Dontari Poe, but nobody’s been able to block them or him with regularity.