On Tuesday, I profiled my offense for the audience. In total, I spent $91.5 of my $160 on 26 players. With only $68.5 remaining, I need to add another 27 players to fill my roster. With the money remaining, I will look to build my defense (and special teams) while adding a kicker and punter. Let the madness begin…
My philosophy on defense: The 3-4 defense has become the new trend throughout the NFL. Teams love to disguise their blitz packages by flanking versatile outside linebackers and hybrid defensive ends on the edges. The Giants have bucked that trend by rotating three dominant edge rushers while having uber athletic tackles fill the middle. This type of defensive scheme puts a ton of heat on the quarterback and allievates pressure on the linebackers and secondary. However, after reviewing the salaries, following the NYG blueprint would not be possible. Instead, I wanted to create a defense similiar to the Baltimore Ravens. I want a huge nose tackle that can occupy two or three offensive lineman, giving the interior linebackers space to play off the ball. In addition, I want a lot of max effort, athletic defensive ends that rotate every few plays. In the secondary, I want one lockdown corner and some hard hitting safeties. When I finished building this defense, it was no surprise that three Ravens made my team.
It’s clear that Ngata will be the king pin of my defense. Ngata is an All-Pro talent that clogs the middle of the defense and will give my inside linebackers ample opportunities to make plays. In addition, Ngata will force teams to perimeter, allowing my team to utilize its speed and track down ball carriers. As a rookie last season, Muhammad Wilkerson really impressed me. While he is mainly used to rush the passer, he can cover the flat and pinch dump offs to running backs. He is the type of player that can thrive in space and will make a lot of plays. As a ‘part-time’ player on the Giants’ defensive line, Tollefson was able to register five sacks and proved he can cover tight ends. He is a grizzled veteran that can help my younger defensive end projects. Shawne Merriman’s days as a 65-play defensive end/outside linebacker are over, but that’s okay. I envision giving the ex-Charger 15-20 plays per game where he do what he does best–rush the quarterback. Trattou, Heyward, and Cody are my three projects. All three players played at high level collegiate programs and possess the size and strength to play in the NFL. In particular, I’m really excited about Trattou. He has a high motor and can be very disruptive. Heyward possesses protypical NFL defensive end size, but needs some seasoning.
Clearly, I went with upside players at defensive end, but as we’ve seen, these players can grow and mature as their career progresses.
Here lies the strength of my defense. Patrick Willis is the perfect compliment to Ngata. While Ngata will occupy multiple blocker, Willis will have endless opportunities to play off the ball and make plays. Willis is the game’s best inside linebacker and he’ll set the tone for the rest of my defense. Alike I said earlier, I wanted to load up on a high motor, athletic edge players. Who better than Brian Cushing? Cushing has the ability to rush the passer and can cover athletic tight ends. The NFL is evolving and the tight end is becoming a focus point for more offenses. Cushing can help stymie the opposition’s tight end and drop into coverage against slot receivers. Bart Scott isn’t getting any younger, but playing off of Ngata and Willis will make him feel young again. Scott has made a career out of stuffing the run and playing with reckless abodonment. Scott will help mentor Mark Herzlich. Herzlich has beaten cancer and returned to the football field, so he’s already conquered his toughest battle in life. Herzlich will have the privledge of learning from Scott and Willis and will help on special teams. Barnes racked double digit sacks last season and gives me another dual-threat defensive end, linebacker on the outside. Chase Blackburn came out of retirement last year and was one of the team cogs in NYG’s Super Bowl run. Alike Cushing, Blackburn can cover tight ends and gives me flexibility. Bobby Carpenter will backup the outside linebacker position and help out on special teams.
Secondary: Lardarius Webb ($8), Eric Berry ($6), Jim Leonhard ($1.5), Ras-I-Dowling ($1), Dominique Foxworth ($1), Al Harris ($1), Kyle Wilson ($0.5), James Ihedigbo ($0.5), Will Blackmon ($0.5), Brandon Merriweather ($0.5), Matt Giordano ($0.5), Julian Edelman ($0)
Webb turned heads during the playoffs last year, coming up with three huge interceptions. Webb is an uber athletic, big corner that can match up against almost any wide receiver. He is my proverbial ‘lock down’ corner. Ras-I Dowling is a very interest prospect. For only $1, I’m getting a corner that New England believes can be its top secondary player in 2012. Dowling isn’t a big corner, but can fight for position and possesses above average hands. Dominique Foxworth and Al Harris are both grizzled veterans that will help mentor my younger players. In addition, they’ll help out in nickle and dime packages. Wilson and Blackmon are both younger players who have a lot of talent. Wilson is a first round talent who has yet to unlock his ability. Julian Edelman is a ‘joker’ in the sense that he can play on both sides of the ball and on special teams. In a pinch, I may send him out to cover the opposition’s slot receiver.
At safety, I have league’s most intriguing young prospect, Eric Berry. Berry tore his ACL in Week 1 last year, but that didn’t stop me from making him my center fielder. Berry is super athletic, plays great in space, and can lay punishing hits on unsuspecting receivers. Alike Berry, Leonhard has some obvious concerns about his knee. Currently, no teams are gambling on him for this season, but make no mistake about it–Leonhard is a big time athlete. He doesn’t appear to be your protypical hard hitting safety, but he can get the job done. The trio of Ihedigbo, Merriweather, and Giordano gives the ‘Island of Misfit Toys’ vibe, but don’t let them fool you. Merriweather is a hard hitter that is improving in pass coverage. He can play in the box and provide assistance over the top against bigger tight ends. Ihedigbo is a savvy vet that will help bring the kids up to speed while Giordano finished in Top 10 in interceptions last season.
Special Teams: Steve Weatherford ($2.5), Lawrence Tynes ($1.5)
When it comes to the kicking game, give me the guys who get it done in big spots. Weatherford was sensational during the playoffs, routinely pinning the opposition inside the ten yard line. Tynes has kicked the Giants to two Super Bowls and has proven he can get it done in big spots. If Tynes were to falter, another kicker can be brought in for a cheap price. That’s just the game kicking works in the NFL.
Overall, I really, really like my defense. My defense has a lot of upside on the perimeters, boasting both young and seasoned talent. Plus, you’ll be hard pressed to find another team that is stronger up the middle. Ngata, Willis, and Berry will provide three strong layers of defense while Webb will lead my stable of corners. I really like my flexibility and I feel like I can disguise blitz packages with my personnel.
In closing, this exercise was a fun thing to do. I learned that putting together a roster full of NFL players is not easy. Tough decisions will have to be made, but ultimately, I want as much premium talent as possible. Aaron Rodgers and Haloti Ngata are my respective leaders on each side of the ball while they’ll receive support from a young group that is oozing with premiere talent. I hope you enjoyed this exercise and I encourage you to try it for yourself.
QB: Aaron Rodgers, Graham Harrell, Dennis Dixon
RB: Trent Richardson, LaMichael James, Tashard Choice, John Kuhn, Lex Hilliard, Xavier Oman
WR: Calvin Johnson, Malcolm Floyd, Titus Young, Danny Coale, Mohammad Sanu, Julian Edelman
TE: Jacob Tamme, Adrien Robinson, Matt Spaeth
OT: Tyron Smith, Eric Winston, Mike Adams
OG: Alex Boone, Peter Konz, Ryan Lilja, Kevin Boothe
C: Mike Pouncey
DL: Haloti Ngata, Muhammad Wilkerson, Dave Tollefson, Terrence Cody, Shawne Merriman, Cameron Heyward, Justin Trattou
LB: Patrick Willis, Brian Cushing, Antwan Barnes, Bart Scott, Mark Herzlich, Bobby Carpenter, Chase Blackburn
CB: Lardarius Webb, Eric Berry, Jim Leonhard, Ras-I Dowling, Dominique Foxworth, Al Harris, Kyle Wilson, Will Blackmon, James Ihedigbo, Brandon Merriweather, Matt Giordano
K: Lawrence Tynes
P: Steve Weatherford