Cortland Finnegan (Getty Images)
John Madden has his All-Madden Team, and Phil Simms has his All-Iron Team. I figured, why can’t I have my own All-Bernstein team? The All-Bernstein team includes players at various positions who are vertically challenged, much like the guy that selected the team. This team spits in the face of the people that do the measuring at the combine.
Since the NFL’s top two defenses are that of the 3-4 variety, the All-Bernstein team will employ a 3-4 defense.
DE- Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts- 6’2”, 245 lbs.
Robert Mathis is the prototypical undersized ‘tweener type of defensive end. Mathis is a pass rusher extraordinaire, as referenced by his 11.5 sacks in 2008. The Colts speedy rusher benefits from the artificial turf at his home field as he flies past slow-footed offensive tackles with relative ease.
DE- Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis Colts- 6’1”, 268 lbs.
Mathis’ partner in crime, Dwight Freeney is our opposite bookend. There’s no defensive end that’s quicker or has more moves than Freeney, and he does a solid job of playing the run. Freeney has rebounded from a lis franc injury he suffered a year ago and was playing at the form that made him a perennial Pro Bowler.
DT- Tony Brown, Tennessee Titans- 6’3”, 290 lbs.
Sure Albert Haynesworth gets most of the credit for the success of the Titans defense, but Tony Brown is nearly as dominant, despite weighing in at less than 300 lbs. Brown’s statline of 52 tackles, four sacks, and four passes defensed won’t turn many heads, but he plays much bigger than that.
OLB-Ernie Sims, Detroit Lions- 6’0”, 225 lbs.
There were very few highlights from the Detroit Lions 0-16 season, but most of the team’s highlights belonged to outside linebacker Ernie Sims. Sims was the lone bright spot on a terrible defensive team as he registered 113 tackles. Weighing in at just 225 lbs., Sims easily qualifies for All-Bernstein honors.
ILB-Gary Brackett, Indianapolis Colts- 5’11”, 235 lbs.
Gary Brackett is a guy who likely won’t ever be selected to any Pro Bowls, but there is no harder worker anywhere. Brackett is one of the Colts team leaders on defense and he is quick enough to cover most tight ends and running backs. Brackett plays far bigger than he measures and he registered 99 tackles while missing four games with a leg injury.
ILB-Jon Beason, Carolina Panthers- 6’0”, 237 lbs.
Jon Beason is a good enough linebacker to qualify for anyone’s all-anything team. Beason tallied 138 tackles in just his second pro season with eight passes defensed and three interceptions. Beason is as sure of a tackler as there is, and he can cover tight ends or running backs.
OLB-Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers- 6’1”, 240 lbs.
Patrick Willis is on the very short list of the best linebackers in the game as he registered 141 tackles in 2008 which was a down year compared to his 174 stops as a rookie. Willis is the ultimate active linebacker as he makes plays from sideline to sideline, and is the anchor of a very young San Francisco defense. Our linebackers may not be the biggest or flashiest unit, but they are all great tacklers and will cover anyone.
CB- Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee Titans- 5’10”, 188 lbs.
The Titans Cortland Finnegan is the definition of a playmaker. Finnegan usually lines up against the opponents best receiver, and beats him up on every defensive play. When the ball is in the air, Finnegan plays it as well as anyone in the NFL, and despite his weight being well shy of 200 lbs., Finnegan is solid in run support. The underrated Titans star will be making his first Pro Bowl appearance as he registered 70 tackles, five interceptions, and 17 passes defensed in 2008, while helping the Titans to the top seed in the AFC.
S- Bob Sanders, Indianapolis Colts- 5’8”, 206 lbs.
Bob Sanders simply plays with reckless abandon on every single snap. There is no player in the league that is more valuable to their team as the Colts are an average to below average group without him, and one of the top pass defenses in the league when he suits up. Opposing receivers must be aware of wherever Sanders is on every play, in fear of getting knocked out. The 5’8” 27-year old played in just six games this season, but registered 39 tackles, two passes defensed, and one interception.
S- Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers- 5’11”, 200 lbs.
In his first season as a starter, Eric Weddle helped key a Chargers defense that improved greatly at the end of the season. Weddle is one of those guys who is a football magnet as referenced by his 127 stops in 2008. Weddle’s best football is ahead of him and he will help the Chargers have one of the best secondaries in the NFL.
CB- Asante Samuel, Philadelphia Eagles- 5’10”, 185 lbs.
The former UCF product has been a magnet for big plays throughout his entire career. Samuel is not known for his hitting ability, a la Bob Sanders, but Samuel seems to always make big plays, which has helped him earn a pair of Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots. No player in the NFL has more interceptions than Samuel over the last three seasons, and in his first year with Philadelphia, Samuel had four picks, including one he returned for a touchdown, and earned a Pro Bowl selection.