We now continue our annual midseason All-NFC South teams with the defense.
Defensive end: John Abraham, Falcons. The coaching staff and front office looked at Abraham’s 5.5-sack season last year and decided the veteran still had something in the tank. He already has six sacks, so that decision is looking like a wise one.
Defensive end: Will Smith, Saints. After a 13-sack season last year, Smith has been held to 2.5 so far. Part of that is because the Saints haven’t been playing with the big leads they had last year and opponents aren’t forced to pass. But Smith still has the ability to be the most dangerous pass-rusher in the division.
Defensive tackle: Jonathan Babineaux, Falcons. This guy is the most underrated player in the division. He’s a force in the middle of the line and could end up in the Pro Bowl if the Falcons keep winning and getting Babineaux more attention.
Defensive tackle: Sedrick Ellis, Saints. He’s stayed healthy and is having a breakout year in his third season.
Linebacker: Curtis Lofton, Falcons. The heart and soul of an Atlanta defense that’s a lot better than it’s been the last couple of years.
Linebacker: Jonathan Vilma, Saints. New Orleans’ defense hasn’t been as opportunistic as it was last year. But it’s been pretty solid overall and Vilma is the anchor of this unit.
Linebacker: James Anderson, Panthers. It’s hard to pick Anderson over teammate Jon Beason, who might be the division’s most talented overall linebacker. But the fact is Anderson is putting up numbers this year, while Beason has been relatively quiet.
Cornerback: Aqib Talib, Buccaneers. He gives up some big plays from time to time. But his coverage skills are outstanding more often than not. Talib has five interceptions.
Cornerback: Brent Grimes, Falcons. I know this one will raise some eyebrows. But let’s remember New Orleans’ Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter were banged up for much of the first half of the season. The call really came down to Grimes and teammate Dunta Robinson. Although Robinson has helped give the pass rush more time and made the entire secondary better, I’m going with Grimes right now because he’s produced better numbers than Robinson.
Safety: William Moore, Falcons. He’s still a work in progress in his first year as a starter, but he’s coming up with some big plays.
Safety: Charles Godfrey, Panthers. He has four interceptions and has been one of the few bright spots in Carolina.