The NFC South is apparently chock full of offensive guard talent.
This week, the Associated Press released its All-Pro team, an honor that is actually more exclusive than the Pro Bowl. While the NFL's all-star game includes starters and reserves at every position, not to mention alternates who end up playing due to injuries and Super Bowl commitments, the All-Pro list is meant to name the best player at each position.
Each year, unsurprisingly, the All-Pro squad is dominated by players from teams who had strong seasons. Obviously, those teams had a number of outstanding and deserving players, and in addition the teams' success brought extra attention to individual standouts. Thus it is that the 2011 AP All-Pro team includes five players from the 13-3 San Francisco 49ers and two each from playoff participants Green Bay, New England, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
Following a difficult 4-12 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were one of 15 teams that did not have a player named to the first-team All-Pro squad. However, even the overall struggles of 2011 didn't mask the outstanding season turned in by guard Davin Joseph, the one Buc to get All-Pro votes. Joseph, who was also named to the Pro Bowl team in December, drew three votes, indicating that football analysts regard him as one of the league's best interior linemen.
There are 50 votes cast at each position. The positional voting mirrors a traditional starting lineup, with one center, two guards, two tackles, et cetera.
The top two vote-getters at offensive guard for the AP All-Pro team played on the same line – New Orleans' Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks. Eight other guards received votes, including Joseph. Three of the 10 vote-getters play in Tampa Bay's division; no other division had as many guards on the list.
Joseph started all 16 games at right guard for the Buccaneers this season and helped the team produce an effective running game when it has had the opportunity to stick to it. Unfortunately, a series of early deficits have marginalized the Bucs' rushing attack many weekends, but the team still averaged 4.2 yards per carry, 13th-best in the NFL. Joseph has been recognized again this year as one of the NFL's top run-blockers. For instance, an article on ProFootballWeekly.com placing Joseph on their midseason All-Pro team said Joseph, "plays with great power and physicality. Joseph's huge hands and long arms enable him to gain leverage in pass protection, and he can be a dominant run blocker."
The Bucs' pass protection was also good for much of the 2011 season. Tampa Bay surrendered 32 sacks and ranked ninth in the NFL in fewest sacks allowed per pass play this year.
Joseph first joined the Buccaneers as a first-round pick out of Oklahoma in 2006. Though his rookie season was delayed by a few games by a preseason injury, he has essentially been a starter at right guard since Day One. Overall, he has played in 84 games and started 83 of them. He also went to the Pro Bowl after the 2008 season, becoming the first offensive guard drafted by the Buccaneers to make the all-star game as a Tampa Bay player.