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FALLEN STARS, NEW COMETS
Paul Zimmerman
December 22, 1986
Dr. Z selects only four repeaters for his '86 All-Pro team
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December 22, 1986

Fallen Stars, New Comets

Dr. Z selects only four repeaters for his '86 All-Pro team

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OFFENSE

WR

Jerry Rice, San Francisco

T

Gary Zimmerman, Minnesota

G

Mark Bortz, Chicago

C

Dwight Stephenson, Miami

G

Bill Fralic, Atlanta

T

Jackie Slater, L.A. Rams

TE

Mark Bavaro, N.Y. Giants

QB

Dan Marino, Miami

RB

Eric Dickerson, L.A. Rams

RB

Joe Morris, N.Y. Giants

WR

Stanley Morgan, New England

DEFENSE

E

Dexter Manley, Washington

T

Reggie White, Philadelphia

NG

Bill Pickel, L.A. Raiders

E

Rulon Jones, Denver

OLB

Lawrence Taylor, N.Y. Giants

MLB

Mike Singletary, Chicago

ILB

Karl Mecklenburg, Denver

OLB

Wilber Marshall, Chicago

CB

Darrell Green, Washington

SS

Leonard Smith, St. Louis

FS

Deron Cherry, Kansas City

CB

Hanford Dixon, Cleveland

SPECIALISTS

K

Morten Andersen, New Orleans

P

Sean Landeta, N.Y. Giants

RB-WR

Gary Anderson, San Diego

Player of the Year

Jerry Rice, San Francisco

Rookie of the Year

Rueben Mayes, New Orleans

Coach of the Year

Bill Parcells, N.Y. Giants

My 1986 All-Pro team represents the changing of the guard...and tackle, and tight end...and everything else on offense. There are no—repeat no—repeaters from 1985. Defensively, only four of last year's selections return. What's going on?

Injuries have hobbled some of the game's brightest stars. All-Pros like Marcus Allen, Howie Long, Joe Montana, Joe Klecko, Russ Grimm, Mike Haynes, Ken Easley, Joe Fields and Dan Fouts were either out of action or dragging their way through pain-wracked seasons. And young superstars have surfaced—sleepers and new faces who have exceeded the wildest expectations. You might find some names you'll have trouble recognizing. Thirteen of my selections have never been to a Pro Bowl. It's that kind of a year.

Quarterback seemed like a toss-up for a while, until I sat down and looked at Dan Marino's game-by-game performance. He was picked for the Pro Bowl last year, but this season he's ahead of 1985 in every measurable statistic, even though the Dolphins' running game is worse. There was another consideration: The Miami defense was so shaky that there was pressure on the offense to score every time it had the ball. Minnesota's Tommy Kramer had his best year ever. Washington's young Jay Schroeder excites you with his down-the-field fearlessness. But neither of them had the consistency of Marino. Tony Eason of the Patriots and Phil Simms of the Giants came up with some great last-minute heroics, but no one enjoyed the year Marino did.

Eric Dickerson holds down one running back spot. His yardage (1,753) speaks for itself. The Giants' Joe Morris beats out some worthy contenders—Chicago's Walter Payton, Seattle's Curt Warner, Atlanta's Gerald Riggs and New Orleans' Rueben Mayes—at the other. Why did we go with Little Joe, who isn't really a complete back because he comes out on passing downs? One reason: his ability to make something out of nothing. He's a master at turning a minus-two into a plus-five.

The wideouts also presented a lock and a shootout. Jerry Rice bailed the 49ers out of some desperate situations this year, particularly when Joe Montana was out. The second spot was tougher to pick. It came down to a three-way race between the Patriots' Stanley Morgan, the Jets' Al Toon and the Redskins' Gary Clark. Toon was brilliant for the first two-thirds of the season, then he tailed, as did the Jets' whole offense. Clark was consistent throughout. Both of them, though, had an effective wide receiver on the other side—Wesley Walker on the Jets and Art Monk on the Skins—to attract double-team attention. Morgan did not. He is the man.

Tight end was the toughest pick of all. Do you go with the supreme blocker, Mark Bavaro of the Giants, or the clutch receiver, particularly on third downs, Todd Christensen of the Raiders? Christensen saved L.A.'s offense this year. But Bavaro, a good receiver, is the best blocking TE since the Packers' Ron Kramer, so I went with him.

You won't see Minnesota tackle Gary Zimmerman on any All-Pro teams this year, but he answered one of the Vikings' most pressing needs—providing relief from back-side pressure on the QB. He's a big reason why Kramer enjoyed the success he did. The Rams' Jackie Slater, consistent on both run-and pass-blocking for many years, gets the nod over such perennials as Cincinnati's Anthony Munoz, Chicago's Jimbo Covert and Washington's Joe Jacoby, all of whom struggled at times.

I picked two superb drive blockers as my guards. Bill Fralic of Atlanta simply blows people off the line. His pass blocking is a bit behind. Everyone argued with me about my other selection, the Bears' Mark Bortz. "He's a butcher," one scout said. Right. A perfect description. Snarling, cursing, arms and legs flying, Bortz is probably the meanest offensive lineman in the league. I know the knock on him: Quick moves give him trouble on pass blocking. Sorry, he's still my guy. He provides the fire and life. Good grades, though, to the Giants' Billy Ard; the Saints' rising star, Brad Edelman; and the Jets' vastly underrated Dan Alexander.

Center is the most talent-laden position on the offensive line these days, and Dwight Stephenson of Miami is the most of the most. The Jets' Joe Fields was hurt. Denver's Billy Bryan is always solid, as is Pittsburgh's Mike Webster. Don Mosebar, the Raiders' best lineman this year, is a comer. Jay Hilgenberg of the Bears had a terrific year. So he's my All-Pro runner-up.

The Skins' Dexter Manley was the NFL's premier defensive end. Mucho sacks, plus great dedication and hustle against the run. The Broncos' Rulon Jones had to beat out a formidable trio—Seattle's Jacob Green, Kansas City's Art Still and Chicago's Richard Dent—to repeat at the other spot. Jones is at his best rushing from inside in four-man, long-yardage situations.

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