NFL's All-Decade Team of the 2000s - DEFENSE

History Published on : 2/16/2010

The National Football League's All-Decade Teams have been determined by the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee.

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The first decade of the 2000s was highlighted by a number of memorable personal performances by the National Football League’s greatest stars. The 10-year span included Emmitt Smith breaking Walter Payton’s record to become the NFL’s all-time leading rusher; wide receiver Marvin Harrison shattering the single-season mark; and Michael Strahan establishing the record for sacks in a season.

As was the case with the previous eight of the NFL’s All-Decade Team, the league called upon the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee to determine the All-Decade Team of the 2000s. The team was announced in late January 2010 in conjunction with Pro Bowl week. Perhaps the biggest debate for the group came with the vote for the quarterback position. In the end, three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady narrowly edged four-time MVP Peyton Manning for the first-team nod.




(Years listed through the 2009 NFL season)


(First Team)

College: Syracuse
Pro Career: 2002-09 Indianapolis Colts
Freeney has been a one-man wrecking crew since joining the Colts in 2002.   A five-time Pro Bowl selection, he had played a vital role on the defensive side of the ball for the Colts and their success as the winningest team of the decade. He accumulated 84 sacks and 36 forced fumbles.

College: Texas Southern
Pro Career: 1993-2007 New York Giants
Not only was Strahan one of the most dominant pass rushers in the league during his time, but he was just as good of a defender against the run.  A seven-time Pro Bowl pick, four of which occurred during the 2000s, Strahan had an NFL record 22.5 sacks during the 2001 season.  He capped his memorable career with a victory in Super Bowl XLII.


(Second Team)

College: Akron
Pro Career: 1997-2007, 2009 Miami Dolphins; 2008 Washington Redskins
Taylor, a third round pick by the Dolphins in 1997, has been the anchor of Miami’s defensive line for 12 seasons.   A three-time All-Pro choice and a six-time Pro Bowl selection, Taylor holds the NFL record for most fumbles recovered for a TD (6).

College: North Carolina
Pro Career: 2002-09 Carolina Panthers 
Peppers, a three-time All-Pro selection and five-time Pro Bowler, is one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL.  At 6-7, 283 pounds, his tremendous size and strength combined with his speed creates nightmares for opposing lineman.  He has recorded double-digit sacks every season but two during his career.


(First Team)

College: Georgia
Pro Career: 2001-08 New England Patriots; 2009 Oakland Raiders
Seymour was the prototype tackle which his team could count on to clog up the middle.  Extremely strong, he typically drew double teams from opposing linemen.  A five-time Pro Bowl selection, he was vital to the Patriots Super Bowl success during the decade.

College: Miami (FL)
Pro Career: 1995-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 2004-07 Oakland Raiders
Perhaps no defensive tackle in the history of the NFL had more of a flashy style and drew more attention than Warren Sapp.  He knew how to play the game and play it well but also had fun while doing it. Already a member of the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1990s, he started out the decade by registering 16.5 sacks in 2000.

(Second Team)

College: Oklahoma State 
Pro Career: 2003-09 Minnesota Vikings
Williams, a first round pick by the Vikings in the 2003 NFL Draft, has the size and speed desired by all defensive tackles. At 6-5, 311 pounds, opposing teams would be mistaken to take him lightly. In each of his first two seasons he registered more than ten sacks and has a total of 40 passes defensed in his career.  He is a five-time All-Pro choice and five-time Pro Bowler.

College: San Diego State 
Pro Career: 1996 Oakland Raiders; 1997-2001 New Orleans Saints; 2002-05 Dallas Cowboys; 2006-08 St. Louis Rams
Glover, a fifth round pick in the 1996 draft, actually played in NFL Europe before finding success in the NFL.  In 2000 he led the league in sacks with 17.5 and was named to the first of his six Pro Bowls and two All-Pro selections.




(First Team)

College: Miami (FL)
Pro Career: 1996-2009 Baltimore Ravens
Lewis is one of the most dominant defenders in the history of the NFL. He started the 2000s off in style when he led the Baltimore Ravens to a victory in Super Bowl XXXV.  For his efforts he was awarded the first of two Defensive MVP awards in his career and was also named the Super Bowl MVP.  Five of his eight career All-Pro honors and six of his 10 Pro Bowl nominations have occurred in the decade.

College: Florida State
Pro Career: 1995-2008 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Brooks was the complete package at linebacker, equally adept at run coverage as well as dropping back and defending the pass. He was the unquestioned leader of the Bucs’ defense during his career.  Always around the ball, he intercepted an incredible 25 passes during his career, an excellent number for a linebacker.  He was tabbed for 11 career Pro Bowls, all but three occurring in the 2000s decade.

College: New Mexico
Pro Career: 2000-09 Chicago Bears
Urlacher, who was drafted in the first round of 2000 draft, played free safety in college.  He successfully converted to linebacker and won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors with the Bears.  In 2005 he added Defensive Player of the Year to his resume. He is a six-time Pro Bowl pick and was selected to four All-Pro teams.

(Second Team)

College: Colorado State
Pro Career: 1999-2006 Pittsburgh Steelers; 2007-09 Miami Dolphins
Porter was one of the finest linebackers in the decade.  He always seemed to make big plays in big games and had a sixth sense for the ball.  A third round choice of the Steelers in the 1999 draft, Porter is a two-time All-Pro selection and a four-time Pro Bowler.

College: Texas Tech
Pro Career: 1996-2007 Miami Dolphins; 2008 Dallas Cowboys
Thomas was a classic sideline-to-sideline linebacker who had a strong nose for the ball and a motor that never quit.  Always one of the hardest working players on the team, he racked up six of his seven career trips to the Pro Bowl during the decade and was a first- or second-team All-Pro selection four times.

College: Troy
Pro Career: 2005-09 Dallas Cowboys
Although Ware only played five seasons during the decade, he quickly established himself as one of the best defenders in the NFL.  Starting in his second season he was named a first- or second-team All-Pro each year and earned a Pro Bowl invitation in each of those seasons as well. He has a total of 64.5 sacks during his five seasons in the decade.


(First Team)

College: Georgia
Pro Career: 1999-2003 Washington Redskins; 2004-09 Denver Broncos
Bailey was one of the most feared cornerback in the NFL during the decade.  Teams routinely avoided throwing into his area.  Despite this, he was able to register 41 interceptions and more than 100 passes defensed during that time.

College: Michigan
Pro Career: 1998-2005 Oakland Raiders; 2006-09 Green Bay Packers
Woodson, the 1997 Heisman Trophy winner,  ended the decade in style as he earned 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors after he intercepted nine passes and returned three for TDs, had a total of 74 tackles 18 passes defensed and four forced fumbles.  In all, he had 39 picks during the decade.

(Second Team)

College: Virginia 
Pro Career: 1997-2009 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Barber was one of the most versatile cornerbacks of the decade.  Not only could the five-time Pro Bowl defend well against the pass, he was excellent against the run and a solid tackler.   His yearly tackles total always hovered around 100 which is an exceptional figure for a player at his position.

College: Michigan
Pro Career: 1995-2004 New England Patriots; 2005, 2008 New York Jets; 2006-07 Kansas City Chiefs; 2009 Denver Broncos
Heading into the decade, Law was already a five-year veteran and known as one of the elite cornerbacks in the NFL.  He continued that play and was an essential element that transformed the Patriots into three-time Super Bowl Champions during the 2000s.  His finest season, however, may have been in 2005 with the Jets when he led the NFL in interceptions with 10.


(First Team)

College: Miami
Pro Career: 2002-09 Baltimore Ravens
Reed was a dynamic playmaker with great defensive instincts and a tremendous knowledge of the game.  These skills not only earned him five first team All-Pro selections during the decade, but helped him receive NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2004.  He owns the record for the two longest interception returns in NFL history (107 and 106 yards).

College: Clemson 
Pro Career: 1996-2008 Philadelphia Eagles; 2009 Denver Broncos
Dawkins was the definition of “ball hawk” during the decade and was an integral component to the Eagles’ success.  A five-time first-team All-Pro selection, he was just as effective as a pass rusher as in coverage evidenced by his 17.5 sacks during the decade.  

(Second Team)

College: Southern California
Pro Career: 2003-09 Pittsburgh Steelers
Polamalu, who was a ferocious hitter with world class speed, was one of the elite safeties during the decade.  A five-time Pro Bowl selection, he always seemed to create a big play in the Steelers biggest games.  The Steelers benefitted greatly from his strong leadership during two successful Super Bowl runs in the century’s first decade.

College: William & Mary
Pro Career: 1997-2004 Green Bay Packers; 2005-08 Minnesota Vikings, 2009 New Orleans Saints
Everywhere Sharper went during the decade, he always found the ball.  He intercepted nine passes in a season with each team he played for during the 2000s.  In 2009 with the Saints, his nine picks resulted in an NFL record for most return yards in a season (376).