Pro Bowl Snubs? Start With These Guys
Jeff Saturday makes the Pro Bowl the same week Green Bay demotes him from the starting lineup, while the last-place Kansas City Chiefs … don’t get me started on the Chiefs having five guys on this year’s Pro Bowl team and more on defense than Seattle in the NFC.
Because they’re not my concern. The guys who deserve to have made it … and didn’t … are, and I can think of more than a handful right off the bat. I’m sure you can, too, and let the roll call begin:
Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle — He’s not just the best cornerback in his division. He’s the best cornerback anywhere not named Darrelle Revis, which means he’s the best cornerback in this year’s game.
OK, now I know what you’re thinking: Swell, but didn’t this guy get nailed for a four-game suspension for using PEDs? The answer is: Yes … maybe. Sherman appealed the decisions and expects a verdict this week. In the meantime, he must be presumed to be innocent, and I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it goes.
So, in the meantime, we’ve also had a Pro Bowl ballot to complete, and all I know is that he’d be at the top of my list of cornerbacks. He hasn’t missed a game, is the definition of a shutdown corner in a game where there are virtually none and, oh, by the way, produced an end-zone interception and returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown in last week’s demolition of San Francisco.
The guy is big, physical, intimidating and someone quarterbacks try to avoid, and that makes him an easy choice.
Evan Mathis, G, Philadelphia — Congratulations, Philadelphia. The destruction is complete. No Eagles made this year’s Pro Bowl, the first time that has happened since 1998 and only the second since 1970. I can understand blanking most of this club, but not Mathis.
The guy was one of only four Eagles to start all 15 games this season and the only one on offense. OK, so longevity doesn’t translate to Pro Bowl success. I get that. But I also get that in a year where so many Eagles stunk, Mathis produced his best season ever. In fact, he was so damned decent that I’d think long and hard about putting him on my All-Pro team.
The Eagles paid a lot of money during the last offseason to keep Mathis away from Baltimore, and it’s easy to see why: The guy became a first-rate lineman and an anchor in an offensive line that had as many holes as injuries. Mathis played the last few weeks on a badly sprained ankle, and, with the Eagles spiraling downward, you couldn’t blame him if he chose to sit down. But he didn’t, insistent in his belief that he had to hold together a makeshift offensive line, and too bad nobody recognized him for what he is — one hell of a good player on one really underachieving team.
Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas — There has been no more dangerous receiver the second half of the season than this guy … and I can only imagine what he’d do if he played without a fractured index finger. But he’s not. Yet he’s the Cowboys’ most dangerous receiver and a primary reason they remain in the playoff picture with one game to go.
I look at wideouts ahead of him and think: What part of this am I missing? Julio Jones has fewer catches, fewer yards and fewer touchdowns. Victor Cruz has fewer catches, fewer yards and fewer touchdowns. Moreover, Cruz’s yards per catch dropped significantly from 18.7 a year ago, when he deserved to go, to 12.7 this season … when he didn’t.
I don’t argue that Jones is a marvelous talent who excels with another top receiver (Roddy White) on the other side from him. What I do argue is that Bryant is an easy case to be made, and the envelope, please: Over his last seven games, he has a TD in every game, two in three of them and a total of 10 overall. What’s more, he has 43 receptions in his last six starts, three games with 145 yards or more and one with 224 — and that’s with some people saying he should sit down because of the broken finger. Well, he just did sit down … for the Pro Bowl … and that’s a mistake.
C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo — Not only does the guy rank third in the AFC in yards from scrimmage, but he averages an astounding 6.48 yards per carry, and if that sounds like a lot it is. It’s the highest rushing average through the first 15 games of an NFL season since 1960. I know, I know, you can make a case for Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles, too, because … well, because he leads the AFC in yards from scrimmage and produced more 100-yard games (7). Besides, he made it.
But Charles is hit and miss. When he hits, he hits big. He has three touchdown runs of 80 or more yards this season and two games where he eclipsed 225. But when he misses? Well, he misses big, too. I count three games with 10 or fewer yards rushing and another two with no more than 40. Spiller split carries with Fred Jackson for part of the season, and that kept his numbers down, but when the Bills put the ball in his hands he was explosive — averaging 7 yards per touch (rushing and receiving). Spiller could only do what he could do when the Bills called his number … which wasn’t often enough. But when he was called he delivered.
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