I really hate how they lump 4-3 DEs and 3-4 DEs together, because their responsibilities are totally different. I also hate how Mario Williams made the team as a “DE”, since he’s actually a 3-4 outside linebacker with the Buffalo Bills. And Michael Bennett? He got ripped off, because he’s been one of the best defensive ends in the game this year in both run defense and as a pass rusher. Sorry, Seahawks fans, at least you got Unger on the team. Muhammad Wilkerson also got jobbed by the fans, and I’m sure Jets fans are not too pleased that neither he nor a certain nose tackle made the cut.
Haloti Ngata made it in on reputation again. He’s a great player, but he’s merely having a “solid” season and hasn’t shown up consistently enough this year. I would have given his spot to Tennessee Titans dominant and criminally underrated pass rushing DT Jurrell Casey (when will he ever get his due?) or New York Jets plugger Damon Harrison. There’s a reason why he’s called “Snacks”; that’s all offensive linemen are to him. I would have probably voted both players in, but there is no doubt in my mind that Casey is a Pro Bowler. I mean, he has eye-popping numbers and is a menacing interior pass rusher.
They seriously need to stop lumping 3-4 and 4-3 players together, except in the cases of MLB/ILB and DT/NT. Anyway, I have no idea how Ahmad Brooks made the team this year, but it’s a downright travesty that he made it instead of Elvis Dumervil, who is easily one of the game’s best pass rushers. The consistency that Dumervil has in putting pressure on the quarterback is insane. Also, how did Lavonte David not make the team? He’s one of the game’s best and should have been snuck in there as an ILB/MLB at least (that’s what they did with Vontaze Burfict). Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans should be livid at David’s exclusion.
No big issues here, but Derrick Johnson vs. Luke Kuechly is a tougher call than some might think. Johnson is one of the league’s most underrated linebackers year-in and year-out, and his coverage ability is never properly recognized. Even though Johnson is a more well-rounded LB than Kuechly, there is no way that Kuechly is left off of the Pro Bowl. The voters got it right, but Kuechly was an obvious inclusion for them.
Normally Brandon Flowers would be an excellent Pro Bowl pick, but he isn’t having his best year and has been outplayed by teammate Sean Smith this year. Vontae Davis is quietly having an extraordinary year for the Indianapolis Colts, and Lardarius Webb and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie would have been better choices as well. But overall, the voters did a really nice job at CB. Aqib Talib continues to be overrated, and his play has really slipped over the past month. He’s a good CB, but he’s playing at a Pro Bowl level this year. Chris Harris Jr., Jason McCourty, and Brandon Boykin are three underrated players to keep in mind, with Boykin and Harris Jr. flying under the radar as slot corners.
Devin McCourty is probably the biggest snub on the Pro Bowl list, because he’s been arguably the best safety in the league this season. Talib gets credit for a lot of the hard work that McCourty does, because McCourty always has to cover for the burn-able Talib. And when the Patriots tell McCourty to do something other than cover deep, Talib is in trouble against speedier receivers. What an example? Watch Josh Gordon‘s 80-yard touchdown pass in which he utterly smoked Talib, who would be an elite CB with better technique to help him out against speed demons, partially because the Patriots foolishly called cover-zero on the play.
Jairus Byrd is a great player, but you can’t tell me that he deserved to make the list over D-Mac, who is also better than Byrd in run support. Byrd is a tough player to leave off (he and Eric Weddle have been almost even in terms of performance this season), but Weddle, McCourty, and Earl Thomas have been the best free safeties in the league this year. McCourty needs to be in there, and picking Weddle or Byrd is almost a matter of personal preference. Since Weddle is more well-rounded, I would keep the Chargers FS.
Eric Berry was a no-brainer, so good work by the voters getting him on the team. Troy Polamalu is a huge name, but he isn’t being overrated by voters; he’s having a fabulous season. But Kam Chancellor over T.J. Ward? That doesn’t fly with me. Chancellor is a very good strong safety in this league and is having a nice season, but Ward was snubbed just about as badly as McCourty. With 103 tackles this season (most of them solo), Ward has been all over the place. He’s one of the game’s most instinctive strong safeties, and there is no safety who has anywhere near Ward’s ability in run defense. The guy’s ability to come up and make plays in run support is unprecedented, and he’s going to be a rich man after he gets his deal this offseason.
Johnny Hekker was a great selection made by the fans, but it’s a surprise to see that big-name Shane Lechler didn’t make the cut. I would have definitely taken him over Brandon Fields, and I think Brad Nortman, Sam Martin, Pat McAfee, and Thomas Morstead all have better cases than Fields as well.
No Golden Tate at punt returner? For shame.
Kudos to the fans for picking Matthew Slater and Justin Bethel, you guys know your special teamers. Bethel has been ridiculously good on special teams coverage this season for the Arizona Cardinals, and it’s great looking at the roster and seeing him on it. I would have actually taken Seattle Seahawks CB Jeremy Lane over Slater (for as good as he is and as awesome of a person and leader as he is, Slater qualifies as a reputation pick on special teams), as Lane has been a monster out there.