It’s hard this time of year, watching the more popular players get recognition over locals.
Carolina was actually one of eight teams – a third of the league – that didn’t field a player in the Pro Bowl. At one point, DT Dwan Edwards and FB Mike Tobert each led the fan vote at their positions for the NFC, but neither made it. I don’t know that either deserved it, honestly. Tolbert has a shot next year, though. He has some visibility – people love big backs, and guys who have elaborate TD dances. He’ll have bigger stats next year, both rushing and receiving. Jerome Felton, a brick of a FB who was here in Carolina last year, made it for Minnesota. Good for him.
Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson probably did, but there’s a feeling that they canceled each other out (each have over 11 sacks). Jared Allen was a lock – and Julius Peppers gets in on reputation. It would be a lot easier to talk about Peppers not deserving to be in at this point if he hadn’t scored 4.5 sacks in the last two weeks, 3 of which were against Arizona’s combination of terrible QB play and line play. You look at Peppers’ 11.5 sacks and you say, sure, he hit his 10, put him in. But Peppers had 6 sacks through the bulk of voting, then 7. Good for him, because he inevitably gets paid for that recognition, and honestly that’s what Peppers wants most. I don’t know that I totally buy the “canceled” argument for Johnson/Hardy, as it didn’t hurt Jason Pierre-Paul.
It’s not that hard to see TE Greg Olsen, who’s having a career year, not making it. Tony Gonzalez will have that spot for the rest of his career, and Jason Witten is always going to be deserving.
I’m having a harder time making the argument for Luke Kuechly. He should win defensive Rookie of The Year – I don’t know if he will. Tackles are a gaudy stat for LK, and he’s certainly around the ball. But, he’s not making Pro Bowl plays. Was the INT one last week? Absolutely. But going back behind that, it’s tough to find one. Yes, he has the team’s lone non-DL sack, but that doesn’t get it either. Kuechly has holes in his game still, and it’s hard to see what he’s doing as Pro Bowl work.
But, success breeds success. Win ballgames before December, and people pay some attention.
I was happy to see more special teamers this year. There needs to be a squad of them. They get no recognition. For that end, I was happy to see Lorenzo Alexander make it. I love guys like that – he’s played FB, TE, OL, DT, DE, OLB, and runs down kicks at 300 lbs. Greg Hardy runs down punts, and call me more impressed at that than what Alexander does, or what Julius Peppers used to try to do as a WR. But Alexander, I’d take a bunch of that guy. Too bad Carolina didn’t hold onto him. For what it’s worth, I think there’s something to be said for teams that just use a massive guy to set the edge, like Alexander can or Jarrett Johnson did with Baltimore. It’s not an automatic recipe for success, but it helps. Hardy himself has gotten a lot better at that. Sorry for the tangent, and certainly this isn’t the first time someone’s harped about the little details.
The game itself, however, is a bit of a joke. The important part of the Pro Bowl has already happened. This shouldn’t sound like sour grapes, and sorry if it does. But it’s a game whose honors are bestowed by the invite, not the participation. It’s a game that honors names more than positions. You won’t find right tackles on this roster. You pigeonhole defensive players into 4-3 roles – about half the league uses the 3-4. So yes, Demarcus Ware is probably going to look better to the average Pro Bowl voter than your average 4-3 guy. Does it make sense to have two 3-4 OLB playing in the 4-3 in a game where you’re not allowed to blitz? That’s not even covering what was mostly seen as an effortless game last year.