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Dirty Dozen: Who Belongs -- and Who Doesn't -- in the Pro Bowl

Dec 29, 2010 – 3:45 PM
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Dave Goldberg

Dave Goldberg %BloggerTitle%

Brent GrimesOn Brent Grimes' stat page, as on all stat pages on, is the web site's standard promo: "cast your Pro Bowl vote."

Not enough were cast for Grimes (right), even though he's made more plays than any cornerback in the NFL. Doesn't matter. He's an undrafted free agent from Shippensburg who's in his first season as a full-time starter for Atlanta. Those guys don't get voted to the Pro Bowl over ...

DeAngelo Hall, showboat (troublemaker) extraordinaire; Charles Woodson, aging former Heisman winner and 2009 defensive player of the year and Asante Samuel, who makes big plays and also gives them up.

We know them. We don't know Brent Grimes.

Yes, the Pro Bowl voting is predictable, a popularity contest among fans and players and coaches, each of whom make up a third of the vote. And once again, a lot of players not voted in -- perhaps including Brent Grimes -- will be playing. Because the object for a lot of NFL players is to make the Pro Bowl, collect your Pro Bowl bonus, and then skip out with an injury. Or "injury.'' Or just say you don't feel like playing.

Anyway, some Pro Bowl observations (Nine this week, minus-three on the dozen.)

1. Center. Maurkice Pouncey of the Steelers made the AFC team as a rookie, a deserved honor. That probably means he will make it for the rest of his career and if he's durable, he might set a record with 15 Pro Bowls. The example of inherited positions is right there at center on the NFC side: Shaun O'Hara of the Giants. O'Hara has played six of the Giants' 15 games, the last two of them not very well after coming back from a foot injury. New York was much better off with Rich Seubert, the left guard, filling in at center and Kevin Boothe at left guard, but protocol calls for ... putting O'Hara at center when he got healthy two games ago. O'Hara first made the Pro Bowl in 2008, the year after the Giants won the Super Bowl and he won the fan vote at center, presumably from fans who knew he'd made it in the past and didn't know he was hurt this season. The starting NFC center is Andre Gurode of the Cowboys. Same reason. He's always been the center. And he's a Cowboy. This goes back to the 1970s, the era of Jim Langer (AFC) and Mick Tingelhoff (NFC). His Pro Bowls got Langer into the Hall of Fame, where he may not belong. Tinglehoff hasn't quite gotten in but he's gotten close.

Prediction: Pouncey will break Bruce Matthews' record of 14 Pro Bowls. (Matthews played tackle, center and guard and all OL positions are hereditary. But no, it doesn't count that Bruce's nephew Clay made it this season and will be a fixture.) Another prediction. Pouncey's twin brother Mike will be drafted this year and make the Pro Bowl next season even if he doesn't start. Because people will confuse him with Maurkice.

2. Ed Reed and Logan Mankins.

See Shaun O'Hara. Reed was on Baltimore's Physically Unable to Perform list for the first six games. Now he's in the Pro Bowl, primarily because when people think "Pro Bowl safety'' they think Ed Reed. Should he be in? Well, he has six interceptions in nine games so ... yeah. Mankins held out for the first seven games, then reported to the Patriots. New England hasn't lost since he's reported and its running game has improved dramatically. He's also been the best offensive lineman on the team.

Devin McCourty

3. Devin McCourty. Has anyone noticed there were three first-round picks from Rutgers in the last two seasons? McCourty (above) and OT Anthony Davis (San Francisco) this year and Kenny Britt (Tennessee) last year. If Britt had stayed healthy, he might have made the Pro Bowl too. McCourty, taken 27th overall, is tied for the AFC lead with six INTs. More important was the fact that he became the shutdown cornerback the Pats' secondary lacked. Another reason the Patriots are the best team in the NFL with its youngest defense.

4. Brandon Meriweather.
As good as McCourty has been, Meriweather has not been. He's been benched by Bill Belichick at times. Yet he made the Pro Bowl. And, by the way, on "Hit To The Head Sunday,'' when there were so many shots that the league decided to crack down, Meriweather had the worst -- on Baltimore's Todd Heap. This brings up another question. James Harrison of the Steelers made the Pro Bowl despite being fined four times for $125,000 for illegal hits. A player suspended for using performance-enhancing substances can't play in the Pro Bowl? Should a player fined multiple times be allowed to play? Probably needs negotiation with the union.

5. Darrelle Revis and Champ Bailey.
McCourty got the spot reserved for Bailey. But should Bailey have been picked over Revis? I voted for Revis last season for defensive player of the year when he lost to Charles Woodson. That (see above) insured him a hereditary Pro Bowl spot (Bailey's had one for years). This year, Revis held out, then (predictably) pulled a hamstring. He doesn't have an interception after having 14 in his first three seasons. That shouldn't rule him out, just as it doesn't rule out the Raiders' Nnamdi Asomugha, who has had only three in the last four seasons because no one throws at him. Revis, Asomugha and Bailey have been the three regulars. McCourty replaced Bailey. Maybe he should have replaced Revis. Which brings up ...

6. Defensive stats. The inclusion of Revis and Asomugha prove that interceptions aren't critical, although that and reputation have to be why Samuel and Hall made the NFC squad over Grimes. But if you want to make it at defensive end (or 3-4 outside linebacker), you'd better have sacks. The top five sackers -- Cameron Wake of Miami, John Abraham of Atlanta, Jason Babin of Tennessee, Clay Matthews of Green Bay and DeMarcus Ware of Dallas -- all made it although no one knew Wake before this season and Babin was considered a journeyman who hadn't fulfilled his promise as a No. 1 pick by Houston in 2004. Detroit's Ndamukong Suh, who has a remarkable nine for a defensive tackle, made it although he also made it because he was the second overall pick in the draft and has already been declared a "monster'' and a "future Hall of Famer'' and ... However, he can't kick extra points.

But there should be more to it than sacks. Justin Tuck of the Giants (11 sacks) is a sub on the NFC team behind Abraham and Chicago's Julius Peppers but there are coaches and scouts who think he's had the best year of any NFL defensive lineman because no one runs against him either. That's nitpicking -- Peppers and Abraham deserve it, although Abraham's snaps are limited to keep him fresh. Vince Wilfork of the Patriots has no sacks but might be the best inside lineman in the NFL. (Yes, he made the Pro Bowl.)

7. Dallas. We knew this was coming. Five players from the 5-10 Cowboys made the Pro Bowl just as 12 or 13 or 14 or 15 made it last season, when Dallas won the NFC East. The only surprise is that Tony Romo didn't make it ahead of Michael Vick, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees -- who did -- and Aaron Rodgers -- who didn't.

Ware deserves it and so does TE Jason Witten and probably punter Mat McBriar. But nose tackle Jay Ratliff, a beast for the past two years, was great when no one had heard of him, not so good now. As for Gurode ... see centers above. OK, five is fewer than 12 or 13 or 14 or 15. And we all know how "talented'' the Cowboys are.

8. Rookies. McCourty, Suh and Pouncey are all deserving. If Dez Bryant of Dallas had stayed healthy ... but whoa, did we need six Cowboys? Problem: Suh had the pub and McCourty and Pouncey got it by playing for winning teams that get a lot of national TV time.

But Rob Gronkowski didn't make it at AFC tight end although his nine TD catches are second to Antonio Gates' 10. Gates, of course, made it despite painful foot injuries. In fact, the Patriots' rookie TEs, Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have combined for 81 catches for 1,007 yards and 15 TDs. Should have made them an entry and put them in the Pro Bowl. Plus Gronkowski blocks, which most modern TEs don't.

9. Brent Grimes (again).
Opponents have completed only 47 percent of passes thrown his way so they don't throw his way very much. He has five interceptions, has deflected a bunch more for teammates to intercept and has 23 knockdowns. Against Tampa, he had the pick that won the game. Yeah, we know Hall won the opening game of the season single-handedly for the Redskins against the Cowboys (or was handed the game by Romo.) But why has a guy with Hall's talent been shipped from Atlanta to Oakland and cut by the Raiders? Shouldn't he be cut by the NFC Pro Bowl team.
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