Pro Bowl rosters were announced yesterday, and as always there are snubs and with it reputation picks that only make the snubs look even more deserving. The Eagles have a few players who warrant selection over some of the players picked to the Pro Bowl this year.
To get post-season honors as a pass rusher you have to get the quarterback. It’s not the fairest representation of a player’s ability, but that’s the way it goes. Brandon Graham has just 5.5 sacks this year, putting him 45th in the league. But anyone who watches the Eagles play know his game is about more than that. Graham is a strong run defender, only five players have more sacks and more tackles than Graham, and four of them are linebackers. The other is Khalil Mack, the best DE in football and in the AFC anyway, so he doesn’t impact Graham at all.
Graham has a much stronger case for the Pro Bowl than Michael Bennett, a really good player having a down year with 3 sacks in 9 games.
Graham will probably make it anyway, as the 1st alternate, he is almost a lock to go.
Dwayne Harris is a very good special teams player having another strong year. But it stands to reason that the best player on the best unit should get post-season honors. If not, then what’s the point of even having them?
The Eagles have the best special teams unit in the league. They are 1st in kick return yards and the only team with two kick return touchdowns. They are 2nd in punt return yards and are 3rd best in kick returns against. They are 19th in punt returns against, but no team in the NFC ahead of them in punt returns against is also ahead of them in punt returns for or kick returns against. They are #1 in special teams DVOA.
They’re the best special teams in the league, and Chris Maragos is the Eagles best special teams player. He’s the Steve Tasker of the last three years, and Steve Tasker went to 7 Pro Bowls.
As the 2nd alternate, he has a decent chance at going.
Luke Kuechly is one of the best players in the league, but this year has missed four games and counting with a concussion. There’s a good chance he doesn’t even play in the game because it’s just not worth it for him. In a year where he was healthy, he’d be a lock to make the Pro Bowl. This year, it’s a reputation pick. Bobby Wagner is the Pro Bowl starter, and it’s hard to argue with that choice.
For the spot Kuechly has and might have to give up, Jordan Hick should have been considered. Hicks is becoming a playmaker, which separates the good middle linebackers and the great ones. He has as many interceptions as Pro Bowl starting cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Patrick Peterson, and more touchdowns as them. He also recovered a fumble. He has a relatively low tackle total at 73 total tackles, which puts him 36th in the NFC. But that’s partly due to a lack of opportunity. The Eagles have played the 2nd fewest amount of defensive plays, and despite that Hicks is 7th among NFC middle linebackers, of the players above him only the Falcons’ Deion Jones has more turnovers.
Hicks has a tough case for a Pro Bowl spot, Tampa Bay’s Kwon Alexander is having a strong season, as is Minnesota’s Eric Kendricks. But he’s not even an alternate. He’s even snubbed from that.
You know It’s a strong year at safety when both Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor don’t get Pro Bowl nods on reputation alone. Sure they’ve both been hurt this year, but the Pro Bowl has seen benched players (Jeff Saturday) make the roster, so anything goes.
Landon Collins is having a terrific year, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s five interceptions practically shoo him in. But Harrison Smith, who is certainly a very good player, has no turnovers and will miss at least two games to injury, feels like a reputation pick for a Vikings defense that has been dominant for most of the year but is sending only two other players.
Jenkins is having another quietly strong season. For three years in a row he’s had an interception returned for a touchdown and a fumble recovery and this year he’s added a sack as the Eagles take better advantage of his versatility. Through scheme in 2014 and 2015 and injury fill-in when slot corner Ron Brooks went down with injury in 2016, he’s proved his versatility as both a top notch safety and a quality slot corner. And he’s a visible and vocal leader not just for the Eagles but for the city of Philadelphia and the NFL. Top class player and top class person, he’s worthy of a Pro Bowl spot.
As the 3rd alternate, there’s a decent chance Jenkins will wind up going anyway.