Despite all the hoopla that has surrounded the NFL’s Pro Bowl, league commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the game will be played next season. Set to take place the week prior to the Super Bowl, the game will feature the league’s elite players competing amongst one another.
As always, the Philadelphia Eagles will likely send a slew of players to the event. Eight of the 22 expected starters for next season have already been to Hawaii for the game, along with a handful of other players in injured left tackle Jason Peters and long snapper Jon Dorenbos.
Here are six players who haven’t made the Pro Bowl yet but have the best chance of doing so in 2012.
The Philadelphia Eagles drafted wide receiver Jeremy Maclin with the 19th overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft, and Maclin has been a fine receiver thus far. He’s averaged 63 catches, 865 yards and six touchdowns per season; numbers that are solid for a No. 2 receiver.
Maclin still hasn’t taken the next jump to stardom, and 2012 could be the year to do it. Maclin has the players around him to make him a star, as he has DeSean Jackson opposite him, LeSean McCoy in the backfield, Brent Celek at tight end and Michael Vick throwing him passes. Maclin complements Jackson well, as he’s more of a physical receiver, although it will be nice to see him back at full strength after losing weight early in last year’s training camp due to a cancer scare.
If Maclin can have a breakout season in year four, he could easily be rewarded with his first Pro Bowl selection.
Brent Celek is one of the more underrated tight ends in the game, as he’s a complete package who can catch passes and block, and he does the latter part willingly.
Celek’s numbers in recent years haven’t reflected his true value to the team, as he’s been blocking more recently than running out for passes. When Celek was targeted frequently in 2009, he caught 76 passes for 971 yards and eight touchdowns. His numbers dropped to 42-511-4 in 2010, but rose back up to 62-811-5 for 2011 when he was used often.
The NFL is becoming more of a tight end league than ever before, and if the Eagles want to join that fad, they have the tight end to do so.
It’s surprising that Todd Herremans has played at such a high level for so many years and not made the Pro Bowl, but that’s the case. The Philadelphia Eagles selected Herremans in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL draft, and he was a mainstay at the left guard position for six seasons before switching to right tackle last year.
Herremans performed admirably as the blind-side protector for Michael Vick in 2011—even filling in at left tackle for one game when Jason Peters was hurt—and was named to the USA Today All-Joe team. It was his second time in four seasons Herremans was named to that team, and he’s bound to make the Pro Bowl sooner or later.
The trick of being a Pro Bowler at the offensive line position is name recognition, and Herremans does play on a top-notch offense that scores a ton of points. It’s time people recognize how good of a player he is, and he already won’t be competing with teammate Jason Peters for a nod on the Pro Bowl team next season.
The Philadelphia Eagles received an extremely pleasant surprise with the play of career journeyman guard Evan Mathis last season, as Mathis—who was signed in training camp to compete for the starting left guard spot—went on to start 15-of-16 games and rate as Pro Football Focus’s best all-around offensive lineman.
Mathis is a superb run-blocker, and he was a perfect fit in new offensive line coach Howard Mudd’s scheme. Mathis still hasn’t allowed a sack in 1,746 career snaps since PFF began keeping track of the statistic since 2008, and if he can keep up his play in year two under Mudd, he has a good chance of making the Pro Bowl.
Cullen Jenkins has played at a very high level for several seasons, although he hasn’t been rewarded with a Pro Bowl invitation. Jenkins helped the Green Bay Packers win a Super Bowl in 2010, racking up seven sacks from the defensive tackle position. He’s one of the premier pass-rushers from the interior defensive line, and he followed that up with 5.5 on the Philadelphia Eagles last year.
Jenkins will be joined by Trent Cole, Jason Babin and Mike Patterson again on the line, but the addition of big-potential rookie Fletcher Cox could bring out the best in Jenkins, and if that’s the case, he will definitely get the invite to Hawaii.
Fletcher Cox was a steal for the Philadelphia Eagles, even though they had to trade up to draft him. Cox dominated at Mississippi State University, where he performed well against NFL-caliber offensive linemen.
He is a superb pass-rusher and should instantly make an impact on the Eagles defensive line. His position coach, Jim Washburn, went as far as to say that Cox was born to play in the wide-nine.
Cox will likely begin the season as the backup behind Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins, but he should see a steady supply of defensive snaps. The Eagles have always rotated their linemen extensively, and Cox will certainly push for his fair share of playing time.
He could conceivably make the Pro Bowl in a similar case to that of Aldon Smith last year for the San Francisco 49ers, in that Cox plays fewer than half the snaps but racks up enough sacks at his position to get votes.