San Francisco 49ers Lead the NFL with 9 Pro Bowl Participants
Pro Bowl starters were announced a little over an hour ago and the San Francisco 49ers had a league high nine Pro Bowl selections.
Let's take a look at which players will be making the trip to Hawaii.
NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis
Surprisingly enough, this will be the first year where both players have been Pro Bowl selections. Last year Patrick Willis was a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro, while NaVorro Bowman was just an All-Pro. Baffling, huh? It is amazing how a player can be selected to the All-Pro team, but not the Pro Bowl.
Overall, it will be Willis' sixth appearance in Honolulu and Bowman's first.
Without a doubt, both players are deserving as they have racked up a combined 196 solo tackles, three quarterback sacks, four quarterback hits and 11 hurries. Not to mention they are two of the top coverage linebackers in the game.
Aldon Smith and Justin Smith
Just like Bowman and Willis, these two guys are the 49ers next best duo. San Francisco's defense runs through Justin Smith as the pressure up front all starts with him. His stats may not show it considering he has four quarterback sacks and six hits, but the way he takes on blocks and pushes the line of scrimmage opens up rush lanes for his partner in crime, Aldon Smith.
Aldon Smith has 19.5 sacks, three away from tying the single-season sack record set by Michael Strahan. Even though it appears he will be a long shot in securing the record, he should take pride in the way Justin Smith and himself have wrecked opposing offensive lines.
For Justin Smith it will be his fourth straight (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012) Pro Bowl selection and for Aldon Smith it is the first-selection of his career.
Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner
Also like Bowman and Willis, both of the Niners safeties will be starters in the Hawaii. Dashon Goldson is having the best season of his career by registering three interceptions, one defensive touchdown and his quarterback rating against in coverage is an eye-opening 44.8.
Only two safeties in the NFL have better numbers in that category.
Donte Whitner hasn't had quite the year in coverage that Goldson has had, but he has made big plays in opportune times. Moreover, his play against the run has constituted 14 defensive stops and one tackle for loss.
This year's appearance in paradise will be Goldson's second-straight selection and Whitner's first.
Joe Staley and Mike Iupati
The left side of the 49ers' offensive line has been the anchor for the offense all season long. Joe Staley is Pro Football Focus' highest graded player at tackle and Mike Iupati is the fourth best guard at his position. Heading into Week 17 San Francisco left side has surrendered 10 quarterback sacks, six quarterback hits and 26 hurries.
It will mark Iupati's first Pro Bowl appearance and Staley's second in consecutive years.
49ers' running back Frank Gore will be making his third Pro Bowl in four years and fourth appearance overall. Gore is averaging 4.8 yards per carry and has piled up 638 yards after contact on 239 carries. He has also found the end zone seven times on the ground and forced 29 missed tackles.
I don't have a problem with any of the selections and there is not much argument about who should have made it from the 49ers. There are only two other players who I would have put in the mix—right guard Alex Boone and cornerback Chris Culliver.
It's Boone's first-year as a starter, so I get that he would have been passed over considering the Pro Bowl becomes a popularity contest at times. In regards to Culliver, he's not on the field full time, so it might be hard to justify him getting in over some of the others.
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