Pro Bowl 2013: Veterans Who Are Possibly Making Their Final Appearance
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Among those veterans are some who may be making their pro football All-Star game appearance.
Take Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons as a prime example.
He was, without question, definitely worthy of earning another trip to the Pro Bowl. That said, Gonzalez is also turning age 37 after this season.
The tight end position requires more and more from its players each season, and it will become increasingly difficult for Gonzalez to keep up with the Falcons' fast-paced attack. Now, age is not the sole reason either.
So to break it down, let's look at all the factors involved regarding why Gonzalez and the following veterans may be appearing in their final Pro Bowl.
Tony Gonzalez: TE, Falcons
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After catching 88 passes for 889 yards and scoring eight times, Tony Gonzalez earned his 13th Pro Bowl selection.
Undoubtedly a hall of fame career, Gonzalez has been a key part of the Atlanta Falcons offense since joining the team in 2009.
Along with age catching up to him a bit more each new season, though, Atlanta fields such a high-powered offense. That alone is difficult enough for anyone to keep pace with. Include age and it won't get any easier.
The Falcons also present two standout receiving targets in Roddy White and Julio Jones for Matt Ryan to dial up. So, their outside presence will continue to take some receptions, yards and touchdowns away from Gonzalez's potential production.
With literally nothing else to achieve but a Super Bowl victory, time is running short there as well.
Reggie Wayne: WR, Colts
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Reggie Wayne enjoyed one awesome season for the Indianapolis Colts.
With Andrew Luck under center, Wayne caught 102 passes for 1,315 yards and scored five times.
For certain these numbers are worthy of a Pro Bowl selection. At the same time, Wayne is 34 years old and the Colts provide Luck with an abundance of other receiving targets.
Second tier offensive weapons such as T.Y. Hilton, Donnie Avery, Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener are all capable of keeping Indy's passing game rolling. In addition, the Colts have found a consistently reliable rushing attack in Vick Ballard.
After not impacting much early on, Luck was forced to throw often in a one-dimensional attack. Since the middle of the season, though, Ballard has compiled 669 rushing yards in the previous 10 games: 268 over past three games.
Provided the Colts establish a stronger rushing attack when 2013 kicks off, Wayne will still have an impact, but not nearly as much as this year.
Frank Gore: RB, 49ers
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Turning 30 years old this offseason, we're going to see Frank Gore receive fewer and fewer carries.
For one, he was fed 282 times in 2011 and only 238 so far in 2012.
Averaging 4.8 yards per rushing attempt this season, though, was definitely deserving of Pro Bowl recognition. As the San Francisco 49ers move forward; however, the combination of Gore's age and the rest of Jim Harbaugh's personnel will impact his contributions.
San Francisco has a dual-threat quarterback in Colin Kaepernick, selected running back LaMichael James in the 2012 draft and also feed Kendall Hunter. That's a dynamic set for Harbaugh to approach any defense and sticking with one guy does limit the play-calling.
Factor in the 49ers' passing game and a greater balance will gradually develop.
Now he still is the team's best and most dependable ball-carrier. But that age threshold and San Francisco's fellow offensive weapons will give way to a slightly reduced role for Gore next season.
Jeff Saturday: Center, Packers
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Jeff Saturday is one of pro football's better centers.
He's also one of the oldest, as Saturday turns 38 next summer.
McCarthy on if Saturday will start: "We'll see. ...We'll probably go with Evan Dietrich-Smith to start the game."— Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) December 21, 2012
And even though the Packers did win a second straight NFC North division title, Saturday was part of an offense that gave up 46 sacks of Aaron Rodgers. With one game remaining, that number could certainly increase.
Green Bay also saw its most productive running back average only 3.6 yards per rushing attempt—minimum of 50 carries—through the first 15 games: James Starks.
Saturday's experience and knowledge of the game cannot be replaced, but age has unquestionably been a factor throughout 2012.
Julius Peppers: DE, Bears
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It's reasonable to look at Julius Peppers' numbers and think that he got selected to the Pro Bowl based on reputation.
He recorded fewer than 40 tackles in 2011, and could see that occur again this season since Week 17 of 2012 offers no guarantees.
Now, Peppers is certainly still among the best raw pass-rushers, because only once in the past five years has he logged fewer than 10 sacks.
Nevertheless, his snap count has clearly been reduced and although a strong impact remains, Peppers is turning 33 years old next month. And the veteran rusher has only forced one fumble so far this season.
Additionally, Chicago selected Shea McClellin in the 2012 draft and presents another young stud in Corey Wootton. These younger guys fared well enough this fall to earn more snaps next season, which in turn, will restrict Peppers' overall role.
Given that the Bears also allowed an average of 4.2 yards per rush and hit a slump until defeating the Arizona Cardinals last week, reverting to the youth is needed.
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