Philadelphia Eagles: Which Players Really Deserved Pro Bowl Invitations?
The Pro Bowl rosters are always a form of controversy among NFL fans and experts. Popular players tend to get the vote over their lesser-known counterparts, even when the lesser-known players may be having superior seasons. The game itself is often a joke to watch, and rumors are always rampant that the game is in its last days.
Still, inclusion on the Pro Bowl roster is the highest honor some players can receive. Offensive line typically can't receive an award any greater. Even skill-position players get the national publicity of such an award.
The Philadelphia Eagles officially sent two players to the Pro Bowl—running back LeSean McCoy and offensive tackle Jason Peters. Each was well-deserving of such an honor, although a handful of other players on the roster had strong cases for inclusion.
There is still one month until the game will be held, so additional players can make it via injuries to current Pro Bowlers or the fact that the teams reaching the Super Bowl can't send any players.
For this, I went through the top players on the Eagles and broke down the competition league-wide to see who deserved the Pro Bowl.
There's no doubt that the Philadelphia Eagles' playmaking running back deserved to make the Pro Bowl. He's leading the National Football League in rushing yards (1,476) and total yards from scrimmage (2,003). He's averaging over five yards per carry, and he's accounted for 10 touchdowns.
McCoy's Pro Bowl nod was well-deserved, and a strong showing against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17 could assure him of First-Team AP All-Pro honors.
Jason Peters has long been one of the NFL's top offensive linemen, and he's really thriving in Chip Kelly's system. Peters is coming off a pair of serious offseason Achilles tendon tears, so it did take him some time this year to get playing at an elite level again.
But he's been remarkably efficient over the second half of the season. Since Week 9, Peters has allowed just four quarterback hurries in seven games. That's simply phenomenal. For the year, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) rates Peters as the fifth-best overall offensive tackle in the game.
There comes a point when there's not much more Evan Mathis can do to get his name out there. Being an offensive lineman is all about name recognition, and Mathis is a former third-round pick who was a journeyman in the NFL before joining the Philadelphia Eagles.
Since 2011, though, Mathis has been far and above the league's best guard. A case could be made that Mathis is one of the best players in the game.
Mathis is a superior run-blocker and a terrific pass-blocker. It's no coincidence LeSean McCoy has enjoyed such success behind Mathis. Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), runs between Jason Peters and Mathis have gone for an average of 8.4 yards per carry. That's absolutely outstanding.
One of the guards to make it above Mathis was the San Francisco 49ers' Mike Iupati. Iupati is a former first-round pick who plays for a terrific team, but he’s been off his game all season. Iupati rates just 33rd among Pro Football Focus's guards, and he missed four contests due to an MCL injury. No matter, though, simple name recognition gave Iupati the nod over a much more deserving candidate.
Eight wide receivers can make the Pro Bowl. It's difficult to pick just which ones should be rewarded for their play.
Josh Gordon and Calvin Johnson are locks, as they rank first and second, respectively, in the league in receiving yards and have been the most dominant players at their respective positions this season. Antonio Brown is third in both receptions (101) and yards (1,412), so it makes sense that he was added.
Rounding out the list were A.J. Green, Andre Johnson, Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, and Brandon Marshall. Green (94 REC, 1,365 YDS, 10 TDs) and Johnson (103 REC, 1,358 YDS, 5 TDs) were well-deserving of their selections. Thomas does benefit from the game’s best quarterback, but his stat line (86 REC, 1,317 YDS, 12 TDs) certainly can hold its own, and he’s an incredibly physical receiver after the catch.
Marshall's receiving numbers (94 REC, 1,211 YDS, 11 TDs) are Pro Bowl-worthy, although he does rank second in the league in dropped passes (13). But he's been far and above the league’s best blocker, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), and he's dealt with instability at the quarterback position as well.
Bryant's selection is the least deserving, as he probably made it more based on his name. His numbers (85 REC, 1,134 YDS, 12 TDs) are certainly terrific numbers. He’s just 10th in receptions and 14th in yards. Then again, he is tied among all NFL receivers with the most touchdown catches (12).
Jackson's numbers (79 REC, 1,304 YDS, 9 TDs) are right on par with the other receivers on the list. If you took Bryant or Marshall off and put Jackson on, no one would think twice. After all, there was almost a logjam of receivers fighting for the final spots, and it's almost a guarantee that a receiver or two will get injured and pull out (or advance to the Super Bowl), thus opening up a spot.
Perhaps the most surprising omission was that of Pierre Garcon. Garcon quietly leads the NFL with 107 receptions, and he’s done all that while being easily the focal point of his team’s passing game. Other players that deserved strong consideration are Alshon Jeffery (86 REC, 1,341 YDS, 7 TDs), Eric Decker (83 REC, 1,261 YDS, 10 TDs), and Vincent Jackson (74 REC, 1,189 YDS, 7 TDs with a rookie QB).
Deserving? Probably Not
Nick Foles was at the top of many lists highlighting Pro Bowl snubs, and for good reason. He’s having a truly spectacular season. The fact that Foles was a backup as late as Week 8 is irrelevant, as Foles is being compared to other quarterbacks head-to-head, and his status as a backup elevated to starter shouldn't play a factor.
But what should play a factor is his record-breaking numbers. Foles currently sits at third on the list of highest single-season passer ratings (118.7). His two interceptions in 291 throws puts him at an interception rate of 0.7, the third-best single-season rate ever. He's thrown 25 touchdowns, ran for three more and he’s averaging a league-best 9.0 yards per attempt.
Foles is also winning football games. He's 8-2 in games in which he's seen significant action. He's a legitimate MVP candidate.
Peyton Manning and Drew Brees easily deserve their Pro Bowl selections. Same with Russell Wilson and Philip Rivers. Tom Brady certainly has the name, but his lack of receiving weapons has led to subpar numbers by his standards. Cam Newton is probably the one that Foles should have beaten out. Newton has 28 total touchdowns to 12 interceptions and an 89.2 passer rating, while Foles is at 28 total touchdowns, two interceptions and a 118.7 passer rating.
Jason Kelce has been a huge part of the offensive line's success this year.
Kelce is the game's most athletic center and a perfect fit for Chip Kelly’s offense. He's been instrumental in paving the way for LeSean McCoy in the running game. Kelce is rated as the sixth-best center (tied) in the league by Pro Football Focus, and the second best on screen passes.
Mike Pouncey and Chris Myers are probably the game’s best centers, and they were each deserving of their selection. Alex Mack is Pro Football Focus's highest-rated center, and he got his second Pro Bowl nod.
After that, the vote went to the Seattle Seahawks' Max Unger, the 20th-rated center, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), in the game. Unger certainly didn't deserve it, but the final spot could have gone to any of Kelce, Travis Frederick, Manny Ramirez, John Sullivan or Ryan Kalil.
No individual player stands out on the defensive side of the ball. Trent Cole has been playing terrific football recently, but his strong second half doesn't make up for a slower first half.
Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton are quality 3-4 ends, and they could make it one day. DeMeco Ryans is buried behind a whole slew of inside linebackers (Patrick Willis, Luke Kuechly, NaVorro Bowman, etc.). It's the same for Mychal Kendricks. Brandon Boykin is a top-notch nickel cornerback, but he doesn't see enough snaps to beat out more deserving players.
On the special teams side, Donnie Jones is having a tremendous season, but he doesn't quite compare to either Andy Lee, Brandon Fields, or Johnny Hekker.