The Six Philadelphia Eagles Most Deserving of a Flight To the Pro Bowl
Anyway...Pro Bowl voting came to a close last week, and the participants in the Jan. 31 game will be announced on Tuesday.
It’s a new era for the game, which for the first time will be played on the Sunday before this season's Super Bowl. However, one thing won’t change: the teams announced tomorrow will most likely look a lot different from the ones that take the field.
This season, however, that caveat will have an added twist—players from teams who make the Super Bowl will not play in the all-star exhibition, meaning more spots than usual could be up for grabs.
If these rules were in place last season, eight players—including half of the NFC’s starting skill players—would have had to miss the game. Five Cardinals and three Steelers were voted into the game, with Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald winning the MVP.
Good thing, right? Pittsburgh may have won the Lombardi Trophy, but the Cards at least got something.
Whatever. The fans seem to care even less about the Pro Bowl than the players, but ultimately, every Eagles fan would like to have that problem and see the Birds miss the Pro Bowl completely.
But as they say, it’s an honor just to be nominated. And for a lot of guys, a nomination could trigger contract bonuses.
So with six weeks to go before the NFL’s “best” earn a trip to Miami, I bring to you the six Eagles most deserving of said vacation.
And as a side note, all stats listed are through Week 14 and DO NOT COUNT Sunday's win over the Broncos. The voting didn’t, so I didn’t either.
No. 6: Brent Celek
If you’re astute, you’ve probably already realized that Donovan McNabb isn’t going to make this list.
The reason: Because he might make it anyway, even though he doesn’t deserve to. He’s probably the sixth best quarterback in the league, but because the top five are either Super Bowl-bound (hint: they’re all from current playoff teams) and/or ridiculously old, he’s got a shot.
Celek doesn’t. Even though he’s in the midst of a breakout season, he won’t make it.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve to. See, unlike McNabb, who isn’t in the top five in any major quarterback category, Celek has an argument.
Through Week 14, he was fifth in catches, fourth in yards, and third in touchdowns among NFC tight ends.
The problem, though, is that only two tight ends make the Pro Bowl roster.
Vernon Davis, who is third in catches and tops in yards and TDs, is a lock.
The other spot will go to Tony Gonzalez or Jason Witten, who are 1-2 in catchers and 2-3 in yards.
Sure, Gonzo and Witten combined have as many scores as Celek, but then again, Visanthe Shiancoe—he of the 45 catches and 432 yards—has nine, so that can’t even remotely be considered the whole story.
At best, Celek is looking at top alternate if the Cowboys make the Super Bowl, as neither Gonzalez nor Davis will likely turn down an invite.
I think he should go just for that pose on the left.
No. 5: David Akers
Now here’s a guy that deserves to make it and probably will, but because kicker is a relatively lightly regarded position, he’s number five.
So why will Akers make it? Well, with kickers, stats truly are everything.
With 127 points through Week 14, Akers led the NFC in scoring and was just two points behind Nate Kaeding for the NFL lead.
He also led the NFC in field goals, and has only missed a total of four all season—three of which came from 45 yards out or further.
And as much as the Pro Bowl isn’t a “career-built” reward, 2009 has been a career year for Akers. His 89 percent success rate on field goals is the highest of his career, and depending on how the Birds do in Dallas, he could end up with career highs in field goals or extra points made—or both.
Not bad for a guy who, for the last few years, has been maligned for “losing it” a bit.
Unless someone has a real soft spot for Lawrence Tynes or can’t look past Akers’ 3-for-5 performance in that ugly loss to Oakland, No. 2 should be headed to his fourth Pro Bowl.
No. 4: Leonard Weaver
The polar opposite of kicker, fullback is the one position on the Pro Bowl team where stats aren’t the whole story.
Oddly enough, this season, it’s those very stats that are going to make Weaver hard to ignore.
Sure, he’s not the best blocking fullback in the league; that may be Ovie Mughelli of Atlanta, or perhaps San Francisco’s Moran Norris or Washington’s Mike Sellers.
But Weaver has become something none of those guys really are: a weapon in the running game.
Yes, the Eagles rank in the lower third in the NFL in rushing. But Weaver has 301 of the team’s 1495 yards, an astronomical total for a “true” fullback.
He’s also adequate enough as a blocker and decent enough as a receiver that he’s easily the most versatile true fullback in the NFL this year.
So while the Mughellis and Norrises of the world may fit the definition in one dimension, Weaver’s versatility makes him a top choice to be the lone fullback on the NFC roster.
No. 3: DeSean Jackson
Without looking, would you believe DeSean Jackson is one of the best wide receivers in the NFC?
Probably not...but he is.
Through Week 14, Jackson was fourth in the NFC in receiving yards (1,087), yet barely in the Top 20 in catches (his 56 is tied for 19th with Santana Moss). And among wide receivers, his eight touchdowns are tied for fourth.
Explosive much? I’d say so.
In reality, four receivers make the Pro Bowl—and no one is a lock.
Sidney Rice, Miles Austin, and Steve Smith are ahead of Jackson in yards. Smith, the Arizona duo that started last year, and TJ Houshmandzadeh are the top four in catches, while it’s Austin, Larry Fitzgerald, and Marques Colston leading the way in touchdowns.
But the one thing Jackson has on all of them? He’s also a punt returner.
On only 24 returns, Jackson is tied with Patrick Crayton for most yards (415) and TDs (two) and is tops in returns of 20-plus and 40-plus yards.
Someone’s going to have to do that in the Pro Bowl. Even if four receivers manage to sneak ahead of him in the voting, Jackson could logically beat out the Danny Amendolas and Courtney Robys of the world to earn a spot somewhere on the roster.
No. 2: Trent Cole
Philly’s defense is built on getting after the quarterback, and no one is better at that than the fifth year man from Cincinnati.
Among NFC ends, only Washington’s Andre Carter (59) has more combined tackles, while only Minnesota’s Jared Allen (13.5) and New Orleans’ Will Smith (12) have more sacks than Cole’s 11.5.
But above and beyond that is what Cole does for everyone else. He, along with the rest of the line, do get at the quarterback…which has helped the Eagles rank first in the NFC in passes defensed and second in both sacks and interceptions.
While Allen and Smith deserve to get in solely on individual merits, Cole’s role in bettering his overall defense deserves to get him in at least as the backup defensive end.
No. 1: Asante Samuel
A defense that rushes the quarterback as much as the Eagles' does has to have cornerbacks they can trust to put on an island against even the best receivers.
If you look that up in the dictionary, you’ll see Asante Samuel’s picture.
As great as Cole is, he’s made even better by having a guy like Samuel in the secondary.
Yes, I’ve even chastised him for seeming to disappear at times and/or shying away from contact.
But the fact remains that Samuel is tied for the league lead in interceptions and is third among corners in passes defensed.
With Sheldon Brown—who is tied for fifth and fourth in those categories respectively—on the other side, Samuel still does get thrown at a lot.
And he thrives.
Again, the Birds are tops in passes defensed and second in picks overall, and Samuel is a big reason why.
While Brown could also make it as a backup, Samuel quite possibly deserves to start alongside Charles Woodson.
Synopsis: So Who Makes It To Miami?
Yes, that's Michael Vick from a few years ago. No, he's not making it, but Getty has a severe lack of images of Andy Reid in a Hawaiian shirt. Probably a good thing.
Anyway, all in all, I think that everyone but Celek will initially be voted in, with Cole being the only one who doesn’t start.
Among others, as I said, Brown and McNabb could potentially make it. But also look out for Mike Patterson, who leads NFC DTs in total tackles and could sneak in as the third DT on the roster.
Let’s hope, however, that the grand total is zero.