The Miami Dolphins' best player on each side of the ball was greatly rewarded tonight, as it was announced that offensive tackle Jake Long and linebacker Cameron Wake have been selected as starters for the AFC in the 2011 Pro Bowl.
The selection marks Long's third appearance in as many pro seasons, as he has made the Pro Bowl every year since being selected by the Dolphins first overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.
While still deserving of the selection as one of the best offensive tackles in 2010, Long is actually having somewhat of a down year, in part due to a severe should injury he's been enduring since November.
Long has allowed five sacks this season, which matches his 2010 total. He has also committed eight penalties (four false starts and four holding penalties), up from his 2009 mark of only three.
Still, not all of Long's five sacks have been his fault, and he has without question been one of the elite pass protectors and run blockers in the game.
The path to Honolulu was much more difficult for Cameron Wake, who is just two years removed from playing in the Canadian Football League.
After failing to make it to training camp with the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent out of Penn State in 2005, Wake was out of football until joining the BC Lions of the CFL in 2007.
Wake quickly established himself as the league's best pass rusher, earning consecutive Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year awards and All-Star selections after racking up 39 sacks between 2007 and 2008.
Pursued by at least 16 NFL teams in the 2009 offseason, Wake signed a four-year contract with the Miami Dolphins in January and spent his rookie season as a situational pass rusher, totaling 5.5 sacks in 14 games.
With Jason Taylor and Joey Porter leaving via free agency in 2010, Wake stepped into the starting weakside linebacker role for the Dolphins.
Since then, Wake has opened all 15 games for the Dolphins this season and has been increasingly productive against the run and in coverage—all while leading the NFL with 14 sacks with one game left to play.
The Dolphins' two Pro Bowl selections in 2010 give them one more than they had a year ago, when only Long was voted onto the roster.
Safety Yeremiah Bell and placekicker Dan Carpenter also ended up going to the Pro Bowl last season as alternates for injured players that dropped out.
The 2011 Pro Bowl will be played a week before the Super Bowl on Jan. 30, returning to Hawaii after one year at the site of last year's Super Bowl in Miami.
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Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and is currently a programming coordinator for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.