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Pro Bowl: The Undeserving
December 28th, 2011 | Author: Khaled Elsayed
Each year the Pro Bowl roster comes out and each year I lose a few brain cells smacking my head against the table.
To be honest that is how stupid some of the picks are.
I really can’t put it any other way. Now I know the PFF staff and I have an advantage. We have a system designed to capture more than stats, and that can (in our opinions) compare players at the same positions. As a benefit to spending about 24 man hours (spread amongst three people) per game, you also actually watch a lot of football and really see what’s going on all over the field. Not just the ball.
It’s why we love giving out praise. Great players deserve recognition, so the Pro Bowl should be something to be celebrated. Instead, it’s a joke. Because if some of the players mentioned in this article can get selected then quite frankly the idea of a Pro Bowl at some positions, is worthless since it’s got nothing to do with what happens on the field, and everything to do with reputation, hearsay and how much someone is earning.
Here are the worst Pro Bowl selections of this year.
Logan Mankins, G, New England Patriots
PFF Rating: +0.4
PFF Conference Ranking: 16th
Analysis: If you watched Mankins play last year you saw a man with a chip on his shoulder. The Patriots weren’t paying him what he wanted and he was proving his worth to them with a string of stellar displays. Fast forward to this year and gone are those dominant displays. Instead we’re seeing a whole lot of ‘meh’, and a high number (seven) of penalties. It’s not that Mankins has been terrible, he just isn’t having a huge impact on the game like say what Andy Levitre has managed in his 11 starts at left guard.
Key Fact: Mankins has the 15th highest run blocking grade of all guards. And that’s his strong suit with pass blocking ranking leaving him in 42nd place.
Jake Long, LT, Miami Dolphins and D’Brickashaw Ferguson, LT, New York Jets
PFF Rating: +4.4 (Long) and +4.5 (Ferguson)
PFF Conference Ranking: 13th and 12th
Analysis: Along with Joe Thomas, Long and Ferguson have formed a trio of excellence at the top of the left tackle tree over the past four years. However, that doesn’t mean they deserve automatic selection to the Pro Bowl every year, especially when others are more deserving. Ignoring for a second the total discrimination against right tackles, Long (who started the season off looking less than 100%) and Ferguson, have been outplayed by guys like Duane Brown, Andrew Whitworth and Branden Albert. Decent years for both men but nowhere near their best, and nowhere near the best. Their reputation may grow with another Pro Bowl spot, but it’s at the expense of peers who have truly earned it this year.
Key Fact: While Long and Ferguson have given up a combined 13 sacks, Duane Brown hasn’t given up a single one.
Maurkice Pouncey, C, Pittsburgh Steelers
PFF Rating: +1.8
PFF Conference Ranking: 12th
Analysis: Steelers fans will be up in arms about this (as they always are) and accuse us of hating on the younger Pouncey. Nothing could be further from the case. It’s just when you compare Pouncey to his peers there’s absolutely no way any player with a sane mind could pick him over some of the excellent centers in the AFC. That doesn’t mean Pouncey is a bad player, but just because we’re told he should be a once in a generation player doesn’t make it so. You only need to watch him to see how little impact he has on games, while players like Chris Myers are creating the kind of consistent running lanes that sees your team finish with two guys close to or above the 1,000 yard rushing mark.
Key Fact: Pouncey isn’t even the best Pouncey in our eyes. His grade is inferior to that of his twin brother Mike Pouncey (+2.9).
Vince Wilfork, DT, New England Patriots
PFF Rating: +4.8
PFF Conference Ranking: 15th
Analysis: To be fair Wilforks’ rating is a bit misleading; he actually has a +8.0 for his run defense and that’s his main function. Even then he’s a mile off the run disruptor that either Sione Pouha or Brodrick Bunkley has been, and has made nowhere near the impact Geno Atkins has. Clearly he still has the ability to dominate, but whether it was the shift to a 4-3 or just a down year, Wilfork hasn’t played nearly as well as he did last year on one of the worst defenses in the league. It’s interesting, with the Patriots defense struggling so much this year then I’m hearing people lambast Wilfork, as they did Kyle Williams in 2011.
Key Fact: Has played more snaps than any other defensive tackle. Maybe spelling him will help – especially taking him out of pass rushing situations.
John Kuhn, FB, Green Bay Packers
PFF Rating: -1.4
PFF Conference Ranking: 6th
Analysis: I like John Kuhn. I like his chant, I like his running style, and I like what he brings to the Packers offense. You know what else I like? Blocking fullbacks. Guys who will regularly blow up a linebacker with their lead blocking. Kuhn, is a glorified situational running back, leading all fullbacks in carries and playing a third down back role at times. With Jim Kleinsasser lining up more from the fullback spot than ever before it would have been great, and deserved, for his 2011 play to be recognized.
Key Fact: Of all fullbacks Kuhn has the 16th highest run blocking grade.
Joe Staley, LT, San Francisco 49ers and Jermon Bushrod, LT, New Orleans Saints
PFF Rating: -1.0 (Staley) and +6.6 (Bushrod)
PFF Conference Ranking: 12th and 7th
Analysis: I hate writing about two players whose improvement has impressed me, but these are both nods to their teams winning so much more than their own individual performance. Bushrod has certainly got better, but he has benefited from a system that sees Drew Brees so adept at getting rid of the ball before the pressure gets to him, while Staley is an average at best pass protector. It goes back to this debate about right tackles being ignored, because the NFC has had some truly excellent displays at the RT spot. I’m looking chiefly at guys like Bryan Bulaga, Tyson Clabo and Tyron Smith who all warranted selection. This paragraph may be a little harsh on Staley and Bushrod, but they’re the victims of some stereotyping that right tackles are an inferior breed to their brethren on the left. It’s not as if they have to deal with the Jason Babins, Clay Matthews and Von Millers of this world right?
Key Fact: Bushrod isn’t even the highest rated tackle on his own team with Zack Strief earning a +9.8 rating.
Davin Joseph, G, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
PFF Rating: -5.9
PFF Conference Ranking: 20th
Analysis: As long as I live I’ll never quite understand why people feel the need to defend Davin Joseph. Here’s a guy who gets paid a lot of money to do a job, and not even do it that well. Now sure the change in schemes has resulted in better play, but, even with the massive improvement, he’s still a below average player, who loses far too many battles at the point of attack. This isn’t some theory I developed, but rather through seeing it with my own eyes. It’s all there on the tape – you just need to watch number 75 on each and every play (not just the good ones) and you’ll see what I’m saying. There have been times this year when he’s looked really good, especially against Chicago. For the most part what you get with Joseph is a subpar run blocking. It’s one of the reasons LeGarrette Blount isn’t picking up much yardage unless he breaks a few tackles. I can’t imagine what Josh Sitton and Evan Mathis are thinking that they can play so much better than a player and yet receive so little praise for it.
Key Fact: Joseph has a negative run blocking grade in 10 games this year.
B.J. Raji, NT, Green Bay Packers
PFF Rating: -15.6
PFF Conference Ranking: Last
Analysis: Raji started off the year hot but since then? Well he’s our lowest rated tackle in the NFC so that should tell you everything. He doesn’t get off blocks to make tackles, and rarely penetrates into the backfield with his play being bad enough to result in a reduction in playing time. Gone are those dominant displays and now you rarely notice that he’s on the field. That is what has become of Raji so his selection, more than any other, discredits the Pro Bowl. Sure Kevin Williams isn’t the player he once was, and sure Alan Branch doesn’t have a big reputation, but those guys are actually influencing games. Heck, we’ve criticized Ndamukong Suh before but at least he consistently generates pressure on the QB. Raji, in 2011, has done so little on so many snaps he shouldn’t even been in the conversation. A real fail on this front.
Key Fact: Has made 10 defensive stops all year. That’s less than a player like Isaac Sopoaga.
Lance Briggs, OLB, Chicago Bears
PFF Rating: +5.2
PFF Conference Ranking: 14th
Analysis: It’s nice to see a 4-3 OLB receiving a selection. It’s just a shame that it’s the wrong one. Briggs has played well enough this year, but has he set the world alight? Has he made the plays Sean Weatherspoon has, got pressure like Aldon Smith or Brian Orakpo, or been as consistent in every phase as Erin Henderson. Sorry Briggs lovers, but the answer is a big fat no to all of them. The Bears weakside linebacker is a good player no doubt, but being good and having a reputation shouldn’t equate to a free trip to Hawaii. Not when you’ve got plenty of players outperforming you.
Key Fact: His 11 missed tackles are 5th highest of all 4-3 OLBs.
Charles Woodson, CB, Green Bay Packers and Charles Tillman, CB, Chicago Bears
PFF Rating: -2.2 (Woodson) and +4.4 (Tillman)
PFF Conference Ranking: 18th and 8th
Analysis: Woodson is a lot of things to the Green Bay Packers, but he’s not even their top cover corner. He’s now just the kind of difference maker that can be a liability in coverage, as evidenced by the nine penalties given up along with the 566 yards. Tillman is up at the 841 yard mark on the season and while he’s had some great moments (notably the second encounter with Detroit) he hasn’t consistently dominated the opposition as many would have you believe. Instead guys like Brent Grimes and Chris Gamble have made plays and allowed less than 45% of balls thrown their way to be complete. There really isn’t a comparison.
Key Fact: Chris Gamble has allowed just 284 yards all year.