The Falcons had a league-leading seven players named to the Pro Bowl squad, announced tonight. That total eclipsed New England (6), Baltimore (5), Dallas (5), Green Bay (5), and Philadelphia (5). The bulk of the Falcons players came on offense with 5 of their Pro Bowlers being named to the NFC squad on that side of the ball. This is the most Pro Bowlers for the Falcons in a single season, eclipsing their 6 players that made it in 1998.
The NFC squad will feature 3 starters from the Falcons, including running back Michael Turner, fullback Ovie Mughelli, and wide receiver Roddy White. Turner leads the NFC in rushing with 1,304 yards and ranks 5th overall in the league. His 11 rushing touchdowns also tie for the conference lead with Adrian Peterson and a tied for third overall in the NFL. It marks Turner’s second stint as a Pro Bowler, as he earned his first bid in 2008, his first year with the Falcons. Much of Turner’s success can be attributed to Mughelli’s fierce lead blocking, which is likely why he was named to the team as the conference’s top fullback. It is Mughelli’s first career Pro Bowl. For the season, Mughelli has 28 rushing yards, 11 receptions, and 1 receiving touchdown. Roddy White leads the league in receptions (109) and is in second place with 1,327 receiving yards behind Denver’s Brandon Lloyd (1,375). White is so far ahead of the curve in the NFC, that the conference’s second leading receiver only has 84 receptions. White also has 9 receiving touchdowns, which is tied for 6th in the conference. White needs only 3 more receptions to eclipse Terance Mathis’s franchise-record 111 receptions in a single season. He only needs 56 more yards to break his own record he set in 2008 for single season receiving yards. It marks White’s third consecutive Pro Bowl bid.
Also making the NFC’s offensive roster is quarterback Matt Ryan and tight end Tony Gonzalez, neither of whom were named starters. Ryan has completed 62.2% of his 539 pass attempts for 3,469 yards, 26 touchdowns, and only 9 interceptions. That gives Ryan a passer rating of 89.8, which only ranks 7th in the conference, but due to the success of the Falcons who sport the conference’s best overall record at 12-3, and because of several come from behind wins and drives led by Ryan gave him the not over some more highly rated passers.
Gonzalez currently has 64 receptions for 603 yards and 5 touchdowns. He ranks 4th in receptions, 6th in yardage, and is tied for 3rd in touchdowns among NFC tight ends. It happens to be the lowest reception and yardage totals for Gonzalez since the 1998 season. This marks the 11th time Gonzalez has been named to the Pro Bowl, but the first time since joining the team a year ago.
On the defensive side of the ball, defensive end John Abraham has been named a starter. Abraham’s 13 sacks ranks him tied for second in the entire league, but first alongside Clay Matthews and DeMarcus Ware in the conference. But it also makes him tied with Jason Babin for the top marks among defensive ends. It’s been a resurgent year for Abraham, after many raised concerns about his ability to produce after a 5.5 sack season a year ago.
Rounding out the Falcons Pro Bowlers is special teams maven Eric Weems. Weems sits atop the NFC with a 27.7 kickoff return average and also ranks highly with his 10.3 punt return average. He also has been one of the Falcons top performers on special teams coverage.
The Pro Bowl will be played on January 30, 2011 in Honolulu.