ESPN’s John Clayton singles out Warren Sapp and Tom Brady as the biggest snubs for the Pro Bowl this year.
1. Warren Sapp, DT, Raiders: All right, we know the Raiders’ offense stinks. Aaron Brooks and Andrew Walter are just waiting to be sacked every time they drop back to make a pass. At 2-12, Raiders fans have a commitment to heading to the exits. But Sapp has been sensational this year. He has eight sacks on the fourth-ranked defense in the NFL. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan went back to the 4-3 defense, which plays to Sapp’s strengths and he became a disruptive force again. He was beaten out by Richard Seymour (Patriots), Williams and Hampton. He wasn’t even one of the top three alternates at the defensive tackle position. That’s unbelievable.
2. John Henderson, DT, Jaguars: Usually, it’s a lock that Marcus Stroud is the Jacksonville defensive tackle headed to the Pro Bowl, but he missed too many games with a high-ankle sprain. Henderson held down the fort while Stroud was gone and look at the results. The Jaguars rank second on defense and are giving up only 83.8 yards a game on the ground. How does Henderson not make it?
3. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots: To be fair, the three AFC QBs who were named to the Pro Bowl — Peyton Manning, Rivers and Palmer — are having good seasons. Manning is the game’s best quarterback and he showed that in beating the Bengals on Monday night. Rivers has led the Chargers to a 12-2 record. But Palmer over Brady? Let’s see. The Patriots have a better record and they beat the Bengals 38-13 earlier in the season. Palmer’s stats might be better, but Brady is a three-time Super Bowl champ who is on the verge on winning a division title.
4. Ray Lewis, LB, Ravens: Those who voted in favor of Al Wilson (Broncos) need to step into Lewis’ office and have a little physical chat. Lewis may not be the playmaker he was six or seven years ago, but he bounced back this season with Pro Bowl-caliber play. The Ravens have the league’s top-ranked defense. Wilson is one of the game’s best middle linebackers, but the Broncos rank 13th on defense and are giving up 26 yards a game more than the Ravens. We need a recount.
5. Bart Scott, LB, Ravens: All right, it probably would be a little too much for the Ravens to have four linebackers — Lewis, Adalius Thomas, Terrell Suggs and Scott — on the AFC squad. But Scott has probably been the team’s best linebacker this year. The guy is everywhere. He runs as though he has been shot out of a cannon. He’s a heat-seeking missile who didn’t seem to be on the radar of voters.
6. Kerry Rhodes, S, Jets: Rhodes was beaten out by Ed Reed (Ravens), Troy Polamalu (Steelers) and John Lynch (Broncos). As long as they are healthy and standing, it’s hard to keep Reed and Polamalu out of the Pro Bowl. Lynch is one of the best safeties of the past decade, but Rhodes is having a better year. Rhodes has four sacks and four interceptions and has been the Jets’ best defensive player this year.
7. Charles Woodson, CB, Packers: He intercepted six passes and showed that he’s still good in man-to-man coverage. Teammate Al Harris earned a Pro Bowl alternate slot and would probably have made the team if he had held onto a few interceptions that he dropped. Critics thought the Packers were picking up a player on decline when they signed Woodson from the Raiders. They were wrong. Woodson can still play.
8. Rudi Johnson, RB, Bengals: He ended up as the AFC’s second alternate behind Fred Taylor (Jaguars). Still, Johnson is the fourth-leading rusher in the AFC with 1,133 yards on 298 carries. Remember, he did this behind an offensive line that was missing as many as three starters at certain points of the season.
9. Chester Taylor, RB, Vikings: This is more of a sentimental pick. Tiki Barber (Giants), Frank Gore (49ers) and Steven Jackson (Rams) are the NFC Pro Bowl backs. They have been simply the best backs in the conference. But Taylor ran until his body wore out. He has rushed for 1,136 yards on 276 hard carries and by midseason was leading the league in rushing. Taylor was a career backup in Baltimore before getting his chance in Minnesota. It would have been nice for him to be rewarded for his hard work.
10. Marcus McNeill, OT, Chargers: Here is the surprise of the year. McNeill finished higher than any other rookie in the Pro Bowl voting. Playing left tackle, he’s allowed only two sacks and stabilized the Chargers’ offensive line. He has been physical on running plays. He is an alternate behind Jonathan Ogden, Willie Anderson and Tarik Glenn. As a rookie, McNeill is recognized as the fourth-best left tackle in the AFC. That’s pretty good.
The Pro Bowl selections are always controversial, in that people with name recognition often get in over more deserving candidates.
As a Dallas fan, I’m not sure that Roy Williams deserved to make it the last couple years, including this one. He is as good a safety as any against the run and can flat-out hit. But he’s lousy in coverage and gets burned way too often for an all-star. Former Cowboy and current 49er offensive tackle Larry Allen is a future Hall of Famer, but he makes the Pro Bowl every year despite being well past his prime.
Conversely, Terrell Owens probably deserved to make it this year. Yes, he has dropped some balls and been a royal pain in the ass. But he’s certainly a better wideout and has had a better year than Donald Driver and Anquan Boldin.
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