Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I'm in Miami, Trick (Well, Not Yet)

Every year, there’s a lot of grumbling from fans about who makes the Pro Bowl. A lot of that comes from plain ol’ partisan bias, but a lot of it comes from the fact that it’s hard to measure performance in the NFL from statistics and highlights. But we at ColtPlay try a little harder, so here’s our opinion on the honoured players.


QBs: Peyton Manning, Indianapolis; Philip Rivers, San Diego; Tom Brady, New England
No complaints about Manning or Rivers, but I think Houston’s Matt Schaub is a better pick than Brady.

HBs: Chris Johnson, Tennessee; Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville; Ray Rice, Baltimore
They are exactly who I’d pick.

FB: Le’Ron McClain, Baltimore
Personally, I’d go with Miami’s Lousaka Polite, who’s a far better blocker. McClain is a better receiver and is probably being rewarded for his big running year last season. This pick reflects the idea that most people still – for some reason – want to reward the fullback with the most rushing yards, rather than the best fullback. It’s kind of like voting for the best quarterback by his rushing yards, ignoring what he does in the passing game.

WRs: Andre Johnson, Houston; Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis; Brandon Marshall, Denver; Wes Welker, New England
It’s hard to pick just four with such a wealth of wideouts in the AFC this year, but this quartet works. Arguments could be made for San Diego’s Vincent Jackson, Cincinnati’s Chad Ochocinco and Pittsburgh’s Santonio Holmes.

TEs: Dallas Clark, Indianapolis; Antonio Gates, San Diego
This shows what’s important in a tight end these days. Clark and Gates are clearly the best receivers at the position in the AFC, but neither is even average as a blocker (okay, Gates is not bad in pass pro, but atrocious as a run blocker). I know Todd Heap is on the downside of his career, but he deserves some love as the last real all-around tight end of merit in the AFC.

Ts: Jake Long, Miami; Ryan Clady, Denver Joe Thomas; Cleveland
Although offensive lineman are difficult to grade for the casual observer, they did a great job here. Clady wasn’t as good this year as he was last, but is still fairly deserving. Pittsburgh’s Willie Colon, New York’s D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Tennessee’s David Stewart could have made the trip just as easily, but Colon and Stewart suffer from not playing on the glamorous left side.

Gs: Logan Mankins, New England; Alan Faneca, New York Jets; Kris Dielman, San Diego
Mankins had a great year aside from eight penalties, but Dielman has been mediocre at best and Faneca a disaster. How about Oakland’s Cooper Carlisle, Cincinnati’s Bobby Williams or even Indy’s Ryan Lilja instead?

Cs: Nick Mangold, New York Jets; Jeff Saturday, Indianapolis
Mangold has been a monster, and Saturday has been up to his usual standards. Look out for Cleveland’s Alex Mack (after a rough start) and, especially, Houston’s Chris Myers to make strong runs in the future.

DEs: Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis; Robert Mathis; Indianapolis, Mario Williams, Houston
No argument here, all three of these guys are game-changers and nobody else is even close. Don’t believe the oft-repeated claim that Freeney and Mathis can’t defend the run. It’s not just tired, it’s wrong.

DTs: Haloti Ngata, Baltimore; Vince Wilfork, New England; Casey Hampton, Pittsburgh
Lots of big reps here, and pretty good production. Wilfork and Ngata are brick walls against the run but come without a hint of pass-rush. The same could be said of New York’s Sione Pouha, who may be even better than the guys who made it. Hampton has looked tired this year. He’s still very good, but not as great as he was. If he was healthy, Cleveland’s Shaun Rogers would have dominated. And how about some mention for Buffalo’s Kyle Williams? It’s interesting that although 3-4 ends need not apply for the Pro Bowl, 3-4 nose tackles are more than welcome.

OLBs: Elvis Dumervil, Denver; James Harrison, Pittsburgh; Brian Cushing, Houston
Cushing’s a cinch. He’s played the position as well as anyone in the league this year. I’m no Harrison fan, but he’s earned his spot too. But Dumervil? Yes, he has lots of sacks, but I’d contend that no starting linebacker in the NFL since Gilbert Gardner is his heyday has ever been more of a pushover in the running game. Instead, how about or Baltimore’s Jarrett Johnson or Miami’s Jason Taylor?

ILBs: Ray Lewis, Baltimore; DeMeco Ryans, Houston
I always thought Lewis was overhyped, but he’s looked very good this year behind a stout line. Ryans has played the run well, but is only okay in coverage and has mounted no pass rush while getting some boneheaded penalties. A much better choice would have been Buffalo’s Paul Posluszny.

CBs: Darrelle Revis, New York Jets; Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland; Champ Bailey, Denver
Revis is the best corner in the NFL without question. Bailey was, and has slipped little. It’s hard to tell if Asomugha is as good as he was because in 865 snaps, he has only been thrown at 27 times (compare that with Jacksonville’s hapless rookie Derek Cox who has been targeted 103 times in 860 snaps). Others who could have made it (and soon will) include Cincinnati’s duo of Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph or Kansas City’s Brandon Flowers.

FSs: Ed Reed, Baltimore; Jairus Byrd, Buffalo
You can’t argue with Byrd’s nine picks, but he’s a liability against the run (and on IR). Reed has been outstanding, but so too have been New York’s Kerry Rhodes and San Diego’s Eric Weddle.

SS: Brian Dawkins, Denver
Dawkins has played well, especially against the run, but I think Buffalo’s George Wilson was a shade better.

P: Shane Lechler, Oakland
He always wins, and he should. Indy’s Pat McAfee has an outside shot at replacing him one of these days.

K: Nate Kaeding, San Diego
Why? This guy is horrible on kickoffs, and not elite on placements. How about Oakland’s resurgent Sebastian Janikowski or Tennesee’s Rob Bironas instead?

KR: Josh Cribbs, Cleveland
No question.

ST: Kassim Osgood, San Diego
He made it on rep alone. There are dozens of more deserving players, but if I had to pick one, I’d go with New York’s Eric Smith or Pittsburgh’s Keyaron Fox.


QBs: Drew Brees, New Orleans; Brett Favre, Minnesota; Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
I agree. Those three are at the top and then it’s a long drop to Arizona’s Kurt Warner.

HBs: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota; Steven Jackson, St. Louis; DeAngelo Williams, Carolina
Yeah, they’re all okay, but Green bay’s Ryan Grant deserves a little mention here.

FB: Leonard Weaver, Philadelphia
Again, the voters went with the yards guy instead of the blocker, but I’m much more okay with the Weaver pick. His 69-321-2 rushing and 15-140-2 receiving have made real contributions to the Eagles’ offense as a whole. And his blocking – though not top notch – has been good.

WRs: Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona; DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia; Miles Austin, Dallas; Sidney Rice, Minnesota
I’m fine with those four, but either of the Steve Smiths could easily step in, as could Atlanta’s Roddy White or Green Bay’s Greg Jennings.

TEs: Vernon Davis, San Francisco; Jason Witten, Dallas
Witten’s a shoo-in. Although Davis has made huge strides as a receiver, but he may not be as good overall as New York’s Kevin Boss or Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez – both of who are much better blockers.

Ts: Jason Peters, Philadelphia; Bryant McKinnie, Minnesota; Jonathan Stinchcomb, New Orleans
Rough year for NFC tackles. Stinchcomb and Peters have been very solid, but McKinnie has been awful on the run. Another, better, candidate would be Detroit’s Jeff Backus who has been great on a bad team and survived a ton of criticism for his big paychecks.

Gs: Steve Hutchinson, Minnesota; Jahri Evans, New Orleans; Leonard Davis, Dallas
Evans has been phenomenal, just great. Davis has been generally good, but has had his lapses in pass-pro. And Hutchinson made it on rep alone. Like his pal McKinnie, he has been no help when the Vikings want to run the ball. How could they have missed the Giants’ Chris Snee, Dallas’ Kyle Kosier, Green Bay’s Rob Sims and Green bay’s Josh Sitton?

Cs: Andre Gurode, Dallas; Shaun O'Hara, New York Giants
I can’t really argue with either all that much, but Philly’s Jamaal Jackson has been just as good.

DEs: Jared Allen, Minnesota; Julius Peppers, Carolina; Trent Cole, Philadelphia
It’s hard to argue with sacks, but neither Allen nor Peppers have been that stout against the run. Sharp-eyed fans could see New York’s Justin Tuck or Atlanta’s John Abraham replacing either without an overall drop off.

DTs: Kevin Williams, Minnesota; Darnell Dockett, Arizona; Jay Ratliff, Dallas
Except for way too many penalties, Williams is the perfect 4-3 DT. Ratliff – like the AFC guys – is a nose man with lesser pass-rush value. Dockett is a 3-4 end who’s great rushing the passer, but can be bullied defending the run. Atlanta’s Jonathan Babineaux would be better choice than Ratliff or Dockett.

OLBs: DeMarcus Ware, Dallas; Lance Briggs, Chicago; Brian Orakpo, Washington
Again the voters go or stand-up ends instead of 4-3 ’backers. But Ware truly deserves to be there. Orakpo’s sack total gets him in for free and while he hasn’t been bad against the run, he’s been just better than awful in coverage. Briggs is simply a rep pick. Better choices include Green Bay’s Clay Matthews, Tampa’s Geno Hayes, Carolina’s Thomas Davis, Seattle’s Leroy Hill or even Briggs’ teammate Nick Roach.

ILBs: Patrick Willis, San Francisco; Jonathan Vilma, New Orleans
I’m fine with Willis, but Vilma’s been thrown around. Instead, give me Green Bay’s Nick Barnett, Seattle’s surprising David Hawthorne or, as everyone else in blogland has already said, Washington’s London Fletcher-Baker.

CBs: Charles Woodson, Green Bay; Asante Samuel, Philadelphia; Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Arizona
I’m fine with all three, but Samuel’s teammate Sheldon Brown has been at least as good. And New Orleans’ Jabari Greer had been money until he got hurt.

FSs: Darren Sharper, New Orleans; Nick Collins, Green Bay
These two are perfect choices.

SS: Adrian Wilson, Arizona
Wilson’s had a bit of an off year for him, but that still puts him at or near the top. Philly’s Quintin Mikell is the only other real option.

P: Andy Lee, San Francisco

K: David Akers, Philadelphia

KR: DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia
Sure he’s great at punt returns, but how many kicks has he fielded? Atlanta’s Eric Weems deserves at least a mention.

ST: Heath Farwell, Minnesota
Not bad, but Chicago’s Tim Shaw has been better.

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