Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Did Ratliff, Gurode earn Pro Bowl start?
By Calvin Watkins
Surprise! The Cowboys had five players selected to start in the Pro Bowl.
We have no problem with DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten and Mat McBriar getting the nod, but Andre Gurode and Jay Ratliff were questionable selections.
Let's just say Witten and Ware have been fantastic this season, and McBriar had his best season. It's hard to pick three guys from a team that has 10 losses, but remember this is a talented team.
Now let's take a closer look at Ratliff and Gurode.
Gurode: The best offensive lineman for the Cowboys this season is left tackle Doug Free. He's not a Pro Bowler mind you, but he's been a productive member of this unit. Gurode, you could argue, has been the third-best lineman behind left guard Kyle Kosier. Gurode has allowed just 1.5 sacks, according to Stats Inc., and been called for six penalties for 55 yards. His snaps are still a little inconsistent -- the one to Stephen McGee on Saturday night comes to mind; it was low and outside (a catchable snap), but for a young quarterback you must be near perfect.
Gurode probably earned this start on reputation, as did the Giants' Shaun O'Hara, who missed nine games due to injuries. At times it's hard to judge offensive linemen because you're not sure what the line protection is and that type of thing. Gurode has been above average this season. Pro Bowler? Not sure.
Ratliff: Last season, with two bad elbows and constant double-teams, Ratliff earned his first All-Pro selection and second Pro Bowl berth. He had 40 total tackles, six sacks and two forced fumbles. But what we also liked about him was two things: He was credited with 33 quarterback pressures and 7.5 stuffs. That means he stopped seven players at the line of scrimmage either for a loss or no gain. This season, with two healthy elbows, constant double-teams, he's got just 29 tackles, 3.5 sacks, no forced fumbles, zero stuffs and 10 quarterback pressures. There are times Ratliff is almost there to make the play -- twice vs. the Colts he did a great job in anticipating the snap count, and missed tackling Peyton Manning as he handed the ball off.
He is still quick, and is probably having a down year. We think he'll bounce back, but he hasn't played at a Pro Bowl level in a season where the Cowboys needed him too. Maybe opposing players and coaches respect the fact he's got these numbers because of the number of blockers he faces every week and the nose tackle position is demanding. Maybe.