Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Green Day: Jets' Pro Bowl possibilities
By Rich Cimini
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The Pro Bowl rosters will be announced Friday. The format has changed, meaning the teams will be chosen without regard to conference affiliation. The New York Jets' top candidates are:
1. Muhammad Wilkerson, defensive end
Stats: Leads the team with a career-high 10.5 sacks.
Analysis: Wilkerson felt he deserved to make it last season, but he still lacked name recognition. That shouldn't be an issue this time, as his national profile has grown. He's the best player on the team and he deserves the Pro Bowl, but there's no guarantee because defensive end is a deep position. In reality, Wilkerson plays as much tackle as he does end, making it harder to accumulate gaudy stats, but he's listed as an end.
2. Nick Folk, kicker
Stats: Tied for second in field-goal percentage (93.9), having made 31 of 33.
Analysis: You could make an argument that Folk is the Jets' MVP even though Wilkerson won the award. He has been money from Week 1, his only misses coming from 48 yards (heavy wind) and 49 (hit the upright). The problem is that several kickers also are having career years, namely Justin Tucker of Baltimore and Matt Prater of Denver.
3. Calvin Pace, outside linebacker
Stats: A career-high 10 sacks.
Analysis: This has been a renaissance year for Pace, 33, who spent a few months on the NFL scrap heap last offseason after being dumped by the Jets. He's no longer an every-down player, but the slightly reduced role has helped his stamina. He plays the "Sam" outside-linebacker position in the defense, as opposed to the rush linebacker, so he doesn't get as many pass-rushing opportunities as Quinton Coples. But he has made the most of his chances.
4. Sheldon Richardson, defensive tackle
Stats: 3.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss.
Analysis: He won't make it as a rookie, but Richardson set a nice foundation. He's one of the leading candidates for NFL defensive rookie of the year. His sack production has tailed off, but he's still excellent against the run. And, oh yeah, he can run with the ball, too.
5. Nick Mangold, center
Stats: Anchors the league's sixth-ranked rushing offense.
Analysis: It's not often a four-time Pro Bowl selection flies under the radar, but that has been the case with Mangold. Flanked by a rookie left guard and a rookie quarterback, Mangold has provided leadership and stability for an offense in transition. The Jets average 5.16 yards per attempt on runs up the middle, second-best in the league, according to the NFL.
6. Austin Howard, right tackle
Stats: Only two sacks allowed, tied for the league lead among right tackles, according to Pro Football Focus.
Analysis: Howard, in his second year as a starter, is one of the most improved players on the team. Good timing, too, because he will be an unrestricted free agent. When the Jets need yards on the ground, they run behind Howard. They have 82 rushes behind right tackle, the second-highest total in the league, per the NFL.
7. David Harris, inside linebacker
Stats: A team-high 86 solo tackles (according to coaches' tape).
Analysis: The Jets are ranked third in run defense, and that doesn't happen unless the "Mike" linebacker is having a good year. Harris dropped weight last offseason, improving his quickness and pass-coverage ability. He has seven tackles for loss, two sacks and one forced fumble.