Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Better late than never for this Cardinal
By Mike Sando
More evidence that Pro Bowl balloting among fans might not line up with actual player performances: The Arizona Cardinals' Ben Graham, described as "average at best" during a recent team-wide analysis, leads all punters in fan voting.
Graham played at a Pro Bowl level last season, but the San Francisco 49ers' Andy Lee beat him out for a spot on the NFC squad. Graham hasn't been as effective this season. His net average has fallen from 40.6 to 36.2. The Cardinals have downed 20 of his punts inside the 20-yard line, well off the pace he set last season (42 in 16 games).
The decline in production isn't solely a reflection on Graham. Teams have done a better job containing the Cardinals' coverage units, specifically LaRod Stephens-Howling.
It's likely Sean Morey's reputation as a Pro Bowl performer on special teams helped Stephens-Howling enjoy more favorable matchups last season. Morey left the Cardinals and retired amid concussion issues.
Graham is the only NFC West player leading his position in fan voting, according to information the NFL provided Wednesday. NFC West alumni Heath Evans (fullback), Steve Hutchinson (guard) and Antrel Rolle (free safety) lead their positions in voting.
Fan balloting runs through Dec. 20. Players and coaches vote Dec. 22-23.