Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Around the NFC West: Pro Bowl surprises
By Mike Sando
A single tweet from a Philadelphia reporter trumped all the others I ran across after the NFL announced its Pro Bowl teams for the 2011 season.
"I have to say this one more time before I go to bed," Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote. "49ers have more Pro Bowlers (8) than the entire NFC East (7). Not how I saw it in August."
The situation at cornerback was particularly illustrative. Carlos Rogers, a relatively cheap pickup by the San Francisco 49ers in free agency, is a Pro Bowl starter. Nnamdi Asomugha, the Philadelphia Eagles' prized offseason acquisition, is only a second alternate -- behind first-alternate Brandon Browner, a player the Seattle Seahawks signed from the CFL amid zero fanfare.
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle provides perspective by noting that the 2011 49ers tied a franchise record with six Pro Bowl starters. Branch: "They also had six starters in 1971. San Francisco and New England, which also had eight players selected, have the most Pro Bowlers of any NFL team this season and the Niners' eight Pro Bowlers are their most since they had 10 in 1995."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com passes along reaction from 49ers players following their selection to the Pro Bowl.
Also from Maiocco: player-by-player review for the 49ers' defensive players from Week 16.
More from Maiocco: a look at the offensive players.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and the team's other Pro Bowl selections/alternates earned their standing on the strength of votes from coaches and players. Coach Pete Carroll on Chancellor and Browner: "As first-time starters, the fans wouldn’t really know them. But their peers have recognized the impact that they’ve had."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times takes a closer look at the range where the Seahawks figure to draft in the first round.
Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle passes along Carroll's thoughts on what Tarvaris Jackson could do better late in games. Henderson: "Specifically, Carroll pointed to a third-and-2 play on the final possession in which Jackson threw incomplete deep down the middle of the field. Carroll said throwing a check-down pass instead would have gained about 15 yards."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic checks in with the Cardinals' Pro Bowlers, including Adrian Wilson. Somers: "This is Wilson's fourth consecutive Pro Bowl selection and fifth overall. In early August, it didn't seem possible that he would play this season, much less make the Pro Bowl. Wilson suffered a torn right biceps muscle in training camp and missed the preseason. He didn't play well in the first month or so of the season, but then settled into coordinator Ray Horton's new scheme. Wilson thanked his teammates, the coaching staff and the rest of the organization for being patient while he returned from the injury."
Also from Somers: The Cardinals plan to bring back quarterback Kevin Kolb even though they could get out of his contract by declining to pay a $7 million bonus. Somers: "He's not going anywhere. The Cardinals traded away too much (cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, second-round pick in 2012) and committed to a five-year contract worth as much as $63 million. Kolb has missed six starts and most of a seventh game this season due to injury, but the Cardinals are too deep in this relationship to sever it after one year. And just as important, who takes over if Kolb is gone?" Noted: That last part is a key consideration. It's a little early to bail on such a significant investment under unusual circumstances.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com has this to say about John Skelton's slow starts and fast finishes: "It’s so odd, not that Skelton plays better at the end of games but that there is such a discrepancy on how much better he plays. Is it inexperience, or a lack of a full offseason of reps (since he got little as a rookie in his non-lockout offseason), as coach Ken Whisenhunt suggests? Maybe. But it’s hard to tell why Skelton suddenly gets all Brady in the final 15 minutes (yes, he is compared to Tebow, but Skelton usually is passing the ball better than Tebow late) when he can be very John Navarre before then."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Chris Long, Steven Jackson and James Laurinaitis have played well enough to receive Pro Bowl consideration. Thomas: "Laurinaitis is enjoying arguably his best NFL season, with 131 tackles, three sacks, and two interceptions. But only two middle linebackers per conference earn Pro Bowl berths, and San Francisco's Patrick Willis and Chicago's Brian Urlacher -- this year's NFC Pro Bowlers -- are tough competition." Noted: I hadn't considered Laurinaitis seriously given the Rams' struggles on defense, particularly against the run. The Cardinals blocked him well while springing Beanie Wells for 228 yards. Some of the other inside linebackers in the NFC West -- Daryl Washington, NaVorro Bowman and K.J. Wright -- have sometimes stood out.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers thoughts on a report from San Diego suggesting Jon Gruden and A.J. Smith could come to St. Louis in leadership roles with the Rams. Miklasz: "My best guess is that the speculation is most likely originating from Los Angeles, home of off-the-books Rams adviser John Shaw, who is tight with Chargers' president/owner Dean Spanos."