Friday, October 30, 2009
Pro Bowl prospects for NFC West players
By Mike Sando
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Cardinals might have the best receivers in the league, but none has produced at a Pro Bowl level this season.
Larry Fitzgerald ranks among the leaders in receptions, but he has dropped a couple passes and made few big plays. His per-catch average is 10.8 yards, down from 14.9 last season. That's a huge drop.
A quick look at NFC West players with Pro Bowl credential so far this season, in my view (with Pro Bowl balloting now under way):
- Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers. Leads the NFL in touchdown receptions with six. Ranks among NFC leaders in receptions by tight ends. Averages 12.2 yards per catch, most among seven NFC tight ends with at least 25 receptions. Ranks second among NFC tight ends with 355 yards receiving. Tied for NFC lead among tight ends with five receptions of at least 20 yards. Strong blocker, but hasn't been used in pass protection much this season.
- Steven Jackson, RB, Rams. Ranks second to Adrian Peterson in rushing yards among NFC players. Averages 4.4 yards per carry even though opponents know what's coming. Keeps producing despite the Rams' lack of playmakers in the passing game. Plays with passion and has led by example. Has zero touchdowns, more a reflection of his offense.
- Patrick Willis, LB, 49ers. Two interceptions, 2.5 sacks, one touchdown and all the ferocity needed to play the position. Punishes opponents, notably knocking out Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
- Adrian Wilson, SS, Cardinals. Defensive player of the week in the NFC for his efforts against the Giants in Week 7. Wilson's production early in the season suffered some in part because his role changed when injuries affected the secondary. Remains one of the most intimidating players in the league. Gaining momentum.
- Joe Staley, LT, 49ers. He's a good, young player with toughness and durability. The 49ers' offense might need to produce more for Staley to command stronger consideration. But when you look around the NFC, there aren't many top-flight left tackles. The Seahawks' Walter Jones is on injured reserve. The Redskins' Chris Samuels has been hurt. The Cowboys' Flozell Adams has had penalty problems. By my count, no active offensive lineman in the NFC West has been to a Pro Bowl. Perhaps Staley has a chance.
A few specialists from the NFC West are also enjoying strong seasons. Punters Donnie Jones, Andy Lee and Ben Graham have punted well. Seahawks kicker Olindo Mare leads the NFL in touchback percentage, although he hasn't made enough field goals for consideration.
Update: We've gotten some support for Darnell Dockett. The NFL is listing him as a defensive tackle. Thoughts?