Tuesday, December 29, 2009
NFC West Pro Bowl analysis
By Mike Sando
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Perfect sense: Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis and Cardinals strong safety Adrian Wilson were no-brainer choices as starters for the NFC team. It was nice to see voters properly acknowledge a few players who easily could have been snubbed. The Cardinals' Darnell Dockett and the 49ers' Vernon Davis made it as starters, a mild surprise given how much past accomplishments can play into these selections. For Davis, beating out future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez for a spot on the team and the Cowboys' Jason Witten for the starting job stands as quite an accomplishment.
The Rams' Steven Jackson was a solid choice despite the Rams' lost season. Jackson has set an example for how elite players should handle themselves amid difficult circumstances. Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie broke through somewhat surprisingly. I wasn't sure whether voters would recognize him this early in his career, but Rodgers-Cromartie has made big plays, including an interception return for a touchdown that helped beat the Texans.
The Seahawks had zero players voted to the Pro Bowl, and rightly so, even though punter Jon Ryan is having a good season. They should not expect a postcard from former fullback Leonard Weaver, who earned a Pro Bowl spot with Philadelphia.
Made it on rep: Every Pro Bowl player from the NFC West deserved the accolade.
Got robbed: 49ers nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin and Cardinals punter Ben Graham definitely qualify under this category. Rams punter Donnie Jones could also qualify. Graham was leading the NFL in punts downed inside the 20. He became a victim of the voting process. Fans, players and most coaches do not study special teams closely. They pull out stat sheets ranking punters by gross and net averages, and they vote accordingly. The 49ers' Lee was deserving -- punting outdoors is tougher -- but I thought Graham had the stronger case. Franklin has a good chance to make it next season. He was new to the Pro Bowl conversation this season and while deserving, didn't have the name recognition to break through. The 49ers' Frank Gore made a strong push late, but Jackson was the stronger candidate in my view. I also had no problem with the Packers' Aaron Rodgers beating out Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner.