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Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Pro Bowl analysis: NFC South


Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Players and coaches brought a bit more fairness than fans to the Pro Bowl balloting. Rosters were just released and the official NFC squad has better representation than it did in the fan voting.

The division had nine players selected to the all-star game, but only three as starters. Two of those starters were major coups for the NFC South because they'll be in their first Pro Bowl and, in both cases, it's well deserved. It's a whole lot better than last year when the NFC South didn't have any players elected (although Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia did slide in as an alternate).

Carolina offensive tackle Jordan Gross, who has performed at a Pro Bowl level for much of his career, finally got recognized. That's a tribute to coaches and players because Gross wasn't among the top five tackles in the fan voting and he's having the best year of his career.

Tampa Bay's Clifton Smith might be the best story in the whole Pro Bowl. He was selected as the NFC's return man. Not bad for a guy who wasn't drafted and wasn't even promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster until October. But Smith has been dynamic and has made the world forget about second-round pick Dexter Jackson.

Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers is the NFC South's other starter.

Tampa Bay's Derrick Brooks made the squad as a reserve outside linebacker. Say what you want about this being a case of Brooks making the team based on his reputation. So what? It's happened before and it's happened to guys who didn't have reputations as good as Brooks'. Yeah, Brooks might not be what he was a few years ago, but he's still playing at a high level.

Atlanta running back Michael Turner and receiver Roddy White made the team as reserves and New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is on the roster as a backup. Carolina middle linebacker Jon Beason and receiver Steve Smith also made the roster as reserves.

Not bad, overall. But there are a few guys who got slighted. Start with Tampa Bay's Jeff Faine, who might be the best center in the NFL. The NFC South didn't get any centers or guards on the roster and Gross is the only offensive lineman.

Two other snubs for Tampa Bay include middle linebacker Barrett Ruud and receiver Antonio Bryant. But you can't argue either one too long because Patrick Willis and Beason are worthy at middle linebacker and Smith and White give the division two of the four receivers on the roster.

Two Atlanta players stand out for not making the roster. That's defensive end John Abraham, who has 15.5 sacks and rookie quarterback Matt Ryan. Abraham might have victimized because he's not an every-down player, but his stats speak for themselves. I'll make a strong case that Ryan should be in the Pro Bowl. No argument with Kurt Warner as the starter and Brees as a backup, but Eli Manning did make the roster. Yes, Manning's got a Super Bowl, but has he really been as important to the Giants as Ryan has been to the Falcons this year?

NFC Pro Bowlers
Offense
PositionStarter(s)Reserves
QuarterbackKurt Warner, ArizonaDrew Brees, New Orleans
Eli Manning, New York Giants
Running backAdrian Peterson, MinnesotaMichael Turner, Atlanta
Clinton Portis, Washington
FullbackMike Sellers, Washington
Wide receiverLarry Fitzgerald, Arizona
Anquan Boldin, Arizona
Steve Smith, Carolina
Roddy White, Atlanta
Tight endJason Witten, DallasChris Cooley, Washington
TackleJordan Gross, Carolina
Walter Jones, Seattle
Chris Samuels, Washington
GuardSteve Hutchinson, Minnesota
Chris Snee, New York Giants
Leonard Davis, Dallas
CenterAndre Gurode, DallasShaun O'Hara, New York Giants
Defense
Defensive endJulius Peppers, Carolina
Justin Tuck, New York Giants
Jared Allen, Minnesota
Defensive tackleKevin Williams, Minnesota
Jay Ratliff, Dallas
Pat Williams, Minnesota
Outside linebackerDeMarcus Ware, Dallas
Lance Briggs, Chicago
Derrick Brooks, Tampa Bay
Inside linebackerPatrick Willis, San FranciscoJon Beason, Carolina
CornerbackCharles Woodson, Green Bay
Antoine Winfield, Minnesota
Asante Samuel, Philadelphia
Free safetyNick Collins, Green BayBrian Dawkins, Philadelphia
Strong safetyAdrian Wilson, Arizona
Special teams
PunterJeff Feagles, New York Giants
Place-kickerJohn Carney, New York Giants
Kick returnerClifton Smith, Tampa Bay
Special-teamerSean Morey, Arizona