Tuesday, December 27, 2011
NFC West Pro Bowl analysis
By Mike Sando
Perfect sense: Larry Fitzgerald, Adrian Wilson, Andy Lee, David Akers, Justin Smith and Patrick Willis are past Pro Bowl selections enjoying strong seasons. Their selections made perfect sense. No St. Louis Rams made it. Steven Jackson was worthy of consideration, but the team's 2-13 record made his exclusion understandable.
Patrick Peterson's four touchdowns on punt returns made him an extremely worthy if somewhat surprising choice over Devin Hester, whose reputation figured to count for something.
It was good to see voters recognize the NFC West's talent on special teams and in the secondary. Wilson and Seattle's Earl Thomas are the starting safeties. Carlos Rogers is a starting corner and Seattle's Brandon Browner, a first alternate, could very well join him in the game itself because at least one of the NFC starters, Charles Woodson, could be playing in the Super Bowl.
Made it on rep: From the NFC West? Are you kidding? This division usually fights for whatever it can get. Wilson made it on reputation last year, but he was very much deserving this time, even though it came at the expense of Seattle's Kam Chancellor, a first alternate. None of the players selected made it on rep, in my view.
We could debate the worthiness of a few, including 49ers free safety Dashon Goldson. But he didn't have much of a rep. He made big plays for a 12-3 team and got noticed despite some inconsistencies in his game. The 49ers' success cleared the way for Goldson and another first-timer, left tackle Joe Staley.
Frank Gore always deserves consideration and his numbers say he did not make it strictly on reputation, but a case can be made that other backs were producing at a higher level more recently. Gore's dropped passes have been a problem as well.
Got robbed: Seattle's Marshawn Lynch, San Francisco's Aldon Smith, St. Louis' Chris Long and Arizona's Calais Campbell come to mind immediately.
Lynch has arguably run more impressively than any back in the conference of late. He ended the 49ers' streaks without allowing a 100-yard rusher (36 games) or a rushing touchdown (15 games). Lynch was a second alternate. He has a chance to earn a spot given that Matt Forte is injured and might not play in the game. I'm not sure which NFC back is first alternate, but Lynch would move up the list if Minnesota's injured Adrian Peterson held that distinction.
Aldon Smith has 14 sacks as a rookie, but he didn't make the Pro Bowl. In fact, Smith did not even show up on a list of 49ers alternates featuring NaVorro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks, Blake Costanzo, Vernon Davis, Ted Ginn Jr., Jonathan Goodwin, Mike Iupati, Ray McDonald, Bruce Miller and Donte Whitner.
Long has 13 sacks for a team that almost never faces favorable pass-rushing situations, but with multiple high-profile sack artists in the NFC, he did not make it. The Cardinals' Campbell gets overlooked playing defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, but he's been a dominant player. At least teammate Darnell Dockett was named an alternate.
Click here for the complete 2012 Pro Bowl roster.