Last year’s Pro Bowl campaign was a blanket job, designed to get the vote out for the Redskins across the board. That made some kind of sense at the time; the team had started 6-2 and it seemed perfectly reasonable (sort of) to try to send them all to Hawaii. Given the way this year started, that approach seems … not so good.
But there are at least three players that are more than deserving of Pro Bowl consideration, and since I’ve decided to start nagging everyone to vote for them, I figure I should make each of their arguments here.
1) London Fletcher
I think this has been well-covered by now. Peter King named him to the All-Decade team, but he’s never been to a Pro Bowl. Dan Steinberg transcribed a statistic from NFL Network comparing the careers of Fletcher and much-admired Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis:
Fletcher: 172 games, 1,446 total tackles, 30 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, 0 Pro Bowls
Lewis: 159 games, 1,434 total tackles, 29 sacks, 13 forced fumbles, 9 Pro Bowls
Steinberg calls that “absurd”; I’d probably have gone with “ridiculous”. Either way, the point remains: historically, Fletcher should’ve been in several Pro Bowls by now.
And this year? Yeah, he’s definitely in the conversation.
Patrick Willis of the 49ers is having a statistically better season at the MLB position, but Fletcher and Jon Beason of the Panthers are right behind. Fletcher is tied with Beason for second in the NFC in total tackles, with 118. They both have two sacks. Beason has three takeaways (all interceptions), while Fletcher has one interception and one forced fumble.
It’s a tight race, statistically. But Fletcher has a few intangibles going for him as well. He’s the unquestioned leader of the defense, emotionally and tactically. His pregame speeches make ME want to run through a brick wall, and I’m not much of a brick wall runner. And he’s managed to concuss two of the Eagles major skill players, DeSean Jackson and Brian Westbrook.
(NOTE: Concussions are extremely serious things, and you should go to the CDC’s special concussion web page to learn more about preventing them and recognizing their symptoms, and then you should read Malcolm Gladwell’s terrifying article about football-related concussions … but still, concussing Westbrook and Jackson has to be noted in the list of Fletcher’s accomplishments.)
So I’m completely comfortable suggesting that you vote for London Fletcher.
2) Brian Orakpo
Yes, he’s a rookie. Yes, plenty of people seem firmly convinced that he’s playing out of position (at linebacker) rather than at pure pass rushing defensive end. Yes, his last three sacks came against JaMarcus Russell, which is kind of unfair. But that’s life. Here’s a laundry list of statistics attempting to put Orakpo’s season in perspective (all of these are as of the Week 14 game at Oakland, but prior to tonight’s Monday night game):
- Orakpo leads all NFC linebackers in sacks with 11.
- He’s tied for second in sacks among all NFC defensive players — with teammate Andre Carter (who we’ll get to shortly).
- He leads all NFC linebackers in sack yardage with 83.5.
- Combining his sacks with his 3.5 stuffs — tackles of rushers for a loss of one or more — yields 14.5 defensive plays for loss, which, yep, leads NFC linebackers.
- And, as we noted yesterday, the last rookie in the NFL to have four sacks in a single game was Cornelius Bennett, who did it for Buffalo back in December of 1987, and Orakpo’s four sacks in a game tie that Redskins record, joining Dexter Manley, Ken Harvey, Phillip Daniels, and Diron Talbert.
Oh, one other knock you hear on Orakpo — not on him, exactly, but on the selection of him — is that it was an obvious pick to make. Which is true as far as it goes, but here’s the thing: the Bills selected Aaron Maybin out of Penn State two picks ahead of Orakpo; he has fewer tackles (8) than Orakpo has sacks. So at least one team didn’t think the choice was so obvious.
But that’s really neither here nor there. Point is, I don’t think it’s even a stretch to suggest that people vote Brian Orakpo for the Pro Bowl.
3) Andre Carter
Andre Carter has also never been to the Pro Bowl, although his career hasn’t been quite as impressive as Fletcher’s so it doesn’t represent the same kind of glaring oversight. But now, in his ninth NFL season, Carter is putting up the kind of numbers that definitely have to merit consideration. Let’s do another laundry list of statistics, because people love those.
- Carter is second among NFC defensive ends (behind Minnesota’s Jared Allen, who is having an exceptional season) with 11 sacks. This, of course, ties him for second among NFC players with teammate Brian Orakpo. (I’m assuming you had figured that out by now.)
- Carter also has eight stuffs of the running back, which means that he leads the entire NFC in my completely made up statistic of sacks-plus-stuffs, with 19 defensive plays for loss.
- He’s got three forced fumbles and four passes defensed, identical numbers to Allen.
- And, as I also said yesterday, the Orakpo/Carter tandem currently leads all duos league-wide in combined sacks, with 22.
So, yeah, I think it’s worth voting Carter for the Pro Bowl.
There are other guys, of course. You could use the above two lists of statistics to make a compelling argument for Albert Haynesworth, although Orakpo and Carter undermined that a bit with their Haynesworth-free performance yesterday. (Haynesworth’s own three sacks, five passes defensed, and multiple stops on fourth-and-short certainly help this argument.) I’d stump for Lorenzo Alexander for Redskins special teams representative, but he’s not on the ballot in that spot. If DeAngelo Hall hadn’t gotten injured, maybe an argument could be made for him. You may have others.
But for those top three, at least, I think the votes are well-deserved — so get voting.
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