Saturday, December 31, 2022

Dwight Freeney—Hall of Fame Pros and Cons

 By John Turney 
It is hard to imagine a scenario where Dwight Freeney does not make the Pro Football Hall of Fame Final 15 list next week. And that is even considering the fact that fellow Colt edge rush Robert Mathis, who is on the Semifinalist list of 28, possibly competing with votes. There are too many pros to his career for him to not make it to the next round.

But, by the same token, it is also hard to imagine any scenario that includes Freeney as a first-ballot Hall of Famer by being voted in when the voters meet in a Zoom call in January. There are too many cons for him to make it this soon.

The pros are despite his atypical size for a defensive end (6-foot-1, 270 pounds) he was a three-time First-team All-Pro selection and also a Second-team selection. He was voted to seven Pro Bowls and was a First-team All-Decade pick for the 2000s. And, oh, by the way, has a Super Bowl ring.

Freeney also has the intangible of having influenced the game. We don't say changed the game since so few players have actually done that and there are so many claims of players having done so that all of the claims cannot possibly be true. But, in Freeney's case the popularization of his signature move, the inside spin move, has filtered down to today's generation. He thinks he changed the game with the move and with blocking patterns devised to slow him but greater minds than ours would have to make that call. It is enough that it was something that was a big, big influence.

The spin move was not invented by Freeney, it can be seen by pass rushers in previous generations from time to time but it was not a staple, not as the main counter move as it was with Freeney and they did not do it nearly as well. 

Back in the day turning one's back to the quarterback was not encouraged, in fact, it was frowned upon. Too many things, it was thought, could happen and a defensive lineman who did it could lose contain or lose track of the quarterback up the middle even. The risk was not worth the reward.

Freeney changed that. He was so fast (4.48 forty-yard time) enough to get the edge on a tackle and when the tackle would overset to the outside, when at the proper depth, Freeney would spin inside and could get to the quarterback fast enough that he could keep contain well enough to make the reward worth the risk. 

His speed and knowing the proper depth to turn in limited the risk to a great degree. He turned the move into an iconic one. One that was copied and one that can be seen every Sunday. 
He also turned it into a devastating move that was highly successful. In his eleven years (2002-11) as a Colt, he averaged ten sacks a season and four forced fumbles a year. He ended his 16-year career with 125.5 sacks and forced 47 fumbles leading the NFL in sacks in 2004 with 16.0 and in forced fumbles in 2002 with nine.

Now for the cons.

Freeney's candidacy will likely be slowed because of the edge rushers who have been on the Final 15 already—DeMarcus Ware and Jared Allen. Not only are both of them ahead of him in line, having retired first they were All-Pro more often and have more career sacks. Ware has a ring, Allen does not but that credential or "box" does not matter as much for players other than quarterbacks so it is not going to hurt Allen. So, Freeney will likely have to wait.

Further, as great a pass rusher as Freeney was, he was not known as a complete defensive end. He was not a guy who was particularly conscientious about playing the run. In this era, if a defensive end is going to be one-dimension he needs to be sure that one dimension is rushing the passer because it's the more valued skill but when evaluating the best of the best, the elite players worthy of the Hall of Fame the voters may consider looking at all aspects of a career. 

Remember a player is not just being compared to other edge rushers, he is being weighed and measured against all players and the question is if a one-dimensional rusher is more valuable than say, a complete linebacker, tight end, cornerback, and so on. 

In Freeney's career, he made just 39.0 stuffs, which are tackles for loss other than sacks. For comparison upcoming defensive end Julius Peppers had 62.5 stuffs. Jason Taylor had 76.0, Jared Allen had 72.0. DeMarcus Ware, 67.5. Terrell Suggs who becomes eligible in a few years had 100.5 to go with his 139.0 sacks. So Freeney's total of 39.0 is low compared to his peers. 

This will be an interesting case to see how deep of a dive the voters will take in the case of a player who was great, really, at one thing and that one thing was extremely important in this era of football. 

We have predicted Freeney will make the Final 15, and we will find out next week if we are right, and we think he will be cut in the first elimination round and not make the Final 10, and we will find out if we are right about a month after that. 

We'll see.

For the Second Time in 59 Years, NFLPA to Choose All-Pro Team

 By John Turney 
According to the NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, via a Tweet, reported that NFLPA president J.C. Tretter sent an e-mail to NFL players with this comment, "For too long, we as NFL players have allowed everyone else to define the best of us. That ends now."

Today, Tretter Tweeted, "1 of the 50 AP voters last year made his voting decision based on a player’s vaccine status. So maybe we should slow down on making them the beacon of on-field evaluation."

As a remedy, the NFLPA will release its own All-NFL team in January according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero 

This will be the second time the NFLPA will have chosen an All-Pro team. The first was for the 1963 NFL season and the team was announced and covered in an AP story on January 5, 1964.

In the NFLPA's past, there have been other awards. In fact, they have had an interesting history of post-season awards over the years starting out with Most Valuable Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, then adding Rookies of the year, a Man of the Year (prior to the NFL's currently named Walter Payton Man of the Year Award), Offensive and Defensive Linemen of the year, and later other positions like Special Teams Player of the year, Wide Receiver of the Year and so on. 

These began in 1960 and were sporadic at first and then became more consistent through the years and continued through the 1999 season.

The players association also gave awards to players who led the NFL in statistical categories such as rushing leader, passing leader, interception leader, and so on. These were called Mackey Awards, named after John Mackey a giant figure in NFLPA labor annals. 
Mackey Award for Barry Sanders'
1997 NFC Rushing Title
The awards were usually given out in the early Summer of each year at a charity banquet held at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago, a black-tie event with entertainment, speakers, a dinner with all the trimmings, and of course the awards ceremony itself. The proceeds were donated to the Better Boys Foundation.

Among the reasons the awards ended after 1999, we were told in 2000, was the lack of sponsors for the dinner. At that time we encouraged the NFLPA to continue the awards even without the gala the powers that be didn't agree but we at least made the suggestion.

An All-Pro team with a tie to the players is a good idea. It has been done before with the creation of the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) All-Pro team in the 1950s by editor/writer Murray Olderman. it continued through 1992 

The NEA team was referred to as the "players' All-Pro team" and carried as much weight as the AP and UPI All-Pro teams at the time. In the late 1960s CBS, the official network of the NFL, televised the NEA Awards dinner, like the NFL Network does today for the AP Awards but of course, the NEA Awards were not official.

The only All-Pro team that was ever officially recognized by the NFL was the 1970 and 1971 Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and was dubbed so in the official "NFL Record and Fact Book" of 1971 and 1972. 

Since then no All-Pro team has been official. 

However, the AP, PFWA, NEA, UPI, Sporting News (SN), and Sports Illustrated have been included over the years in NFL-NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreements over the years as counting towards a player meeting a post-season award incentive in his contract that triggers a bonus.

However, some of those organizations and their All-Pro teams/awards are defunct are currently only the AP and PFWA are found in the 2020 NFL-NFLPA CBA.

When posting bios for information booklets for Hall of Fame candidates or for profiles on its website the Pro Football Hall of Fame uses "Total Football:  The Official Encyclopedia of the NFL" as its source for All-Pro teams and awards. It is the closest to official awards as there is, the only reference book on football endorsed by the NFL. 

The modern All-Pro teams and awards contained in it are the AP, UPI, NEA, PFWA, SN, and NY Daily News. There are exceptions in the pre-WWII days when many of the press organizations didn't yet exist and when the NFL had its own awards by and large since perhaps the 1950s those six organizations compose the All-Pro teams found in "Total Football".

The story broken by Tom Pelissero is welcome news. The more the merrier. The NFLPA All-Pro team will not supplant the AP or PFWA or Sporting News All-Pro team but it will give another perspective one that is needed but we don't expect any earth-shattering results. 
The 1963 AP All-Pro team compared to the NFLPA All-Pro Team
AP is on left, and the NFLPA is highlighted in yellow on right. Pink highlights are the differences

It could be different this time but the last time the teams were not dissimilar and when the NFLPA team had one player more of ten than not the AP team had that player on the Second-team so it is not as though the AP team could be considered way off base back then and it is our view that the AP is not way off base now.

We don't think the AP voters are not doing their due diligence when voting for All-Pro teams. Sure, there are votes that can be questioned but reasonable people can disagree but in our experience knowing plenty of pro football writers the way most voters go about their business is to watch with their eyes, of course, but also talk to coaches, talk to other players, use their status to gain access many of us do not have to scouts, general managers, and other insiders. And some may use Pro Football Focus or Next Gen Stats grades. 

We seriously doubt that the 50 AP voters just use their ballots in an irresponsible manner, not doing their due diligence in attempting to fill it out with the best of the best at each position. Do they do it to perfection? Of course not. Is Tretter right in his criticism? Maybe to a small degree. He's talking about a voter who used his ballot to punish Aaron Rodgers but does not mention anyone that made the All-Pro team that did not deserve it. 

We will see if the NFLPA All-Pro team is special or not, and if the ability of players, who have total access to inside information, who is good, who is not, who is great, who has empty stats, who is getting by on reputation, who is an unsung All-Pro but gets overlooked, etc., will cause them to pick significantly different (better?) players than the AP, PFWA, and SN do.

In any event, we will save it an keep it and add it to our collections of hundreds of All-Pro teams from various organizations and people we've kept over the years.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Hall of Fame Defensive Ends—Most Sacks Final NFL Season

 By John Turney 
J.J. Watt
Today, defensive end J.J. Watt has announced that 2022 will be his final season, ending a 12-year NFL career.—
He played a decade in Houston with the Texans and has spent the last two years in the Desert with the Cardinals. He was a three-time AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year, a five-time First-team All-pro, and a five-time Pro Bowler and currently has 111.5 sacks. With those credentials, he will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. 

This season he's played 14 games with two left on the schedule and has 9.5 sacks, an unusually high number for a defensive end in his final year. In those two games, he could pull ahead of Jack Youngblood who had 9.5 in 1984 and was playing in a 3-4 defense that year (and the previous year) and was a Second-team All-NFC selection and a Pro Bowl first alternate.

Sacks, Final NFL Season, Hall of Fame Defensive Ends
Player, Year, Sacks, Honors
J.J. Watt, 2022—9.5
Jack Youngblood, 1984—9.5; Second-team All-NFC
Michael Strahan, 2007—9.0
Doug Atkins, 1969—8.0
Lee Roy Selmon, 1984—8.0; Pro Bowl
Chris Doleman, 1999—8.0
Willie Davis, 1969—7.0
Jason Taylor, 2001—7.0
Andy Robustelli, 1964—6.5
Howie Long, 1993—6.0; Pro Bowl
Reggie White, 2000—5.5
Bruce Smith, 2003—5.0
Julius Peppers, 2018—5.0
Robert Mathis, 2016—5.0
Richard Dent, 1997—4.5
Claude Humphrey, 1981—4.0
Ed Sprinkle, 1955—at least 3.5, full total not known
Deacon Jones, 1974—3.0
Carl Eller, 1979—3.0
Charles Haley, 1999—3.0
Fred Dean, 1985—3.0
Richard Seymour, 2012—3.0
Dwight Freeney, 2017—3.0
Len Ford, 1958—2.5
Jared Allen, 2015—2.0
Gino Marchetti, 1966—0.0
Elvin Bethea, 1983—0.0

Monday, December 26, 2022


 By John Turney 
Top row:  Steve Bartkowski, Dan Fouts, Brian Sipe
Bottom Row:  Vince Ferragamo, Danny White, Ron Jaworski
In 1980 the NFL Films creative crew, led by Steve Sabol coined the term "Throwball" which was used in year-end highlight films. It was a wordplay on "football" and was reflective of how the passing game was beginning to take over in the NFL.

That Fall there were lots of passing records and/or notable achievements that were being set or attained. League records were set for passing yards, touchdown passes, league-wide passer rating, lowest sack percentage and more. Much of it was the sixteen-game schedule but much of it was the liberalization of rules that aided the passing game in the NFL.

Among the interesting achievements was the number of quarterbacks who threw 27 or more touchdown passes. We chose that number because no one threw 25 or 26 so there was a natural break in the numbers. 

Steve Bartkowski, Vince Ferragamo, Dan Fouts, and Brian Sipe all three 30 or more, and Danny White and Ron Jaworski threw for 28 and 27 respectively making six who threw for 27 or more touchdowns. 

As a side note, all of them were playoff quarterbacks and averaged 11.5 wins each. Four of the six were division winners and the other two were runner-ups. However, none of them won the ultimate game with Jaworski advancing to the Super Bowl, losing to the Raiders, but Fouts and White advanced to the Championship round of their respective conferences. 

Sipe was the AP MVP and consensus All-Pro. Sipe and Bartkowski were Pro Bowl starters and Fouts and Jowarski were reserves so these players won the lion's share of post-season awards.

As far as the passing touchdown numbers, even when the number of games for previous seasons is factored in (the 16-game schedule began just two years earlier) there was never a year with that would meet the criteria that totaled six. The closest was five in 1960 and all were in the AFL. 

What makes it even more noteworthy is that it wasn't until 2004 that the number was exceeded. In that year nine quarterbacks threw for 27 touchdown passes or more—24 years later. Since then it has happened fourteen times in 17 seasons and will happen this year as well, even before it reaches week 18 and the 17th game.

But in any event, it was a remarkable year and we think it was a watershed moment for "Throwball". 

Packers Withstand Best Shot, Steal Victory in Miami

 By Eric Goska

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa came out firing in Miami.
(screen capture from NFL Game Pass)

On Christmas Day in Miami, Green Bay’s defense landed on both the nice and naughty lists.

Nice because the unit embraced the giving spirit early. Naughty because the unit turned to thievery with the game on the line.

Shredded by the Dolphins’ passing attack throughout much of the first half, the Packers’ defense came away with three fourth-quarter interceptions to gift wrap a 26-20 victory at Hard Rock Stadium. Green Bay parlayed the first two into six points and used the third to run out the clock while improving to 7-8.

The Dolphins came out swinging and Green Bay appeared ready to accommodate. In 10 plays, Miami generated more yards (166) than the Rams did (156) all afternoon against the Packers six days prior.

How generous was Green Bay at the outset? The team allowed Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to reach 200 yards passing on just six completions.

Six completions! Two hundred yards!

In getting there so quickly, Tagovailoa became the first opposing passer in the last 70 years – and perhaps ever – to hit or surpass that milestone against Green Bay with so few connections. Norm Van Brocklin (1954) and Troy Aikman (1993) had been the standard bearers with seven.

Tyreek Hill, a 1,000-yard receiver, gained 14 to start the onslaught. Jaylen Waddle, a fellow 1,000-yard pass catcher, raced 84 yards to the end zone with Tagovaiola’s second strike.

From there Hill helped himself to 18 and tight end Mike Gesicki grabbed 24. Hill jumped in for another 52 to set up Miami’s second touchdown and Waddle tacked on 12 more.

For Green Bay, that was giving until it hurt. With Tagovailoa pulling the trigger, the Dolphins jumped to a 20-10 halftime lead and looked ready to cruise.

But in the second half, the Packers dispensed with the nice-guy act. In the final 15 minutes, the team turned downright larcenous.

Jaire Alexander intercepted Tagovailoa first. His steal set up a 28-yard Mason Crosby field goal that put Green Bay ahead 23-20.

De’Vondre Campbell followed suit. His theft paved the way for a 26-yard Crosby field goal as Green Bay went up 26-20.

Rasul Douglass made it a hat trick. Rather than risk a turnover, the safety dropped to the ground so that Rodgers could kneel three times to wipe out the game’s final 89 seconds.

Having pulled ahead of two Hall of Famers in the first half, Tagovailoa joined some less select company in the second. In getting fleeced three times, the NFL’s highest-rated passer joined Eli Manning (2010), Jon Kitna (2008), Jake Plummer (2000), Jim Harbaugh (1999), Rich Gannon (1990), Ogden Compton (1955) and Bob Waterfield (1948) as the only passers to be pilfered three or more times in the fourth quarter by Green Bay over the last 75 years. All eight came out on the short end of the scoreboard.

In the final accounting, Tagovailoa (310 passing yards), Waddle (143 receiving) and Hill (103 receiving) got their yards. By averaging 10.9 yards per pass play, Miami nearly doubled the 5.6 that Green Bay managed.

What the Dolphins didn’t secure was victory. As Green Bay’s defense so aptly demonstrated, 'tis better to take than receive, even on Christmas.

Dashing Away with 200 Passing Yards

Since 1952, just five passers have required fewer than 9 completions to attain their first 200 yards passing in a regular-season game against the Packers.









Tua Tagovailoa


Dec. 25, 2022

GB won, 26-20



Norm Van Brocklin


Oct. 17, 1954

GB won, 35-17



Troy Aikman


Oct. 3, 1993

GB lost, 14-36



Bill Wade


Nov. 16, 1958

GB lost, 7-20



Cam Newton


Nov. 8, 2015

GB lost, 29-37

There are three passers who may have reached 200 yards passing on fewer than 9 completions prior to 1952: Bob Celeri, Tommy Thompson and Davey O’Brien.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

SEASON GREETINGS: "Defense is the Ultimate in Team Function"

By TJ Troup 
Franco Harris
Credit: Merv Corning
Last night was one of those games that will be seared in my memory forever. Before detailing why; really believe that perspective is needed. My high school had the best public school football program in the '60s, and as a sophomore in 1966 the varsity team at Anaheim was talented, tough, and on a mission to win the C.I.F. title. 

Probably the best player on the team was senior tight end Gerry Mullins. The NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him in 1971, after his career at USC. 

In the last week of the '71 season, Los Angeles needed a victory and a 49er loss to win the NFC West, and the Rams traveled to the Steel City to take on Pittsburgh. A Steeler victory at home would even their slate for the season (an impressive achievement considering what they went through in '69). 

Gerry Mullins started at right guard and had to face All-Pro Merlin Olsen. Was riveted watching the youngster battle the veteran in the trenches. From that day on, became a Steeler fan. Only got to see Penn State play on New Years' Day, and Paterno sure had some outstanding players, and of course, some of those Nittany Lions are going to head to the NFL. 

Street & Smith's Pro Football Preview 1972 edition tabbed the Steelers to finish third in the AFC Central behind Cincinnati and Cleveland. Quoting Larry Felser, "(T)he desire for better depth led the drafters to select Franco Harris of Penn State in the first round. He's a bull-type fullback with good blocking credentials."

Mr. Felser did not evaluate Harris's ability to be in the right place at the right time and pluck the ball out of the air . . . inches off the ground. We all know what Franco accomplished in his career, and this will not be a war & peace narrative on his whole career. Four weeks into the '72 season the Steelers have a record of 2-2. 

Coming off the bench at this point in his career Harris has carried the ball 26 times for just 79 yards, and his longest run is 12 yards. Taking the time to do the math tells us that Franco gained 976 yards on 162 carries in the last ten games of the year. Tremendous speed for a big man and his ability to cut back led to many long runs that year as the Steelers were just a field goal away from going undefeated in the ten-game stretch. 

"This Week in the NFL" was a must-see in those days, and the one game will detail is October 29th in Buffalo. Quoting Sal Maiorana from his superb book Relentless, "(D)espite not even starting Franco Harris rushed for 131 yards, and scored three touchdowns." The humble yet confident Harris stated, "I wasn't disappointed and won't be disappointed if I don't start next week." 

Watching Harris rumble through the mud at War Memorial told us all that this was a young man on a path to greatness. Though much has been written about Pittsburgh Steeler history, have never read anyone who told the significance of the victory over the Bills. 

Entering this game Chuck Noll had won just three of the twenty-four road games his team had played since he took over. The intense passion displayed by Steeler fans last night has continued on; fifty years of Black & Gold fervor. A rookie quarterback throws the winning touchdown pass to a rookie receiver in a come-from-behind victory over the Raiders. Franco is smiling in football heaven and would probably state "how appropriate." 

The title of this narrative is from Chuck Noll and dovetails into a birthday celebration for Jack Ham; who turned 74 a few days ago. Having so many valuable sources, film, books, magazines, and my background in coaching; let's take a long hard look at Jack Ham and the Steeler defense of '72. 
Jack Ham
Credit: Merv Corning
Ham starts as a rookie in 1971 and finishes seventh in the voting for defensive rookie of the year. No doubt everyone expected the athletic, quick, and well-coached rookie to improve in 1972, but how many second-year outside linebackers had a season like Ham did? 

Opening day at home against a Raider team looking to rebound from not earning a playoff berth in '71 stood out in that all three facets of Noll's team played well. Jack Ham recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass and of course a number of impressive tackles. Ham also intercepts the next week in the loss to Cincinnati. Jack intercepted for the third time in four weeks in the loss to Dallas. 

The 1972 Patriots were destroyed by Pittsburgh, and for the second week in a row exhibited a ferocious pass rush. Chuck Noll, and his lieutenant Bud Carson used a variety of blitzes to attack Plunkett in the pass pocket. Ham rockets in from his left outside linebacker position and takes down Plunkett for a 22-yard loss. 

Later in the game, he combines with safety Ralph Anderson to sack Plunkett. Jack Ham expertly drops into his zone coverage quickly reads the errant pass by Plunkett, darts in front of the intended receiver, and dashes 32 yards for a touchdown. Having recorded 12 sacks over the course of the past two weeks; Lou Saban was convinced his Bills had to run the ball and forced the Steeler defense to adjust alignments since Buffalo used unbalanced line formations many times in the game. 

Buffalo attempted to control the game by keeping the ball away from the Steelers (68 plays)—in this era always wise to keep the clock ticking, and move the chains. Joe Greene recorded the only sack and was by far the most heralded player on the Steeler defense. Jack Ham again intercepts giving him 5 interceptions in seven games. 
Joe Greene
Credit: Merv Corning
At this point in the season if he could have maintained this pace he would break Bulldog Turner's record for linebacker interceptions in a season. The Steelers will record 40 sacks during the year, and as you would expect Joe Greene led the charge (his game in December against the Oilers is still a record with 5 sacks). Mean Joe was not alone as Noll & Carson would blitz defensive backs, and of course linebackers. Yet, most of the pass rush came from Greene and right defensive end Dwight White (his game against the Chiefs stood out). 

Ham ties a team record with two opponent fumble recoveries against Kansas City. Losing a cliffhanger to Cleveland in November set the stage to test the resolve of this young team. Game of the Week in late November at Three Rivers brings in the Vikings, and announcers Jack Drees & George Conner stated emphatically how impressed they were with Jack Ham's performance. His technique, quickness in the pursuit, and strong tackling sure contributed to the victory. 

The rematch with the Browns was one of those statement games....a 30-0 whitewash, and on a third and four play from the Browns sixteen-yard line, Ham intercepts on the Cleveland twenty-four and returns 18 yards. The 1972 Houston Oilers are one of the worst teams in league history, and as mentioned earlier was a game for the ages for Joe Greene. 

We all know that a strong pass rush is vital in helping the secondary defend the forward pass. Chuck Noll and Bud Carson aligned the Steeler defensive backs in a coverage that would revolutionize defense; using Cover 2 more than any other team in the league. Wish I could tell you how often, and the comparative percentages, yet watching film you can see quarterbacks struggling in reading this coverage. 

The defensive passer rating is a tool to evaluate team defense pass efficiency. Noll's maiden voyage in '69 the Steelers ranked 11th out of 16 with a mark of 75.0 (league average) was 71.6. Improved in 1970 to finish 11th out of 26 with a mark of 63.1. 

At times in 1971, the Steeler pass defense looked like they not only did not understand the concepts, but they lacked the talent and athleticism to do the coverage as they fell to 24th out of 26 with a mark of 77.0. None of the Steeler defensive backs receives any kind of individual recognition in 1972, yet Pittsburgh finishes 1st with a mark of 47.0 (the league average was 63.3). The rest of the decade is a Black & Gold blanket as they finish either 1st or 2nd every year, go to the playoffs every year, and hoist the silver trophy four times. 

Late in the season the secondary of Blount and Rowser at corner, and Edwards, and Wagner at safety stifled opposing quarterbacks knowing the pass rush would pressure the quarterback, and all they had to do was stay disciplined in their zones. Since Pittsburgh also used man-to-man, and combination coverages, and would slide the defensive line over to what we call "under" and "over" these motivated youngsters are on the verge of dominance. 

Veteran Andy Russell had a strong year at right linebacker and has been recognized in the All-Pro voting, and Pro Bowl rosters, thus Jack Ham is still being overlooked as we travel to San Diego for the last regular season game. Recording his seventh interception of the season (most by any linebacker), the Steelers convincing win has earned them a division title, and the right to again host the Raiders, and of course their day with destiny. 

Jack Ham will go on to have a Hall of Fame career, and still stands above all others in the ability to take the ball away from an opponent with 32 interceptions, and 21 opponent fumble recoveries. He will be successful on the blitz at times in his career; especially since as he ages he cannot cover the tight end man-to-man all over the field anymore. 

He is the only linebacker in league history to recover an opponent fumble and intercept a pass every year for twelve consecutive years. Is he the best strongside linebacker of all-time? 

The Mount Rushmore of strongside linebackers remains these four men: Ham, Bobby Bell, Ted Hendricks, and Dave Wilcox.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Do Pro Bowls Have Any Value?

 By John Turney  
These phrases are heard every year at this time when the Pro Bowl teams are announced by the NFL, “So and so gut snubbed” or “The Pro Bowl is a joke”. Another favorite is “The Pro Bowl is nothing but a popularity contest.”

If by “joke” they mean the game itself, then there is not much debate there was never much value in that, especially recently. The Pro Bowl game and thankfully has been abolished and replaced with flag football games and a handful of football skills competitions. 

But leaving that aside, the negative statements about the voting that selects those to be honored are often the reaction by the media and fans if a player someone is covering or someone’s favorite player got the so-called snubbing. 

It is certainly fair to say that the voting system is an inexact science and due to that sometimes a deserving player does not get selected or an undeserving player does and that triggers the lamentations so often heard.

There are only so many slots allotted per position and if there are, say, six really good tackles in a conference (like this year in the NFC) and just three are selected to the Pro Bowl then three will be snubbed by definition. It just cannot be helped.

Among some of the valid questions about the selection process is why the voting is so early. This year there are three games yet to be played so the season is only four-fifths over. What if a position is close and a front-runner fades and someone who is a would-be alternate dominates the final three weeks? Historically the NFL released the teams with a week or two left, but in the last two seasons, the announcement has come right after the completion of Week 15 so that is a legitimate concern.

It is not just the media or fans voicing criticisms about the Pro Bowl, either. 

Sometimes it’s the players. 

In 1969 Packer great Herb Adderley was miffed when he missed the Pro Bowl that season. His teammate Bob Jeter went instead and it bothered him that he was not selected. Phil Bengston had given Jeter the word, prior to the Packers final game that he’d been chosen for the Pro Bowl. Adderley was in close proximity and heard the conversation. Adderley later told the Associated Press that he thought he’d had his best year and that he told Bengston that not making the Pro Bowl was a “blow to my pride.”
Ken Riley
In 1976 Bengals cornerback Ken Riley had a fine season picking off nine passes and was voted second-team All-Pro by the AP. But he didn’t make the Pro Bowl. Riley admitted to Marty Williams of the Dayton Daily News that missing the Pro Bowl bothered him. “Man, I really wanted it. I was only beaten for one touchdown all year. The snubs continued for Riley, never being voted to the team by the players and coaches. 

In Isaac Bruce’s second season he caught 119 passes for 1781 and 13 scores but since the voting took place prior to the final week when he caught 15 passes for 210 yards in the Rams last game those numbers were not seen and he was not going to Hawaii that year. Imagine, he had the second-most yards in a single season and no Pro Bowl for him.

Falcons tackle Mike Kenn was a first-team AP All-pro in 1991 but missed the trip to Hawaii. That has happened more recently to Eagles center Jason Kelce and tackle Jack Conklin twice each. 

Chuck Smith was a fine defensive end in the 1990s and even made second-team All-Pro in 1997 when he recorded twelve sacks and forced four fumbles but he never made a Pro Bowl. He’d often mention that he’d been an alternate “forever” because of how many times he was passed over.

In 1999 Simeon Rice felt snubbed when he was an alternate to Michael Strahan who had 5.5 sacks that season. 

In 2015, Rice explained on JRSportsBrief, an Internet webcast, “I didn’t get an invite. And you have a guy here (In New York) that had four (sic) sacks. Four. New York supports its own. . . When the Pro Bowl gets called and my name’s not called and Tony Dungy has to bring me as a reserve to do the right thing . . . There’s a lot of fans here.”

In 2020, likely among some others, Jordan Poyer and Garett Bolles were reported to be “disappointed by Pro Bowl snub” because they both thought they'd played well enough to go.
This year, over Dre Greenlaw's  "snub" (also reported to be disappointed) 49er head coach Kyle Shanahan said he didn't like to address the team with the list of Pro Bowlers because he didn't like to have to address "all the guys who got screwed." 

The list could go on but it’s clear that to some players and coaches Pro Bowls did and still matter.

Undeserving Pro Bowl Selections
There are also some examples of some players who didn’t have a Pro Bowl-quality season but did get to make the trip to the Pro Bowl city. There is reasonable evidence that sometimes a player does make the game based on reputation. 

Simeon Rice’s feelings about Strahan’s 1999 selection point out what may be one example of reputation or popularity but there are others.

Here are a few.

In 1979 Oilers defensive end Elvin Bethea had just 1.5 sacks but made his eighth Pro Bowl. At that time sacks were not official but they were known to the media and others who had access to pre-game releases issued by NFL teams. Now they are available online or are emailed to media and fans and in that era, those releases were mailed to writers and others who were on the mailing list.

For most teams, those releases almost always contained individual defensive statistics and had for several years so Bethea’s sack total would not be some mystery. As good as a career as he had, 1979 was just not one of his best.

But turnabout is fair play. Three years prior he had 14.5 sacks and he got the old snubbing. That year L.C. Greenwood was hobbled some and while playing one of the best single-season defenses ever just got to the quarterback 4.5 times. But Bethea played for the 6-8 Oilers than had fallen from their 10-4 season in 1975. Maybe that made a difference.

A.J. Duhe made a transition from defensive end to inside linebacker in 1980 and was a unique hybrid player for Don Shula and defensive coordinator Bill Arnsparger. He played well in that role, especially in the 1982 AFC Playoffs when in four games he picked off four passes and three sacks. Perhaps he was deserving of a Pro Bowl nod in 1982 or 1983. 

However, he made the Pro Bowl after the 1984 season. That happened to be a year he was hurt early in the year and got benched by Shula even after he returned to health. 
Howie Long
In a 1988 interview with Roy Firestone on ESPN’s "Up Close" broadcast, Howie Long bristled when Firestone asked Long if his 1987 Pro Bowl selection was deserved. Long agreed that he didn’t have his best season due to injuries but even so he was still one of the best three defensive ends in the AFC. 
Clearly, the Pro Bowl mattered to Long. 

It mattered even more so a bit later in his career when Art Shell was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989. Long saw that Shell had eight Pro Bowls in his career and that struck Long as a number to shoot for if he were to achieve his goal of making the Hall of Fame some day. In the early 1990s Long was listed by the Raiders as a defensive end, even though he spend most of his time inside, as a defensive tackle. 

Long asked Al LoCasale to have him listed on the ballot as a tackle but his request was not accommodated. LoCasale told him, "Howie, someone has to be an end, the guy at the end of the defensive line and that's you." However, it didn't matter much, Long was able to meet his goal of eight Pro Bowls, even listed in his view wrongly because he went to his final two as an injury replacement - for nicked AFC defensive ends.

A recent example of a player being undeservedly honored, one pointed out by plenty of fans on social media, is Chiefs edge player Frank Clark. He’s been to the last three Pro Bowls, one was as an alternate, even though he’s averaged about six sacks per season and didn’t have a slew of pressures, either. He simply didn’t have the kind of production that is expected by a Pro Bowler. In the three years prior to that, with Seattle, he averaged almost 11 sacks a year and had more pressures as well, and never got close to the game.

Especially perplexing is Giants center Shaun O'Hara’s being voted to the NFC team in 2010. Why it is odd is the fact that he played in only six games. Six. This year T.J. Watt has hissed half the season (to date) and yet made the Pro Bowl.

There are at least 40 players who went to the Pro Bowl in seasons they played ten games or less so in at least some of those cases it’s likely that that reputation played a part in those selections.

Do these examples make the Pro Bowl a joke with players making it on reputation or popularity?  
The answer has to be “sometimes” - especially since fan voting began to be included in the mid-1990s. 
But were any of Anthony Munoz’s eleven consecutive Pro Bowls based on rep? Or Lawrence Taylor’s ten straight beginning with his rookie season? 

What about Ronnie Lott or Peyton Manning? Is the Pro Bowl a joke in these instances? The answer to those questions is “possibly” but in general Pro Bowls are part of their legacy and appear in their bios. 

When Jeremy Reaves was told he'd made the Pro Bowl he was grateful and broke down into tears. Here is part of a video the Commanders released—
One could peruse Twitter or Instagram and find many examples of players who are “grateful” or “blessed” at their selection to go to Las Vegas so Reaves is not the only one who'd rather have been included rather than be excluded.

So again it seems Pro Bowls do matter, at least to some degree, to players. 

Hall of Fame
When a case is made for a player that is up for discussion for the Hall of Fame post-season honors are one of the “boxes” that usually need to be checked and Pro Bowls are among those post-season honors along with others such as the All-Pro and All-Conference teams. They are not the only thing considered, of course, but the number of Pro Bowl selections is usually not ignored by voters with some notable exceptions. 

So again, to some degree, Pro Bowls do matter to Hall of Fame voters since they are part of the criteria considered. How much of the criteria are Pro Bowls? Not much. It is part of the narrative of a player's case, but a small part so in that narrow usage there is a bit of value. 

Without a doubt, there are flaws in Pro Bowl voting just as there are in the All-Pro voting system which also has shortcomings. However, when past Pro Bowl rosters are studied the vast majority of the time the top few players at each position in each conference were rightly selected. 

It’s just that many times there were too many good players at a particular position and too few slots to include everyone and is what that causes consternation and that is expressed in - cliché alert - folks griping and using sweeping generalizations like, the Pro Bowl is a joke and/or it is a popularity contest and is useless. 

This may be a case of  “The lady doth protest too much, methinks ”. If the Pro Bowl is all those things then why the weeping an wailing and gnashing of teeth? It's great that Fred Warner made it, he deserved it but it's a joke that Greenlaw didn't, In Buffalo fans (and likely Bills coaches) think it's great that Jordan Poyer was voted in after being snubbed in previous years but again, a joke because Matt Milano wasn't. 

That kind of sentiment goes on from city to city Tweet after Tweet and it is understandable. Fans like their guys to be recognized in the Pro Bowl, on the All-Pro team, and in the Hall of Fame. But is does appear that some people want it both ways - it's great when our guy gets it and it stinks when our other guy does not get it. 

Ultimately, Pro Bowls have some value even if the system is imperfect. It can be accepted as one piece of a puzzle that notes who had a particularly good year but it is not, nor has it ever been nor will it ever be, a be-all, end-all. It's just not. However, this should not be a case of - cliché alert - throwing the baby out of the bathwater. 

Unless the baby is the actual game. That has been thrown out and that is a good thing.

It was a joke.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Comparing Individual Defensive Passer Ratings Across Two Platforms

 By Nick Webster 
There’s been a lot of focus on rookie cornerbacks this year, Derek Stingley Jr. and Sauce Gardner were picked 3rd and 4th overall, respectively in the 2022 NFL Draft, the first time in the Super Bowl era that two cornerbacks were picked in the top four overall. 

Fifth-rounder Tariq Woolen is tied for the league lead in interceptions with six and a series of other cornerbacks are making an early splash on the league at a position that typically takes a few years to work your way into.

Sauce Gardner, in particular, has garnered attention for his excellent early performance. He has a legitimate shot at being the first cornerback selected to be First-team All-Pro since Ronnie Lott in 1981. Interestingly, Lott trailed fellow rookie Everson Walls in interceptions that same season, Walls totaled 11, and Lott had “just” seven.  

Gardner isn’t gaining acclaim for his interception total but rather for his overall coverage skills and the fact that teams – including the Lions this last weekend - have just been avoiding him, he’s this season’s Nnamdi Asomugha.  

So, how do we rate these defenders if not by INTs, passer rating against is a good – if not perfect – way of evaluating Cornerbacks for their coverage skills.  And the Rookies this season are having excellent seasons. But by whose measure? We have two publicly available sources to compare individual defensive passer ratings - Pro Football Focus (PFF) and Sportsradar (SR), as published by Pro Football Reference.  

But charting pass coverage responsibility – unless you’re a coach – is an imperfect art.  I’ve tried myself, when a wideout is running free downfield is it a CB who’s responsible, or was it supposed to be passed off to a safety?  When two players bracket a wideout who’s primarily responsible? These are difficult to deal with.  

So how do PFF and SR compare in how they rate players? Let’s look at, season to date, Passer Rating Against stats for the starting CBs from PFF versus SR
What’s positive about this is that – in general – the two different services line up in their results.  They agree on the groups of the best the groups of the worst and the great big middle.  

But the single best and single worst defenders are not the same for the two services. The SR grades James Bradberry of the Eagles with a passer rating of 42.8 and PFF grades him at an amazing 45.7 – he’s been awesome in 2022.  

However, PFF believes that Jaycee Horn allowed a passer rating of just 39.4 – though SR graded him at just 55.0, which is still excellent. Now taking the average of the SR and PFF ratings #1 and #2 are still Bradberry and Horn and #3 is Sauce.

So where do the differences come from? For Horn, SR has him giving up one TD and PFF none, that’s the bulk of the difference. On Bradberry, they are very close at 45.7 (PFF) and 42.8 (SR).

What about Sauce? 
SIS has Sauce with 9 more targets and 10 more completions, this shows very clearly that there’s a difference in how each source applies responsibilities. Clearly, there are snaps that one applied to one and not the other.  If you drill down to the game level the differences become stark.

What are they doing differently mechanically?  Well, they don’t say, so we don’t know.  We do know that ¾ of the time the PFF passer rating allowed is higher and only ¼ SR is higher.  

It could be that SR has some concept of “blown coverage” that doesn’t apply blame anywhere, it could be that – given that I focused on cornerbacks – SR assigns more responsibilities to the safeties on long plays that go for TDs.

Finally, NFL Next Gen Stats also publishes coverage stats, but they don’t do so in a way that allows us to pull down chunks of data across players. They tend to assign responsibility based on who is closest in coverage using player tracking data. 

This is, at least, a systematic way of assigning coverage but would still fail in a blown coverage scenario where another defender comes to help, or in a double coverage scenario. What we know for sure is that the coaches know the answers and the public cannot get that data. We also know that, regardless of the source Bradberry, Horn and Gardner are having fantastic years and deserve recognition, interceptions aside.

2022 Allmost All-Joe Teams

By John Turney 

For the third straight year, as an homage to Vinny DiTrani and Larry Weisman, we've chosen a team of non-Pro Bowlers and All-Pros that deserve recognition and combine the names of teams that DiTrani and Weisman gave to their teams, i.e. the Allmost All-Pro Team and the All-Joe Team into the Allmost All-Joe Team.

In the early 1970s, DiTriani began this practice and we collected all those teams we think they were very insightful and were great reads. Many great players he mentioned we chosen for All-Pro or the Pro Bowl the next year and can be used as a resource when doing research as to finding players who had terrific seasons in a year they got no other post-season honors.

Weisman began his All-Joe team for USA Today later and was named for Joe Phillips—A tough-nosed defensive tackle who was gritty and someone who'd never make a Pro Bowl based on this position and lack of stats. So, Weisman began picking his own non-"All" team. 

What is also key is that Weisman, especially, didn't limit the team to 25 players. He picked those who he deemed deserving. We do the same within reason, that is.

Here is our Allmost All-Joe Team—
Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins—All he does is get trashed by the Twitterverse as being just a mediocre (if that) quarterback. All he does in response is win and lead the NFL in passing with a 107.8 passer rating, a league-leading 8.63 yards per attempt average, and a 24-5 touchdown pass-to-interception ratio. His Dolphins are 8-6 (though he did miss a little time) against the NFL's toughest strength of
schedule (currently a .543 winning percentage by opponents). All he got from his peers is no Pro Bowl. He's Allmost-All-Joe, though.

Alec Ingold, Dolphins—Yes, another South Florida workhorse. He missed the Pro Bowl but he's been a great fullback in a similar scheme that Kyle Juszczyk is featured in - doing a lot of lead blocking and a little bit of everything else.

Running Back
Christian McCaffrey, Panthers-49ers—McCaffrey is fifth in the NFL in combined yards has toted the football 200 times, and has snagged 74 passes. He gave the 49ers a weapon they didn't have - a Marshall Faulk-type player who can run, catch out of the backfield but also line up outside and run wide receiver routes. 

Wide Receivers
Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins—Yes, a third Miamian. He's seventh in receiving yards and leads the NFL in yards per catch. Remember that statistic? He's a perfect compliment to the Cheetah Tyreek Hill.

Amon-Ra St. Brown, Lions—An excellent move-the-chains-guy. He's fifth in the NFL among wide receivers in gaining first downs with 57 and had three more running.

Tight end
David Njoku, Browns—he doesn't have superstar numbers but he's an elite blocker from the tight end position. Most teams would kill to have a guy like him.

Penei Sewell, Lions—In a conference with Trent Williams, Lane Johnson, and Tristan Wirfs and with only three slots it's hard to make the NFC Pro Bowl team. Sewell, though is worthy. He's a powerful blocker and made a name for himself nationally but running a route and catching the ball. John Madden would have loved this guy.

Andrew Thomas, Giants and Christian Darrisaw, Vikings—Too tough to separate so we went with both at left tackle. Both had excellent years but were in the same boat as Sewell. It can be argued that six of the top eight tackles in the NFL are in the NFC. making the AFC team seems to be easier at the tackle position.

Michael Onwenu, Patriots—This former Michigan Wolverine will get some All-Pro votes as he should. He digs people out on running plays and moves them. That is not as easy in the NFL as it is in college but he does it.

Kevin Zeitler, Ravens—Should be the new poster boy for the AllMost-All-Pro Team. Weisman, especially, would feature overlooked guys who were just good and never got any notice. Zeitler is that kind of guy - a Joe Phillips-type.

Connor McGovern, Jets—Consistent, steady, no holding calls he's the best Connor McGovern in the NFL, though the one in Dallas is pretty good.

Defensive Ends
Josh Sweat, Eagles, and Montez Sweat, Commanders—Both play the run, but also put great pressure on the quarterback. They a tremendous pair of brothers on the defensive side of the ball. What? They are not brothers? But they both have an unusual surname and are similar athletes and they are not kin? 

That's right, not related. If they were on the same team it would be a replay of Jack and Jim Youngblood who both played for the Rams in the 1970s and who were also not brothers and were excellent players.

Defensive Interiors
Christian Wilkins, Dolphins—Wilkins has a crazy amount of tackles for a defensive interior player and he leads the NFL in run/pass stuffs with 13.0 and also has 2.5 sacks has swatted away two passes and forced a pair of fumbles. He's been a busy man.

Javon Hargrave, Eagles and Daron Payne, Commanders—The City of Brotherly Love has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to Pro Bowl representation this year but Hargrave is not one of them.

Payne has 8.5 sacks and 7.0 run/pass stuffs. He works well with Jonathan Allen, working the left side while Allen works the right. They are well served at the defensive tackle position in the Nation's Capitol.

Middle linebacker
Foyesade Oluokun, Jaguars. He leads the NFL in tackles (he did in 2021 as well) and 8.5 have been run/pass stuffs. Duval County is seeing a darn good linebacker this year.

Matt Milano, Bills—We really thought the NFL players/coaches/fans would reward Milano with a Pro Bowl this year. He's been worthy before but this year he's been mentioned in national night games by the announcers. He's a classic Jack Ham-type 'backer - he's good at filling gaps, he can blitz effectively and he's probably the best cover linebacker in the NFL. He has 85 tackles, has picked a pair of passes and taken one of those to the house, has eight passes defended, and has 11.5 run/pass stuffs. He's had an All-Pro year. He's perhaps been overshadowed by a tall, rangy athletic Mike 'backer playing next to him in Tremaine Edmunds but he's good and has been good.

Dre Greenlaw, 49ers—See Milano. 

Rush linebacker
Alex Highsmith, Steelers—TJ Watt got the Pro Bowl nod but missed too much time to deserve it. Highsmith did. he is leading the NFL with five forced fumbles and seventh in sacks. He's a classic Allmost-All-Joe

Jaycee Horn, Panthers—Horn will get some All-Pro votes. Not only has he covered well, but he'll also line up tight and get into the backfield on an offense on occasion and hurry the quarterback or nail a ball carrier for a loss.

L'Jarius Sneed, Chiefs—He's the best at what he does - slot corner. He makes a ton of tackles, blitzes the quarterback regularly and can cover as well. 

Justin Simmons, Broncos—He's missed some time this year but has picked off five passes and plays on one of the best two defenses in the league. He's never been First-team All-Pro (except for our teams) and he's in the upper-upper echelon of safeties. It's hard to understand.

Eddie Jackson, Bears and Vonn Bell, Bengals—Jackson is such a good player on a poor team. If the Bears can build a team around Justin Fields, Jackson will be a star.

Bell has been around a while and he's always been good. He's got a personal defensive passer rating of 57.4 at the moment, has picked off four passes and has not allowed a touchdown as per Sportsradar. he is another player on our team that should get some All-Pro votes.

Special teams
Graham Gano, Giants—There are several kickers we could have chosen but Gano kind of fits. he gets the job done in a place that is not easy to kick (though nowhere near the old Meadowlands).

Ryan Stonehouse, Titans—A boomer, not tons of touch yet. Still, his net average is third and his 53.6 gross average is currently nearly two yards higher than Sammy Baugh's record of 51.4 which has stood since 1940.

Marcus Jones, Patriots—He's taken a punt back for a game-winning score, he's third in the NFL in punt return average and fourth in kickoff return average. He is a decent cornerback and can play offense as well. He's another player John Madden would love.

Special Teams
Brenden Schooler, Patriots—You can see Schooler's locks flow when he's gunning down the field and usually making the tackle. He's been johnny-on-the-spot recovering fumbles and saving the Patriots bacon a couple of times. He's supplanted Matthew Slater as the king of special teams in New England. 

Certainly, we've missed some - snubbed the already snubbed but we hope we've done right by DiTrani and Weisman.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Results of Our Pro Bowl Predictions

 By John Turney 
Yesterday we guessed who would be named to the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl. We didn't do that well but did make some good picks. We missed 26 of 86 slots for about a 70% success rate.

We erred on the number of cornerbacks, we picked three and the format of the teams chooses four. So those were automatic misses. But even had we picked four for each conference we'd have picked Jaycee Horn for the NFC and some other than Xavien Howard in the AFC so both would have been misses regardless.

The big misses in the AFC were the offensive line, linebackers, and special teams. TJ Watt missed too much time to be a Pro Bowler so we missed on him. Khalil Mack is not having a stellar season so we thought he'd not be named. Watt and Mack were reputation picks.

Quenton Nelson and Orlando Brown are similar cases. Made the Pro Bowl but didn't have Pro Bowl-type seasons so we picked others and missed on those.

Joe Burrow beat out Tua Tagovailoa so that was a miss. We mentioned that the third NFC spot was a tough one. Cousins got it and Brady and Rodgers were top alternates. 

All in all, we did okay, but not great.

Here are the actual teams—

AFC Pro Bowl Roster
*Denotes starter

Quarterback (3)
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs*
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals

Running back (3)
Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns*
Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders
Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

Fullback (1)
Patrick Ricard, Baltimore Ravens*

Wide receiver (4)
Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins*
Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills*
Davante Adams, Las Vegas Raiders
Ja'Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals

Tight end (2)
Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs*
Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens

Offensive tackle (3)
Laremy Tunsil, Houston Texans*
Terron Armstead, Miami Dolphins*
Orlando Brown, Kansas City Chiefs

Offensive guard (3)
Joel Bitonio, Cleveland Browns*
Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis Colts*
Joe Thuney, Kansas City Chiefs

Center (2)
Creed Humphrey, Kansas City Chiefs*
Mitch Morse, Buffalo Bills

Defensive end (3)
Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns*
Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas Raiders*
Trey Hendrickson, Cincinnati Bengals

Interior linemen (3)
Chris Jones, Kanas City Chiefs*
Quinnen Williams, New York Jets*
Jeffery Simmons, Tennessee Titans

Outside linebacker (3)
Matt Judon, New England Patriots*
Khalil Mack, Los Angeles Chargers*
T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers

Inside/middle linebacker (2)
Roquan Smith, Baltimore Ravens*
C.J. Mosley, New York Jets

Cornerback (4)
Sauce Gardner, New York Jets*
Pat Surtain II, Denver Broncos*
Marlon Humphrey, Baltimore Ravens
Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins

Free safety (1)
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers*

Strong safety (2)
Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers*
Jordan Poyer, Buffalo Bills

Special teams
Long snapper (1)
Morgan Cox, Tennessee Titans*

Punter (1)
Tommy Townsend, Kansas City Chiefs*

Placekicker (1)
Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens*

Return specialist (1)
Devin Duvernay, Baltimore Ravens*

Special teamer (1)
Justin Hardee, New York Jets*

NFC Pro Bowl Roster

Quarterback (3)
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles*
Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings

Running back (3)
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants*
Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys
Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles

Fullback (1)
Kyle Juszczyk, San Francisco 49ers*

Wide receiver (4)
Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings*
A.J. Brown, Philadelphia Eagles*
CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys
Terry McLaurin, Washington Commanders

Tight end (2)
George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers*
T.J. Hockenson, Minnesota Vikings

Offensive tackle (3)
Trent Williams, San Francisco 49ers*
Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles*
Tristan Wirfs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Offensive guard (3)
Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys*
Landon Dickerson, Philadelphia Eagles*
Chris Lindstrom, Atlanta Falcons

Center (2)
Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles*
Frank Ragnow, Detroit Lions

Defensive end (3)
Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers*
Brian Burns, Carolina Panthers*
Demarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys

Interior linemen (3)
Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams*
Jonathan Allen, Washington Commanders*
Dexter Lawrence, New York Giants

Outside linebacker (3)
Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys*
Za'Darius Smith, Minnesota Vikings*
Haason Reddick, Philadelphia Eagles

Inside/middle linebacker (2)
Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers*
Demario Davis, New Orleans Saints

Cornerback (4)
Darius Slay, Philadelphia Eagles*
Trevon Diggs, Dallas Cowboys*
Tariq Woolen, Seattle Seahawks
Jaire Alexander, Green Bay Packers

Free safety (1)
Quandre Diggs, Seattle Seahawks*

Strong safety (2)
Budda Baker, Arizona Cardinals*
Talanoa Hufanga, San Francisco 49ers

Special teams
Long snapper (1)
Andrew DePaola, Minnesota Vikings*

Punter (1)
Tress Way, Washington Commanders*

Placekicker (1)
Jason Myers, Seattle Seahawks*

Return specialist (1)
KaVontae Turpin, Dallas Cowboys*

Special teamer (1)
Jeremy Reaves, Washington Commanders*