Old School Pro Bowl: The 2014 NFC Pro Bowl Team
As the NFL continues to look for ways to polish the turd that is the Pro Bowl game, what should be the true meaning of the game has appeared to become lost. That is to honor the top performers, position by position in each conference. In that spirit, here's a look at what would be the NFC Pro Bowl team in 2014.
QB: Aaron Rodgers Packers, Tony Romo Cowboys, Russell Wilson Seahawks
RB: DeMarco Murray Cowboys, Marshawn Lynch Seahawks, Matt Forte Bears
FB: John Kuhn Packers, Henry Hynoski Giants, Bruce Miller 49ers
WR: Jordy Nelson Packers, Julio Jones Falcons, Dez Bryant Cowboys, Jeremy Maclin Eagles, Odell Beckham Jr Giants
TE: Greg Olsen Panthers, Jimmy Graham Saints, Martellus Bennett Bears
OT: Tyron Smith Cowboys, Jason Peters Eagles, Joe Staley 49ers, Trent Williams Redskins
OG: Jahri Evans Saints, Zach Martin Cowboys, Mike Iupati 49ers, Josh Sitton Packers
C: Trent Frederick Cowboys, Jason Kelce Eagles, Ryan Kalil Panthers
Honorable Mentions: Matt Ryan QB Falcons, Drew Brees QB Saints, LeSean McCoy RB Eagles, Eddie Lacy RB Packers, Alfred Morris RB Redskins, Frank Gore 49ers, Randall Cobb WR Packers, Golden Tate WR Lions, Calvin Johnson WR Lions, Alshon Jeffery Bears, Mike Evans WR Buccaneers, Jason Witten Cowboys, Brent Celek TE Eagles, Russell Okung OT Seahawks, David Bakhtiari OT Packers, Kyle Long OG Bears, Alex Boone OG 49ers, T.J. Lang OG Packers
Summary: Aaron Rodgers has come back from an injury hampered 2013 with an MVP caliber season, he and Jordy Nelson have been arguably the most dynamic QB/WR duo in the NFL...Speaking of comebacks from 2013, Julio Jones has been outstanding in Atlanta, leading the NFC in targets, receptions and receving yards. Odell Beckham missed all of the preseason and the first month of the 2014 regular season, but the rookie first round pick has been the most productive receiver in football since making his debut in week five, particularly since the start of November, over that eight week period Beckham has averaged just under nine receptions, 127 yards and a touchdown per game all while littering the highlight reel week after week with some of the most impressive grabs in recent memory, standing out amongst the most impressive crop of rookie pass catchers in recent memory... Barring a highly unlikely record setting performance in a meaningless week 17 game for Dallas in week 17, DeMarco Murray will fall just short of a 2,000 yard season in 2014, he will however run away with the rushing title in the NFC, averaging an astounding 116.3 yards per game, over 23 yards higher then the next highest rushing in the NFC, Seattle's Marshawn Lynch. Murray has done his damage behind an offensive line that has Cowboys fans harkening back to the glory days of the early 1990's. Tyron Smith is fast becoming one of the best all around left tackles in football while the teams past two first round picks, center Travis Frederick and rookie guard Zach Martin are emerging as two of the very best at their positions as well. Often mocked by the press and fans alike for his qualifications as an NFL general manager, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has to be given credit for what he has done for his offense in the draft over the past five years, starting with the addition of receiver Dez Bryant in the first round of 2010 and following that with the addition of Murray and Smith in 2011, Frederick in 2013, and Martin in this past years draft. Those additions, as well as his decision to stick with much maligned veteran signal caller Tony Romo, who may be enjoying his finest season in 2014, have helped bring the Cowboys their first NFC East division title in half a decade and their best opportunity at a trip to the Super Bowl since the mid 1990's.
DE: Calais Campbell Cardinals, Jason Pierre-Paul Giants, Robert Quinn Rams, Everson Griffen Vikings
DT: Gerald McCoy Buccaneers, Ndamakong Suh Lions, Aaron Donald Rams, Fletcher Cox Eagles
OLB: Connor Barwin Eagles, DeAndre Levy Lions,Ryan Kerrigan Redskins, Clay Matthews Packers
ILB: Luke Kuechly Panthers, Bobby Wagner Seahawks, James Laurinaitis Rams, Mychal Kendricks Eagles
CB: Richard Sherman Seahawks, Patrick Peterson Cardinals, Tramon Williams Packers, Antonio Cromartie Cardinals
S: Glover Quin Lions, Earl Thomas Seahawks,Antoine Bethea 49ers, Harrison Smith Vikings
K: Cody Parkey Eagles
P: Thomas Morstead Saints
RS: Devin Hester Falcons, Darren Sproles Eagles
ST: Justin Bethel Cardinals
Honorable Mentions: Michael Bennett DE Seahawks, Justin Smith DE 49ers, Ezekial Ansah DE Lions, Cameron Jordan DE Saints, Willie Young DE Bears, Johnathan Hankins DT Giants, Julius Peppers OLB Packers, Lavante David OLB Buccaneers, Junior Gallette OLB Saints, Trent Cole OLB Eagles, Alec Ogletree OLB Rams, Thomas Davis OLB Panthers, K.J. Wright LB Seahawks, Chris Borland ILB 49ers, Paul Worrilow ILB Falcons, Sam Shields CB Packers, James Ihedigbo S Lions, Kam Chancellor S Seahawks, Matt Bryant K Falcons, Johnny Hekker P Rams, Marcus Sherels RS Vikings, Chris Maragos ST Eagles
Summary: Calais Campbell has been the most underrated defensive lineman in football over the past few seasons, he was finally rewarded with his first Pro Bowl nomination in 2014. Jason Pierre-Paul bounced back from a shaky 2013 season to rack up 72 tackles and 10.5 sacks with one game to go in 2014. Despite those numbers, there's still a feeling that "JPP" is underperforming in New York, his natural physical tools are among the best at any position in the NFL. The second and third picks overall in the 2010 draft Ndamakong Suh and Gerald McCoy have emerged to become the two best defensive tackles in the NFC five years later for the Lions and Buccaneers respectively, another first round defensive tackle, Rams rookie Aaron Donald, appears to be on the verge of stardom thanks to his eye-popping explosiveness and relentless pursuit of the football. Eagles outside linebacker Connor Barwin emerged from obscurity in 2014 to lead the NFC in sacks entering week 17 with 14.5, he teams with fellow Eagle Trent Cole to form one of the most formidable pass rushing duos in the game. Another outstanding pass rush duo resides in Green Bay, Clay Matthews and 2014 free agent addition Julius Peppers combined for 17 sacks six forced fumbles and three interceptions, two of which Peppers returned for touchdowns. The decision by the Packers coaching staff to begin moving Matthews all over the field, including inside on early downs set the tone for a vastly improved Packers defense in the second half of 2014. Packers GM Ted Thompson doesn't dip his toe in free agency often, but when he does it's with stellar results. He added cornerback Charles Woodson to Green Bay in 2006 where he won a defensive player of the year award and helped lead the Packers to a Super Bowl in 2010, and this year his addition of Peppers, who had been written off as past his prime by much of the media prior to the start of the season, helped rejuvinate the Packers defense. Speaking of rejuvination, Peppers career has appeared to be rejuvinated with his move to 3-4 outside 'backer, a transition many didn't think the 34 year old veteran was equipped to handle after over a decade in the league as a 4-3 defensive end....Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly didn't have quite the season he did a year ago when he won Defensive player of the Year honors in his second NFL season, but the third year linebacker still led the NFL in tackles and is a big reason the Panthers still have a shot at an NFC South division crown entering week 17. Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner has been equally valuable to his team in Seattle. Since his return to the lineup after missing five weeks due to injury the Seahawks defense has returned to the form that led them to a Super Bowl title in 2013. Wagner, along with the 'Legion of Boom" secondary led by cornerback Richard Sherman and safties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor have the Seahwaks looking mighty tough to beat as the playoffs quickly approach. Sherman's numbers may not be as impressive as they've been in years past, but that's due mostly to opposing teams reluctance to throw the football in his direction. Sherman still has the best ball skills of any cornerback in football and can make opposing quarterbacks pay in a heartbeat if the tempt fate throwing the football too many times in his direction...The success enjoyed by the Detroit Lions on defense was thanks not only to the dominant play of Suh on the defensive line, but also the emergence of Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo as one of the top safety duos in the game and the continued underappreciated excellence of linebacker DeAndre Levy. Levy was yet again left out in the cold when Pro Bowl nominations were announced this past week, likely thanks to the fact that he doesn't put up the sexy sack totals that seem to garner most of the Pro Bowl attention year in and year out, but nonetheless Levy continues to be one of the most well rounded and dependable linebackers in the game, he's a tackling machine and is among the very best 'backers in the game in pass coverage....Devin Hester, after a pair of subpar seasons in Chicago, reclaimed his title of the most dynamic all around kick returner in the game upon his arrival in Atlanta this season, leading the NFC with a 13.3 yard punt return average.