Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Jake Long, Brandon Marshall selected to Pro Bowl

Last week, I looked at players on the Dolphins' roster that could or should be in the discussion for a Pro Bowl selection. Two of players mentioned—offensive tackle Jake Long and wide receiver Brandon Marshall—were indeed honored with selections in the NFL's official announcement Tuesday.

Long earned his fourth Pro Bowl selection (and third as a starter) in as many pro seasons since being taken by the Dolphins first overall in the 2008 NFL Draft. His consecutive starts streak was snapped at 62 in Week 15 due to a back injury.

Meanwhile, Marshall receives a Pro Bowl invite for the second time in his career and first with the Dolphins. Despite a high number of drops and missed opportunities during the 2010 season, Marshall currently ranks second among AFC wide receivers in receptions (77), third in yards (1,177), and ninth in touchdowns (six).

Acquired from the Denver Broncos in exchange for two second-round picks in April 2010, Marshall has topped 1,000 yards receiving in each of his first two seasons in Miami. He also teamed with running back Reggie Bush for the first time in franchise history the Dolphins have had a 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard receiver.

Worthy selections?

Most fans don't pay attention to offensive line play when they watch NFL games, and that's understandable. Thus, when a lineman is a high-profile name (such as a first overall pick like Long) he typically gets voted to the Pro Bowl based more on reputation than actual play. That is indeed the case when Long in 2011.

I give Long a ton of credit for playing through numerous injuries (knees, shoulder, back) and for playing fairly well through all of it. That being said, there is simply no way you can say Long was one of the three best offensive tackles in the AFC this season.

For the season, Long grades out as a positive pass protector and slightly sub-par run blocker. He's blamed for five sacks on the season, which is down from last year's six allowed by would be the second-highest total in his four-year career. He also ranked 20th out of 76 tackles in the NFL in quarterback pressured allowed with 15.

Bottom line: Long is having another good season and is performing incredibly well given that he hasn't been near 100% healthy at any point this season. That being said, Long is not Pro Bowl worthy in 2011.

As for Marshall, he certainly has the numbers to rank near the top of the AFC's receivers and thus in Pro Bowl consideration. It's actually crazy to imagine what his numbers would be if he didn't have all his drops—many of them that would have been touchdowns.

Personally, my four Pro Bowl receivers would have been Wes Welker, Mike Wallace, A. J. Green and Vincent Jackson. I think Green's numbers are astounding for a rookie, while both he and Jackson have stretched the field better than Marshall with fewer drops.

That being said, Marshall has elite numbers despite his drops and at worst was a deserving Pro Bowl reserve, but I really have no complaints about him being selected outright.

Anyone snubbed?

I'm actually a little surprised the Dolphins landed two Pro Bowlers from the voting, as the 5-10 team has very few stars and has hardly been in the national spotlight much at all this season. That being said, were there any players that didn't earn selections that maybe should have?

I'd say the honestly player that was possibly snubbed was outside linebacker Cameron Wake. His sack total (8.5, down from 14 in 2010) is probably the reason for his exclusion, but in reality Wake has had a huge impact. According to Pro Football Focus, Wake leads his position in total NFL pressures and thus is having a much bigger impact rushing the passer than his sack total indicates.

Aside from that, I'd say the Dolphins don't really have any snubs. Anthony Fasano is an underrated complete tight end, but he's not going to get to Hawaii without elite receiving numbers. Defenders like Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett and Vontae Davis have all come on strong in the second half, but they don't have the bodies of work over the entire season to warrant selections.

Reggie Bush has actually been one of the biggest surprises for the Dolphins this season, proving to everyone he can be a feature back by amassing 1,086 yards on the ground. He's currently the fifth-leading rusher in the AFC, while his 5.0 yards per carry bests the four guys above him. That being said, I can't put him in the Pro Bowl over Ray Rice, Arian Foster or Maurice Jones-Drew and Bush should really only go to Hawaii as an injury replacement.

Many fans will say punter Brandon Fields is a snub, but the reality is he just isn't. Fields is arguably the second-best punter in the NFL, but he happens to play in the same conference as the best punter in the NFL—Oakland's Shane Lechler. As long as Lechler deserves to be in (and he does), you just can't say Fields is a snub.

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