Yesterday, Ramblin’ Fan dropped our version of the NFC Pro Bowl offense, fit with some shiny new players, some much more deserving of the term “Pro Bowler.” However, outside of the a couple of starters and a handful of backups, the voters seemed to be picking in sync with the actual players that have been dominate this season. However, that is not the case on the defensive side of the football. Since there are much more “disagreements” defensively, we will split the article between defensive linemen and linebackers/defensive backs. So, here is Ramblin’ Fans’ 2013 NFC Pro Bowl Roster (Defensive Line):
Actual: Jason Pierre-Paul* (New York Giants), Julius Peppers* (Chicago), Jared Allen (Minnesota)
Ramblin’ Fan: Greg Hardy* (Carolina), Jared Allen* (Minnesota), Calais Campbell (Arizona)
WHAT?!?! I can hear the screaming in New York already from my office. Like Chris Snee and Victor Cruz, Jason Pierre-Paul is riding the wave of last years’ breakout season, and soaked in the votes from the hometown voters and they “name-brand” junkies go get his ticket to Hawaii. Don’t get me wrong, JPP has been phenomenal against the run this season, has 44 hurries on the season (T-6th among 4-3 DE), and racked up 36 solo tackles (4th among 4-3 DE). Still, his significant decline from last season, in terms of getting to the quarterback, is a sign of what can happen to a defensive end once they get the “attention” of the league and start getting a consistent double- or triple- team on every snap. That is why Pierre-Paul has only 7 sacks (T-20th) and 4 hits on the quarterback (T-44th), and why he should not be in the Pro Bowl this season. Carolina’s Greg Hardy is the flip side to that coin, but garnering little to no attention because of player for a smaller market squad. Hardy has 13 sacks (T-2nd), 12 hits (T-6th), 36 hurries (T-12th), and an impressive 46 combined tackles (5th).
Jared Allen, already on the actual roster, jumps into the starting lineup on Ramblin’ Fans’ squad. Like Pierre-Paul, Allen has seen a drastic drop in his sack count this season, and likely absorbed a ton of votes simply people of his notoriety. Unlike JPP, Allen has still consistently gotten to the quarterback, even if it was after the ball is out of this hands. Allen has 44 hurries (T-6th) to go with 9 sacks (T-13th) and 15 hits on the quarterback (3rd). He has been equally as impressive against the run and on critical downs, with 40 combined tackles and 40 “stops,” defined as plays that resulted in a failure offensively (i.e. tackle for a loss or no gain, sacks, etc.). Allen leads in that category in the NFC, shortly followed by none other than Greg Hardy.
Even with shifting Justin Smith back to defensive end, his “true” position on the 49ers’ 3-4 base defensive front, he does not make the cut over Calais Campbell. Unless you are going to credit J. Smith with a couple of A. Smith’s sacks, which you could easily make the case for, Campbell has been best NFC 3-4 defensive end this season. Even playing through injury, and on one of the worst teams in the NFL, Campbell has still racked up 6 sacks (T-4th among 3-4 DE), 9 hits (T-3rd), and 21 hurries (T-7th). He also has a +3 edge over J. Smith in batted passes and +2 edge in stops, while playing with significantly less talent next to him on the defensive line. Moreover, Campbell has put up those numbers in 119 few defensive snaps, and done so without committing a penalty this season.
Actual: Justin Smith* (San Francisco), Henry Melton* (Chicago), Gerald McCoy (Tampa Bay)
Ramblin’ Fan: Henry Melton* (Chicago), Ndamukong Suh* (Detroit), Gerald McCoy (Tampa Bay)
Sorry Justin Smith, but you do not play on the interior of the defensive line in San Francisco, and, thus, will not make the cut as an interior linemen on the Ramlin’ Fan roster. In your place, the overly aggressive, overly-fined Ndamukong Suh, who leads all interior linemen with 19 hits on the quarterback this season. Suh has “quietly,” put up an impressive season as a pass rusher, with 8 sacks (T-1st among NFC DT) and 28 hurries (2nd), and still has managed to put up 30 combined tackles and 20 stops. Suh did grade out negative on in run support in a number of games, but his only significantly bad day came against the Minnesota Vikings… and what interior lineman would grade positively against Adrian Peterson this season? Melton and Suh have been the cream of the crop in the NFC, although neither can hold a candle to the season that Geno Atkins is having for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Earlier in the week, we ripped on the McCoy selection , marking the claim that a pure run-stuffing interior lineman should not make the cut if they are not also applying pressure on the quarterback. No one should expect a nose tackle or a defensive tackle to get 10.0+ sacks in a season, but they should be moving the pocket and freeing up fellow defensive lineman by eating up would-be blocks and demanding a shift in the offensive line towards them. That has not been the case this season, with the Bucs tallying only 25.0 sacks this year, only 4.5 ahead of J.J. Watt, by himself! Worse, the lack of a “true” pass rush has Tampa Bay ranked dead last in the NFL in passing yards allowed, 3rd in yards per attempt, and tied for 2nd in passing touchdowns allowed. Still, his individual accolades have been impressive, with 5 sacks (T-6th among DT), 12 hits (4th), and 33 hurries (1st in among NFC DT). However, he is lacking in other areas, including raw tackles, “stops,” and is one of the leaders in missed tackles among interior linemen. That combination pushes McCoy outside of the starting lineup, but not off the roster.