There are few things about the NFL more difficult to predict than the Pro Bowl. Training camps haven’t started yet but it’s never too early to speculate how the season will play out.
I’ve never been one to put a whole lot of stock in the Pro Bowl but at this point we can say that the more players an individual team has voted in, the better the season they had.
If the Eagles truly have the bounce-back season everyone expects, count on more than three players making the 2013 Pro Bowl roster.
Last season due to the epic level of disappointment, the Eagles got LeSean McCoy, Jason Babin and Jason Peters voted in. All three were starters.
Looking a little deeper into the fan voting, they only had five players in the top five at their respective positions. Based on the idea that the Eagles are an elite team in 2012, here are the chances for the Eagles’ best players to make the Pro Bowl next year.
If things go according to plan, no matter how many players are named, none of them will suit up for the actual game. That would mean they are playing in the Bowl that actually matters.
Michael Vick & DeMeco Ryans: 25-1
Some people may look at the steep odds for Michael Vick and take it as a slight. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In all honesty it’s a testament to the fact that there are so many NFC quarterbacks putting up gaudy numbers.
Seven NFC passers threw for over 4,000 yards in 2012 including Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees who are virtual locks to be back.
The third spot is up for grabs but it will be tough to unseat Super Bowl champ Eli Manning or the ultra-popular Cam Newton.
At middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans has a lot to overcome in players like Patrick Willis and Brian Urlacher. He has an outside chance based on the fact that he is the most notableupgrade to the Eagles’ defensive unit.
If Ryans has a productive season and the defense is significantly improved from last year, count on Ryans’ impact being valued by the national media and local fans.
It’s an uphill battle for both but Vick and Ryans have a shot at it.
Brent Celek & Cullen Jenkins: 20-1
Cullen Jenkins was one of the few bright spots on a dismal Eagles defense in 2012. He was actually third in the NFC Pro Bowl voting at defensive tackle.
He’ll have trouble toppling Justin Smith or Ndamukong Suh but he has one thing in his favor.
Jenkins finished third in the voting with 5.5 sacks, although 5.0 of those came in the season’s first five games.
With reinforcements on the line this season Jenkins should be able to stay fresh until late in games and for the entirety of the season.
The Pro Bowl spots usually come down to numbers and Jenkins can improve on his in 2012.
Brent Celek is arguably the game’s most under appreciated offensive weapon. Over the final 10 games of 2011 Celek produced at a pace of 78 receptions for 1,114 yards and six touchdowns.
That would have put him in the top seven among all tight ends in each category.
While Celek will have every opportunity to put up great numbers, he still needs to overcome Vernon Davis, Jason Witten and Jimmy Graham.
That is no small task for either player.
DeSean Jackson & Jeremy Maclin: 15-1
By all accounts DeSean Jackson has significantly more name recognition than Jeremy Maclin. That will aid his chances to beat out Maclin in any Pro Bowl voting scenario.
What could change things is the fact that Jackson will no longer be one of the games best punt returners as well as Maclin’s expected breakout season.
No one would say that either player was particularly great last season but Jackson finished 11th in the NFC in receiving yards while Maclin was 19th.
Both should have significantly better performances in 2012.
Jackson went through a serious contract squabble that saw him get suspended for a game and sleepwalk through a few others.
Maclin spent much of the offseason and preseason dealing with illness and stress over what that illness might be.
Both could top 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns but it will be impossible to overtake Larry Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson. It will also be difficult to compete with players like Greg Jennings, Roddy White or Julio Jones.
With that being said, the Eagles being legitimate Super Bowl contenders it could trump anything.
If Jackson and Maclin have similar production, expect Jackson to get the nod, but expect Maclin to have a career-year and make a run at his first Pro Bowl.
Todd Herremans & Evan Mathis: 12-1
Offensive line is probably the most difficult position in football to evaluate. There are no statistics readily available and usually the better you play, the less anyone hears about you on a broadcast.
From my years of watching football, offensive linemen get to the Pro Bowl based on team success and name recognition.
With Jason Peters out, Todd Herremans is now the top player on the Eagles offensive line. He also protects Michael Vick’s blind side.
If the Eagles offense is as explosive as expected you can be sure Herremans will get his share of praise.
The other known name on the Eagles line is Evan Mathis. That may sound puzzling as Eagles fans didn’t even really know who he was until last preseason.
Chalk it up to the fact that Mathis had a tremendous 2011 season and he was considered one of the hottest free agents in the offseason.
A lot of this is based on the expectation of the offensive unit as a whole, but both players are worthy of consideration.
Trent Cole: 8-1
Trent Cole is simply one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL. He has reached two Pro Bowls already and has registered double figures in sacks in four of the last five seasons. He’s a complete end as well.
Unfortunately for Cole, sack numbers are what get Pro Bowl votes and while his standard 10-12 sacks are great, it just doesn’t compete with other guys getting 15 or more.
The good thing for Cole is he’s a recognizable name on a team that should be really good. He is also playing in a defense that allows him to get after the quarterback.
With the depth on the line expect Cole to play better over the final month of the season, which could be enough to get him to the 15-sack mark.
He can get to the Pro Bowl without the numbers, but it will probably take him being involved in some big plays. He also may be overshadowed by a teammate at the same position.
Jason Babin: 5-1
In case you hadn’t pieced it together, Jason Babin is the teammate that could overshadow Trent Cole.
He did it last season with his 18.0 sacks and a starting nod in last season’s Pro Bowl. It was his second straight Pro Bowl appearance.
In two seasons under defensive line coach Jim Washburn, one in Tennessee and last year in Philadelphia, Babin has amassed 30.5 sacks.
It’s kind of ridiculous to expect another 18 sacks from Babin, but he seems to have been created for Washburn’s scheme.
He will probably lose some snaps in 2012, but that could lead to him having more energy late in games against tired offensive tackles.
Babin has the production and now the name to be a mainstay in the Pro Bowl. He was second in fan voting last year and if he continues to sack quarterbacks, he’ll be back again.
Nnamdi Asomugha: 3-1
Nnamdi Asomugha was one of the biggest targets for frustrated Eagles fans last season.
His signing was viewed as the final piece to their Super Bowl puzzle but he frequently missed tackles and was beaten deep far too often in 2011.
Some of that is probably due to his first real experience with serious expectations. The rest should be chalked up to the way he was used in Juan Castillo’s defense.
For the first time in Asomugha’s career he was used all over the field in all types of coverages. He never seemed to grasp his role and rarely appeared comfortable.
As bad as he seemed to be last season, quarterbacks still tried to avoid him and he finished third in NFC Pro Bowl voting. Imagine the reception he’ll get if he actually plays at a high level.
Late in the season Nnamdi was used on the outside more often which plays to his strengths. Asomugha didn’t become a bad player overnight so expect him to come back strong in 2012.
If he even approaches the reputation that preceded him, expect him to be starting in the next Pro Bowl.
LeSean McCoy: EVEN
LeSean McCoy is the team’s best player and he is arguably the best player in the league at his position.
McCoy was the NFC starter in the Pro Bowl last season and was also named First-Team All-Pro. He amassed 1,309 rushing yards with a league-high 17 rushing touchdowns.
He also led the league with 20 total touchdowns.
“Shady” is an electrifying performer with the ball in his hands as both a runner and receiver. McCoy should continue his exceptional for years to come as he has just passed his 24th birthday.
LeSean McCoy is a superstar that has arrived and he should be a Pro Bowl staple for most of this decade.