Pro Bowl rosters will be announced tonight. With the new format, there is no AFC and NFC designation. The field is chosen, and then there will be a fantasy-style draft to determine the two teams.
I know – try to contain your excitement.
Mocking aside, the honor of being recognized as one of the best in the game is important and meaningful to most players. So below is a look at nine current Eagles who deserve to be mentioned in the conversation.
LeSean McCoy – He’s a no-brainer. McCoy leads the NFL with 1,476 yards. Among the 30 running backs who have totaled at least 150 carries, only DeMarco Murray (5.4) has a higher yards-per-carry average than McCoy (5.1). His eight runs of 20+ yards are tied for third-most, and McCoy has only fumbled once, despite leading the league in carries (287).
Perhaps overlooked is that McCoy is having a career year as a receiver. Chip Kelly has been masterful at identifying mismatches for the Birds’ running back, who has piled up 51 catches for 536 yards. He’s averaging 10.5 yards per reception. As a point of reference, the great Brian Westbrook never averaged better than 10.1.
DeSean Jackson – He’s got a good shot of getting selected. Jackson has set career highs with 79 catches and 1,304 yards. Only three receivers rank in the top-10 in both receiving yards and yards per catch: Calvin Johnson, Josh Gordon and Jackson.
Overall, Jackson is eighth in receiving yards. Last year, eight wide receivers made the Pro Bowl.
Nick Foles – By any statistical measure, Foles deserves to go. He’s first in passer rating (118.8) and yards per attempt (9.03). Barring a four-INT performance against the Cowboys, Foles will become the second passer in NFL history to throw 25 or more touchdowns with five or fewer interceptions in a season. Tom Brady (36 and 4 in 2010) is the other.
Last year, six QBs made the Pro Bowl. Peyton Manning is a lock. Aaron Rodgers has been banged-up, but was excellent before he got injured. Philip Rivers, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson all have strong cases. Cam Newton too. And even though his numbers aren’t there, Tom Brady warrants consideration.
Jason Kelce – He helped himself with an impressive showing on national TV against the Bears. Kelce has had some hiccups here and there, but overall has played at a high level, especially considering he was coming off a knee injury. Last year, four centers made the Pro Bowl. One was Maurkice Pouncey, who missed most of the season due to injury. And another was Jeff Saturday, who is no longer in the league. Kelce has a good shot to take one of their spots.
Evan Mathis – The Eagles’ left guard has been receiving praise from places other than Pro Football Focus this season. He’s finishing up an impressive three-year run where he’s only missed one game. Mathis has been excellent in the run game and rarely has breakdowns in pass protection. Considering that six guards make it, the guess here is that he gets recognized this time around.
Jason Peters – He’s battled a plethora of injuries, but has played well for most of the season. There have been some bumps in the road – the Chiefs game, the Vikings game – but Peters has provided stability at left tackle and is outstanding as a run blocker. Peters is a five-time Pro Bowler, and that reputation will help.
Fletcher Cox – He probably doesn’t have the sack numbers (three on the season) to get in, but Cox has played at a high level and leads the team with 21 QB hurries (no other Eagle has more than 13). He’s also been excellent against the run. Cox was asked to transition from last year’s gap-shooting 4-3 role to a more disciplined, read-and-react style in this year’s 3-4. He just turned 23-years-old a couple weeks ago. Even if it’s not this year, Cox has Pro Bowls in his future.
DeMeco Ryans – He’s filled up the stat sheet with 120 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions. Ryans directs the Eagles’ defense and has been a model of consistency. He’s not as athletic as some of his peers and sometimes struggles in coverage, but Ryans has been very good against the run and shows up every week. The 29-year-old has had no issue transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4.
Donnie Jones – Kelly and even Foles have made a habit of identifying Jones as a difference-maker on special teams. He’s had 32 punts downed inside the 20 – fourth-most in the NFL. Only two punters make it, so Jones might not get the nod. But he’s been getting the job done all season.
Other notes: Brandon Boykin is tied for fourth in the league with five interceptions and has been fantastic on special teams, but since he’s only played 51.9 percent of the defensive snaps as a nickel, it’ll be tough for him to get in. Also, Cedric Thornton deserves a mention here. He’s still under-the-radar but has been perhaps the Eagles’ most consistent defender. Overall, Thornton is 10th among defensive linemen in tackles. He may not have the sack numbers, but has shown he has a Pro Bowl ceiling.
WHAT YOU MISSED
T-Mac takes a look at Dallas from Foles’ perspective.
Says Cary Williams: “We’re on a mission, and they’re in our way. Period.”
“No one wants to face this team in the postseason.” Here’s what they’re saying.
McManus with the latest injury report, which includes a back issue for Dez Bryant.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The rest of the NFC East seems to be filled with static, writes the Daily News’ Rich Hofmann:
The point, if it isn’t obvious by now, is that the Eagles are a year ahead of the curve in the NFC East, at least a year ahead of everyone else. They have made their coaching transition. They have picked a guy who, by all available measures, is more than capable. Chip Kelly has accomplished the turnaround in a blink.
The Eagles have a coach, and a stable front office, and a young roster, and acres of cap room. Nobody knows whether they will arrive at their preferred destination – that uncertainty is why you’re willing to pay money to watch – but the Eagles are set up here for a long run.
Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com offers his impressions of Kelly:
I’m sure there are doubters here and there, but Kelly has been great this year and appears to be the real deal. He is an X’s and O’s guru. He knows how to motivate players. And the players seem to like him. Before you think he’s soft, remember that he cost Shady $100,000 back in the offseason, benched DeSean, made Mike Vick fight for his spot and made the defensive guys shift to a 3-4.
We’ll have plenty as we continue to ramp up to Sunday night.