The number-crunchers at Pro Football Focus (and that term is a compliment in our book) have updated their Pro Bowl selections, just days before the actual teams will be announced by the NFL, and the NFC list includes one Buccaneer on each side of the ball.
This can be a touchy subject in the locker room, or even here in the Captain’s Blog. Coaches are loathe to identify which of their players they believe are Pro Bowl-worthy because they don’t want to single one man out over another. Players feel the same way about the teammates in their locker room, and even pointing out the impressive numbers of say, a Doug Martin here in the Captain’s Blog, could be seen as unfair to those performers whose good deeds aren’t as strictly tied to the stat tables.
That’s not a problem over at PFF, where each week they evaluate the play of every player in the league using an in-depth grading system that is as objective as they can make it. Those grades then form the basis for a number of weekly and seasonal rankings, including the site’s frequently-updated analysis of what players should be going to the Pro Bowl in each conference.
If fan votes, NFL coaches and players see it the same was as PFF, the Bucs’ offense will be represented in Honolulu by WR Vincent Jackson and the defense will have Gerald McCoy to carry its torch.
Jackson is one of four receivers selected, along with a trio of NFC North players: Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, Chicago’s Brandon Marshall and Minnesota’s Percy Harvin (this is no longer the Black-and-Blue Division, it seems). PFF calls Jackson the “catalyst to a dramatically improved passing attack,” at least for most of the season. In the minimal fan-voting update circulated by the NFL on Thursday, the Giants’ Victor Cruz was the NFC’s leading vote-getter. With those five and some potential love for Carolina’s Steve Smith and the Falcons’ duo of Roddy White and Julio Jones, the voting could be tight at the receiver position this year. The last Buccaneer receiver to make it to the Pro Bowl was Keenan McCardell in 2003.
The PFF folks are particularly high on McCoy, whose total of five sacks isn’t the kind of number that jumps off the page to online voters. However, as Bucs Head Coach Greg Schiano has maintained all year, effectively pressuring the quarterback is about a lot more than just sack totals. In fact, PFF tweeted on Thursday that McCoy and the Lions’ Ndamukong Suh are tied for second in the NFL in quarterback disruptions this season behind Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins. Atkins isn’t a threat to McCoy’s Pro Bowl hopes, as an AFC player.
McCoy missed portions of his first two seasons due to arm injuries but has played every game in 2012 and really come into his own. According to the PFF analysts, McCoy has been “able to show the extraordinary blend of speed and power that had the Buccaneers so excited back in 2010. He has excelled with unnerving consistency against both run and pass irrespective of the players lining up across from him.”
PFF’s other selections at defensive tackle in the NFC are San Francisco’s Justin Smith (who actually plays end in a 3-4 defense) and Detroit’s Nick Fairley. The last Buccaneer defensive tackle to make the Pro Bowl was, yes, Warren Sapp in 2003.