Five Ravens were named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster last night. Some of them highly deserved it, others might have gotten in more on reputation than anything else. While I don’t think any of them clearly DID NOT deserve to be honored, I’ll go ahead and give you the list, ranked by decreasing order of merit.
Ray Rice – 1st Selection
Obviously, Mighty Mouse (or, as he has taken to calling himself on his Twitter account, “Rated R,” or “Rockstar Rizzle” – it appears he is as hungry for a real nickname as we are for him) was the most deserving Raven on the list. His 1,292 yards from scrimmage are second in the NFL, behind only the AFC’s starting Pro Bowl running back Chris Johnson. Rice has a legitimate case for NFL MVP, especially if the Ravens get into the postseason. Not that I’m saying he has any shot of winning it, but without him, the Ravens could easily be a 5-6 win team. Ray Rice has exceeded all expectations in his second season in B’More.
Ray Lewis – 11th Selection
Maybe the Ravens should stick to drafting guys named “Ray.” They always seem to pan out pretty well. Lewis, who has missed the Pro Bowl just 3 times in 14 seasons, has had a very strong, albeit quiet (by his standards) season. He again leads the team in tackles, with 121 (86 solo), and has picked up three sacks as well. However, since basically single-handedly winning the San Diego game in Week 2, the game-changing plays have been ominously absent from his play. Unless Ray can manage to pick off Charlie Frye this week, 2009 will be his first season EVER where he failed to record at least one interception. This isn’t a huge surprise, seeing as how his coverage skills have been declining for years, but I’d really like him to become the first LB to join the 30-30 (sacks and interceptions) club.
Haloti Ngata – 1st Selection
Ngata, as many had predicted, finally broke into the Pro Bowl after Albert Haynesworth went to the Redskins in the NFC. Ngata has been a solid force up front for the Ravens all season, but this has been far from his most productive season. He missed two games with injury, and as a result, his tackle total is currently at just 34, and will be his lowest since his rookie campaign. He hasn’t made any of the spectacular line-of-scrimmage interceptions that we saw from him last year, and on Sunday in Pittsburgh he got called for a personal foul on a cheap shot late hit out of bounds. Additionally, the pass-rush/pocket-collapse part of Ngata’s game still leaves much to be desired. This has been a long time coming for Haloti though, and he is fully deserving of his first Pro Bowl.
Ed Reed – 6th Selection
Reed gathers his 6th Pro Bowl in 8 years, despite having missed the past four games with injury. We’ve seen flashes of the old, hard-hitting Ed this year, such as in the Denver game when he blew up Knowshon Moreno, but it has been an unsteady year for #20, to say the least. His three interceptions are on pace to be the 2nd-lowest in his career, outpacing just his ten-game 2005 season when he only got one. On the bright side, his three forced fumbles tie the most of his career (2004). The secondary as a whole though, seems to be faring a bit better over the last several weeks with Tom Zbikowski filling in, than they did during the first part of the season with Ed back there. Dominique Foxworth, Chris Carr, and (ugh) Frank Walker might be a little nervous this week with the freelancing Reed potentially returning to the lineup.
To borrow a phrase from Ray Lewis – “Bottom line,” Ed is still the best ball-hawking safety in the NFL, and my favorite Raven of all time, so yes, he probably deserves to be in the Pro Bowl again.
Le’Ron McClain – 2nd Selection
I love me some Pain Train. I wish he would get to tote the rock more than he has so far in 2009. But he made the Pro Bowl last year, as a fullback, despite lining up as a running back for most of the season. He did well in the fan voting because, well, people don’t know many fullbacks, and McClain’s was a name they recognized from their fantasy leagues. Same deal this year, although he has been used MUCH more as a traditional fullback than as a runner – people still don’t know many fullbacks. McClain is above average as a blocking FB, but probably not Pro Bowl-caliber.
Nonetheless, congrats to #33.
First Alternate – Ben Grubbs
Grubbs is another guy who I feel had a better 2008 than 2009. He, Matt Birk, and Chris Chester were the main culprits in the Ravens being unable to score a TD on three tries from inside the 2-yard line against Indianapolis. For a stretch of several games, basically until Chester was replaced by Marshal Yanda, the Ravens had zero inside push. He played well at the start of the season, though, and has picked it up again down the stretch.
There are several rookies on this year’s Pro Bowl rosters, and Oher could have been one of them. When I heard that a Ravens offensive lineman was named as an alternate, I was sure it would be #74. He swapped back and forth from right to left tackle several times this season, and held his own against vaunted pass rushers such as Elvis Dumervil, Jared Allen, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, and, for the most part, James Harrison. It’s tough to break in to the Pro Bowl roster, especially at a position like tackle, where so many players are high first-round draft picks.
Michael will force his way onto that roster though, sooner rather than later. And once he does, he will be a Pro Bowl staple for a long, long time.
That’s about it as far as snubs go. The Ravens are 8-7, so five players is likely a few too many, in actuality.
Regardless, Congratulations to all of the Ravens’ Pro Bowlers.