In a season that has been such a huge disappointment, talking about Bengals players making the Pro Bowl feels weird. But, despite the generally poor performance for the whole team, A.J. Green and Geno Atkins deserved their Pro Bowl berths this year. Green has made the Pro Bowl every year since being drafted by the Bengals in 2011, while Atkins has made it every year but 2013, when he spent the better part of the season recovering from a torn ACL.
However, what does not seem to be consistently agreed upon is whether or not any other Bengals deserved to make this year’s Pro Bowl. Maybe the Bengals as a team don’t deserve to have five players make the Pro Bowl, but I personally felt that 2016 saw fantastic Pro Bowl level performances from these players:
Granted, Burfict missed the first three games of the season (but Le’Veon Bell missed three and Tom Brady missed four and made the game). But, the real story of Burfict’s season has been his 73 tackles, two sacks, eight passes defensed, two interceptions for 54 yards, and one forced fumble in only 11 games.
Those numbers are almost identical to his 16-game total in his best season, 2013. He did have 115 tackles that year, but everything else is very similar. His 73 tackles so far rank 16th in the NFL and third among 4-3 outside linebackers. Imagine how good his numbers would look right now if he had played in the first three games of the season.
So, why was it that Burfict was snubbed? The three AFC outside linebackers who did make it were Von Miller of the Broncos, Lorenzo Alexander of the Bills, and Brian Orakpo of the Texans. All three are very good linebackers, but none of them put up the kind of numbers Burfict has this year. If I were to choose only one player for the Bengals who got snubbed this year, it would be Burfict.
The Bengals’ offensive line has been below average this year. Andy Dalton has been sacked more times (37) than every quarterback in the NFL but Tyrod Taylor (40) and Carson Palmer (39). That would sooner warrant cuts across the board for every lineman and line coach on the team before it would warrant a Pro Bowl berth, right?
To an extent I understand that perspective, but Whitworth’s dominating presence on the left end of the offensive line has been a big reason why things haven’t been even worse than they’ve been this year. He consistently ranked among the top five players each week in the Bengals’ grades from Pro Football Focus, primarily because you rarely saw pressure coming from the left side of the field. When there was, it was because Clint Boling had a bad game, not Whitworth. I understand that nobody wants to recognize the Bengals’ offensive line for anything positive this year, but I think Whitworth deserves a ton of recognition for the effort he put in to keep the offensive line from total oblivion. PFF ranks him as the No. 2 offensive tackle in the league. Whitworth is a first alternate for the game, so it’s likely he could still make it to Orlando.
I get why Carlos Dunlap was snubbed from the Pro Bowl, I really do. His numbers were good, but he was far more productive in the first half of the year than he was in the second half. By the end of Week 8 he was on pace to put up an impressive 40 tackles and 10 sacks. As you probably know by now, he didn’t stay on that pace. His strong start was largely forgotten by the time Pro Bowl voting started.
But, even with the dip in production, he has 28 tackles and seven sacks with two weeks left to go. Only three other 4-3 defensive ends have more of both. All due respect to the Texans’ Jadeveon Clowney for improving to a high level of play after a slow start to his career, but what has he done this season that Dunlap has not? He has an interception and a forced fumble, but Dunlap has two forced fumbles and all around better numbers.
It’s hard to argue that Dunlap deserved a Pro Bowl spot over the tremendous Khalil Mack or Cameron Wake. But, Dunlap outperformed Clowney all season so I’m finding it difficult to figure out why Clowney received a Pro Bowl berth over Dunlap. Dunlap is a second alternate, so it’s possible he, too, could actually play in the game.
Ultimately, when the Bengals put up a string of poor performances like they have had in 2016, it’s hard to argue that many players played at Pro Bowl levels. But, I personally think that these three at least deserve to be in the discussion. And while the Pro Bowl doesn’t mean much to the fans, and some Bengals fans want the players to stay home and avoid injury, it means more to the players than you’d think.
What do you think? Which Bengals were snubbed?