The 2013 Pro Bowl rosters were just announced, and former Alabama Crimson Tide and current Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones was named to the NFC roster for the first time in his second season in the league. Julio has had a spectacular season in Atlanta in 2012 with 76 receptions for 1,142 yards and 10 touchdowns.
With one week remaining in the regular season, Julio ranks 11th in receiving yards, and is tied for 6th in the NFL in receiving touchdowns. He had four 100-yard receiving games this season with his best game coming against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he had 9 catches for 147 yards and a touchdown in Atlanta’s 24-23 victory.
Julio has been an integral part of a Falcons offense that ranks 7th in the NFL in yards and helped the team to a 13-2 record heading into Week 17. The Falcons have clinched the top seed in the NFC and will get a first round bye in the playoffs. The road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will come through Atlanta.
Julio Jones was the only former Crimson Tide player selected to the Pro Bowl this season, which leads to the question of which former Tide players were snubbed? I could think of three right off the top of my head who had pro bowl caliber seasons:
Evan Mathis (OG/Philadelphia Eagles)
It has been a dismal season in Philadelphia as the Eagles have stumbled to a 4-10 record despite high preseason expectations. It has been a season that will likely lead to widespread turnover in the organization, starting with head coach Andy Reid. But, while it has been a tough season for the Eagles, there have been a couple bright spots from players who used to play in Tuscaloosa starting with offensive guard Evan Mathis.
In his eighth season in the NFL, Mathis had what he thought was a Pro Bowl season for the Eagles, but he was snubbed on Wednesday night as no Philadelphia players were selected. Mathis has started every game so far for the Eagles, and has been the only constant on their shifting offensive line. Mathis is the only lineman left standing who was a projected starter in the preseason, and he has been fantastic. He has given up only 1.5 sacks and has been called for 4 penalties totaling 30 yards all season long.
Mathis has had an outstanding season despite all the struggles across the Philadelphia offensive line. Also, Mathis has been playing the last few weeks on a sprained left ankle but has gutted it out to try and help his team.
Mathis wasn’t the only former Alabama player on the Eagles who was snubbed this year…
DeMeco Ryans (LB/Philadelphia Eagles)
DeMeco Ryans doesn’t have as strong of a case as his teammate Mathis, but he did have a strong year leading the Philadelphia defense at middle linebacker. Ryans is a former Pro Bowl linebacker for the Texans, but was traded to Philadelphia this offseason. He led the Eagles defense with 111 total tackles, and he ranks 11th in the NFL in solo tackles with 85. For Ryans, it isn’t really a case of him not playing to a Pro Bowl level this season, but just that there were better options at inside linebacker this year.
There are only two inside linebackers on the NFC roster, and it is hard to argue with the choices of San Francisco’s Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis. Ryans could ultimately replace one of those two guys if the 49ers end up making it to the Super Bowl.
Andre Smith (OT/Cincinnati Bengals)
The former sixth overall pick in the 2009 draft has enjoyed his best season to date in the NFL as Cincinnati’s starting right tackle. Smith has seen a lot of criticism in his four year career in the NFL about his worth ethic and his ability to stay in shape. This year, however, the 6-foot-4 335 pound former Crimson Tide let tackle has been able to stay in shape and has been a dominating run blocker for the Bengals to help Cincinnati to their second consecutive playoff appearance.
Smith had his struggles in pass protection early this season, and admittedly his 7.5 sacks allowed his a tough number to look past, but he has improved over the course of the season and has been one of the best run blockers in the NFL this season. If Smith can continue to improve his pass blocking, then he could easily become a perennial Pro Bowler like his AFC counterparts Joe Thomas and Ryan Clady.
The Pro Bowl has to replace a number of players every year, so don’t be surprised if one or two of the guys snubbed actually end up on the roster at some point due to injuries or because of a Super Bowl berth.
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