Newton, Kuechly among 2013 Pro Bowl Panthers

The official list for the 2013 Pro Bowl came out yesterday and several deserving Carolina Panthers players were on it – while yet another deserving candidate (or two) was not.

Cam Newton made the list for the second time in his three seasons. This is the first, however, that was voted on by the fans, coaches and players and not conference-specific.

After years of loafing on the field and giving little effort, players will be put into a “draft pool” for the game. On Jan 22nd at 8 pm, Jerry Rice and Dion Sanders will play GMs and “pick sides” as it were – very much like you used to do as a kid in backyard pick-up games.

At QB for example, Newton, Brees and Wilson made it from the NFC while Peyton Manning, Brady and Phillip Rivers made it on the AFC side.

Carolina center Ryan Kalil made the top of the list as well while MLB Luke Kuechly and DE Greg Hardy were chosen as well. Mike Tolbert rounded out the vanishing fullback position, to make a bit of a pun on his body shape.

It was nice to see Greg “The Kraken” Hardy make the cut. While he fell 39 sacks shy of his 50-sack goal (*ahem!*), he has 11 sacks to match his 2012 total with one game left to play. He has been a disruptive force all season and certainly belongs on this list.

A few players made the Pro Bowl this season on name recognition alone, which happens every year. Steelers SS Troy Polamalu, Patriots’ QB Tom Brady, LB John Abraham of Arizona, OLB Terrell Suggs of Baltimore, and Texans defensive end JJ Watt were the most glaring examples this season. Polamalu is on the downside of his HOF career. Brady didn’t have a Brady-esque year but that was more due to his receiving corps than any drop-off in ability on Tom’s part….but it should all factor into the equation. Watt has only 9.5 sacks after having 20.5 the previous season.

The main beef I have is the snubbing of OLB Thomas Davis. CLEARLY fully back from tearing his ACL for the third time, his speed on the outside in both coverage and pursuit is not matched by many players in the NFL. Another “snub” that DOES match Davis’ athletic ability is fellow NFC South OLB LaVonte David. Both should be on the roster, but aren’t.

David was 5th in the NFL in tackles while leading all top-ten tacklers in passes defended with 15. He was tied for 5th in the NFL in interceptions with five from the linebacker position.

Dec 22, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) reacts in the third quarter. The Panthers defeated the Saint 17-13 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Interestingly enough, Luke Kuechly didn’t force a fumble the entire season. Just an aside, since many of us recall the monster preseason games he had, slicing past linemen/blockers and wrecking havoc in the backfield. He did have 4 INTs, however. He is likely the best MLB in the NFL at pass coverage.

Both David and Davis should have made the list over linebackers like John Abraham and Terrell Suggs. Sure, Abe had 11.5 sacks, but that’s about all he did with 36 tackles. I suppose a case could be made for him as he forced 4 fumbles, but with age he has become more one-dimensional. I’d much rather have Thomas Davis OR LaVonte David as my outside linebackers than aging veterans like Abraham and Suggs.

Oh well, it happens every year. I’d like to have seen Charles Johnson make it, considering he and JJ Watt have the same 9.5 sacks on the season and the Carolina front-seven can produce sacks from just about any position…even the DBs get in on the action with blitzes. Just ask Captain Munnerlyn, who has made some very big sacks this year, about that.

Sumnming up:

Offense: Cam Newton, QB; Ryan Kalil, C; Mike Tolbert, FB

Defense: Luke Kuechly, MLB; Greag Hardy, DE

The one other “snub” I feel is Panthers’ punter Josh Nortman. I’m serious. How many punts did he have this season that were downed inside not the 20 yard line, but the five yard line? Bags of ’em. His pinpoint coffin-corner punting played a nice part in the Panthers’ scoring defense as he (and the special teams coverage) would force the opposing offense to march 95+ yards if they wanted a TD.

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