The NFL released new 2014 Pro Bowl jerseys this afternoon. The NFL has previously said that they will be dropping the AFC vs NFC format and adopting a more fan-friendly fantasy draft format. More info on the rule changes for 2014. In addition, the red and blue uniforms were dropped for these neon orange and yellow colors. The new format allows for the best players at each position to participate in the Pro-Bowl, without regards to conference.
Wishful thinking says this will allow for even more Chargers to play in the Pro Bowl this season. These are the Chargers players I think have been playing at a Pro-Bowl caliber this season:
Regardless of his 3-INT game that ended at 3 AM EST (oh, the irony), Rivers is still having an amazing, Pro Bowl caliber year for the Chargers. He is still 4th in the NFL with 1610 passing yards, tied for 2nd in the NFL with 13 TD passes, and 3rd in the NFL with a passer rating of 110.5. Rivers’ season makes him a top-5 QB (statistically) this season and has even put him in the conversation for Comeback Player of the Year. He has also won AFC Offensive Player of the Week twice this season, so he has been getting the publicity necessary to be voted into the Pro-Bowl.
If he stays healthy, Antonio Gates is on pace to record a season high in receiving yards this season. He is averaging 87.6 YPG this year, on pace for 1402 receiving yards. Gates is 7th in the NFL in total receiving yardage, good for 2nd among Tight Ends. Gates also ranks 6th in the NFL in receptions with 32. Perhaps the most astonishing statistic for Gates is that 71.8% of his receptions have been for 1st downs. Antonio Gates also passes the eyeball test this season: he looks quicker, stronger, and more confident than in his past few injury-riddled seasons and should make a push for a Pro bowl spot.
Weddle has been all over the field this season. Even though he hasn’t created a turnover yet, (he has 10 INT over the last 2 years), he still have 5 deflected passes already, on pace to record a career high of 16 this season. Much of what 2011 Pro Bowler, Eric Weddle, does on the field isn’t even quantified by any major defensive statistics. He has been the most important player on the Chargers defense so far this season and has shown he still deserves to be considered a top-3 safety in the NFL.
The LB that was supposed to be a run-stopping specialist has also been the best pass-rusher this season (by far). Johnson has 4 sacks this season (the next Charger has only 1). Through 5 games, Jarret Johnson is on pace to crush his personal single-season sack record of 6 in 2009. But, pass rushing isn’t even his strength. Johnson has had to carry much of the slack from the poor play of the defensive line and has been stout against the run. Johnson left the Raiders game with a hamstring injury, and if he has to sit out, we will see just how valuable the Pro Bowl caliber LB has been to the already poor defense.
This is probably premature, but Keenan Allen has shown star potential. He received the same sentiments from Cowboys’ #1 corner, Brandon Carr, last week. Allen doubled his receiving yards this Sunday and also recorded his 1st TD. Twice. With the depleted receiving corps, he will continue to get the opportunity to prove he is capable of performing each week. He has been running polished routes and coming back strong to the ball like Anquan Boldin. There are obviously plenty of more established, Pro Bowl caliber receivers in the NFL, but Allen has a chance to take the country by storm with another big performance on Monday Night Football against the Colts next week.
Which Chargers player do you think is most deserving of a Pro Bowl spot in 2014? Chime in on the poll, comments, or tweet me @kingofcahill