Analyzing and whining about the Jaguars' Pro Bowl snubs has become an annual tradition in Jacksonville. Such is life for an underperforming small market team. But that doesn't change the fact that there ARE a couple of Jaguars' players that unequivocally deserved to make the Pro Bowl in 2021. For the players that deserve but do not receive this honor, it's an opportunity missed. While many on the outside don't believe the Pro Bowl holds much weight — and that's certainly true of the actual exhibition game — it does matter for a couple of critical reasons. Pro Bowls matter when it comes time to negotiate new contracts, and perhaps even more importantly for some, they matter when building a resume for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Running back James Robinson and linebacker Myles Jack deserved a spot on the AFC Pro Bowl roster this year. Left guard Andrew Norwell probably did too. And an argument could also be made for Brandon Linder, the team's most consistent offensive lineman of the past decade.
This is an easy case to make. James Robinson is second in AFC in rushing yards, second in scrimmage yards, tied for fourth in total touchdowns (not including QBs), and fifth in rushing touchdowns (among running backs). Despite playing on one of the worst offenses in football, Robinson's vision, contact balance, and ability to make the first man miss have been on display all season long. There's no questioning Derrick Henry's place amongst the AFC Pro Bowlers at running back. But James Robinson has outgained the other two AFC rushers, Josh Jacobs and Nick Chubb, by 269 and 362 yards, respectively. Robinson took the league by storm as an undrafted free agent in 2020 and is the most egregious Jaguars' snub.
The Jaguars FINALLY figured out how to use fourth-year linebacker Myles Jack in 2020, and it's been a thing of beauty. He's the highest-rated linebacker in the AFC according to Pro Football Focus, and Jack's stats back up his rating. Despite missing two games, MJ is tied for third in tackles behind the line of scrimmage in the AFC (among off-ball linebackers), seventh in total tackles (among off-ball linebackers), fifth in passes defended (among off-ball linebackers), and has produced an interception, a forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries. More impressive than his statistical output has been the eye test. Jack has made more jaw-dropping plays from the linebacker spot than we've seen in Duval in some time. He's been fierce against the run and in pass coverage. The larger issue here is that the NFL does not separate off-ball linebackers and on-ball linebackers in the voting process. It's unfair for a true off-ball linebacker to go up against an edge rusher when sacks are THE glamour stat on the defensive side of the ball. The NFL should be ashamed.
Once the highest-paid guard in football, Norwell has received his fair share of backlash during his time in Duval. Based on his lofty contract status, Norwell had been a disappointment at left guard during his first two years as a Jaguar. But in 2020, Norwell has been an elite pass-blocking offensive guard. I don't make that statement lightly. He's earned the highest pass-blocking grade of any guard in the AFC in 2020 and has allowed just 13 pressures all year. Quenton Nelson, Joel Bitonio, and David DeCastro all made the Pro Bowl over Andrew Norwell. Norwell is not the mauler in the run game that Nelson and Bitonio are, but you could argue he's been more impressive on the whole than David DeCastro. But DeCastro plays for the Steelers ... stop me if you know where this sentence is going.
Despite being the most consistent center in football over the last half-decade, Linder has never made the Pro Bowl. He only played nine games this year, which makes it hard to get in. But Linder was easily PFF's highest-graded center this year. He surrendered just four pressures all year and was a significant part of James Robinson's success. It's a shame Linder couldn't stay healthy for a few more games.
Despite many's belief to the contrary, Cooke did not deserve to make the Pro Bowl this year. He was very good for the Jaguars, but only one punter makes it from each conference, and New England's Jake Bailey was a bit more consistent and dominant than Cooke.
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