Just over a week ago, the Baltimore Ravens, including former Bulldogs DeAngelo Tyson and Dannell Ellerbe, took home the Lombardi Trophy at Super Bowl XLVII. The week before that, five former Bulldogs were selected to participate in the Pro Bowl.
With so many former players succeeding on Sundays, we at Dawg Post decided to take a look at some of the top 'Dogs currently in the NFL.
1. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals – In no time at all, Green has emerged as one of the top receivers in the NFL. In high school he was compared to Randy Moss, and he has lived up to that billing with his play. In 2012, he became the first rookie wide receiver to make the Pro Bowl. He followed up his rookie season with a stellar 2013 campaign, and if he continues at this rate, Green will be a sure-fire Hall of Famer.
2. Charles Johnson, Carolina Panthers – In three full seasons as a starter, Johnson has racked up 33 sacks. The highest paid player in the NFL in 2011 ($34 million total salary), Johnson is one of the most feared pass-rushers in the league. In 2012, Johnson had 12.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles. Not bad for a third round pick.
3. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions – The Lions' franchise quarterback has had his share of ups-and-downs in his young career. After a poor rookie campaign (13 TDs:20 INTs) and an injury cut short his second year, Stafford became the fourth signal-caller in league history to pass for 5,000 yards in a season en route to winning the 2011 NFL Comeback Player of the Year award. The former No. 1-overall pick saw his touchdowns fall drastically in 2012 (20 TDs) after 41 touchdowns in 2011. Still, in just four seasons, Stafford has broken dozens of franchise and NFL records.
4. Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals – In just three years, Atkins has established himself as one of the top interior defensive linemen in the game. Along with back-to-back Pro Bowl starts, Atkins has been named all-Pro twice in just the three seasons since being selected in the fourth round. He set a franchise record with 12.5 sacks in 2012.
5. Champ Bailey, Denver Broncos – One the greatest cornerbacks in NFL history, Bailey is still doing his thing at the age of 34. The '98 Nagurski Trophy winner at Georgia is the one of two players on this list whose college career pre-dates the Richt era. In his 14-year career, Bailey has gone to 12 Pro Bowls, picked off 52 passes and even scored a rushing touchdown to boot. In 2010, he was named to the NFL 2000s All-Decade team.
6. Chris Clemons, Seattle Seahawks – A former undrafted free agent, Clemons's career has been a long journey. After suffering a torn ACL in his rookie season, Clemons bounced from Washington to Cleveland to Oakland to Philadelphia. Since arriving in Seattle in 2010, Clemons has notched three straight seasons of 11 sacks or more and, in doing so, has surged into the discussion of elite pass-rushers in the NFL.
7. Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs – Chosen in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft after fellow pass-rushers J.J. Watt and Von Miller, Houston has shined in his first two seasons. Houston had 5.5 sacks in just 10 starts his rookie season and followed that with 10 sacks as a full-time start in 2012, earning the Statesboro native his first Pro Bowl selection.
8. Will Witherspoon, Tennessee Titans – In his 11 seasons, Witherspoon has an extremely consistent linebacker. Drafted in the third round by the Panthers in 2002, Witherspoon has played each of the linebacker positions in his career, collecting over 700 tackles, 26 sacks and 13 interceptions along the way.
9. Tim Jennings – A second round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2006, Jennings won a Super Bowl in his rookie season and blossomed after a move to Chicago in 2010. In 2012, Jennings led the league with nine interceptions and earned a trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.
10. Richard Seymour, Oakland Raiders – Selected sixth overall by the New England Patriots in 2001, Seymour has put together an impressive career. Now on the back-end of his career at age 34, Seymour has made seven Pro Bowl appearances, most recently in 2011, and was named all-Pro on every year from 2003-05. A three-time Super Bowl winner, Seymour has collected 57.5 sacks in his career and was named to the NFL 2000s All-Decade team.
Just missed the cut:
Dannell Ellerbe, Baltimore Ravens – A member of the newly crowned Super Bowl champions, Ellerbe has become a key cog in the vaunted Ravens' defense and could be the predecessor to longtime captain Ray Lewis.
Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings – After putting together the best rookie campaign in NFL history for a kicker, Walsh started the Pro Bowl at the end of the 2012 season. Not only were his 10 consecutive successful attempts from 50 yards or more an NFL record, no kicker in league history had made ten 50-yard field goals in a season until Walsh.
Thomas Davis, Carolina Panthers – Davis, selected in the first round in 2005, had a successful start to his career, but back-to-back-to-back ACL injuries forced the safety-turned-linebacker to miss most of the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons. In 2012 Davis became the first player to return from three ACL tears in three years and racked up 105 combined tackles. He has 11.5 sacks and 10 forced fumbles in his eight-year career.
Reshad Jones, Miami Dolphins – After foregoing his senior year, Jones was selected in the fifth round by the Dolphins. After three seasons, Jones has grown into the role of starting safety and racked up 74 tackles and four interceptions in 2012. With 29 starts under his belt, Jones has collected six interceptions and 130 tackles in his career.
Brandon Boykin, Philadelphia Eagles – In his rookie season of 2012, Boykin returned kicks and started a few games at cornerback for the Eagles. The fourth round pick notched 24 tackles and a sack while averaging over 23 yards per kick return.