Three to Watch: First-Time Pro Bowl Aspirants

Being selected for the Pro Bowl is an undeniable honor, but there are always players who are passed up despite consistently outstanding play. Samantha Fillerup takes a look at three Chargers players who have peaked at "alternate" status and will look to punch their first tickets to Hawaii this season.

1. DE Luis Castillo

Castillo has established himself as a terrific two-way lineman whose absence on the field is notable, as was the case in the game against the Minnesota Vikings when running back Adrian Peterson racked up record yardage after Castillo left with an injury. He was inactive in Weeks 10-15 last season with a severe ankle injury, but still managed to post 37 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

Castillo signed a seven-year contract extension earlier this off-season and is committed to bettering himself. Health has been an issue -- he has missed six games in each of the last two seasons and missed this year's preseason opener with a balky back -- so he will need to find a way to stay healthy if he's to make a legitimate Pro Bowl push. The closest he's come thus far was in 2006, when he was voted a second-alternate.

2. OLB Shaun Phillips

Phillips is a vocal leader on defense who is charged with firing up the team during times of strife. He is recognized as one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL thanks to his lightning-quick first step and strong swim move.

Phillips signed a six-year contract extension after the 2006 season and has proven well worth the investment, notching 20 sacks over the last two seasons. His contributions on the field often go unnoticed because he does not seek individual attention for his play -- which is even more noteworthy when playing alongside luminous star Shawne Merriman -- but Phillips a playmaker who has yet to tap his full potential. Like Castillo, Phillips was named a second-alternate in 2006.

3. P Mike Scifres

Scifres played all 16 games last season and recorded career-highs 81 punts for 3,735 yards and a 39.6-yard net average. He has a knack for landing his kicks inside the red zone and is renowned as a lethal weapon in the field-position battle.

Scifres has stood in the shadow of Oakland Raiders punter Shane Lechler, a perennial All Pro, but the fact that Scifres picks up hidden yards for a contending team should soon give him an edge.

Having learned the intricacies of the kicking game from former Charger and Australian footballer Darren Barrett, Scifres is well respected but not widely known outside of San Diego. He continues to be a stalwart and consistent member of the special teams, regardless of his relative anonymity. Scifres has been named a first-alternate each of the last two seasons.

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