Everson Griffen was already announced as a Pro Bowl replacement player for J.J. Watt, who was injured during Houston’s playoff loss to Kansas City in the wild card round of the playoffs. But after the conference championship games at least 14 more players will need to be replaced for next Sunday’s Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
With Denver and Carolina now in the Super Bowl, the 10 Panthers and four Broncos who were initially named to the squad need to be replaced. Just as likely is that several New England and Arizona players will opt out of the Pro Bowl after coming off losses.
One player who appears to be a lock to get named today is safety Harrison Smith, who is likely to be named as a replacement for injured Arizona safety Tyrann Mathieu, who won’t play in the game but has yet to officially be replaced.
The biggest issue facing the Pro Bowl selection committee is that three cornerbacks from the Broncos and Panthers need to be replaced – Denver’s Aqib Talib and Chris Harris and Carolina’s Josh Norman. It’s unlikely that any of the Vikings cornerbacks would be on the top of the replacement list, but finding players to fill in will be difficult.
But perhaps Anthony Barr could be getting consideration. Both of Denver’s starting outside linebackers – Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware – and Carolina’s Thomas Davis have been taken away from the pool. Despite missing time due to injury, Barr is gaining the respect of his peers as a playmaker
The same can be said for rookie Eric Kendricks. The NFL is looking to showcase its young stars – Jacksonville’s Allen Robinson replaced Calvin Johnson and Oakland’s Derek Carr replaced Aaron Rodgers – and Kendricks was the Vikings’ leading tackler and a member of the 2016 All-Rookie Team. While he may a longshot to replace Carolina’s Luke Kuechly, he has the numbers to support consideration at a minimum.
A couple of other Vikings could be similar longshots, but players deserving of consideration. Defensive tackle Kawann Short of the Panthers won’t be available, so, despite a lingering toe injury during in the season, Linval Joseph might get consideration; however, Joseph was supposed to have surgery on his toe and likely wouldn’t be able to play.
A couple of deep sleepers could be center Joe Berger and fullback Zach Line. Carolina had players at both positions – center Ryan Kalil (the brother of Vikings tackle Matt Kalil) and fullback Mike Tolbert – and both are out of the mix now that the Panthers will be playing in the Super Bowl. By some measurements of efficiency, Berger, who replaced former Pro Bowler John Sullivan, graded out as high as any center in the league. Peterson spent much of the season extolling Line’s virtues. Both are technically worthy of being added to the roster, but neither has the name recognition that would put them in a “first-call” scenario.
When the Pro Bowl ballots were tabulated and the names were announced, Vikings players felt their team got disrespected with one pick.
Now there are two.
That number is almost sure to go to three.
Can it get any higher? Get your Pro Bowl popcorn ready.
- The Vikings’ commitment to improving its offense has been emphasized over the past week. With the hiring of assistant coaches Tony Sparano and Pat Shurmur, the Vikings now have three former head coaches as offensive assistants (along with offensive coordinator Norv Turner). Mike Zimmer isn’t looking for young up-and-coming coaching. He wants experience and has assembled his coaching army.
- Are there cracks starting to show in the Packers armor? Word out of Wisconsin is that Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy is “fed up” with the Packers’ lack of involvement in the spring spending spree that is free agency. He has a point, but getting Ted Thompson to invest in outsiders doesn’t happen often.