2014 Pro Bowl roster analysis: Defense


The 2014 Pro Bowl rosters were announced Friday night and we've already gone over the biggest snubs and taken a look at the honorees on offense. We thought the voters did a better job overall than usual, but there were problems with the defensive choices.

We no longer have the familiar AFC vs. NFC lineups that existed since 1971. This year's rosters mesh top players from both conferences as voted by fans, coaches and players. For example: Out of the six running backs to make the Pro Bowl, five are from the NFC.

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Let's break down the defense:

Defensive end: Greg Hardy, Cameron Jordan, Robert Quinn, Cameron Wake, J.J. Watt, Mario Williams

It's great to see Jordan recognized despite his relatively low profile heading into the season. Hardy was the smart choice from the Panthers over teammate Charles Johnson. Robert Quinn would be my pick for Defensive Player of the Year. This is a category with two notable snubs: Calais Campbell and Muhammad Wilkerson. Both essentially were punished for being great run stoppers in addition to pass rushers.

Interior lineman: Gerald McCoy, Haloti Ngata, Dontari Poe, Justin Smith, Ndamukong Suh, Kyle Williams

This is where you see the changing face of the NFL. Jurrell Casey, Jason Hatcher and Marcell Dareus all had nine sacks or more from defensive tackle, and they still didn't make the list. This wasn't the best season for Ngata or Smith. They both still were very good, but their reputations helped. Poe improved as much as any player in the league. It's cool to see Williams' understated brilliance get recognized. Suh had a great season and stayed out of negative headlines.

Outside linebacker: John Abraham, Ahmad Brooks, Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Robert Mathis, Terrell Suggs

It's a surprise to see Brooks make the team over deserving players like Lavonte David and Thomas Davis. Abraham essentially was cast off from the Atlanta Falcons and ignored on the free agent market before the Cardinals picked him up. He's one of the most underrated pass rushers of his generation. Houston and Hali deserved their nods based on monster starts to the season.

Inside/middle linebacker: NaVorro Bowman, Vontaze Burfict, Luke Kuechly, Patrick Willis

What a four-pack of players! I thought Burfict might get snubbed, but the voters did a great job here. (Sorry Derrick Johnson and Kiko Alonso.) It is one of the toughest positions to crack in the NFL. It's telling that the 49ers have been pushing Bowman, not Willis, as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

Cornerback: Brandon Flowers, Brent Grimes, Joe Haden, Patrick Peterson, Darrelle Revis, Richard Sherman, Aqib Talib, Alterraun Verner

Revis' recovery from ACL surgery went as well as could be expected. It's remarkable that he will be much better next year, yet this honor was deserved. Peterson is oddly almost underrated. He could be the best man-coverage cornerback in the league. Verner, Grimes and Haden rightly were rewarded for standout seasons.

Free safety: Jairus Byrd, Earl Thomas, Eric Weddle

Free safety was one of the weaker positions in the league on the Pro Bowl ballot. Byrd just has started nine games. Weddle is terrific, but he had a down year. We'd be in favor of combining free safety and strong safety on the Pro Bowl ballot so more deserving players can make it.

Strong safety: Eric Berry, Kam Chancellor, Troy Polamalu

Berry made the team last year, but he didn't deserve it as he worked his way back into the mix after ACL surgery. This year, he definitely earned his spot by shutting down opposing tight ends. Chancellor is the unsung member of the Seahawks secondary; he does so many things well. Polamalu gave up too many big plays. Devin McCourty and T.J. Ward unfortunately got left out.