By Ernie Palladino
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The Jets and Giants’ seasons end on Sunday, of course. But neither squad should go unrepresented on Friday night when the NFL announces its Pro Bowl squad at 9 p.m.
It’s hard to imagine anyone finding honor in seven- and six-win seasons (or eight- and seven-win seasons), especially the way both teams have lost games this year. And yet, each has at least one player who deserves to go to Honolulu for that game which, in the NFL’s never-ending quest to bring meaning to the ridiculous, has been rules-and-roster revamped into a fantasy-league type event. But perhaps we criticize too much here.
At any rate, one shouldn’t count on seeing Eli Manning out there, especially after his franchise-record setting 26 interceptions in 15 games. But there is one Giant who might deserve a mention. Antrel Rolle, the only truly consistent player in an injury-ravaged secondary, had himself quite a season.
Rolle’s legs finally started running as fast as his mouth this year, and he put together the most solid season of any Giants defender. He had some wonderful things to say about Justin Tuck, who has been the soul of Tom Coughlin’s defense for quite a while now, but don’t expect to hear Tuck’s name on the Pro Bowl show. He just wasn’t productive enough the first part of the season.
Rolle, though, was another story. The scheme allowed him to play free safety more this year, a position where he always found more comfort than in the three-safety alignment. And he responded with team-highs of six interceptions and 93 tackles. He also had two sacks and a fumble recovery.
Don’t expect anyone else. Tuck had a respectable nine sacks, but that’s not enough to get a defensive end into the Pro Bowl. Besides, most of those came in the second half of the season. And even though linebacker Jon Beason proved a beast, he didn’t really start making his mark until his 12-tackle game against Chicago in Week 6, three weeks after he arrived from Carolina.
The Jets could put three or four on the team. Count DE Muhammad Wilkerson as a sure shot after a 10 1/2-sack season. He was a monster on a good defense, always in the backfield, always pressuring.
Ditto for DT Sheldon Richardson. He led all defensive tackles with 76 tackles, according to the Pro Bowl ballot, but he was in seventh place. Only the top six make it, so he’s on the cusp. So, by the way, is Wilkerson, who ranked sixth in the Pro Bowl voting as of yesterday.
That came as a huge shock for fellow D-lineman Leger Douzable.
“They shouldn’t be on the cusp,” Douzable told the Jets’ website. “They should be in the Pro Bowl, and it shouldn’t even be close. Those guys make it a lot easier for me.”
Besides those two, answer one question. What field-goal kicker has been more automatic than Nick Folk? He’s missed just two field goals this year, one of which came during a wind-swept game in Buffalo in Week 11. He hit from 54, won two AFC Special Teams Player of the Week awards and booted three game-winning field goals for a seven-win team.
Center Nick Mangold might have a shot, though considering the amount of pressure Geno Smith saw this year, it’s hard to believe anyone would consider any Jets lineman for any honor. However, Mangold went to four straight Pro Bowls between 2008 and 2011. History tells us that sheer rep means a lot when it comes to choosing the O-linemen.
Whether all, some or none hear their names announced on Friday night, they probably all share Rolle’s comments about the Pro Bowl.
“It’s always a great accomplishment,” he told the media Thursday. “But I’d give my left arm to be playing in the postseason right now.”
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