January 22, 2014; Ko
Well, a couple of New Orleans Saints players received early Christmas presents this year after TE Jimmy Graham and G Jahri Evans were both selected to represent the Big Easy in the Pro Bowl. This will be Graham’s third, and second-consecutive appearance (2011, 2013, 2014) and Evans’ sixth-straight (2009-2014) embodiment in the NFL‘s “all-star” game, making him just one selection away from tying Willie Roaf and Drew Brees for the record with seven Pro-Bowl appearances in a Black and Gold uniform.
However, are these the two players who really deserve to represent the Saints? While Jimmy’s numbers are way down compared to last season, he still posted some pretty respectable stats for a tight end. Through 15 games (12 starts), Graham has reeled in 79 catches for 835 yards and 10 touchdowns, but he also lost two fumbles, which is a career high.
No. 80 has become known as “soft” in the Who Dat Nation, which dates back to last season. His inability, or rather fear to make catches in traffic is quite disappointing, but his pure talent and athleticism are still undeniable.
As for Evans, the play from the offensive line this season was absolutely pathetic, and we certainly saw that this past Sunday when the Atlanta Falcons ended playoff hopes for New Orleans. Jahri has his moments, but his overall performance compared to the past plummeted in 2014. In my opinion, nobody from that unit deserves to represent the Saints in the Pro Bowl.
After an unsatisfactory season of Crescent City football, who is worthy of playing in Hawaii? With one game left to be played, LB Curtis Lofton is having his best season since taking his talents to Southeast Louisiana. The most consistent player on Rob Ryan‘s defense this year has racked up 135 total tackles, rarely missing a ball carrier — it’s tough to say that about anybody else.
Punter Thomas Morstead (2012 selection) ranks third in the league in net average and is also a top reason why the Saints have allowed the fewest yards per punt return in 2014, but still, props to the coverage unit.
QB Drew Brees will be missing out on the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2007, but a reserve spot could still be in line. Many feel the need to argue that as the gunslinger approaches the 5,000-yard mark on the year. However, when a player of Brees’ caliber turns the ball over 17 times in 15 contests (many coming in critical situations that lost games), that person really doesn’t deserve to caper with the league’s best, and I think he’ll agree.
CB Keenan Lewis and OLB Junior Galette are two other guys who have earned Pro Bowl consideration, but could have had better years. In 15 games, Lewis racked up 39 total tackles, 12 passes defended, but only one interception. Galette leads the Saints in sacks with nine and in forced fumbles with three. He’s got another shot Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to hit the double-digit mark in quarterback takedowns for the second-consecutive year.
If RB Mark Ingram hadn’t missed three games after suffering a broken hand versus the Cleveland Browns in Week 2, I’m certain he would be representing the Big Easy. He will enter Sunday’s contest against the Bucs with a chance to top 1,000 yards, which would make him the first Saint to do so since the legendary Deuce McAllitster in 2006. If the Saints are able to keep Ingram around, he and WR Kenny Stills (flirting with 1,000 yards as well heading into Tampa) could very well find themselves in Hawaii one day.
It’s been a disappointing year all around for Sean Payton and company, but congratulations to the guys who were invited to represent the Who Dat Nation. The talents of Graham and Evans are incontestable, so we wish them the best.