Cowboys Pro Bowlers: It's a Long Way Down from 13

Pro Bowl spots are still a few weeks away but we've seen enough to know who's in the running for a free Honolulu vacation and who won't be.

It's going to be a big drop down for the Cowboys, who fielded 13 Pro Bowlers last season.  Here are my candidates and my predictions:

 

D-Line

Last year -- none

This year -- Jay Ratliff:  Pass rushing interior linemen are rare, valued commodities.  Pass rushing nose tackles are even more rare.  Ratliff can make a case for being Dallas' defensive MVP.  He chases down running plays and he blows up pass pockets.  He has 6.0 sacks, leaving him third among all NFL interior linemen, behind Tennessee's Albert Haynesworth and Minnesota's Pat Williams.  Ratliff and Cleveland's Shaun Rogers (4.0) are the only NTs to rank in the top 40 sackers.

Linebackers

Last year -- Demarcus Ware and Greg Ellis

This year: -- Ware:  He's lost his wingman;  Ellis has faded, posting just 4.0 sacks this year.  Ware continues to improve his yearly totals.  He's tied for 2nd in sacks with 12.0 through eleven games. 

Secondary

Last year -- Ken Hamlin, Roy Williams, Terence Newman

This year -- none:  Hamlin is the only player worthy of consideration and his game has dropped a notch.  He might make it on reputation, but he won't deserve it.

Quarterback

Last year -- Tony Romo

This year -- Romo:  The competition is tougher this year.  Drew Brees is posting insane stats and Kurt Warner is getting MVP consideration.  Jason Campbell was flawless for the first seven games of Washington's season and Matt Ryan is having one of the best rookie campaigns by a QB in a while.

That said, Romo has proven his value to Dallas, leading them back into the playoff hunt with a splint on his little finger.  He's QB rating tops 100.  If he gets Dallas to the postseason, he's going back to Hawaii.

Running back

Last year -- Marion Barber

This year -- none  Barber is the Cowboys work horse.  Felix Jones fell by the way side.  Tashard Choice is just getting going.  His fullback missed time.  His o-line has been beaten up.  Doesn't matter.  Barber keeps going. 

But he's playing in an NFC chock full of tough, young runners.  Clinton Portis is leading the conference on a bum knee.  Adrian Peterson follows close behind  Michael Turner has been a sensation for Atlanta.  Matt Forte has been the best of an amazing crop of rookie runners and Brandon Jacobs is the blunt instrument in New York's bludgeoning running game.

All five of these guys have more yards than Barber, as does Carolina's D'Angelo Williams.  Sorry Marion, but it's a numbers game and the numbers don't show how gritty you've been this year.  Maybe you'll get a playoff win or two as compensation.

Wide Receiver

Last year -- Terrell Owens

This year -- none:  Losing his QB hurt Owens, who barely saw the ball mid-season.  There's still time for him to climb back into this race with a strong stretch run.  He's about 300 yards behind conference lock Larry Fitzgerald.  But he's got a lot of perennials to climb over, including Steve Smith and Santana Moss.  It will take at least a couple more big games like Sunday's but with a healthy Romo, anything is possible. 

Tight End

Last year -- Jason Witten

This year -- Witten

He's the man.  He has played with a cracked rib the last month.  He took a shot to the jaw on Sunday.  He refuses to come out.  He's the best TE in the NFL. 

Offensive Line

Last year -- Flozell Adams, Andre Gurode, Leonard Davis

This year -- Gurode?  Davis?

Offensive line is funny. Guys makes this squad off reputation a lot, because fans can't really see what's going on.  An endorsement from John Madden goes a long way. 

The entire Dallas line has suffered this year.  Adams has played through serious shoulder and finger injuries.  He was the no armed man in October and speed rushers destroyed him.  He's better, but the damage to voters has been done.  Gurode has had good games and bad games and has a fair chance to make it, thought the Giants Shaun O'Hara has the starting spot locked up and the Bears Olin Kreutz will get some votes with Matt Forte running so well behind him.

Davis is still a dominator and the Cowboys have been a right handed team since Kyle Kosier went down.  He's got perhaps the best chance but he plays the same position as New York's Chris Snee, who's probably the conference's best guard right now. 

Marc Colombo has probably been the Cowboys best lineman this year and it would be great to see him get a Mark Tuinei-esque late career nod, but RTs are largely ignored by Pro Bowl voters.  The squads usually have three LTs on them. 

Special Teams

Last season -- Mat McBriar

This year -- none:  Nick Folk is having a good season but he doesn't have a shot.  His kickoffs are short and while he's 8-9 on kicks 40 yards or longer and two-of-two past 50, Jason Hansen is 12-12 in the former and 6-6 in the latter category.

Folk only has fifteen attempts this year and that won't get you past the Pro Bowl bouncer.

Overall

2007 -- 13 Pro Bowlers

2008 Prediction -- 5.  I see four sure things -- Ware, Ratliff, Romo and Witten.  I have a feeling one of the o-linemen, either Davis or Gurode, will sneak in if Dallas keeps winning.

That's a disappointing drop off, but I think the players, and all of us, would be gleefully trade six or seven Pro Bowl spots for some playoff victories.

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