This year, four NFL rookies were named to the initial Pro Bowl roster. Last year only two rookies, linebackers Clay Matthews of the Green Bay Packers and Brian Orakpo of the Washington Redskins, were named to the Pro Bowl. Is this a sign of great things to come for the 2010 NFL Draft class? I’m sure these players are hoping so. Here’s a look at the four players that made the initial roster and what they did to earn their trips to Hawaii.
Just as was expected when the Lions drafted him with the second overall pick, Suh came in and dominated in just about every aspect of the game. From penetrating the offensive line and bringing down the ball-carriers in the backfield, to creating turnovers, Suh has created a bigger impact than the Lions could have hoped for. He lead all rookies in sacks with nine, tallied 60 tackles, and was one of only two rookies to return a fumble for a touchdown through 15 games. He was a force from the get-go and is the leading candidate for the defensive rookie of the year award. He will be the starting defensive tackle alongside Jay Ratliff for the NFC.
Marc Mariani, Kick Returner, Tennessee Titans
After being drafted late in the 2010 NFL Draft out of Montana, Mariani didn’t wait long to make his mark as a Titan. He immediately took over both the kick returning and punt returning duties, and made the most of his opportunities. On 56 kick return attempts, he racked up 1,411 yards (25.2 yards per return) and one touchdown through 15 games. He also returned 25 punts for 322 yards (12.9 yards per return) and one touchdown through 15 games. Mariani was the only player in the NFL this year to return both a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown. He will be the starting kick and punt returner for the AFC.
The Patriots definitely got more than they expected when they drafted McCourty near the end of the first round. Since taking over the starting cornerback spot, he has managed to make big plays for a much improved Patriots’ defense almost every week. After 15 games, he is tied for the most interceptions by a rookie with six and is the fourth leading tackler among rookies with 81. The defense has flourished with him on the field and quarterbacks have quickly learned to not be too careless when throwing to his side. If it wasn’t for Suh and his dominance down in Detroit, McCourty may have managed to head home with the defensive rookie of the year award. He will be the backup cornerback to Oakland Raiders’ Nnandi Asomugha and New York Jets’ Darelle Revis for the AFC.
This year, Pouncey made one of the biggest impacts for his team of any rookie offensive lineman in the NFL. After a year in which the Steelers struggled to run the ball and keep pressure off of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Pouncey came in and made life easier for the entire offense. He was part of an offensive line that helped lead the Steelers to an 11-4 record through 15 games. He helped running back Rashard Mendenhall break into the top 10 rushers in the league, with 1,237 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns through 15 games. He will be the backup center to Jets’ Nick Mangold for the AFC.