Despite a dramatic turnaround in Chip Kelly’s first season and having the NFL’s second-ranked offense, the Eagles had only two players selected to the 2014 Pro Bowl when the roster was announced on Friday night.
Running back LeSean McCoy and left tackle Jason Peters were the lone Eagles voted into the annual game, although quarterback Nick Foles was a first alternate and wide receiver DeSean Jackson and left guard Evan Mathis were second alternates.
“It means a lot to me,” McCoy said. “It’s exciting. A lot of my teammates have helped me out to get to this point. It’s exciting. I can’t wait to enjoy this time with my family. I’m taking my son [LeSean Jr.] for the first time.”
After missing part of last season with a concussion, McCoy is going back to the Pro Bowl – his second time in five seasons. He was also voted in as a starter in 2011. McCoy leads the NFL in rushing with 1,476 yards and needs just 37 yards to eclipse Wilbert Montgomery’s franchise record of 1,512 yards set in 1979.
The Eagles have rushed for the most yards in the NFL through 15 games. Peters, the most decorated player on the Eagles in terms of Pro Bowl, is now a six-time honoree. He was selected five straight seasons from 2007-11, but missed last season after rupturing his Achilles tendon twice.
“This is really special,” Peters said. “Two Achilles surgeries, people thought I wasn’t going to even be able to play football again – the doctors – especially after the second one. They didn’t think I was going to be able to play at a high level. … So I never took it for granted.”
The Eagles, of course, have one more regular season game remaining – a date in Dallas on Sunday against the Cowboys for the NFC East crown and a trip to the playoffs. Kelly and his crew would like to be still playing when the Pro Bowl is being played in Hawaii on Jan. 26.
The Super Bowl is the following Sunday in New York.
If the Eagles don’t make the playoffs or are eliminated by then there’s a good chance one or all three of the team’s alternates make the roster because of injuries and the Super Bowl.
The Pro Bowl, criticized increasingly in recent seasons because of the lack of competitiveness, will have a different look this year. There was no conference designation when players were announced and the two eventual teams will be chosen by captains, fantasy league-style.
While the Eagles, in some circles, were expected to have more than two players selected, they had two more than they had following last season’s 4-12 finish.
This year’s Eagles surprised many with their late-season charge, perhaps one reason why only McCoy and Peters were voted in by players, coaches and fans. But Kelly’s offense, particularly on the ground, was too explosive to snub the entire unit.
“When Chip came here, we knew we were going to run the ball,” McCoy said. “The linemen, they’ve all been healthy this whole year. They’ve been blocking so well for me and without those guys, it’s not possible to be honored.”
Only five other Eagles running backs have earned Pro Bowl honors more than once: Tim Brown (three), Bill Barnes (three), Brian Westbrook (two), Ricky Watters (two) and Montgomery (two).
McCoy is averaging 5.1 yards a carry – second to only the Cowboys’ DeMarco Murray (5.4) among running backs with more than 150 carries -- and has scored nine touchdowns on the ground. He’s also tops the league in yards from scrimmage (2,012) and has 51 catches for 536 yards (10.5 avg.) and a touchdown.
The Chiefs’ Jamaal Charles, the Bears’ Matt Forte, the 49ers’ Frank Gore, the Seahawks Marshawn Lynch and the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson were the other Pro Bowl running backs.
Peters, 31, joined the Chiefs’ Brandon Albert, the Cowboys’ Tyron Smith, the 49ers’ Joe Staley, the Browns’ Joe Thomas and the Redskins’ Trent Williams to round out the tackles on the roster.
Despite an early-season struggle against the Chiefs, Peters has been solid for most of his 10th NFL season. He’s allowed only four sacks, per Pro Football Focus, at a spot in which linemen see premium pass rushers on a weekly basis.
Since Peters’ first Pro Bowl selection, only Thomas with seven has been selected to as many Pro Bowls as a tackle.
Despite starting in only nine games, Foles was a first alternate after the Patriots’ Tom Brady, the Saints’ Drew Brees, the Broncos’ Peyton Manning, the Panthers Cam Newton, the Chargers’ Phillip Rivers and the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson.
He’s first in the NFL in passer rating (118.8), yards per attempt (9.03) and has tossed 25 touchdowns against only two interceptions.
Jackson, who made the Pro Bowl in 2009 and 2010, has already established career highs in catches (79), receiving yards (1,304) and equaled a previous best of nine touchdown receptions.
The Steelers’ Antonio Brown, the Cowboys’ Dez Bryant, the Browns’ Josh Gordon, the Bengals’ A.J. Green, the Texans’ Andre Johnson, the Lions’ Calvin Johnson, the Bears’ Brandon Marshall and the Broncos’ Demaryius Thomas were voted to the team.
Mathis, 32, has received recognition from other outlets during his three seasons with the Eagles, but not yet from the NFL. The Saints’ Jahri Evans, the Saints’ Ben Grubbs, the 49ers’ Mike Iupati, the Patriots’ Logan Mankins, the Broncos Louis Vasquez and the Ravens’ Marshal Yanda were the Pro Bowl guards.
Eagles center Jason Kelce, linebacker DeMeco Ryans and punter Donnie Jones were also expected to be in the running for spots on the Pro Bowl roster.