COMMENTARY | Despite winning the Super Bowl in 2012 and making the playoffs the last five seasons, the Baltimore Ravens haven't traditionally been a team that takes a myriad of spots on the annual Pro Bowl roster.
The Pro Bowl, which has experienced a decline in value and excitement in recent years, is still a a proper measuring point to gauge who are the NFL's top players. Some decisions regarding the roster are questionable, but, for the most part, it is accurate.
Last season, the Ravens were able to make their mark on the roster, though, as fullback Vonta Leach, running back Ray Rice, guard Marshal Yanda, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, kick returner Jacoby Jones and safety Ed Reed were named to the Pro Bowl roster. Since the Ravens were playing in the Super Bowl, none of the six players were eligible, however.
Here are the players who could make the Pro Bowl this season:
One thing that is certain heading into each NFL season is that veteran running back Ray Rice will be among the league's leaders in receptions for running backs.
That doesn't promise to change this season, as the Ravens will rely on Rice even more this season in the passing game, helping aid the losses of Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin. Rice is still good for more than 1,000 yards rushing and should be in the 70-catch range this season, which will make him worthy of yet another Pro Bowl roster spot.
Choosing Vonta Leach, who just re-signed with the Ravens on Monday, is the easiest of the picks as he faces little-to-no competition. There aren't many true fullbacks in the NFL nowadays, making it easier for Leach to earn the honor of a roster spot.
Leach is still the best pure fullback in the NFL, and regardless of how much playing time he sees, his notoriety and body of work will likely give him an inherent advantage.
While it was Kelechi Osemele's fellow starting guard, Marshal Yanda, who made the Pro Bowl last season, there could be a changing of the guard this season. Yanda is still one of the NFL's premier guards, but Osemele proved during Baltimore's playoff run that he has the potential to be just as good as Yanda.
After spending the 2012 regular season at right tackle, the rookie shifted to left guard for the playoffs, and he was exceptionally better. His sophomore season could be his chance to assert himself as one of the up-and-coming linemen in the NFL.
Last season was one to forget for Terrell Suggs. After winning the Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2011, Suggs' torn Achilles kept him out for the first half of the 2012 regular season.
When he returned to the field in October, it took him a while to get back into game shape and never really reached his full potential. With a full healthy offseason under his belt, Suggs is slimmer than last season and is in much better shape. Returning to his 2011 form should be expected, especially with fellow pass rusher Elvis Dumervil playing on the other side of him.
The past two seasons have been a struggle for Haloti Ngata health-wise, as plenty of injuries have slowed him down. However, the Ravens' need for Ngata to stay on the field has kept him in games for more than he likely should be playing.
Baltimore made it a priority to add more depth to the defensive line, signing veterans Chris Canty and Marcus Spears, as well as drafting defensive tackle Brandon Williams. The improved depth and talent along the defensive line should give Ngata the opportunity to take a series off if needed, keeping him fresh and healthy.
Last season, rookie kicker Justin Tucker was a viable candidate to make the Pro Bowl roster. That roster designation, however, went to Phil Dawson, who is now on the San Francisco 49ers and out of the AFC.
Tucker asserted himself as one of the most reliable kickers in the NFL during his rookie campaign, converting on 30 of 33 attempts. His 90.9-percent conversion percentage was good for sixth-best in the NFL, with Dawson being the only AFC kicker ahead of him.
Kyle Casey is a sports writer living in Baltimore, Md. He maintains his own football site, End Zone Report, and is the editor of Cat Crave.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Haloti Ngata
- Vonta Leach
- Baltimore Ravens
- Marshal Yanda
- Ray Rice
- the Ravens
- Terrell Suggs