It's a rough time to be an NFC running back if you're trying to make the Pro Bowl.
"That's some tough competition," said Carolina assistant head coach Jim Skipper, who handles the running backs for the Panthers. "There are some worthy guys who made it in there."
And worthy guys who didn't make it. Such as his own leading rusher, DeAngelo Williams, who is averaging a stunning Barry Sanders-like 5.5 yards per carry. But with the likes of Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, Clinton Portis of Washington and Michael Turner of Atlanta, the argument for who should and shouldn't go is difficult, to say the least.
"Yeah, you throw Brandon Jacobs in there and then you still have Brian Westbrook and, if he wasn't hurt, Frank Gore. Man that's tough," Skipper said Tuesday, shortly after the Pro Bowl team was named.
Or as one AFC executive said after going over the NFC depth chart at running back for the Pro Bowl: "You're not just talking about Pro Bowlers, you're talking about guys in discussion for MVP."
Still, the executive couldn't help but be a little flabbergasted at the guys who got snubbed.
"DeAngelo Williams and Brandon Jacobs don't make it?" he asked, rhetorically. "I hadn't put a lot of thought into it until this moment, but wow, that's wild. You could make a good argument that they're the best of all of them this year. Williams has been terrific and Jacobs, I love Jacobs.
"You see what's happened to the Giants without him healthy the past two weeks. That tells you what you need to know. … Hey, I'll take the leftovers from the NFC and I might be able to win the Pro Bowl."
At a time in NFL history when passing offense has never been better and receivers such as Andre Johnson, Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith can take over games by themselves, the running-back position isn't far behind.
Even as some players share time.
"DeAngelo is doing a lot and we're really not giving him more than 10 or 12 carries in some games," Skipper said. Williams has scored four touchdowns over the past two games. Williams has 1,229 yards on 224 carries, putting him well behind the lead-leading 1,581 yards by Peterson.
However, Williams is also splitting time with rookie Jonathan Stewart, who has 751 yards on 158 carries.
Jacobs may be the bigger snub. He is a unique power back at 6-foot-5, 265 pounds, an intimidating presence who doesn't take the high body shots like other power runners before him, such as Earl Campbell, Christian Okoye and Eddie George. Jacobs has averaged 5.1 yards per carry this season primarily on intimidation.
"When was the last time you saw a safety try to square up on him?" the AFC executive asked. "He did it right in the opener when he ran over [Washington safety LaRon] Landry. He destroyed Landry. That was ugly, and now nobody wants to mess with him. Not one little bit. And the cornerbacks are worse, they just try to jump on a shoulder and then steer him out of bounds."
Or as Washington cornerback Fred Smoot said earlier this season: "You can have all that."
Over the past two games, Jacobs has been limited to little more than a half of one game. The result has been that the Giants offense has managed only one touchdown and a pair of field goals.
Despite that, it was hard for anyone to argue that Peterson, Portis or Turner were undeserving in any way, shape or form.
"Peterson is incredible," Skipper said. "You see what Clinton and [Turner] have done and it's just a really special year."
Or as the executive said, "I would make an argument for the three guys who made it to be MVP. Everything the Vikings do revolves around Peterson. Portis has played in pain all season. Turner, I love that guy. He has made it possible for [rookie quarterback Matt] Ryan to be so good, so early."
"How do you argue with that?"
- Brandon Jacobs