Five Washington players who could earn their first Pro Bowl nod in 2021

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5 Washington players who could earn first Pro Bowl nod in '21 originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

In some years, coming up with a list of five Washington players would could be on the verge of their first Pro Bowl nod would have been extremely difficult. Five!? How does three sound?

With how the roster is looking nowadays, however, the exercise is difficult for a totally different reason: Keeping it to five means that some real talent will be left out of this story (which will surely sting so, so hard for those particular guys).

So, assuming that Ron Rivera's squad has another quality 2020 season, this collection of contributors might be in line for league-wide recognition.

Terry McLaurin

McLaurin's first two NFL campaigns have been Pro Bowl-worthy. The problem is he's lining up at such a stacked position with so many other stars.

That said, if he could haul in 87 passes for more than 1,100 yards in 2020 when dealing with a rapid rotation of quarterbacks and without any other established outside threat, odds are he'll see his numbers spike with (hopefully) more stability under center and the arrivals of targets like Curtis Samuel, Adam Humphries and Dyami Brown to the offense.

McLaurin will make many Pro Bowls — the only question is when the first one will come. Sure seems like 2021 is the time for him to break through.

Montez Sweat

Sweat notched seven sacks as a rookie then increased that total to nine last season, so he's heading in the right direction. One more step has to happen, though, for him to stand out enough nationally.

If Sweat could get to, say, 11 or 12 sacks for Washington and sprinkle in a few more game-changing sequences like his pick-6 against Dallas last Thanksgiving, then he'll be firmly in the Pro Bowl discussion.

Chase Young already garnered an appearance, so you know Sweat, his pass rushing buddy, would like to keep pace.

Antonio Gibson

Gibson scored 11 touchdowns, registered 4.7 yards-per-carry and also caught 36 balls as a rookie running back who barely knew how to play running back early on in the schedule. 

The fact that he was asked to handle such a load at a spot that was still so new to him — and how well he managed that responsibility — doesn't get talked about nearly enough.

So, what's possible for the dynamic threat in his second go-around with Washington, where he should be far more confident and instinctive? A ton, really — including a call from the Pro Bowl.

William Jackson III

This will come across as an odd statement, considering how the Burgundy and Gold have fared since 2000, but joining Rivera's team could be massive for Jackson III's standing in the NFL.

In Cincinnati, WJIII languished on a mediocre-at-best defense in a market that's not conducive toward building a brand for individual athletes.

In Washington, meanwhile, the cornerback gets to pair up with one of the sport's most loaded defensive lines and work across from respected defensive back Kendall Fuller. Suiting up in the NFC East for the reigning division champions should lead to more exposure for Jackson III, too. 

He'll need to be better at coming down with interceptions — he has just three in 59 contests — but if those start piling up, the accolades also will.

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick was first-team All-Ivy League in 2004 at Harvard, but since departing school the now-38-year-old hasn't cracked the Pro Bowl once.

Yet.

What's working for Fitz is that he appears slated to be Washington's Week 1 starter, and there's no first-round choice ready to usurp him in a few months. Therefore, he's got a major opportunity to assert himself from the opener to the finale.

And as mentioned in the case for McLaurin, the unit's overall depth at receiver is much improved, and the offensive line has also been addressed at multiple areas. Gibson, JD McKissic and Logan Thomas represent further options for the veteran.

Both the playoffs and the Pro Bowl have never experienced "Fitzmagic." Both events would undoubtedly be better off with his presence.

Others with a serious shot: Curtis Samuel, Daron Payne, Kam Curl, Jamin Davis, Logan Thomas, Jonathan Allen