The Pro Bowl rosters are in, and the low number of New York Giants on the NFC squad this season is quite surprising.
Ah, the Pro Bowl rosters. Once every year, we get to discuss the players that made it, become surprised over the snubs, and forget for just a few moments that the annual event is by far the worst all-star game in all of professional sports.
This year is no different, especially if you’re a New York Giants fan.
There was excitement for star corner James Bradberry reaching his first-ever Pro Bowl along with confusion when reading that Evan Engram…yes, Evan Engram…also somehow earned a roster spot.
And sure, Engram making it is a surprise, but Giants fans won’t complain. Their tight end earned an honor that only a select number of players earn — it’s nothing to hang their heads over.
But what they may complain about is the number of Pro Bowl snubs the Giants actually possess in and around their roster, and while the event isn’t at all important (nor in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic), there are certainly a few.
Most minds go directly toward Big Blue’s talented defensive weapons, but other minds may stumble upon its special teams star.
Graham Gano was one of the top free-agent acquisitions by general manager Dave Gettleman this year, a time period in which he acquired Bradberry, Kyler Fackrell, and Blake Martinez (we’ll get to him later).
Gano’s 96.6% field-goal conversion rate is fourth in the NFC while his 28 made field goals rank third. He’s constantly reliable when it comes to scoring points for a Giants team that’s putrid at doing just that; Gano has scored 102 of the team’s 244 total points in 2020.
However, with the Pro Bowl not an in-person event this year, there aren’t any spots for alternates — players who could sneak in due to others experiencing injuries or any type of unforeseen circumstance. With that said, just one placekicker was appointed for the NFC, and you can make the argument that Atlanta’s Younghoe Koo deserved the honor due to his conference-leading 97.2% field-goal conversion rate (minimum 25 attempts).
The subsequent guy that comes to mind is the one and only Leonard Williams.
As you know, the Giants acquired the defensive lineman prior to last year’s trade deadline, sending a pair of draft picks to the crosstown-rival New York Jets for an unproductive weapon whose contract was expiring.
Fans criticized the trade and continued to when Gettleman franchise tagged him in the offseason.
But thus far in 2020, Williams is silencing the doubters right before our very eyes.
He’s racked up 49 combined tackles — third among NFC defensive ends. His 8.5 sacks are also second among NFC defensive ends while his 13 tackles for loss are third.
Williams is playing the best football of his life and is already statically better this year than he was during his lone Pro Bowl season in 2016. He’s already surpassed his sack total from that campaign (7.0 that season) and the same goes for his quarterback hit total (24 this season, 19 in 2016). Not to mention, through 14 games in 2020, his tackle-for-loss mark is the same as it was during that entire 2016 slate (11).
There have additionally been seven games in which he’s racked up at least one sack, proving his superb play remains consistent.
And speaking of consistency, there’s also Blake Martinez — another great pickup by Gettleman (who underwent a better 2020 offseason than I think a ton of us expected).
The fifth-year linebacker, who signed a three-year deal with the Giants in March, has been a superb leader of the defense and makes a world of a difference at the inside linebacker position.
Martinez is third among NFC inside linebackers (and tied for fourth in the league) with 128 total tackles, averaging out to 9.14 per game. He’s always around the ball and, like Williams, is consistent. Martinez has notched double-digit tackles in six different games along with nine total tackles in three other games.
The Giants brought him over to East Rutherford to be that tackling machine he was during his tenure in Green Bay (144, 144, and 155 combined tackles from 2017-19), and he’s done just that and then some.
And finally, there are the two starting safeties, both of whom are extremely versatile in their own rights.
Jabrill Peppers is undergoing likely the best season of his young career and is a “defensive quarterback” in the Giants secondary. He possesses the athleticism to perform in the defensive backfield but also the toughness and strength to come up and play near the line of scrimmage. And, like Martinez, Peppers always seems to be around the football regardless of where the opposing offense is operating.
You can make the argument that his numbers haven’t stood out though — Peppers’ 77 total tackles, while impressive, are just ninth among NFC safeties.
Logan Ryan has been the same way, and the veteran was actually leading the NFC free safeties in Pro Bowl fan votes as early as this month (of course, that counts for just one-third of the total vote).
Ryan is currently sixth among NFC defensive backs with 83 total tackles and has made a tremendous difference at free safety for the Giants. He was another fantastic acquisition, one Gettleman made right before the season’s commencement.
Now look, I’m not saying there should be a recount of votes or a reconsideration of some guys. The Pro Bowl is an all-star game that’s undoubtedly become the lousiest in professional sports.
But you could still make the argument for a bunch of players in this league who didn’t earn the annual honor.
The Giants, coincidentally, just so happen to employ a few of those individuals.