Seahawks’ Pro Bowl candidates: Cliff Avril, K.J. Wright could get first career selections

Dec 19, 2016, 5:44 PM | Updated: Dec 20, 2016, 8:36 am

K.J. Wright is having a career year but may be overlooked because of his position. (AP)...

K.J. Wright is having a career year but may be overlooked because of his position. (AP)


The NFL will announce Pro Bowl rosters Tuesday evening and a handful of Seahawks will be paying close attention. Here are some thoughts on Seattle’s candidates:

First-timers. Defensive end Cliff Avril, linebacker K.J. Wright and wide receiver Doug Baldwin all have a shot to be selected for the first time. Avril is tied for third in the NFL with a career-high 11.5 sacks as well as five forced fumbles with two games left. Sacks tends to carry more weight than any other in Pro Bowl voting for pass rushers, which bodes well for Avril but at the same time could end up hurting Wright even though he’s having a tremendous season, arguably the best of his six-year career. He’s closing in on a career high in tackles with 113 and he has three sacks. That sack total is a respectable one for a 4-3 outside linebacker who isn’t asked to rush the passer regularly. But 3-4 outside linebackers who do rush the passer are the ones who tend to rack up the sacks and the recognition, which is how players like Wright often get overlooked when it comes to the Pro Bowl. If that happens, it’ll be a reflection of the voting structure and not the season Wright has had. Baldwin, meanwhile, is having another strong season with 79 catches for 913 yards and six touchdowns. He has one more catch than he had last year and he’s on pace for about the same number of yards. His touchdown total is way down, not surprising given how high a bar he set last season when he tied for the league lead with 14. Players are sometimes voted to the Pro Bowl a year after they’re most deserving. Baldwin didn’t make it last season but he could this year.

Usual suspects. Quarterback Russell Wilson (three), cornerback Richard Sherman (three) and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (two) have a combined eight Pro Bowls selections between them. Sherman and Wagner have strong cases while Wilson could end up being selected despite down numbers. Sherman is having a pretty typical Sherman season while Wagner may be having his best season. He leads the league with 145 tackles, which is already a career high, and he’s recorded 2.5 sacks while becoming more of a factor as a blitzer. Wilson’s situation is complicated. On one hand, his completion percentage (65.0 to 68.1), passing touchdowns (16 to 34), quarterback rating (90.o to 110.1) and rushing yards (219 to 553) are all down from last season, which was the best of his career, while his interceptions are up (11 to eight). On the other hand, he’s played through sprains in his ankle and MCL as well as a pectoral injury that briefly bother him, and he was at one point this season on the outside of the MVP conversation. Pro Bowl voting is often a popularity contest, and Wilson is one of the league’s most popular players (at least with the fans, whose vote counts one-third toward determining the selections).

Injury issues. Defensive lineman Michael Bennett, free safety Earl Thomas and strong safety Kam Chancellor have all played well enough to merit consideration for the Pro Bowl but may not/arguably should not/probably will not make it because of injuries that forced them to miss a significant amount of time (and in Thomas’ case, the rest of the season). Bennett was sidelined for five games due to a knee injury, Chancellor missed four games with a pulled hamstring and Thomas played in 11 before going down with a broken leg. It’s worth noting that Wagner was voted a first-team All-Pro in 2014 despite missing five games that season. Different honor, different voters, but there is some precedent there.

Other Seahawks candidates. Jimmy Graham has a strong case. His 816 yards are third-most among tight ends while his five touchdown catches are more than the two players ahead of him, Kansas City’s Travis Kelcie (957 yards, three touchdowns) and Carolina’s Greg Olsen (992, three). Tyler Lockett also has a chance to make it as a returner for the second straight season even though he hasn’t made as much of an impact there as he did as a rookie.

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