Now that we are about halfway through the regular season, it is time to start considering which players are deserving of the Pro Bowl. For this series, we will look at the three most deserving candidates for each team. Obviously, some teams will have more or less than three players selected to the Pro Bowl, but for simplicity purposes, we will discuss their top three candidates for the honor. Here are the Detroit Lions Pro Bowl candidates.
Top Midseason Detroit Lions Pro Bowl Candidates
Admittedly, there is no other choice for the top slot than quarterback Matthew Stafford. During a season of surprises, injuries, and confusion, Stafford has played the part of a franchise quarterback better than anyone could have expected. In spite of injuries to Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah, and Eric Ebron, as well as a slow start for Golden Tate, Stafford’s play has remained top notch. In fact, for much of the season to date, the first overall selection of the 2009 NFL Draft has carried this team on his back.
With half of the schedule in the books, Stafford has consistently produced like an elite quarterback, accumulating 2,154 passing yards (eight in the NFL), 16 touchdown passes (tied for fifth), a completion percentage of 67.7 (fourth), and a quarterback rating of 103.4 (fourth). Furthermore, he has cut down on turnovers, throwing only four interceptions and losing one fumble on the season. A Week Four tussle with the Chicago Bears has been Stafford’s only tough outing of the season, as in all other contests, he’s been solid to excellent.
The Lions currently hold a 4-4 record, but if not for Stafford’s often brilliant play, this team likely wouldn’t be anywhere close to .500. In the National Football League, the consensus remains that if you have a quarterback, you have a chance to win. The Lions are fortunate to have a chance to win every game, and no small part of this is due to Stafford.
There is bound to be some eye-rolling at the inclusion of a punter on this list, but Sam Martin has earned this placement. In fact, the fourth-year veteran out of Appalachian State may just be the best special team’s player that the general public has never heard of.
Through eight games, Martin ranks toward the top of every meaningful punting category, ranking fourth in the league in gross average punt yards (49.3) and first in the league in net average punt yards (45.2), with only a single touchback to his credit. Martin also ranks fifth in the league with a return average of a mere 6.2 yards.
While he doesn’t play a position that receives much attention, there is no denying production like that, and the importance of field position cannot be argued. Martin’s sterling efforts put the Lions in a better position to win (literally) each and every contest, and his contributions should not be ignored.
Full disclosure: this was a tough one. There were a few genuinely valid options to choose from. Darius Slay is arguably the Lions’ best defensive player and one of the better cover corners in the league, but he’s currently injured and isn’t typically a ball-hawk, and that tends to hurt a defensive back’s Pro Bowl chances.
Kerry Hyder has proven to be one of the most pleasant surprises of 2016, and has been a very important contributor on the defensive line, racking up five sacks in the first four games of the season. However, with Ezekiel Ansah back in the mix, Hyder’s numbers have dropped, and his lack of name recognition will be a detriment to his case for a Pro Bowl.
Ultimately, it became apparent that Marvin Jones was the best selection for this slot. Through eight games, Jones’ 656 receiving yards rank fifth in the league, and his 18.2 yards per reception average is eye-popping. His current pace stats have him on a path to 72 catches, for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns, certainly numbers that would garner him Pro Bowl consideration.
In his first season with Detroit, Jones has made many big plays and highlight reel catches, and has proved to be an explosive target for Stafford in the passing game. The only issue here is that Jones’ role in the offense has diminished recently. In fact, the former Cincinnati Bengal has been held under 40 yards in three of his last four games. This situation has been alarming but ultimately, recency bias is no cause to discredit his accomplishments. Jones has been all the Lions have asked him to be, and more. A Pro Bowl appearance remains a distinct possibility.