If the fan vote is to be trusted, the Saints’ hopes of placing a player in the Pro Bowl appear pretty bleak.
No one on the roster is anywhere near being a lock at their respective positions, which probably shouldn’t be a surprise since New Orleans’ 4-7 record has likely curbed enthusiasm. But even though the overall product can only be classified as “bad,” that doesn’t mean the Saints aren’t getting good individual performances out of a handful of players.
The usual customers — Drew Brees and Jahri Evans — likely face long odds to get in. Arizona’s Carson Palmer, Carolina’s Cam Newton and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers could all end up in ahead of Brees. And Evans, who gets in every year, could see his streak snapped at guard.
As things stand, Brees, center Max Unger and tight end Ben Watson are the only players among the top 10 at their respective positions in fan voting.
One of those guys could end up getting in, but there are some other players on the roster who should at least be in the discussion.
Should be in
OT Terron Armstead: The Saints offensive line has been far from perfect this season, and many of the offense’s struggles can be traced to a lack of protection, but Armstead is not part of the problem.
He’s had many games where he’s pitched a clean sheet and has only allowed 11 pressures, two quarterback hits and two sacks this season. One of the hits and one of the sacks came during Sunday’s loss to the Houston Texans when he was tasked with blocking defensive end J.J. Watt.
But even though he’s been stellar protecting Brees’ blind side this season, he might be even better in running game, where he consistently gets to the second level and clears out paths for the running backs.
So much of the Pro Bowl vote is based on reputation, so it could be difficult for Armstead to beat out more established names, but there are few players in the NFC performing better than him this season.
DE Cam Jordan: While there haven’t been any lags for Jordan this season, he might have had the best three-game stretch of any defensive end between Weeks 6-8. That stretch, during which the Saints played Atlanta, Indianapolis and the Giants, saw Jordan record 20 quarterback hurries and five sacks.
A critic might jump on Jordan for getting the bulk of his statistics against in a few games against mediocre opponents, but he’s consistently recorded pressure each week and has lost a few other sacks because of penalties by other players.
One of the more interesting aspects of Jordan’s season is that even though he’s played nearly 70 percent of his snaps on the left side, he’s recorded three sacks coming off the right side of the line.
It’s clear the move to seven-technique defensive end from the five-techique position he played last season has served Jordan well. This team would be in major trouble without his production.
Should at least be in the conversation
S Kenny Vaccaro: There’s a case to be made that Vaccaro has been the most consistent performer on defense for the Saints this season.
After fighting through some things in his second season, Vaccaro was dropped back in the box this year and has been making plays and cleaning things up for the defense all season. The safety has been strong against the run all season, has performed well in coverage and has been an effective blitzer.
The argument against Vaccaro that is often made by fans and media is that he doesn’t have any interceptions, but that argument lacks the understanding of how he’s been used this season and a lack of appreciation for how good he’s been against the run.
Vaccaro has more than 30 run stuffs this season, which places him among New Orleans’ leaders. Linebacker Stephone Anthony is the only player with more.
RB Mark Ingram: It’s going to be difficult for Ingram to crack the roster.
Adrian Peterson (1,164), Doug Martin (1,038), Jonathan Stewart (832), Chris Jonson (814), Todd Gurley (794) and Devonta Freeman (764) all currently have more yards than Ingram (713), and Seattle’s Thomas Rawls (685) is closing in quickly.
But he’s still had a solid season. And not only has Ingram been a solid rusher, he’s also caught 46 passes for another 382 yards. New Orleans would be in even worse shape without him.
CB Delvin Breaux: If not for three plays and a handful of penalties, Breaux’s candidacy for the Pro Bowl would be much stronger. But Breaux slipped twice against the Colts, allowing T.Y. Hilton to score two long touchdowns. And he did lose the ball in the lights, surrendering another big reception to Tampa Bay’s Louis Murphy. In a conversation about the best cornerbacks in the NFL, those three plays damage his candidacy.
Still, Breaux has been very good this season. According to The Advocate’s charting, he’s allowed 32 receptions on 61 targets for 509 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception. Remove those three aforementioned plays and those figures drop to 322 yards and five touchdowns.
The other thing that might hurt Breaux is that he’s only recorded one interception and given up too many touchdowns, which damages his passer rating against, which resides at 111. A few interceptions or removing “freak” plays could quickly improve his rating.
Those plays might hold him back from making it this year. But with his overall numbers, which include 12 passes defensed, it looks like he should compete for a spot in many future seasons.