Buccaneers safety Ronde Barber deserves a Pro Bowl berth

Al Messerschmidt

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are likely to have at least one player in the Pro Bowl, but they should have a few others.

The NFL has announced the winners at each position for the fan voting portion of the Pro Bowl. Now come the players and coaches, whose votes count for two-thirds of the final vote and hence will mostly determine who will go to the Pro Bowl. The Pro Bowl roster will be announced on Wednesday.

Amusingly, the Bucs have one leader in Pro Bowls in the NFC so far: Ronde Barber is the leading free safety, and deservedly so. Barber has been amazing despite a slow start at the start of the season, and he's been outstanding in his new role at free safety. In fact, he's better at free safety now than he has been at cornerback for the past five or so years. With one sack, four interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and 12 passes defensed, he has produced big plays. More importantly, he has been very sound after blowing a few coverages in the first couple of weeks.

Barber's transformation is remarkable, but it appears to have given him new life. The Bucs would do well to convince to play another year, because he looks like he could go on for a decade at his current level of play.

But Barber isn't the only Buccaneer who deserves to go to the Pro Bowl. Pro Football Focus saw two other Buccaneers who should go to the Pro Bowl: Vincent Jackson and Gerald McCoy and Michael Bennett. Jackson will find it hard to make it in, however, facing murderous competition from players like Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Percy Harvin and others. Will he make it in? Regardless of whether or not he will, he's been everything the Bucs coudl have hoped for, posting career-bests in almost every single statistic.

Meanwhile, Gerald McCoy is having a career year as well. Mostly because he's actually staying healthy, but for other reasons too. He's as disruptive as he was last year, but he's become the anchor for the best run defense in the NFL. He's been a pass-rushing threat throughout the season, and has posted an NFC fourth-best sack total of five. That number doesn't do justice to his pass-rushing prowess, though, as he's been a more consistent and more dangerous pass-rusher than Henry Melton, Nick Fairley or Ndamukong Suh -- the three defensive tackles to register more sacks than him.

Others should qualify as well. Michael Bennett has been a beast this season, both in run defense and as a pass-rusher. With nine sacks he doesn't come close to the NFC lead and that will likely keep him out, but he's still had a terrific season. Lavonte David has turned into one of the best 4-3 outside linebackers in the NFL in just his rookie year, as he's turned loose and can allow his instincts and speed to take over at weakside linebacker. Of course, 4-3 outside linebackers generally don't make the Pro Bowl as they're pipped by pass-rushers.

Finally, Doug Martin should be on this roster. He is fifth in the league in rushing yards, but much more impressive is the fact that he is second in the league in yards from scrimmage. He's been a threat both as a receiver and a returner, while doing an admirable job as a pass-blocker. And he's done that without the benefit of his two starting Pro Bowl guards. Martin may be the single most impressive player on the Bucs' roster this season, and should absolutely be in the Pro Bowl.

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