A roster that has been ravaged by injuries, a team that has faced adversity and a season that could have gone the wrong way all came into focus on Tuesday when the NFC Pro Bowl team was announced. Six Eagles were voted to the NFC team, five as starters. DeSean Jackson, the magical second-year player, became the first player voted in as a starter at two positions -- wide receiver and punt returner.
I'm not a big Pro Bowl guy, because it is too often a name-recognition game and because, in my opinion, it promotes individuals rather than an entire team. In this case, though, the Eagles as a whole deserve the kudos because the depth of this roster and the youth of the players named certainly stands out.
Jackson is the headliner here. His explosiveness is incredible and the voting recognized that rather than his pure catches and yards. In just his second season, Jackson has become an elite player and could very well go down as one of the greatest draft picks this team has ever made.
Left tackle Jason Peters has not been perfect this season, but you have to understand the position these days. Pass rushers are built on speed, and Peters has faced standouts nearly every week, and most of the time by himself. He has given up a few sacks, but Peters has played well enough to allow the Eagles to leave him alone to handle DeMarcus Ware and Osi Umenyiora and Co. Peters has had to learn a new system and a new way of playing and preparing each week and he has a bright, dominating future at left tackle here. Peters is one of five Eagles starters on the Pro Bowl team.
Fullback Leonard Weaver's value to this team has been explained throughout the season. He is an all-purpose back, a weapon with the ball in his hands and a tactical, technical blocker who has been incredibly reliable. Weaver is clearly the best fullback the Eagles have had in years and years and years, and the offense has integrating him perfectly. Weaver knows he is in a good place and his play was recognized in the voting.
So the Eagles have three starters on the Pro Bowl offense, and have other players worthy of consideration. Tight end Brent Celek didn't make it in a season when so many tight ends have had monster seasons. Neither did Donovan McNabb (a first alternate), who has been steady and outstanding this season. Left guard Todd Herremans is among a handful of the best in the conference at his position.
Defensively, the Eagles had cornerback Asante Samuel voted in as a starter, and defensive end Trent Cole goes as a reserve. The crime is here that cornerback Sheldon Brown (second alternate) was not voted to the team. Tackles Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley deserved some love, too.
Placekicker David Akers was named to his fourth Pro Bowl team, a worthy reward for Akers. He struggled a couple of years ago in that 40- to 49-yard range and continued to hammer away at his craft and his technique. Akers has been outstanding this year, with his biggest kick the game winner to beat Denver on Sunday.
The point here is this: The Eagles have a roster built for the long haul. Potential Pro Bowl players like Stewart Bradley and Shawn Andrews haven't played a down all year. Key contributors have been sidelined by injuries throughout the season. Brian Westbrook, suddenly a key figure again, is just now getting his game in motion after having surgery to ankle and knee injuries in the off-season, then suffering a sprained ankle early in the year before two concussions kept him on the sidelines for most of the season half of the season.
And the Eagles are 11-4, in the playoffs and one win away from a division title and the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. Remarkable.
Congratulations to all of the players who made the Pro Bowl, because they all deserved it. And to those who should have made it (Brown, maybe Celek, McNabb), congratulations on a tremendous season. There is more to come, of course. Sunday's game is as huge as they come in the regular season and the Eagles are focused solely on the Cowboys.
For a day, though, the Pro Bowl shined the spotlight on the Eagles and the view was impressive. This is as talented a roster as there is in the league, and the days and months and years ahead are every bit as bright as is the present.