Helmet tip to rdent4hof (who is in desperate need of a name change... rcasares4hof maybe? Long overdue..) for bringing this thought to my attention last week.
Which Bears stand the best chance of making their first Pro Bowl next season? Follow me to the clearing at the end of the jump and we'll take a look...
Rather than picking one prospect, we'll take a peek at each phase of the game and who might have a chance at a first time nod.
I know I'm heading way out on a limb here, but I'm going to say that Matt Forte has a shot at it. Sarcasm aside, Forte deserved a nod last year over Stephen Jackson. Simply put, another year in this system for both Forte and Cutler will do good things for Matt's stat line both rushing and receiving.
I'd also take an outside chance on Earl Bennett. He may not be #1 receiver material, but Bennett figures to be an even more important cog this year. And when Jay explodes in his second year in this system, I'm betting on The Pearl to be the guy to benefit most statistically.
Not so much out on a limb here, but Chris Harris should have made the Pro Bowl last season over Antrel Rolle or Roman Harper. Harris's timely INTs won ended games for Chicago and his impact was felt in a position group that has been a weakness for Chicago since Mike Brown's injury ridden fall. It was a week year in the NFC for safeties, and Harris was much better than advertised or given credit for. I think he only gets better with the addition of a new CB (and I'm betting on a new CB in the first three rounds of the draft).
Two other possibilities are Danieal Manning, who was also better than he was given credit for and Israel Idonije. Izzy has the harder route, IMO, because the DE ranks are stout in the NFC and Name recognition is just as strong in this conference. Names like Allen, Peppers, Tuck, Abraham and Vanden Bosch, among others, make it hard for younger guys to get that recognition in the fan vote. Manning, of course, must still be a Bear for this to come true, but I think that Chicago gets it done with Danieal. There have been too many safety issues over the past 4 seasons, and I don't see them ignoring the stability that Harris and Manning brought.
Corey Graham, assuming he is still a Bear, stands a very reasonable chance of making his first Pro Bowl. He was fantastic last season.
I know it's hard to imagine any kick returner other than Devin Hester in the Pro Bowl, but if Hester falters again, Danieal Manning could very well end up the NFC representative. He is spectacular as a kick returner, and I would almost say that he's better than Devin returning kickoffs. He might not score the TDs, but he gets more consistent yardage and averages more yards per return.
Those are the Bears to watch for to make their Pro Bowl debut in 2011! Did I miss someone? Did I get one wrong? Sound off, my friends!