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As it is every year when the NFC and AFC Pro Bowl teams are announced, fans across the nation are up in arms over their favorite players not being selected to the team. Sometimes these complaints are warranted while other times they are simply homer fans who just want to see their favorite players get recognition from the rest of the league.
Charles Woodson is the only Green Bay Packer starting for the NFC team while Aaron Rodgers will make his first trip to the Pro Bowl and Nick Collins is going back for the second straight year. While those three picks were all but locks to make the trip to Miami, there is one player who, barring injury, will not be playing in the Pro Bowl despite having seasons worthy of a selection.
Last season, despite rushing for 1,200 yards, running back Ryan Grant struggled to gain notoriety as the Packers won just six games and Rodgers burst onto the scene as a top passer in the league. Grant fumbled the ball four times, losing three, and caught just 18 passes to finish the season with five total touchdowns.
His 2008 season was seen as a regression from 2007, when Grant went from a practice squad running back on the Giants to premier running back on the 13-3 Packers. He averaged 5.1 yards per rush and scored eight times while rushing for 956 yards. Making it more impressive was the fact that after seven weeks Grant had 27 rushing yards.
This season Grant has had a rejuvenated year but still finds himself overshadowed by Rodgers’ second-straight phenomenal season as well as the Packers’ pass-happy offense. He ranks third in the NFC in rushing yards (1202) and only Adrian Peterson has rushed for more touchdowns than Grant, who has ten. In addition, Grant has improved his receiving numbers and has lost just one fumble all season, in Week 2.
Representing the NFC in the Pro Bowl will be Peterson, Steven Jackson, and Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams. It’s hard to argue against the NFC’s leading rusher (Jackson) or a player with 17 touchdowns (Peterson), but the real gripe comes in when talking about Williams.
Taking on the “lightning” role in Carolina’s two-running back system along with Jonathon Stewart, Williams has rushed for over 1100 yards and sports an impressive 5.2 yards per rush while adding seven touchdowns to his resume. However, Williams has also missed two games to injury, lost three fumbles, and plays for a team that runs the ball over 52 percent of the time.
Carolina has two 1,000-yard rushers (Williams and Stewart) and while it’s easy to say Stewart has stolen carries and touchdowns from Williams, it also keeps him fresh and makes sure he does not have to carry the load 25 times a game.
Outside of yards per rush, Grant tops Williams in every rushing category and does it for a team that is known for its passing and less than stellar offensive line (to be generous). Grant has been a key to the Packers’ 10-5 record and has taken the ball on more than 67 percent of the Packers’ running plays, compared to Williams’ 44 percent.
Both runners have different roles on their respective teams, but Grant has been far more impressive than Williams in just about every way. Chalk up Williams’ Pro Bowl selection on the fact that he rushed for over 1,500 yards and scored 18 times last season, when he deserved to make it. He has had a great season and has meant everything to the Panthers’ rushing attack, but Grant’s season has been just as impressive and has meant more to the playoff-bound Packers.