Gerald McCoy was already an all-star. Now you can officially call him a "perennial Pro Bowler."
The National Football League announced its roster for the 2015 Pro Bowl on Tuesday and McCoy, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' decorated defensive tackle, was chosen for the third straight year. He is the only Buccaneer currently slated to play in the league's all-star game, but linebacker Lavonte David has been chosen as a third alternate and could eventually get the call.
Check out the best photos of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy from the first six games of the 2014 season.
"It's an honor to once again be named among the best at my position by the players, coaches and, of course, the fans," said McCoy. "The ultimate goal is to bring a championship back to Tampa Bay, and this organization made a commitment in me to help accomplish that. It's my job to bring my best, day-in and day-out, and I'll continue to do that."
McCoy and David were viewed as the Buccaneers' best hopes for this year's Pro Bowl, as both were selected for the evening more exclusive Associated Press All-Pro first team after the 2013 season. Both players followed with strong 2014 campaigns, as McCoy recorded 8.5 sacks before landing on injured reserve last week and David is ranked second in the NFL in tackles and third in run stuffs despite missing two games.
It has not yet been announced whether McCoy will actually take part in the game, or the draft that separates the "unconferenced" rosters into two competing teams. A knee injury sustained at Carolina in Week 15 brought his season to a premature end but is not serious enough to require surgery or a lengthy rehab period.
McCoy was also selected for the Pro Bowl following the 2012 and 2013 seasons. He is the first Buccaneer to make three straight all-star squads since CB Ronde Barber and LB Derrick Brooks from 2004-06; for Brooks, that was actually the end of a team-record 10-year streak. Only six defensive players in team history have made more Pro Bowls as a Buccaneer than McCoy's three: Brooks (11), DT Warren Sapp (7), DE Lee Roy Selmon (6), CB Ronde Barber (5), S John Lynch (4) and LB Hardy Nickerson (5). Brooks, Sapp and Selmon are all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Hall may call soon for Lynch and Barber.
If David is eventually named to the team, it will be his first such honor. As was the case last year after David combined 144 stops with six sacks, five interceptions and 20 tackles for loss, the 2014 Pro Bowl berths at outside linebacker went almost exclusively to pass-rushers in 3-4 defensive alignments.
McCoy had an excellent shot at becoming the first Buccaneer to crack double digits in sacks since 2005 before he suffered his injury against the Panthers. His 8.5 sacks and 13 quarterback hits were essentially produced in a little over 11 games, as his current injury and the fractured hand that cost him one outing in September both occurred very early in the game in question. In addition, those numbers don't fully convey his dominance, as opposing teams commonly tied him up with double and triple-team blocks, which created opportunities for other Buccaneer pass-rushers. Pro Football Focus rates McCoy as the second-best defensive tackle overall in the NFL this season and by far the best pass-rusher at his position. McCoy's pass-rushing grade on PFF is nearly double the next highest-rated player at defensive tackle (Buffalo's Kyle Williams).
"When I say [he's the] 'best interior lineman in the game,' it's what I feel," said Buccaneers Head Coach Lovie Smith. "[It's] a biased statement, but I don't think I am by myself. Gerald is one of the best interior guys, he can rush the passer, comparing him to others that I've seen."
The rest of McCoy's stat line for 2014 includes 13 tackles for loss, 35 stops overall, three passes defensed and one forced fumble. David has complemented that with 141 tackles, 17 TFLs, one sack, three quarterback hits, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
A Throwback Thursday gallery dedicated to Gerald McCoy's first NFL game...Week 1 2010 vs this week's opponent, the Cleveland Browns.
"Lavonte is as good of a cover, all-around outside linebacker as there is," said Smith. "He can do it all. I get a chance to see him up close and personal. I've seen the linebackers that go to the Pro Bowl, I've had a chance to coach them, I know what they look like and that is definitely the case with him."
As always, the Pro Bowl roster was created in a process unique to the NFL, as it combined the votes of fans, players and coaches. The game itself, however, underwent a drastic change a year ago, and the new format has been retained for at least one more year.
Rather than vote by conference, the players were selected from an overall league pool, and they will be split into two teams via a draft held on Wednesday, January 21. Hall of Fame wide receivers Cris Carter and Michael Irvin will conduct the draft during a prime-time special on NFL Network. The game itself will take place at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, also the site of Super Bowl XLIX on February 1.
Last year's Pro Bowl certainly offered a new twist on the league's long-running all-star game, most notably when actual NFL teammates ended up on opposing Pro Bowl squads and even met head-to-head on the field. The game itself proved more compelling than many of its recent predecessors, ending in a 22-21 victory for Jerry Rice's team over Deion Sander's team, with the winning points scored on a two-point conversion.
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