The NFL released it's 2019 Pro Bowl selections on Tuesday with five Dallas Cowboys making this year's all-star game. Ezekiel Elliott, Byron Jones, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyron Smith, and Zack Martin will be representing the Dallas Cowboys this season when the AFC and the NFC teams face off in Orlando, Florida in February.
None of the players selected are a surprise as they've been in the discussion as the best at their position in 2018. Byron Jones is the only one making his first Pro Bowl as he's been a stellar and surprising aspect of the Cowboys defense this season.
The surprises come when you think about the players who didn't make the Pro Bowl. Let's look at four Cowboys who should have been invited to Orlando.
1. Leighton Vander Esch, Linebacker
The Dallas Cowboys surprised everyone when they made Leighton Vander Esch their first round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft when many thought he was more of a very late first, second round type of player. They made their choice and have looked like geniuses since.
Vander Esch has played as well as any rookie in the NFL this year. If it weren't for the ridiculous season that Indianapolis Colts Linebacker Darius Leonard is having, Vander Esch would likely run away with the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
Vander Esch is third in the NFL in solo tackles and second in the NFC to Luke Keuchly. According to Pro Football Focus, LVE ranks fifth among linebackers in their “stops” category, which credits players for plays that result in a “loss” for an offense.
Because the NFL doesn't differentiate between 4-3 outside linebackers and 3-4 outside linebackers, Leighton Vander Esch gets left out as Khalil Mack and Ryan Kerrigan get in by virtue of their sack numbers. If there's an argument to be made, it's Vander Esch over Minnesota Vikings Linebacker Anthony Barr who hasn't played in an as many games as Vander Esch and hasn't racked up near the stats that the rookie has.
2. Jaylon Smith, Linebacker
While Leighton Vander Esch has been impressive this season, you'd probably be surprised to discover that Jaylon Smith has been the more impactful of the two. Jaylon Smith is in the top 15 in solo tackles, is tied for fifth in sacks among linebackers (excluding 3-4 outside linebackers), tied for 10th in total pressures, and is 13th in the NFL in Pro Football Focus's stops.
LVE has been all over the field as a tackler, but Smith has had the more well-rounded season, providing an impact for the Dallas Cowboys both as a run defender and as a pass rusher. Jaylon Smith has also forced two fumbles this season, which is tied for third in the NFL.
Jaylon Smith has been one of the best players on one of the NFL's best defenses. He hasn't put up gaudy sack or tackle numbers, but he's been a very well-rounded player for the Cowboys this season. Smith's presence, athleticism, and speed have been game changing this season — see the stop on Alvin Kamara vs the Saints.
Amari Cooper deserves to be a Pro Bowler. I don't care if he's only played seven games in the NFC, let's take a look at what he's done on the season and since his arrival to the Dallas Cowboys.
Between the Oakland Raiders and the Dallas Cowboys this season, Cooper has caught 66 passes for 954 yards and seven touchdowns. Since coming to the Dallas Cowboys, Cooper has 44 catches on 60 targets, for 674 yards (15.3 yards per reception), and six touchdowns.
Since week nine, when Amari Cooper came to the Cowboys, only one wide receiver in the NFC has more yards than Cooper: Julio Jones. Only three receivers have more receptions than Cooper, Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, and Julio Jones, each of whom is going to the Pro Bowl. Nobody has more touchdowns than Cooper.
Adam Thielen, who is the fourth wide receiver representing the NFC had a great start to the 2018 season, but he's been kinda meh over the last seven weeks. Amari has 13 more receptions, 340 more yards, and three more touchdowns than Thielen since coming over to the NFC.
Amari Cooper is playing as well as any other receiver in the NFL at the moment and shouldn't be punished for only playing a little more than half the season in the NFC.
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It's possible that the Cowboys get another player into the Pro Bowl with L.P. Ladouceur as a possible choice once the coaches are determined for the annual all-star game. The three players mentioned above could be added to the Pro Bowl roster at a later date if there is an injury or a player is playing the Super Bowl opts out of the game, but they shouldn't have to wait for an opening. Their play on the field should have spoken for itself.