It wasn't a shock that Ravens MLB Ray Lewis and FS Ed Reed were voted as Pro Bowl starters, given their reputation and skill. Now, the focus turns to whether the two future Hall of Famers will be playmakers in January.
Lewis, 36, missed four games with a toe injury before returning in Week 15. He notched 10 tackles in each of his first two games back in the lineup, though there's some sentiment that he's still rounding into form, the way we hear it.
Reed, 33, had two interceptions in the season opener vs. Pittsburgh but has had only one since. However, he has played every game this season, a positive after he had missed time with injuries the previous two seasons.
All told, the Ravens had seven players voted to the Pro Bowl, including all four of their highest-profile defenders — Lewis, Reed, OLB Terrell Suggs and DT Haloti Ngata. Also voted to the Pro Bowl were three offensive players: RB Ray Rice, FB Vonta Leach and ORG Marshal Yanda.
In the case of Suggs, anything but inclusion on the Pro Bowl roster would have been an injustice. Suggs, a Pro Bowl starter, has been the most dynamic pass rusher on one of the NFL's most disruptive defenses. He leads the AFC with a career-high 13 sacks.
Ngata, also voted a starter, has been dominant on occasion this season, notably in wins over Pittsburgh and San Francisco. Widely regarded as one of the NFL's top interior linemen, Ngata possesses a special blend of size and quickness.
One of the game's best all-around backs, Rice is the only Ravens Pro Bowl representative whose contract is up at season's end. Whether he receives the franchise tag or gets a new contract, it's a safe bet to expect him in a Ravens uniform next season, the way we hear it.
Yanda, who received a "winning performance or better" grade from the coaching staff in the Ravens' first 15 games before the Pro Bowl announcement, has thrived playing on the interior of the line. The Ravens made him a priority re-signing this offseason, and he has rewarded their investment.
The Ravens targeted Leach in free agency, and he has performed as expected, serving as a bruising lead blocker.