That ever important time of year is upon us, when arbitrary invites are handed out to the most meaningless game of the season and players and fans alike rejoice in the inevitable discussions of snubbery that follow. Yes, of course I am talking about the longstanding institution that is the NFL Pro Bowl. The list of players receiving the distinction has been announced, and as Mookie reported on Wednesday, only two Seattle Seahawks got the “honors” this time around. This number is down a bit from last season, to say the least; Seven Seattle players were featured following the 2020 season. But of course with the announcement of the rosters comes the commensurate complaining by the collective with regards to players who were denied the recognition — the Proverbial Pro Bowl Snubs. And while the Seattle Seahawks have hardly had a season to remember in 2021, several individual players very much have. Among them is one whose praise I have been singing all season long: second-year standout and former first-round pick Jordyn Brooks.
Brown had a long stretch where he was average at best before correcting part way through the season & Russ has had…probably the worst season of his career, so lol, sure, Pro Bowl alternate.— Eric Earling (@ericearling) December 23, 2021
If we’re going to give out Pro Bowl alternates like candy, let’s honor Jordyn Brooks pic.twitter.com/lVjntN1GvR
Obviously, how #56 continues to develop and play on the field is far more important than any meaningless distinction like a Pro Bowl nod. I think Brooks is going to continue to grow into being a phenomenal linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks, and no amount of awards or official decoration is going to change that. But it would still be nice to see some recognition for the second-year linebacker who is currently third in the NFL in total tackles, behind only Atlanta Falcons linebacker Foyesade Oluokun and teammate Bobby Wagner.
Even though tackles are only a counting stat for defenders, in many ways, I do feel like Jordyn’s cumulative total is indicative of what I have seen week-in and week-out; he finds his way to the football a lot and is frequently one of the first players I see arriving to make the hit. He even blew up a couple screens this year, which have been one of the many Achilles heals of this defense. His twitchy athleticism and instincts as an off-ball linebacker have the look of a long-term starter. And a deeper dive into his statistics back this up: in addition to his 146 total tackles, Brooks has also tallied 8 tackles for a loss while recording 9.5 stuffs, according to ESPN. And just to establish how unique this is, only two players in the league who currently have at least 100 total tackles have more TFLs than Brooks, according to Stahead;
According to https://t.co/9t2XkzRhT7, four players in the NFL have at least 100 combined tackles and 8 tackles for a loss:— Stan 'the boy' Taylor (@GoodGuyAtSports) December 23, 2021
1. Jordyn Brooks
2. Eric Kendricks
3. Roquan Smith
4. Nick Bolton
None of them made the Pro Bowl. Not totally surprising in 2021, just interesting. pic.twitter.com/1E1uTPwQBy
You could definitely make the very valid argument that Jordyn Brooks has been bad in coverage this season. But it isn’t like Bobby Wagner, Perryman, or Parsons are lighting it up as coverage backers. Looking at a comparison between Brooks and Wagner, we can definitely see that Bobby has been the more successful of the two, but he has still been picked on his fair share in 2021.
Another fun stat. Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks lead all off-ball linebackers in 2021 with 79 targets when playing in coverage.— Jase Abbey (@FFIDP_Jase) December 23, 2021
Wagner has allowed 66 receptions for 611 yards and one touchdown.
Brooks has allowed 69 receptions for 789 yards and five touchdowns.#FFIDP #IDP
And I think this stat says more about the defense that Seattle is running than the performance of their players. Take this play below for example; this is from the team’s first matchup with the Los Angeles Rams. Brooks gets left in one-on-one with Robert Woods, and his alignment combined with the scheme makes this an absolutely impossible assignment. This isn’t to say that all of his coverage deficiencies are related to Carroll and Ken Norton, Jr. But it certainly isn’t helping him out by leaving him matched up with 4.5 receivers in the slot when they could just as easily have dropped Al Woods or Poona Ford into coverage instead.
Seahawks in nickel vs 11 and Rams go empty. Rams split Michel out wide and have Woods (2) in the slot. Seahawks leave Sidney Jones outside on Michel. Wagner runs with Higbee and Jordyn Brooks (56), who is left with an impossible matchup, is staring into the backfield. pic.twitter.com/0pFcXxVDSk— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) October 8, 2021
All this evidence points to a couple obvious conclusions: first, the Pro Bowl is an honorary distinction and little else. It is not the standard by which careers are judged, but it certainly reflects nicely on the recipient. Second, off-ball linebackers in 2021 just aren’t as valuable as they once were. Every outside linebacker who was named to the Pro Bowl is an EDGE defender who has at least nine sacks and rarely aligns off the line of scrimmage, according to their Pro Football Focus snap counts. Even among the inside linebackers who made the roster, the NFC’s starter Micah Parsons has moved around a lot, and has lined up almost as frequently on the line of scrimmage as he has off-ball, per PFF (332 on the d-line as opposed to 438 “in the box”), and his impressive 13 sacks to go with this certainly deserves some recognition. But the other three linebackers to make the roster — Wagner, Darius Leonard, and Denzel Perryman — are more traditional tackle machines who make their living in the open field. Without arguing that Jordyn Brooks is “better” than these guys, because they are all excellent players, I am instead suggesting that Jordyn Brooks is getting the K.J. Wright treatment. And what is this exactly?
Wright — the stalwart Seahawks defensive leader and long-time partner-in-boom with Bobby Wagner — is only credited with one Pro Bowl appearance (2016). While he perennially stood out as one of the most physically unique and imposing players on Seattle’s defense, he remained a lesser-known entity outside of the Pacific Northwest. Similar to Brooks, he amassed tackles and TFLs at an alarming rate and was low-key one of the biggest under-the-radar contributors to the team’s long run of defensive competence. And he got rewarded with an all-expenses paid trip to Las Vegas.
And in this abbreviated tale of his predecessor, we can see a tentative but hopefully more advantageous path forward for Brooks. K.J. came into the league one year ahead of Wagner, whereas Brooks is coming on as a starter at a point when #54 is in the midst of his tenth NFL season. And while Jordyn may not be destined for the recognition or national celebrity that follows some players throughout their careers — deservedly or not — he still has a golden opportunity before him to take on an increasingly important role in a defense that is not going to have HOFer Bobby Wagner forever. And this will mean more than Pro Bowl votes ever will. But I’m still going to advocate for the dude who I called Seattle’s best first round pick in over a decade every time he gets snubbed.