The 2016 Pro Bowl will have a lot of change surrounding it. In addition to moving to Orlando, FL from its typical home of Hawaii, the game will return to a “conferenced” format, pitting players from the AFC against their NFC counterparts. Players were selected by votes from fans, NFL players, and coaches.
After several dismal years, the Titans enter Week 16 with a winning record and complete control of the AFC South race. Their success in 2016 is due in large part to strong performances from players in all position groups, five of which have officially been named to the AFC’s Pro Bowl roster.
The Titans’ 2016 Pro Bowlers are tackle Taylor Lewan, tight end Delanie Walker, running back DeMarco Murray, defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, and outside linebacker Brian Orakpo.
Taylor Lewan struggled immensely with consistency in the first two years of his career, but has broken out in 2016. In addition to rarely surrendering pressures and keeping QB Marcus Mariota comfortable, Lewan has been a monstrous force in the running game. Much of fellow Pro Bowler DeMarco Murray’s success has come when running to Lewan’s side. Lewan also caught a TD on a tackle-eligible play against the Colts.
In an era in which tight ends have essentially become oversized wide receivers, Delanie Walker is a rarity. Walker is a true, traditional tight end. In the passing game, he has the speed and catching ability of a WR. In the running game, he has the ability to become an extension of the offensive line; Pro Football Focus gives him an impressive run blocking grade of 74.5. This will mark Walker’s second year in a row in the Pro Bowl.
Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey will also make his second appearance in a row at the Pro Bowl. Casey is a defensive captain, and continues to be an extraordinarily disruptive force on the interior of the defensive line. Though his numbers this year haven’t been up to par with those put up in previous years, Casey has dominated every offensive line he’s faced this season. Particularly in Week One, Casey was instrumental in holding All Pro RB Adrian Peterson to only 31 yards on 19 carries, making Vikings’ guard Alex Boone look silly all game long.
When Jon Robinson took over as the Titans’ general manager in January, he said that he wanted team first, tough, and coachable players. A few weeks later, Robinson initiated a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles for RB DeMarco Murray, someone who has embodied all of those characteristics and more. Murray has been a selfless leader for the Titans, a mentor to rookie Derrick Henry, and a true bell-cow back. He currently ranks second in the NFL (first in the AFC) in rushing yards, and has found the end zone twelve times thus far in 2016.
Finally, second year Titan Brian Orakpo will be heading to the Pro Bowl for the first time since his rookie season in 2009. Orakpo is currently fifth in the league with eleven sacks, but his impact is not solely felt in the passing game. Orakpo has always had a niche for setting the edge in the running game and not allowing backs to get to the edge, totaling 23 tackles so far this year in addition to his sacks.
Additionally, QB Marcus Mariota, FB Jalston Fowler, and T Jack Conklin were named as alternates, and could enter the game if a player ahead of them at their position plays in the Super Bowl, becomes injured, or decides to decline the invitation. This is the first time that the Titans had five or more Pro Bowl players since 2008.