Sunday, December 27, 2009

Tully Banta-Cain's Pro Bowl year

(First things first: Great read from Adam Kilgore in Friday's Globe about the underdog mentality that has driven Tully Banta-Cain since his NFL career began.)

The film analysts at listed five Patriots on their Pro Bowl cheat sheet this week. Three of them -- Logan Mankins, Wes Welker and Vince Wilfork -- should be no-brainers. Stephen Neal already has been covered in this space.

The fifth? It's not Tom Brady. It's not Randy Moss. It's not Jerod Mayo. It's not Brandon Meriweather or Matt Light or Leigh Bodden.

It's Tully Banta-Cain.

Even before his three-sack effort at Buffalo a week ago, the afterthought of an outside linebacker had earned strong consideration for a trip to Miami for the Pro Bowl. His 8.5 sacks this season rank him sixth in the AFC -- including fourth among outside linebackers, behind only Denver's Elvis Dumervil, Pittsburgh's James Harrison and Pittsburgh's LaMarr Woodley.

According to, he's been the third-best 3-4 outside linebacker in the AFC this season -- again behind Harrison and Woodley -- and that's despite having played the majority of his early-season snaps as a defensive end rather than as an outside linebacker. He unofficially has been credited with seven hits on the quarterback and 18 quarterback pressures. He consistently has been the Patriots' best defensive player this season, even ahead of run-stuffing nose tackle Vince Wilfork. He's made the offseason trade of Mike Vrabel almost a non-issue.

Banta-Cain was nowhere to be found on the leaderboard when Pro Bowl fan voting was complete. He still, though, deserves to make the trip to Miami.

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