Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill, left tackle Terron Armstead and cornerback Xavien Howard were named to the AFC Pro Bowl team Wednesday night. But quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who got the most fan votes of any NFL player, wasn’t named to the team as Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow and Buffalo’s Josh Allen were select as the AFC’s three quarterbacks.
Sometimes players need an introductory season, an “I’m here, look at me,” so to speak, before they get top-level recognition. Perhaps 2022 will serve as such a season for Tagovailoa, who, unlike the others, has yet to make a postseason appearance.
Hill, No. 2 in the NFL in receiving yards with 1,529 to go along with seven touchdowns, is making his seventh Pro Bowl appearance. Armstead, who has battled toe, knee and pectoral injuries this season, is making his fourth appearance. Howard, now a four-time Pro Bowl selection, was considered a longshot heading in with only one interception this season.
Numerous Dolphins players might have had a case to make the Pro Bowl including wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (seventh in receiving yards with 1,117 to go along with seven touchdowns), safety Jevon Holland (73 tackles), linebacker Jaelan Phillips (7.0 sacks) and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins (81 tackles).
Tagovailoa, Waddle, Wilkins and fullback Alec Ingold were named Pro Bowl team first alternates. Edge rusher Bradley Chubb, acquired from Denver as a Nov. 1 trade deadline acquisition, (8.0 sacks, 2.5 with the Dolphins) was named a second alternate. Holland was named a fourth alternate, and tight end Mike Gesicki a fifth alternate.
Pro Bowl selections were determined by a vote among fans, coaches and players with each getting one-third of the input. Unlike previous years there won’t be an actual AFC vs. NFC 11-on-11 full contact game this year. The 2023 Pro Bowl Games, which will be capped on Feb. 5 with a flag football game at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium, are being promoted by the league as a “week-long celebration of AFC vs. NFC competitions featuring a new format that spotlights Flag football.”
Tagovailoa (24 touchdowns, five interceptions, 107.8 passer rating) was the No. 1 overall NFL voting leader among fans with 306,861 votes. Hill was No. 2 overall with 293,679 votes.
Ingold, who was with the Las Vegas Raiders last season, was No. 1 among AFC fullbacks with 200,032 votes, and Armstead was No. 1 among AFC tackles with 122,914 votes.
Tagovailoa mentioned earlier Wednesday what it would mean to make the Pro Bowl.
“That’d be cool,” he said, before alluding to the Feb. 12 Super Bowl. “But sort of at the same time, my feeling on it is, I hope I’m not available for that week.
“We have a lot of goals that we set as a team, and that’s really the main goal for me and for the team is to focus on this [week’s] game first, obviously, but make a playoff run, and hopefully we get that opportunity to win those games deep in January and then make a make a Super Bowl run.”
Tagovailoa was aware he was No. 1 in fan voting.
“It means a lot, and it’s crazy with how they’ve been promoting that through social media,” he said. “I had a couple coaches send me those. My agents have sent me that. So it’s cool.
“But it’s also cool to see the journey of how the first two years went and then all the narratives. And then, we’re here now and it’s just a big blessing.”
Teammates thought it would have been cool if Tagovailoa earned a Pro Bowl berth.
“All of the trials and tribulations he’s been through, the adversity he’s had to battle through,” Hill began. “He’s a very humble, resilient guy who comes into work every day, and he’s definitely earned it. I keep up on Twitter. I noticed a lot of people voted for him, he was No. 1 in votes, so shout out to everybody who voted for Tua, and I’m very happy for him.”
Holland had similar sentiment.
“I just think it speaks to his talent and what we saw last year and what we saw this year and his growth and his development, what I’ve been seeing day in and day out,” he said. “The fans see it and that just kind of pays respect to his work out on the field.”
Coach Mike McDaniel said he wanted his players to pay attention to Wednesday night’s announcement as opposed to ignoring it.
“If where you’re at in regard to your play relative to the league is being honored in a way that’s appropriate, that’s awesome,” he said. “Man, how cool is that, that you’re being recognized by peers and fans that you’re the top percent of the top percent.
“I think it’s also just information because there’s going to be inevitably people that probably are playing better that don’t get necessarily that nod. There always is. And I think there’s a simple way to handle that. All right, I’ll make sure the vote isn’t that close next time.”
This is the first time the Dolphins have had at least two offensive Pro Bowl starters since 1995 when quarterback Dan Marino and tackle Richmond Webb earned the honor.
The last time the Dolphins had at least three players initially selected for the Pro Bowl was 2013 when they had four initially selected among center Mike Pouncey, cornerback Brent Grimes, defensive end Cam Wake and punter Brandon Fields.
A Pro Bowl berth would have been sweet for Ingold.
“It’s been a crazy year for me, personally,” Ingold said.
Ingold plays a vanishing position, fullback.
A few months ago his career was almost in the same position.
Ingold sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee late last season with the Raiders and ended the year on the injured reserve list.
Again, it’s been a pretty amazing journey.
Consider the circumstances:
“Coming off of a season-ending IR, to not getting tendered by the team I was a captain of, to being on the streets, to signing a deal here, to moving across the country, to then rehabbing and getting cleared during camp, and I had this red [non-contact practice] jersey on and everyone was pissed at me for, into playing at that level, it’s a long nine, 10, 11 months, whatever it’s been,” Ingold said.
“Really, starting from barely walking to playing at that level would be really cool.”
Wilkins, an interior defensive lineman, was listed as a defensive end for some reason, meaning he had to battle guys such as Cleveland’s Myles Garrett, who have high sack totals. It’s a bizarre situation that could of robbed Wilkins of a Pro Bowl honor as well as money during his contract talks in the offseason.
Wilkins said he’d keep up with the Pro Bowl announcements.
“It’d obviously be a cool honor,” he said.
Holland, who was No. 2 in voting among AFC safeties, said the same thing.
“Oh, it’d be dope,” he said. “The Pro Bowl is one of the three — Pro Bowl, All Pro, Top 100. It’s kind of like things kids look for when they’re growing up, so that would be something that would be special to me for sure.”
All of the Dolphins (8-6) said while the Pro Bowl would be nice, it isn’t the reason they play football.
Ingold wrapped up the situation best.
“It’s cool to see a lot support from the Miami fans in general just being so strong with [voting] over social media; it’s really cool to see,” he said.
“Now it’s our turn to freakin’ play some ball and finish the season out.”