The NFL announced its selections for the 2023 Pro Bowl on Wednesday night, and only one member of the New England Patriots was able to make the cut: linebacker Matthew Judon will be the team’s lone representative in the new-look event.
As for his teammates, the voters — a mix of fans, players and coaches — have not deemed them worthy of recognition. While that did not necessarily come as a surprise given the Patriots’ up-and-down performance this season, there are a few who would have deserved to make it to the Pro Bowl this year.
G Michael Onwenu: The Patriots’ offensive line has struggled for much of the season, but not because of starting right guard Michael Onwenu. Returning to his natural position after two seasons elsewhere (right tackle, left guard), he has been one of the best guards in all of football. An elite run blocker and outstanding pass protector, it would not have been a stretch to see him make the Pro Bowl over one of the AFC’s three guards: Cleveland’s Joel Bitonio and Kansas City’s Joe Thuney have a strong case, but Indianapolis’ Quenton Nelson has not played on his usual high a level in 2022; he appears to have made the Pro Bowl primarily on name recognition and very well could have lost out to Onwenu.
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley: Two inside linebackers made the Pro Bowl out of the AFC — Baltimore’s Roquan Smith and New York’s C.J. Mosley — and both are deserving of the honor considering their year-long contributions. Given that most of Smith’s production happened while he was still playing in the NFC, alone there was a case to be made for Bentley over him. The fifth-year Patriot has played some solid football as New England’s No. 1 off-ball linebacker, but the circumstances and a lack of star power both worked against him.
S Kyle Dugger: The most versatile safety in the league missed out on his first Pro Bowl nod because the circumstances also did not do him any favors: his spectacular pick-six against Las Vegas happened after the voting process was already over. Based on his year-long performance, big-play potential — he is the only player in the NFL with a pick-six and a fumble-return touchdown — and his role within none of the NFL’s best defenses, however, he would have had a solid case to make the all-star even. Alas, Los Angeles’ Derwin James, Pittsburgh’s Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Buffalo’s Jordan Poyer got the call over him.
RS Marcus Jones: Baltimore’s Devin Duvernay is the AFC’s return specialist this year, and he has been solid this year. However, the Patriots’ third-round rookie has not been any worse and would have equally deserving of making the Pro Bowl for his contributions this year: his 13.6-yards average on punt returns ranks first in the AFC among qualifying players, while he also scored a touchdown. Additionally, his 24.9-yard kickoff return average is only slightly worse than Duvernay’s 25.5.
ST Brenden Schooler: Do you know who leads the NFL in takeaways in the kicking game? That’s right, Patriots undrafted rookie Brenden Schooler who has registered two fumble recoveries. While that number alone does not a Pro Bowl-caliber special teamer, one would imagine it should helps his case. The same is true for his 10 solo tackles in the game’s third phase — tied for the most in the NFL together with New York’s Justin Hardee and Washington’s Jeremy Reaves. But while Hardee and Reaves both made the Pro Bowl, Schooler did not.
Ultimately, the voters decided against sending Onwenu, Bentley, Dugger, Jones or Schooler to the Pro Bowl despite their solid performances so far this season. There is a chance they make it to the all-star game at on point in their careers — all are still young and ascending players — but they will do something else in February 2023.