San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle is in the running for his first Pro Bowl selection. A screen shot of the NFL Pro Bowl ballot appears above, captured Dec. 10, 2011.
The safety section on the AFC Pro Bowl ballot has, for years, been a quick point-and-click.
Choose one free safety? Ed Reed of the Baltimore Ravens.
Choose one strong safety? Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Yawn. Next position.
Well, Chargers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky says it's about time San Diego's free safety gets a closer look.
Manusky said Friday he'd rather have Eric Weddle, whose six interceptions lead the safety pack by two, in his secondary than Reed, adding he's not just saying so because Weddle is the one he coaches.
He huffed on a question of whether Weddle deserves Pro Bowl consideration.
"Shoot, yeah. He's making plays, you know?" Manusky said. "And turnovers are a big part of the game. We stress them as much as we can, and for him to go out there and have six picks — he had a couple other ones that were in his hands against New England and Kansas City, I think it was. He definitely could be in the eight or nine situation. (He's) been great."
Entering the month, Reed led all free safeties with 126,436 votes. How far Weddle trailed was not released, and a phone call to an NFL spokesperson was not returned
Last year, two free safeties made the AFC team. Former New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather was selected as a backup to Reed, but after being cut in September, he is now with the Chicago Bears.
The ongoing fan vote, open on NFL.com through Dec. 19, represents a third of the voter selection; coaches and players also have a one-third say.
Reed, 33, has been to the Pro Bowl in seven of the past eight seasons, the only exception coming in 2005 when the fleet-footed ball hawk missed six games to an ankle injury.
This year, Weddle, yet to be selected to the annual Hawaii all-star game, has him beat in most statistical categories.
There are the interceptions: 6-3. Tackles: 70-40. Quarterbacks are 9-of-20 for 120 yards and a touchdown versus Weddle for a 38.5 rating, best among safeties with at least 600 snaps, according to ProFootballFocus. Against Reed: 12-of-22 for 180 yards and a touchdown, a 57.2 marker.
Reed did have a strip-fumble that led to a touchdown in Week 4 against the New York Jets. Weddle has yet to sack the quarterback (on 14 pass rushes) or force a fumble, but all in all, the stats give Weddle a distinct edge.
And for what it's worth, his defensive coordinator does, too.