TE Antonio Gates (Al Messerschmidt/Getty)
Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Kris Dielman, Nate Kaeding and Kassim Osgood all earned Pro Bowl invites Tuesday. The quintet ensures San Diego will be well represented in Miami, although most of the post-announcement buzz centered on the two players left out.
Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill, both selected as third alternates, are among the league's best players not to earn all-star invitations.
Among players with at least 40 receptions, Jackson leads the league in yards per catch (17.2) and first-down percentage (85.3). He also ranks in the league's top-10 in receiving yards (1,167), touchdowns (nine) and big plays (17). Additionally, his run blocking and ability to draw double-teams are reasons why the Chargers lead the AFC in scoring (28.7 point per game).
Jackson was left out in favor of Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Brandon Marshall and Wes Welker. All four players are having magnificent seasons in their own rights, so it would be inaccurate to deem Jackson a snub. Nonetheless, he's clearly enjoyed a Pro Bowl-caliber campaign.
McNeill is arguably the bigger snub, with Cleveland's Joe Thomas nabbing the third tackle position behind Ryan Clady and Jake Long. McNeill has allowed two fewer sacks than Thomas (six to four) and been hit with fewer penalty yards (35 to 30). Also, Thomas' team ranks last in the league in total offense.
As for those who made the team, Philip Rivers (second invite) and Antonio Gates (sixth) were no-brainers. Rivers leads the conference in passer rating (104.5), big plays (63), passing average (8.8 yards) and first-down percentage (43.1).
Gates is enjoying his finest season with a career-best 1,145 receiving yards, which leads all tight ends. He also leads all tight ends in first-down percentage (76.9) and big plays (18); Gates rates fourth in the AFC in big plays regardless of position.
Dielman will make his third Pro Bowl appearance, although he's the one Charger who could be accused of going on reputation. He's allowed a career-worst three sacks and is on a team that ranks last in yards per carry (3.3). LaDainian Tomlinson, who takes most of his carries inside, is averaging a career-low 3.3 ypc.
Nate Kaeding (second invite) and Kassim Osgood (third) will represent San Diego's special teams. Kaeding leads the AFC in accuracy (91 percent) and is tied for the conference lead in field goals made (29). He has yet to miss a kick from inside 40 yards. Osgood ranks second on the team with 12 special-teams tackles and is one of the NFL's best at downing punts inside the 5-yard line.
Other Chargers who bagged alternate honors are KR Darren Sproles (first alternate), CB Antonio Cromartie (third) and P Mike Scifres (third).
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