Buccaneers rookie safety Mark Barron is already off to a better start to his NFL career than Kansas City safety Eric Berry was when he earned a spot in the Pro Bowl during his rookie season in 2010. Berry had a strong NFL debut that year, but also benefited from being a household name as he was the third overall draft pick out of Tennessee in 2010.
Barron enjoys a similar advantage in terms of notoriety, having won two national championships as a three-year starter for a high profile college team in Alabama, and being the seventh overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. That, along with a hot start to his rookie season, which includes some impressive statistics, should help him garner some serious Pro Bowl consideration this year.
Berry made the Pro Bowl following a rookie season in which he had 92 tackles (77 solo), nine passes defensed, four interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown, two sacks, and a forced fumble. But through the first five games, Berry only had 27 tackles (20 solo) and didn’t make any splash plays.
It wasn’t until Berry caught fire during the sixth, seventh and eighth games of his career when he recorded a combined 18 tackles, broke up three passes, recorded two sacks, picked off two and forced a fumble that he really made a Pro Bowl push.
Barron has been spectacular from the start, and has 35 tackles through five games, which ranks third on the team behind linebackers Mason Foster (43) and Lavonte David (41). That’s eight more stops than Berry had at this point in his rookie season. Barron also has forced a fumble and recorded an interception, in addition to breaking up seven passes this season.
Only having one game on national television, which comes up next week at Minnesota on NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football, doesn’t help Barron’s chances of making the Pro Bowl, but Berry didn’t benefit from having many primetime games either during his rookie season. If Barron falls short of making the Pro Bowl this year, and that typically happens to rookies even if they have a good year, he can state his case for making it to Hawaii following the 2013 season.
Seattle’s first-round pick in 2011, Earl Thomas, had a sensational rookie season with 64 tackles, seven pass breakups, five interceptions and a forced fumble, but wasn’t yet a household name among NFL fans or his peers. That respect and notoriety came last year when he recorded 69 tackles, seven pass breakups, two interceptions and forced fumbles, and those numbers earned him his first trip to the Pro Bowl.
Thomas’ sensational rookie season and the 2011 campaign also helped his 2010 draft mate, fellow Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor, get noticed for a second-year Pro Bowl bid, too. Chancellor joined Thomas in Hawaii as a reserve on the NFC squad after recording 97 tackles, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and one sack in his first full season as a starter. So there is hope for Barron to make the Pro Bowl early in his career if he continues to play at a high level.
The good news for Tampa Bay is that if Barron doesn’t make it to Hawaii his counterpart in the secondary, free safety Ronde Barber has a great shot to represent Tampa Bay. Not only does Barber have league-wide respect from fellow NFL players, he also has outstanding name recognition among NFL fans due to his illustrious 16-year career in which he has made the Pro Bowl five times (2001, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008).
Through five games, Barber has recorded 24 tackles, broken up nine passes, recorded two interceptions, including one that was returned 78 yards for a touchdown last week against Kansas City, and one sack.
What helps Tampa Bay is that the statistics that both Barron and Barber have put up thus far in 2012 compare favorably with last year’s NFC Pro Bowl safeties, as well as this year’s top performers at the position.This Year's Statistics For Last Year’s 2012 NFC Pro Bowl Representatives At Safety
Dashon Goldson – 49ers – 27 tackles, 4 pass breakups, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery
Adrian Wilson – Arizona – 20 tackles, 4 pass breakups, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble
Earl Thomas – Seattle – 22 tackles, 4 pass breakups, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble,
Kam Chancellor – Seattle – 45 tackles, 3 pass breakups Other Top NFC Safety Performers Through Week 6 In 2012
Thomas DeCoud – Atlanta – 27 tackles, 10 pass breakups 4 INTs – 1 fumble recovery
Major Wright – Chicago – 23 tackles, 6 pass breakups, 3 INTs, 1 TDRonde Barber – Tampa Bay – 24 tackles, 9 pass breakups, 2 INTs, 1 TD, 1 sack
William Moore – Atlanta – 39 tackles, 7 pass breakups, 2 INTs, 1 forced fumble 1 fumble recovery
Kurt Coleman – Philadelphia – 40 tackles, 6 pass breakups, 2 INTs
Stevie Brown – NY Giants – 20 tackles, 4 pass breakups, 2 INTs, 1 fumble recovery
Antrell Rolle – NY Giants – 35 tackles, 5 pass breakups, 2 INTs Mark Barron – Tampa Bay – 35 tackles, 7 pass breakups, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble
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