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Florida Gators in the NFL: Which Gators could be Pro Bowlers?

With injuries — and the Texans — hampering some obvious candidates, the list isn’t long.

Buffalo Bills v Detroit Lions Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

The National Football League eliminated its annual Pro Bowl game. This year, the Pro Bowl Games will consist of the skills competitions and flag football games. Despite the changes, it’s still an honor to receive Pro Bowl recognition.

Last year, Kyle Pitts and D.J. Humphries were Pro Bowlers and Max Garcia was an alternate. This season, the Gators could be shut out.

C.J. Gardner-Johnson was a lock for the Pro Bowl until suffering a lacerated kidney that has cost him two games and likely more — although he says he could be back soon.

He’s still tied for the league lead in interceptions, but because of the injury, he isn’t even listed on’s voting page.

Dameon Pierce is 61 rushing yards shy of 1,000 on the season, and his 1,104 scrimmage yards are 16th in the league. Unfortunately, there are five AFC running backs ahead of Pierce in scrimmage yards.

The bigger problem for Pierce’s candidacy, however, is that Pierce suffered an ankle sprain on Sunday that is probably going to cause him to miss at least one game and possibly more.

Outside of CJGJ and Pierce, there are no obvious candidates. But there are a couple of Gators I feel deserve consideration.

First is the most obvious to me: Chiefs punter Tommy Townsend.

Townsend is second in the NFL in average (52.2) and first in net punting (47.0). Because Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City’s offense are so prolific, Townsend doesn’t punt a lot but he’s improved in each of his three seasons and finally deserves a Pro Bowl nod. On Sunday, he bombed a 76-yarder and averaged over 66 yards on 4 punts.

The next strongest Pro Bowl case belongs to Eddy Piñeiro. Yeah, really.

Two months ago, Piñeiro was the butt of a million jokes after missing crucial kicks in an overtime loss. That was not his finest hour, obviously.

Since then? The joke’s on the rest of the league. Piñeiro is second in the league in field goal percentage (92.6%) and fifth in field goals made (25). He’s made 11 straight field goals, after having a streak of 27 straight kicks snapped earlier this season — or, y’know, 38 of his last 39 field goals, with the league record for consecutive makes sitting at 44 and 38 straight meriting a top-five spot. I wrote earlier this year about how Eddy would be third all-time in FG% if he had enough kicks to qualify.

Alex Anzalone is one of only 12 players in the entire league with at least 100 tackles, one sack, and one interception. Of those 12, only one has more passes defended than Anzalone (6). AA is a longshot, but as I’ve written many times this year, he’s having a helluva season and is continually underrated.

Lastly, let’s recognize Jawaan Taylor for the best season of his four-year career. After having his consecutive snap streak broken — he played every snap of every game in his first three seasons — in Week One due to leg cramps, Taylor has played every snap since. And he’s playing at a high level on a surging Jaguars’ offense.

Voting concludes at midnight on Thursday, so time is running out to cast those votes for these deserving former Gators.

The Driskel Package

The Texans came out Sunday and ran an offense Steve Spurrier himself would have been proud of. Davis Mills and Jeff Driskel didn’t rotate on every play — Doug Johnson and Noah Brindise’s 1997 dance will never be duplicated — but they did swap series and plays just enough to keep the Cowboys off balance for about 57 minutes on Sunday.

Driskel finished with 36 rush yards and 38 pass yards including this touchdown pass, his first since 2020.

That was also Driskel’s third elevation from the practice squad this season, meaning Houston has to sign him to the 53-man roster or release him. No surprise, then, that it looks like he’s staying in Texas — which could mean more Taysom Hill-like performances in the final month of the season.

Other Week 14 Notables

C.J. Henderson had his second interception of the season and is really coming on for the Panthers.

Henderson has now started three straight for Carolina and has a career-high 50 tackles in 13 games. Paired opposite the budding star in Jaycee Horn, Henderson has found a home with the Panthers and is living up to his own first-round pedigree.

Demarcus Robinson continued his steady season. He’s now caught at least five passes in four of the past six games. He’s closing in on career-highs in grabs and receiving yards. He’s the Ravens WR1 and has more than exceeded their expectations after signing him late in training camp.

Jonathan Bullard suffered a pectoral injury in Week 13 and was placed on injured reserve by the Vikings. Minnesota thinks Bullard could make it back for the playoffs.

Freddie Swain made his 2022 debut after the Dolphins called him up from the practice squad. He played seven snaps but did not see a target.

Player of the Week

If you missed that Van Jefferson was the one on the end of this insane game-winning touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield on Thursday, well that’s just the Baker effect.

Jefferson didn’t put up huge numbers — just one other catch before the game-winner — but he drew a couple of penalties, including a huge pass interference earlier on the game-winning drive.

Plus, you always remember your first.

For all our sakes, let’s be glad Mayfield the recruiter — and Lincoln Riley, for that matter — didn’t get in the way of Jefferson eventually ending up at Florida.

Play of the Week

Dameon. Pierce. My. Goodness. That man has a family, DP!

For the second time this season, Pierce drew the attention of my guy Kyle Brandt and his Angry Runs segment. Unfortunately, there was no chance Pierce was beating Kenny Smith vs Shaq.

Here are all of the Week 14 stats (ranked and tiered in order of performance):

The Good

  • Van Jefferson, LAR, WR

Week 14: 2 rec (4 targets), 44 yards, 1 TD, 62 snaps (97%)

  • Dameon Pierce, HOU, RB

Week 14: 22 rush, 78 yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble lost, 36 snaps (55%), left with ankle injury

  • C.J. Henderson, CAR, CB

Week 14: 1 INT, 20 return yards, 2 tackles, 2 PD, 54 snaps (100%)

  • Alex Anzalone, DET, LB

Week 14: 9 tackles, 1 PD, 63 snaps (97%)

  • Jeff Driskel, HOU, QB

Week 14: 4/6 passing, 38 yards, 1 TD, 7 rush, 36 yards, 33 snaps (50%)

  • Eddy Pineiro, CAR, K

Week 14: 3/3 FG, Long 47, 3/3 XP, 1 tackle

  • Demarcus Robinson, BAL, WR

Week 14: 5 rec (6 targets), 52 yards, 37 snaps (61%)

  • Keanu Neal, TB, S

Week 14: 6 tackles, 1 TFL, 63 snaps (100%)

  • Tommy Townsend, KC, P

Week 14: 3 punts, 66.3 avg

  • Jawaan Taylor, JAX, RT

Week 14: 72 snaps (100%)

  • Carlos Dunlap, KC, DE

Week 14: 2 tackles, 29 snaps (40%)

  • Evan McPherson, CIN, K

Week 14: 1/1 FG, Long 30, 2/3 XP

  • Max Garcia, ARI, G

Week 14: 75 snaps (100%)

  • Trent Brown, NE, RT

Week 14: 59 snaps (100%)

The Limited

  • Brandon Powell, LAR, WR

Week 14: 2 targets, 4 KR, 18.3 avg, 1 PR, 0.0 avg, 14 snaps (22%), 12 ST snaps (48%)

  • Dante Fowler, Jr., DAL, OLB

Week 14: 3 tackles, 16 snaps (24%)

  • Marco Wilson, ARI, CB

Week 14: 2 tackles, 15 snaps (25%), left with shoulder injury

  • Jarrad Davis, DET, LB

Week 14: 1 tackle, 14 snaps (22%), 4 ST snaps (14%)

  • Taven Bryan, CLE, DT

Week 14: 33 snaps (49%), 6 ST snaps (25%)

  • Teez Tabor, SEA, S

Week 14: 1 tackle, 2 snaps (3%), 11 ST snaps (39%)

  • Zach Carter, CIN, DT

Week 14: 22 snaps (31%), 2 ST snaps (8%)

  • Malik Davis, DAL, RB

Week 14: 16 ST snaps (57%)

  • Freddie Swain, MIA, WR

Week 14: 7 snaps (14%)

  • Stone Forsythe, SEA, T

Week 14: 4 ST snaps (14%)

  • Kaiir Elam, BUF, CB

Week 14: 1 ST snap (3%)

The Inactive

  • Marcus Maye, NO, S: Bye Week
  • Jon Bostic, WAS, LB: Bye Week
  • Feleipe Franks, ATL, TE: Bye Week
  • Jonotthan Harrison, ATL, OL: Bye Week
  • Kadarius Toney, KC, WR: Inactive (Hamstring)
  • Kyle Trask, TB, QB: Inactive
  • Jonathan Bullard, MIN, DT: Injured Reserve (biceps)
  • Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, PHI, S: Injured Reserve
  • D.J. Humphries, ARI, LT: Injured Reserve
  • Kyle Pitts, ATL, TE: Injured Reserve
  • Jonathan Greenard, HOU, DE: Injured Reserve

The Practice Squad

  • Marcell Harris, NYJ, LB
  • Jabari Zuniga, NO, DE
  • Antonio Callaway, DAL, WR
  • Tyrie Cleveland, DEN, WR
  • Fred Johnson, PHI, OL
  • La’mical Perine, MIA, RB
  • David Sharpe, BAL, T
  • Jeremiah Moon, BAL, LB
  • Duke Dawson, PIT, DB