FRISCO, Texas – After getting shut out of the proceedings last year, the Dallas Cowboys are back on the Pro Bowl roster in a big way in 2021.
The NFL announced its initial rosters for the annual all-star game, and the Cowboys were represented with five selections: Trevon Diggs, Micah Parsons, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith and Bryan Anger.
It's not terribly surprising to see a bounce back this season. After all, the Cowboys are 10-4, sitting on the cusp of an NFC East championship and are currently tied for the NFL's second-best record, as only the Green Bay Packers have more wins.
What is new, though, is the makeup of their Pro Bowl lineup.
For much of the past decade, the Cowboys' Pro Bowlers have mainly been offensive players, due to the strength of their offensive line and skill positions.
This year, however, they boast two of the most impressive defensive playmakers in the NFL, as Diggs and Parsons have both been named to their first Pro Bowl after breakout seasons.
Diggs currently leads the league in interceptions, and his 10 picks on the season have helped the Cowboys to 31 total takeaways – tied for best in the NFL.
Parsons' 12 sacks this season has him ranked seventh in the league in that category, despite playing far fewer snaps as a pass rusher than any of his counterparts.
He is also just the 12th rookie in Cowboys history to be named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, joining illustrious company like Mel Renfro, Bob Hayes, Emmitt Smith, Zack Martin and Ezekiel Elliott, to name a few.
"It would be an extreme honor," said Parsons when asked about the possibility of being named to the Pro Bowl on Wednesday. "One of those things where it's not an expectation; it's something that you earn."
Anger's inclusion is also a bit of a departure from recent years. He is the first Cowboys punter named to the Pro Bowl since Mat McBriar, who accomplished the feat in 2006 and 2010. He is also just the third Cowboys specialist selected to the Pro Bowl in the past decade, as L.P. Ladouceur was selected as a long snapper in 2014 and Dan Bailey made it in 2015.
Of course, some things stayed the same in 2021. After missing the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career last year, Zack Martin is back for a seventh appearance. Martin missed the season opener with COVID-19, but he has played every other game, consistently meeting his own standard as one of the best guards in football.
Smith is also making his eighth appearance in the Pro Bowl after missing most of last season due to injury. The 11th-year veteran has missed four games in the second half of the season with a lingering ankle injury, but he has remained one of the most dominant tackles in the league when he has been available.
Of the five, Smith is the only Cowboy player who is not a starter in the Pro Bowl lineup.
The hope is obviously that none of them will be available to play in it, as there are loftier aspirations in mind. But as the Cowboys approach the end of a memorable season, it's a well-earned honor for all five.