An NFL-leading and franchise-best 10 Carolina Panthers were named to the Pro Bowl, the National Football League announced Tuesday.
Six offensive players – quarterback Cam Newton, tight end Greg Olsen, running back Jonathan Stewart, fullback Mike Tolbert, center Ryan Kalil and guard Trai Turner – along with four defensive players – linebackers Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly, cornerback Josh Norman and defensive tackle Kawann Short – were selected.
These are the first career Pro Bowl selections for Stewart, Turner, Davis, Norman and Short. Kalil’s selection is the fifth of his career, tied for the most in Panthers history. Kick returner Michael Bates, defensive end Julius Peppers, wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Wesley Walls also earned five Pro Bowl selections.
“It’s truly an honor to be selected to the Pro Bowl,” Davis said. “All the hard work and dedication I’ve put into the game has paid off. I’m extremely excited and I couldn’t be more thankful to the fans who took their time to vote me in, as well as my fellow players and coaches.
“To have 10 guys selected says a lot about our team. It says a lot about our fans and how highly they thought of us this season, and I think it says a lot about the way our season has gone. I’m excited and thankful to be part of the 10.”
Contributions from Newton, Olsen, Stewart, Tolbert, Kalil and Turner, have allowed the Panthers to lead the NFL in scoring (32.1 points per game), rank third in rushing (144.0 yards per game) and rank eighth in total offense (374.1 yards per game). Carolina has established a new franchise record in scoring with 449 points and the team is second in red zone touchdown percentage, scoring touchdowns on 66.7 percent of drives that reach the 20-yard line.
Newton earned his third Pro Bowl selection in a season in which he has established career highs in passing touchdowns (33 – 2nd in the NFL) and passer rating (98.9 – 6th in the NFL). Newton has thrown for 3,402 yards and rushed for 580, becoming the only player in NFL history to have five seasons with 3,000 or more passing yards and 500 or more rushing yards at any point in a career. His four game-winning drives this season are tied for the most in the NFL. Newton has been named NFC Offensive Player of the Week three times this season (Weeks 9, 11, 13). He is the first player to win three Offensive Player of the Week Awards in a five-week span since New England’s Tom Brady in 2007.
Olsen earned his second consecutive Pro Bowl nod. This season, Olsen has recorded a career-high 1,048 receiving yards, marking his second consecutive 1,000-yard season. Olsen is the seventh tight end in NFL history with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Olsen ranks second among NFL tight ends this season in receiving yards and receiving average (14.8). His 65 receptions are third and his seven receiving touchdowns are tied for fifth among NFL tight ends.
Stewart has been named to his first Pro Bowl after rushing for 989 yards in 13 starts. His rushing yards total ranks fourth in the NFL and he has carried the ball a career-high 242 times, the third-most in the NFL. Stewart’s six touchdowns this season are his most since tallying 10 touchdowns in back-to-back seasons in 2008 and 2009.
Joining Stewart is backfield mate Mike Tolbert who earned his second career Pro Bowl selection. Tolbert earned his first career selection in 2013. This season, Tolbert has scored four total touchdowns (one rushing, career-high three receiving) and his blocking efforts have helped Stewart to the second-highest rushing total of his career behind the 1,133 he recorded in 2009.
Kalil and Turner are part of a Panthers offensive line that has protected Newton and has him on pace for the fewest sacks of his career (30). The line has opened holes for the Panthers to rank third in the NFL in rushing, averaging 144.0 yards per game. Dating to last season, Carolina has rushed for 100 or more yards in 25 consecutive regular season games, tied for the longest active streak in the NFL.
Defensively, Davis, Kuechly, Norman and Short have helped Carolina stand among the best in the NFL this season. Carolina leads the NFL in total takeaways (35) and interceptions (22), and ranks third in total defense (314.9 yards per game), sixth in rushing defense (90.1 yards per game), fifth in passing defense (224.8 yards per game) and 10th in scoring defense (19.9 points per game).
Davis has started all 14 games for the Panthers and is the only player in the NFL with five or more sacks (5.5) and three or more interceptions (three). He is second on the team with 113 tackles and has added four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and six passes defensed. The 2014 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, Davis stands second on the Panthers all-time tackles list with 944, trailing only Mike Minter’s 953 from 1997-2006.
Kuechly has been named to his third consecutive Pro Bowl. He leads the Panthers in tackles with 121 despite missing three and a half games. He has added a career-high four interceptions, returning one for his first career touchdown. In Week 12 vs. Dallas (11/26/15), Kuechly became the first player since the Houston Oilers Marcus Robertson in 1997 to record interceptions on consecutive plays from scrimmage. Kuechly has added one sack, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and four passes defensed this season.
Norman received his first Pro Bowl honors this season after recording a career-high four interceptions, including an NFL-leading two returned for touchdowns. Norman has added 14 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He earned NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors for September and was NFC Defensive Player of Week 4. Norman is the fourth Panther to win Defensive Player of the Week and Defensive Player of the Month Awards in the same season, joining Sam Mills (1995), Julius Peppers (2006, 2008) and Thomas Davis (2013).
Short joins his first Pro Bowl team after tallying a career-high 9.0 sacks, the most by a defensive tackle in franchise history. Short’s sack total is third among defensive tackles and 12th in the NFL overall. He has three games this season with two or more sacks. Only Houston’s J.J. Watt (5), New England’s Chandler Jones (4) and Oakland’s Khalil Mack (4) have more. Short was named NFC Defensive Player of Week 6 and earned NFC Player of the Month for October. He is the first defensive tackle in team history to be named Defensive Player of the Month and joins Julius Peppers (three times) and Mike Rucker (twice) as the only Panthers defensive linemen to be named Defensive Player of the Month.
The 2016 Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, January 31 and televised live on ESPN from Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Pro Bowl players were determined by the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. Each group’s vote counts one-third toward determining the 88 All-Star players who are eligible for the Pro Bowl Draft.
The Pro Bowl will continue using the revised game format that debuted with the 2014 Pro Bowl, with NFL Legends captains having final say over Pro Bowl Draft decisions. The Pro Bowl will remain “unconferenced,” with several key playing rules changed. Players were selected without regard to conference in voting by fans, coaches and players and later are assigned to Pro Bowl teams via a fantasy football-style draft.