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Giants’ Olivier Vernon gets curious Pro Bowl nod

Putting “Giants linebacker’’ and “Pro Bowl’’ in the same sentence is not common practice. Watching the Giants play this season, there was no reason to believe there would be a connection this year but, lo and behold, Olivier Vernon on Thursday was named to the NFC Pro Bowl team as a replacement for the Bears’ Khalil Mack, who is injured and unable to participate.

Vernon, moved this season from defensive end to linebacker in coordinator James Bettcher’s 3-4 front, put in a season that frustrated the vast majority of Giants fans. He missed the first five games with a high ankle sprain and started the last 11 games. He had only 4.5 sacks until a 2.5-sack game in the finale against the Cowboys gave him seven sacks on the season to overtake rookie defensive tackle B.J. Hill (5.5) for the team lead.

This is the first Pro Bowl selection for Vernon, 28, who will wait this offseason to hear if he will come back for a fourth season with the Giants. He is scheduled to make $15.2 million in salary and count $19.5 million on the 2019 salary cap. If the Giants cut him, they save $11.5 million on the cap but accrue $8 million in dead money. Also, Vernon is the only semblance of a proven pass-rusher they have on the roster and getting heat on the opposing quarterback is the greatest failing, not only on defense, but with this entire team. The Giants were 30th in the NFL with 30 sacks.

Vernon will join rookie running back Saquon Barkley and second-year kicker Aldrick Rosas on the NFC team. Safety Landon Collins was selected for his third Pro Bowl, but is unable to play following shoulder surgery.

With no one on the other side of the field to balance out the pass-rush, Vernon often came close but did not cash in this past season. His 21 quarterback hits was more than double anyone else on the team. He also had five tackles for loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery to go along with his 30 tackles. Vernon will be the first Giants linebacker to play in a Pro Bowl since Antonio Pierce in 2006 and the first Giants outside linebacker to make it to the Pro Bowl since Jessie Armstead, who in 2001 made the last of his five consecutive Pro Bowl appearances.

The Pro Bowl is Jan. 27 in Orlando.

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