It won’t be long before the 2012 NFL Pro Bowl rosters will be announced. Whether former Havre Blue Pony Marc Mariani will be on that list for a second straight year is anybody’s guess, but over the last six weeks, no one in the AFC is probably more deserving than Mariani.
The second-year Tennessee Titan wide receiver and return specialist got off to a slow start in 2011. Mariani was hampered, seemingly more than ot
her kick returners by the new rule which moved kickoffs up five yards. Over his first five games, Mariani had nearly three times as many touchbacks as he did in all of the 2010 season – a season in which he shattered all of the Titans’ single-season return records.
But with cooler weather, Mariani has heated up, and in both punt returns and kickoff returns, he’s shot up the NFL leaders chart over the last two months.
Mariani enters this Sunday’s game at the Indianapolis Colts ranked sixth in the NFL in punt returns and 13th in kick returns. But perhaps more importantly, Mariani is all the way up to third in the AFC in punt returns and fourth in kickoff returns.
Mariani comes into Week 15 in the NFL averaging 11.7 yards per punt return. He’s returned 31 punts for 363 with his long being a 79-yard touchdown at Carolina. He also has 31 fair catches on the season. On kickoffs, he’s averaging a stellar 24.4 yards per return. He’s returned just 26 kicks this season for 635 yards. That gives him an all-purpose total of 1,011 yards on the season.
Fan Pro Bowl Voting is now closed, and the 2012 rosters will be announced at the end of December. Mariani is one of 10 returners from the AFC on the list of candidates, and of those players who return both punts and kicks, Mariani has the best combined averages. The Titans visit the Colts Sunday at 11 a.m. M.S.T.