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View from the O-Zone: A case for Marks

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JACKSONVILLE – Time will tell if this effort is futile.

Conventional wisdom might well say that's the case. Conventional wisdom will say Sen'Derrick Marks plays for a small-market team that isn't playoff bound. And, oh yeah – not enough people know Marks. Conventional wisdom says that, too.

So, the Pro Bowl? For Marks?

Conventional wisdom will say, "no way," even though the defensive tackle is the best player on a Jaguars defense that's much better than most people realize – and even though his performance this season would absolutely justify the selection.

Here's saying conventional wisdom should be wrong, and here's hoping it is.

Marks should receive serious consideration for the Pro Bowl this year.

Serious, serious consideration.

"He is going, and when he goes, he's going to take me with him," Jaguars defensive tackle Ziggy Hood said with a laugh this week. "I believe he can do it. We can get that man there."

That's one reason to hope Marks goes to the Pro Bowl this season, because it would be a phenomenally popular selection among players. This is a guy players want representing them.

Another reason is it would be a terrific story, a guy who found an NFL home in his second stop rather than his first. He's also a guy who had the guts to believe in himself in the 2013 offseason, trusting that a new Jaguars defensive system was the right fit to jumpstart what was then pretty much an unstarted NFL career.

His gut was right. Marks isn't just a free-agent success, he has become a core player less than two years after signing as a low-profile free agent.

It would be cool, too, because it would just be a lot of fun if Marks made it.

Marks is one of the team's most approachable players. You may not ever really know NFL players, but when you meet Marks, he seems as genuine as you can imagine.

His appreciation for this franchise is real.

His appreciation for his status in the NFL is real, too.

It's easy to root for a guy like that, just as it it's easy to root for a guy whose belief in the organization – in Head Coach Gus Bradley and the direction of the team – is real.

So, yeah, those are reasons to root for Marks to be in the Pro Bowl, but those aren't the biggest reasons. The biggest reason is he deserves it.

Marks has seven sacks this season, and as Bradley said this week, that's a remarkable number for an interior defensive lineman. Beyond sacks, he is as active as any player on the Jaguars' defense, and has 12 tackles for loss with a fumble recovery this season.

This past Sunday, in a game that defined what the Jaguars' defense has been about all season – playing well for the most part even when the offense has struggled, giving a young offense a chance to win – Marks was key. The Jaguars trailed 21-3 at halftime when the defense – and particularly the pass rush – changed the game. Four sacks. Three takeaways. Two defensive touchdowns.

Marks' second-half Sunday: Two sacks, a near fumble recovery in the end zone, a monster hit on running back Andre Williams for a four-yard loss …

In other words, Marks on Sunday played basically as he has played since signing with the Jaguars. He did it when he signed as a free agent last season in what essentially was a contract year. As notable, he has done it again this season since signing a long-term extension for life-changing money.

"We gave him a contract and he's having a better year this year than he did last year," Bradley said, adding that Marks is a "great example of how somebody is internally motivated to be their best year in and year out and it doesn't matter if they have a new contract or don't. That's how he's wired.

"It's cool to really illustrate that to our whole team, and it says something about him."

Marks this week was asked about the Pro Bowl. Yes, he said, it would matter. Yes, it would be something to look back on fondly after his career. No, he said, it won't define his season.

"It would be great as a stamp of approval for that year within your career," he said. "I'd embrace it, and I'd love it, and it's good to say you've done it, but I look at that like it's an individual award, and everything that I've done – the season that I've had – nothing that I've done has been because of me."

Obviously that approach is cool, too. It's obvious, too, why teammates and coaches want good things for this guy. So, yeah, maybe the small-market thing and the record and the profile will be tough to overcome. Probably, it will be, but you know what? So what?

Forget all that. Put Marks in the Pro Bowl, and not because it's a good story.

Put him in because he deserves it. (And yeah, it'd be pretty cool, too.)

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