By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
Handing Out Some Early Hardware
NOTE: This does not include Sunday’s games.
Head Coach of the first half: Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell – Became the first rookie head coach since Potsy Clark in 1931 (Portsmouth Spartans started 8-0) to start the season 7-0.
Caldwell has done a great job keeping a veteran group of players on track despite numerous injuries. In speaking of his team’s 7-0 start and tying Clark’s record Caldwell said, “They’re not handing out anything for whatever record that is, we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.” You gotta love that type of attitude.
Honorable Mention: Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress, Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels, and New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton.
Offensive Player of the first half: Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning – Robo-quarterback (187-263, 2227 yards – 2nd in NFL, 15 TDs, 4 INTs and a 109.3 rating) has his team poised for their Week 10 marquee match-up with the New England Patriots. The Colts have a record of 7-0 and have won a franchise record 16 straight games going back to 2008. The three-time MVP (may soon be four) has thrown for over 300 yards in all but one of the Colts’ seven wins and has made household names of obscure receivers Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie. With 19 passing yards in Week 9 against the Houston Texans, Manning will become the first player in NFL history with 40,000 passing yards in one decade
Honorable Mention: Saints QB Drew Brees, Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger and Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew.
Defensive Player of the first half: New Orleans Saints Safety Darren Sharper – What an incredible season for this recently turned 34-year old former free agent pick-up from the Vikings. The Saints are undefeated (7-0) and it has been their defense that has led the way – first in the NFL with 6 turnovers returned for touchdowns. Sharper looks like he is sure to be selected to his fifth Pro Bowl as he currently boasts stats of 26 TKLS, 0.5 sacks, 7 INTs (3 for TDs), and 10 passes defensed.
Honorable Mention: Vikings DE Jared Allen, Eagles CB Asante Samuels, and Colts DE Dwight Freeney.
Breakout Player of the first half: Cowboys WR Miles Austin — One of the 2009 NFL season’s best stories, Austin coming from tiny Monmouth (NJ) College has risen from a special teamer to finally getting his shot this season. In a Week 6 win over the Chiefs, Austin produced 10 catches for a franchise record 250 yards and 2 TDs (both 50-yard plus bombs) while saving the Cowboys’ hides with a 60-yard tackle-breaking game-winning TD reception in overtime. Austin then proved the Chiefs’ game was no fluke in a Week 7 win over the Atlanta Falcons (team-best six catches for 171 yards and 2 TDs). Out of nowhere Austin and his eye-popping numbers (26 catches for 563 yards, 21.7 ypc average and 6 TDs) have moved former starter Patrick Crayton to the bench. And almost everyone watching the Cowboys would agree that Austin and not disgruntled WR Roy Williams is Romo’s number #1 passing-catching option.
Honorable Mention: Eagles WR DeSean Jackson, Niners TE Vernon Davis, Texans RB Ryan Moats, Eagles TE Brent Celek, and Broncos DE Elvis Dumervil.
Offensive Rookie of the first half: Minnesota Vikings WR/KR Percy Harvin – An explosive player that can beat you a variety of ways (Wildcat QB, Kickoff Returns, in the slot, and out wide). Harvin is one of the main reasons for veteran quarterback Brett Favre’s rebirth. Though not the biggest guy on the field (5’10, 190), this former Gator has game-breaking skills that have made Vikings head coach Brad Childress extremely excited. Harvin’s incredible numbers truly do show his versatility (28 catches for 369 yards, 13.2 ypc, and 3 TDs; 8 rushes for 39 yards; and 28 kickoff returns for 860 yards, 30.7 ypr, and 2 TDs including a magical 101 yards return for a touchdown against the Ravens in Week 6).
Honorable Mention: Denver Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno, Philadelphia Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin, Baltimore Ravens OT Michael Oher and Chicago Bears WR Johnny Knox.
Defensive Rookie of the first half: Buffalo Bills Safety Jairus Byrd – This former second-rounder from Oregon has been a regular starter at free safety and has made a huge impact on one of the NFL’s most underrated defenses. In Week 8, the October Rookie of the Month picked off two more passes against the Houston Texans tying an NFL record with three straight games of at least two interceptions (first rookie). Byrd now has 7 INTs in eight games (tied for NFL lead) and is inching closer to Carrier’s rookie record of 10 picks.
Honorable Mention: Houston Texans LB Brian Cushing, Detroit Lions S Louis Delmas, Green Bay Packers LB Clay Matthews and St. Louis Rams LB Jim Laurinatis.
Comeback Player of the first half: Denver Broncos Safety Brian Dawkins – I wonder if the Eagles front office wants to rethink their contract negotiation strategy with Dawkins from this past offseason. The Broncos, youthful head coach Josh McDaniels, and new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan all thought that the 14-year veteran had more left in the tank and they were right. Dawkins (36) has been more than rewarded the Broncos for their faith as they have gotten off to an AFC West leading 6-1 start and the 7-time Pro Bowl player has been the quarterback of the Broncos’ defense (lead the NFL with 266.7 yards allowed per game). Dawk’s stats thus far are 46 tackles, 7 passes defensed, and 2 fumble recoveries.
Honorable Mention: Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre, Philadelphia Eagles MLB Will Witherspoon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE Kellen Winslow and Minnesota Vikings WR Sidney Rice.
Team of the first half: New Orleans Saints – The NFC’s lone unbeaten team (7-0), the Saints are putting up record numbers offensively. Sean Payton’s team has scored an NFL-best 36 touchdowns — tied for the 3rd most through the first seven games in league history – and they don’t look they are going to slowdown anytime soon. While averaging an amazing NFL leading 39 points and 428.7 yards per game, quarterback Drew Brees is on pace for another 4500-yard plus season and 11 different Saints players have scored at least one rushing or receiving touchdown this season (led by WR Marques Colston – 6 TDs). The Saints also have had success running the football too as they lead the NFC with an average 153.3 rush yards per game. On defense, new coordinator Gregg Williams has brought some swagger to a unit that struggled allowing big plays in the past and their numbers show it (154 points allowed, 17 sacks and a +7 in turnover ratio).
Honorable Mention: Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, and Minnesota Vikings.
Most Disappointing Player of the first half: Dallas Cowboys WR Roy Williams – It has been one year since the Cowboys traded for the former Lions star and he has not lived up to expectations, to say the least. Since joining the Cowboys 16 games ago, Williams’ numbers are nowhere near what was expected of him when the Cowboys gave up a number one draft pick for him (33 receptions, 447 yards, three touchdowns). Williams only has 14 catches for 249 yards and 2 TDs this season and I don’t want to hear any excuses about his ribs. Clearly breakout player Miles Austin has passed him as the Cowboys go-to receiver and the former University of Texas star better work on regaining the confidence of QB Tony Romo and dropping less passes (just 14 catches on 35 targets â€” 40% catch rate). The delusional Williams said of him being the Cowboys No. 1 receiver, “It’s just not even close. It’s not even funny. Not even close. I’m the number one receiver. But things are just going number two’s way”.
Dishonorable Mention: Oakland Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell, Cleveland Browns QB Derek Anderson, and Tennessee Titans QB Kerry Collins.
Most Disappointing Team of the first half: Washington Redskins – The NFL’s most dysfunctional team becomes a greater laughingstock weekly. The Redskins (2-5) have lost to formerly winless teams the Kansas City Chiefs (1-6), Carolina Panthers (3-4), and Detroit Lions (1-6). Their offense is only averaging 13.7 points per game this season and hasn’t scored more than 17 in any game despite playing facing six consecutive winless opponents (first team in NFL history). They are 4-11 in their last 15 games and owner Daniel Snyder inserted offensive consultant Sherman Lewis – hasn’t coached in the NFL in over 5 years) to call the plays over dead-man-walking head coach Jim Zorn. You have to feel for a defensive group that has allowed only 283.4 yards per game to rank 2nd in the NFC, but this team is in need of a house cleaning at the end of the season.
Stay tuned as something stinks in the Nation’s Capital and it has nothing to do with politics.
Dishonorable Mention: Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.