Monday, January 01, 2007

NFL Season Review

This NFL season was full of highs and lows for all teams, and especially my Seahawks. Shaun Alexander fell victim to the Madden Cover Jinx. Matt Hasselbeck hurt his knee. Jerramy Stevens missed the first part of the season recovering from surgery. Bobby Engram was out with a thyroid condition. There were various injuries across the offensive line. And just as everything was coming together before the end of the season, Darrel Jackson and Marcus Trufant get hurt. And to top it off, in the season finale against Tampa Bay, the Seahawks lost cornerbacks Kelly Herndon and Jimmy Williams. So going into the playoffs, the Seahawks will be starting a rookie and a safety at corner. But despite those downs, the fact that the Seahawks won the division and made the playoffs (with a weak 9-7 record in a weaker NFC) is still something I will take. If you told me before the season what all the injuries would be, and that the Seahawks would make the playoffs anyway, I would've called you a liar.

So with the playoffs starting next week, now is a good time to look back on the season and hand out a few accolades.

My First Team Selections

NFC Offense:
QB - Drew Brees, NO: Bounced back from shoulder surgery to have an MVP caliber season in his first season in New Orleans. Also considered: Marc Bulger, StL.
RB - Frank Gore, SF: Injuries in college caused Gore to slip in the NFL Draft two years ago. He's stayed healthy in the pros, and led the NFC in rushing. Also considered: Tiki Barber, NYG; Brian Westbrook, Phi; Stephen Jackson, StL.
FB - Mack Strong, Sea: The perfect name for a fullback, he has a game that is close to perfection as well.
WR - Torry Holt, StL: One of the most underrated players in the league. Also had one of the best plays of the year when he juggled and under thrown ball and beat two Seattle defenders for a TD.
WR - Donald Driver, GB: Another underrated receiver, he's not afraid to go across the middle. Also considered: Roy Williams, Det; Anquan Boldin, Ari; Steve Smith, Car; Darrell Jackson, Sea.
TE - Alge Crumpler, Atl: Vick's favorite and only dependable target for the Falcons. Also considered: Chris Cooley, Was; Jeremy Shockey, NYG.
T - Walter Jones, Sea: The best player in the NFL according to The Sporting News.
T - Chris Samuels, Was: An essential piece to the Redskins ground attack.
G - Steve Hutchinson, Min: Seattle misses Hutch this year in both the running and passing game.
G - Shawn Andrews, Phi: The 340-pounder has emerged as one of the best linemen in the game in his 3rd season.
C - Olin Kreutz, Chi: A very mobile center, the Bears like to pull him around the line on outside runs.

NFC Defense:
DE - Aaron Kampman, GB: Leading the NFC in sacks.
DE - Leonard Little, StL: Has 7 forced fumbles to go along with his 13 sacks. Also considered: Julius Peppers, Car; Will Smith, NO.
DT - Corey Redding, Det: Leads NFC DTs with 8 sacks.
DT - Tommie Harris, Chi: The run-stopping anchor of the Bears defensive line. Also considered: Kevin Williams, Min.
OLB - Lance Briggs, Chi: Lead the NFC with 113 solo tackles.
OLB - Julien Peterson, Sea: Has 10 sacks, the second highest total from NFC linebackers. Also considered: DeMarcus Ware, Dal; Derrick Brooks, TB.
MLB - Brian Urlacher, Chi: The best defensive player in the NFL. Also considered: Lofa Tatupu, Sea.
CB - Ronde Barber, TB: For most of the season, he had more touchdowns (2) than twin Tiki.
CB - Charles Woodson, GB: Rejuvenated in Green Bay, had 8 interceptions. Also considered: Terrence Newman, Dal; Marcus Trufant, Sea; DeAngelo Hall, Atl.
SS - Adrian Wilson, Ari: Led all safeties with 5 sacks, and added 4 interceptions. Also considered: Roy Williams, Dal.
FS - Sean Taylor, Was: The hardest hitting defensive back in the league, leads all safeties in tackles and puts fear in the heart of any receiver attempting to go across the middle. Also considered: Brian Dawkins, Phi; Ken Hamlin, Sea.

AFC Offense:
QB - Peyton Manning, Ind: You can't say enough about how good Peyton Manning is. I just wonder if he'll ever be able to win in the playoffs. A great actor as well. You know, that is if you like 6'5" 230lb quarterbacks with rocket laser arms. Also considered: Tom Brady, NE; Carson Palmer, Cin; Phillip Rivers, SD.
RB - LaDainian Tomlinson, SD: The most dynamic player in the NFL. Shattered Shaun Alexander's TD record before the ink could dry in the record books. He can throw for touchdowns too. Also considered: Larry Johnson, KC.
FB - Lorenzo Neal, SD: He and Mack Strong are a rare breed of run-blocking fullbacks. Lo Daddy has blocked for a 1,000 yard rusher in 10 straight seasons on 5 different teams.
WR - Chad Johnson, Cin: Ocho Cinco has emerged as the best WR in the game in my opinion. It's too bad the NFL put a limit on what he can do after he scores touchdowns.
WR - Marvin Harrison, Ind: Manning's favorite target, he is one of the best route-runners in the game. Also considered: Reggie Wayne, Ind; TJ Houshmandzadeh, Cin; Lee Evans, Buf; Andre Johnson, Hou.
TE - Antonio Gates, SD: The ex-college basketball star continues to tear up opposing defenses for the potent San Diego offense. Also considered: Tony Gonzalez, KC; Todd Heap.
T - Jonathan Ogden, Bal: He and Jones are the two best linemen in the NFL.
T - Willie Anderson, Cin: Rudi Johnson gets a fair share of his yards running behind this mammoth tackle.
G - Will Shields, KC: The Chiefs like to pound the ball up the middle. And it works, as seen in Larry Johnson's spectacular season.
G - Brian Waters, KC: See above.
C - Nick Hardwick, SD: The third-year center is emerging as one of the best in the NFL.

AFC Defense:
DE - Jason Taylor, Mia: He shed a lot of weight but is still dominant on the line and impossible to stop.
DE - Aaron Schobel, Buf: Leads AFC linemen with 14 sacks. Also considered: Jared Allen, KC; Derrick Burgess, Oak.
DT - Jamal Williams, SD: The nose tackle in the deadly San Diego 3-4 defense, he is the best run-stopper in the NFL.
DT - Warren Sapp, Oak: Washed up? Not yet. Sapp had 10 sacks this season. Also considered: Richard Seymour, NE.
OLB - Shawne Merriman, SD: Missed 4 games when he violated the league's steroid policy, yet still led the NFL with 17 sacks.
OLB - Adalius Thomas, Bal: Has began to outplay even teammate Ray Lewis. Just don't say that to Ray-Ray, or Thomas could be a victim of a homicide that Lewis somehow escapes from. Also considered: Terrell Suggs, Bal; Andra Davis, Cle.
MLB - Zach Thomas, Mia: A mainstay in the Miami defense, year after year he holds the team together. Also considered: Al Wilson, Den; DeMeco Ryans, Hou.
CB - Champ Bailey, Den: The best corner in the league, he has the ability to shut down any wide receiver he lines up against.
CB - Rasheen Mathis, Jax: With 8 interceptions on the season, Mathis is emerging as one of the top corners in the game. Also considered: Quintin Jammer, SD; Asante Samuel, NE; Darrent Williams, Den (RIP).
SS - Troy Polamalu, Pit: A very versatile safety, he has the ability to shut down tight ends in coverage and creep up to stop the run. Quarterbacks always need to be aware of where he lines up on each play. Also considered: Chris Hope, Ten.
FS - Ed Reed, Bal: One of the best safeties in the league, Reed is versatile enough to return puts, so when he gets his hands on an interception, the runback could be a real treat. Also considered: John Lynch, Den.

Clearly it is a little tough to evaluate positions like offensive linemen, and much of my selection for the other positions are based strictly on what I saw on SportsCenter and statistics because I couldn't watch every game, but I am fairly confident in my selections. I do feel I need to give out a few major awards though.

MVP: Tomlinson. Although Brees put up an MVP season with what he did in New Orleans, you can't not give this award to Tomlinson.

Defensive Player of the Year: Urlacher. Nobody else brings as much to the table as he does for the league's best (when healthy) defense.

Comeback player of the Year: It looked as though it was going to be Donovan McNabb until he tore his ACL. So I'm going to have to give it to Steve McNair. He may not have put up gaudy numbers in Baltimore, but he led them to the AFC's second best record.

Rookie of the Year: There is no rookie that stands head and shoulders above all the others. Reggie Bush, Maurice Jones-Drew, Marques Colston, and Vince Young all had seasons deserving of the award. But Devin Hester (cornerback and kick returner for the Chicago Bears) takes the cake in my book based on his returning ability. For a team with an awfully inconsistent quarterback and sometimes lackluster offense, Hester provides a scoring punch in his return game.

For many of you, the season is over. I am lucky enough to have my team to follow in the playoffs (who knows how long though), but for those of you who don't, I'll help you to begin to look forward. Here's a quick list of players to watch next season. These are players who are beginning to emerge as stars and I feel could break out next year. Once again, for positions other than RB and WR, it's a little tough for me to follow.

QB: Jason Campbell, Was; Vince Young, Ten.
RB: Brandon Jacobs, NYG; Maurice Jones-Drew, Jax; Chester Taylor, Min; Jerious Norwood, Atl; Michael Turner, SD.
WR: Reggie Williams, Jax; Reggie Brown, Phi; Greg Jennings, GB; Eric Parker, SD; DJ Hacket, Sea.
TE: LJ Smith, Phi; Vernon Davis, SF; Marcedes Lewis, Jax
T: Jeremy Trueblood, TB; Marcus McNeill, SD.
DE: Mathias Kiwanuka, NYG.
OLB: AJ Hawk, GB.
MLB: DeMeco Ryans, Hou.
CB: Kelly Jennings, Sea.

And next season's comeback player of the year? If McNabb can stay healthy, he'll get it.

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