As the Atlanta Falcons organization takes some time to reflect on the 2009 campaign and look at the positive and negative aspects of the year, this will also be a time for individual player assessment. Before they embark on the lengthy and all-important off-season, they will need to take a long hard look at who exceeded expectations and which players fell short in 2009. Of course, some of the categories may be locks across the board, but others may be somewhat difficult. Take your shot……
This one might be a lock across the board, but there are a couple of candidates that could take the trophy. Of course the future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez might be the favorite and getting robbed of the Pro Bowl. Gonzalez had 867 yards, 6 TDs, and averaged over 10 yards a catch. Roddy White is the likely next candidate that had 85 receptions, 1,153 yards receiving, and 11 touchdowns. Both players got a little robbed of the Pro Bowl and had big years.
Several candidates could be mentioned. Curtis Lofton leads the way after cementing his role as the team’s defensive captain, collaring 133 tackles and forcing 2 fumbles. Lofton had a great year in his follow-up to his rookie campaign. Thomas DeCoud had a big year in his first one as a starter with 68 tackles, 3 interceptions, and 2 sacks. DeCoud showed a good ability of covering the field, as well as run support. Jonathan Babineaux is another candidate and had the hands-down best year of any defensive lineman this season. Babineaux had 47 tackles and 6 sacks, pretty high for defensive tackles. Add to that the fact that he didn’t get a ton of help from the other DT spot, and he’s definitely a candidate.
Kind of hard to pick one of these since Dimitroff’s top two draft picks (Peria Jerry, William Moore) got injured and were put on reserve very early in the season. The choices are pretty thin here, but it boils down to Chris Owens, Lawrence Sidbury Jr., and Vance Walker. Chris Owens didn’t get his first action until late in the year, but when he cracked the starting lineup, the secondary improved pretty dramatically. He finished the year off with an interception in each of his last two games, the last one being one of the biggest plays of the season, seizing back momentum from Tampa Bay when things looked bleak in the fourth quarter. Lawrence Sidbury Jr. only saw spot play, but he made the most of it. He only had 5 tackles, but he did notch a sack (twice as many as JA#98), and even scored a defensive touchdown. Vance Walker was the pleasant surprise of the year, starting on the practice squad and working his way up starting defensive tackle at the end of the year. Walker only checked 13 tackles, but earned himself to figure prominently in the Falcons future.
Which player improved the most from game one until the last game? Not too many candidates here, but there are a few. The favorite likely is Brent Grimes. Perhaps no other player got criticized as much as Grimes due to his physical skill set. Grimes had his share of struggles early on, but came away with 6 picks on the year (tied for 5th most in the NFL) and that was only starting 8 games. Does Vance Walker get the nod, filling in extremely well after starting the year on the practice squad. As ridiculous as it sounds, does Matt Ryan get a mention where he finished the year on a pretty strong note after having a sub-par sophomore year? Does Jason Snelling earn it with his bruising running style and taking the mantle of stud running back when Turner and Norwood both went down with injuries?
Not as positive to look at the player who underperformed, but its something that must be done as the Falcons approach the off-season. Several candidates to choose from. John Abraham went from 16.5 sacks to 5.5 sacks. Does his disappearing act warrant the award? Is Matt Ryan’s sophomore slump a candidate for the award? Chris Houston was beleaguered from the preseason and things really only got worse. He showed an inability to play the ball throughout the year. How about Jamaal Anderson? Does his move to DT save him on this one, or was it already a forgone conclusion? Michael Jenkins dropped his fair share of big passes throughout the year, does he get it? Even though he was injured, does Norwood’s disappearance get some votes? Tyson Clabo or Sam Baker’s lack of run, and particularly pass support, merit a look at the award? Really tough call, but remember, you can only pick one.
Jason Snelling seems to be the leading candidate here, basically carrying the team on his back for a stretch. #44 racked up over 600 yards rushing with 4 TDs, and chipped in another 250+ yards receiving with 1 TD. Snelling only started 2 games and almost came away with 1,000 all-purpose yards. Is it Kroy Biermann with his extremely solid year (49 tackles and 5 sacks) in limited time? Biermann played really good to see as little time as he did. Even though Chris Owens only saw action at the end of the year, does his future merit consideration? Thomas DeCoud didn’t play at all last year and came away with a really solid year as well.
Most of the choices might be locks, but give your opinions on who you think deserves the awards. Was anyone left off the list? Try to be more objective than the people who selected the players to the Pro-Bowl. Got a couple of more topics reviewing the 2009 season and will get ready to transition over to the 2010 off-season week after next.