The 2014 Atlanta Falcons season is halfway complete and it has been an eye-opening affair. For the second year in a row, the first half of the Falcons season has gone horribly awry with the team posting a 2-6 record.
Yet nonetheless, it is worthwhile to point out which players have been among the most valuable players on either side of the line of scrimmage as well as special teams. Once again, this topic will be revisited at the end of the season.
Offensive MVP: Julio Jones
While on paper, quarterback Matt Ryan has posted impressive numbers, the eyeball test suggests that the Falcons offense really only looks good when Jones is heavily involved. Jones is the best player on the Falcons roster for a reason and through eight games, I still think the gap is between him and Ryan remains substantial.
Jones draws all the attention from opposing defenses, yet it still on pace to obliterate his production from previous years. If Jones has a repeat of the same production in the second half of this year, he’ll finish the season with 106 catches, 1,468 yards and six touchdowns. That would set a new franchise record for receiving yards and rank as the fourth highest receptions total in a single season. Despite the team’s overall lack of success, simply put, Jones is having a career year. Unlike other Falcons receivers that have benefited from the team’s lack of success, Jones is merely producing in garbage time.
And one could even argue that the Falcons aren’t even if getting the most out of Jones thanks to the consistent double coverage he draws. An occasional deep pass coupled with several wide receiver screens seem to be the only reliable ways in which the Falcons manage to get Jones the ball many weeks.
Defensive MVP: Desmond Trufant
It’s a fairly easy pick to choose Trufant, although picks have been anything but easy for the second-year corner. You see what I did there?
While Trufant hasn’t intercepted a single pass in the first half of this season, he has had several opportunities to do so, but has dropped each one. But interceptions can be an overrated stat, and they certainly don’t signify how effective a covecorner Trufant has been this year.r
On a defense that has very few standout performances this season, Trufant’s play has stood apart from his teammates most weeks. Trufant was the best player on the defense last season when things were all said and done and it doesn’t appear that any player is prepared to steal his title.
Special Teams MVP: Devin Hester
In years past, picking the best player on special teams has usually consisted of choosing between kicker Matt Bryant or punter Matt Bosher to decide which player was performing at the higher level. Now that the Falcons finally have a return specialist in Hester that is a dynamic threat, there is a third entrant in this contest.
While Hester hasn’t set the world on fire in terms of his production this season as a returner, he has given the Falcons something they haven’t had in nearly a decade since Allen Rossum was in his prime: a return specialist that makes you hold your breath every time he fields a kickoff or punt. Hester has only taken one punt back for a score this year, but there have been several other instances where he was one missed tackle or block away from breaking into the open field. And once he does that, it’s a wrap.