A year ago at the midpoint I gave my picks for who I thought were some of the top performers for several superlative awards. I am doing the same this year.
Offensive MVP: Matt Ryan
Without a doubt Matt Ryan has been the most valuable player on offense. What a difference a year makes, as I had Ryan midway through last season as the most disappointing player (although he did bounce back to get the MVP by year’s end). But honestly without Ryan’s performance this year, I think the Falcons would be looking at just 5 or 6 wins instead of 8 right now. That is how much better I think Ryan is this year in comparisen to last year. He’s blossoming in Dirk Koetter’s offense and is in the mix for league MVP honors, not just some given out by some silly Falcon blog.
I should also note that on any team not helmed by Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez would also get love. Both are playing at elite levels for their respective positions, although Ryan certainly has a hand in that.
Defensive MVP: John Abraham
This pick was a little tougher only in the sense that no single player has separated himself from the pack like Ryan has on offense. Last year it was clear that Spoon was the standout on defense. Spoon is having a good year, but it’s not quite to the level he was at last year. In the end I think Abe deserves the nod. He’s practically single-handedly carried our pass rush, and when there have been instances where big game-changing plays have been made on defense this year, the Predator is most often the perpetrator. I do want to note that along with Spoon, I also considered Babineaux, Samuel, Moore, and DeCoud.
Special Teams MVP: Matt Bosher
Matt Bryant has been great and I probably would have given it to him if not for the misses he’s had recently. But I also wanted to give props to Bosher who is quietly having an excellent year. He’s booming 50 yard punts with regularity and I think is well on his way to having a great career in Atlanta. I would have laughed at myself a year ago for uttering such words.
Rookie of the Year: Peter Konz
Much like last year with Julio Jones, Konz is the obvious pick. Besides a handful of snaps for Travian Robertson and Charles Mitchell, none of the others have played. Konz has been a bit shaky in his first two starts, but has flashed some brilliance, so it’s not as if he wins purely by default.
Top Newcomer: Robert McClain
This is for the best new Falcon that is not a rookie, and I think McClain is most deserving. I think you could certainly make an argument for Asante Samuel. But I’m going to credit McClain for his consistency, and knock Asante a bit for his inconsistency. Plus McClain virtually came out of nowhere and was a hair away from being cut at the end of camp.
Most Improved Player: Julio Jones
I was on the verge of picking Sam Baker. But I decided to pick Julio because he’s been pretty strong since the Week 4 game vs. Carolina. And I’m not sure if Baker is truly improved, as his performance this year isn’t dramatically better than he was for stints in 2008 and 2009. If I was giving an award for Comeback Player, I think he would be the front runner. I also thought long and hard about Babs, Nicholas, and DeCoud.
Most Disappointing Player: Tyson Clabo
I almost gave it again to Ray Edwards, as I did at the end of last year. But ultimately Clabo has been more disappointing. I really had no expectations this year that Edwards would be any good but for years I’ve considered Clabo our best lineman, and now he’s the weakest link. Clabo has had his good moments this year, but it’s intermingled with a lot of bad ones too. Hopefully as he and Konz work together over the second half of the year, he will begin to look like his old self.