We’ve already looked at the most valuable players and best newcomers through the first half of the 2013 season. We’ll finish our look at the superlative honors by looking at which players have improved the most, and who also has been the biggest disappointment through the first half of the year.
Most Improved Player: Corey Peters
There are a couple of options to choose from here. On the offensive side of the ball, players like Harry Douglas and Garrett Reynolds have stepped up their play from previous years. Akeem Dent at linebacker is a much-improved player from a year ago where he was consistently in my doghouse. Up front, Peria Jerry has also improved to become an effective rotation player from a practical non-entity.
But ultimately it has to go to Corey Peters. I’ve been pretty hard on Peters over the years, as I believe his impact on the defense has been overblown. But he’s bringing it this year, particularly against the run. He’s also had his moments as a pass rusher. But the run defense has improved signficantly from a year ago where it was downright atrocious at times. And while the 2013 Falcons run defense isn’t great, it’s been fairly good, and a lot of credit deserves to go Peters’ way because I believe he’s the biggest catalyst for that improvement.
Most Disappointing Player: Peter Konz
How do you single out one individual on a team full of disappointments? Which player best embodies the high expectations coming into the year as well as the failure to meet them?
Probably the first player that jumps to mind is Steven Jackson. But it raises the question of whether his injury means that he deserves a pass. If yes, then several other injured players are removed from contention, such as Sam Baker. If the answer is no, then that means that all injured players are thusly fair game. And therefore, there’s an even more obvious choice for this honor: Roddy White. But it would feel vindictive to single him out as a disappointment, thus I’ll eliminate injured players from consideration.
Even with that caveat, there are still plenty of players worthy of consideration: Thomas DeCoud, Lamar Holmes, and Jonathan Massaquoi, among others. I think it really just comes down to two prime candidates: Robert McClain or Peter Konz.
In the case of McClain, the expectations were that he would pick up where he left off a year ago, which was as one of the better nickel corners in the league. That hasn’t been the case, and he’s been benched in favor of Alford. Alford’s solid play probably eases the sting of McClain’s disappointment.
Konz was the top rookie last year by default because he was the only guy to really play, not because he played well at right guard. They could potentially bench him or move him back to guard, and promote Joe Hawley at center. But this team has been firmly committed that Konz was the replacement for long-time starting center Todd McClure. And such a move to replace Konz at center, would be an indicator that they are no longer committed to that.
Such a move may not be merited because I believe Konz still could turn into a very good player for the Falcons. But given that his play has at least sewn the seeds of doubt in my own and others’ minds makes him the biggest disappointment thus far this year.
It’s going to be interesting to see at year’s end whether these superlative awards will change hands. One or two typically do.