The NFL Honors is Saturday and there will be plenty of predictions as to who will take the home the awards to end the NFL season. Will a Denver Broncos player take one home?
There are many players deserving of the NFL awards this year, but only seven are awarded the prestigious hardware of Offensive Rookie of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Rookie of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Most Valuable Player. Many things make the NFL great, but possibly none more than seeing fresh talent dominate the NFL.
Another reason to appreciate the NFL is first-time award winners that overtake future Hall of Famers. Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is reaching new heights in 2016 to the player many expected he never reach. Yet there were some that felt it was only a matter of time. Despite the weapons at his disposal, Ryan is more precise in throwing accuracy then ever before and his targets are benefiting from it.
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Even the emergence of rookies taking center stage in the NFL is an impressive feat. Former Ohio State Buckeyes, Ezekiel Elliot and Joey Bosa are captivating the NFL in their first season. Bosa held out before the season started. Now he proved to be a relentless physical pass rusher. Elliot, on the other hand, is enchanting audiences by performing at a level not many have seen since Adrian Peterson.
In summary, many players and coaches deserve to be awarded; however, only seven can win.
Ezekiel Elliot: Offensive Rookie of the Year/Rookie of the Year
Jan 15, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) runs with the ball against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional playoff game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Fellow teammate Dak Prescott gives Ezekiel Elliot a run for his money to win Offensive Rookie of the Year (OROY), but the production of the ex-Buckeye is gaudy. Elliot put together a season the fans and NFL have not seen since Adrian Peterson. He is not just a favorite fort the OROY, but for the overall Pepsi Rookie of the Year, as well.
Before the season began, draft experts coined Elliot as the best running back in his class. Separating him from the pack is pass blocking and catching it out of the backfield. Ever since week three of the NFL season, Elliot ran hard accumulating 100+ yards on the ground with close to 30 yards per game as a receiver.
If Elliot does in fact win both awards, he needs to take the young and best offensive line in football to a fancy dinner and pay for all of them. The offensive deserves as much credit, if not more than Elliot. Not to take away from Elliot’s season, but there would not be holes if it were not for the “big uglies” up front. It is not farfetched to think he has a chance at Offensive Player of the Year, but quarterbacks are the likely choice. Matt Ryan and Tom Brady are the candidates for such award in Offensive Player of the Year.
Oct 30, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; San Diego Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa (99) in the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
The San Diego Chargers drafted Joey Bosa to be the disruptive force as he was in college at Ohio State. He held out of Training Camp and preseason because of injury and draft contract talks with the Chargers’ front office. Right now, it is paying off better than many anticipated. Bosa is proving to be a game breaker of pass rusher and the Chargers are fortunate to land the former Buckeye.
After watching much of his tape early in college, I thought he had the makings to be JJ Watt 2.0. Yes, that will alarm some people since nobody is like Watt. However, the presence in both the passing game and running game cannot be understated. Bosa is already a player quarterbacks must find before snapping the football.
Jalen Ramsey deserves strong consideration for the award, but after watching him play in both games against the Denver Broncos, Bosa obliterated the offensive line. Ramsey is a terrific player in his own right; however Bosa seems to wreak games in ways Watt does through pressures, knockdowns and awareness to turn a quarterback over.
In both Broncos matchups, Bosa created problems for Trevor Siemian and the rest of the offensive line. The Broncos offensive line is not something to talk positive about, but the two games against Bosa became a nightmare. Much like his Buckeye teammate, Ezekiel Elliot, he is a player that also comes around every 10 years. It is also a sweep for the Buckeyes and the AFC West, who may win Defensive Rookie of the Year in back-to-back years.
Over the years, quarterbacks dominate the award of Offensive Player of the Year. This season the likes of LeVeon Bell and David Johnson continue to take the league by storm in running and patience from a running back. The other aspect of both of them is style of back teams look for. Bell is transforming how they view the position.
Elliot is proving reliability in the passing game and blocking, but Bell played at another level with his patience to hit a hole. Johnson’s versatility is next to none on the Arizona Cardinals. Both Bell and Johnson deserve the nod of Offensive Player of the Year, Johnson gets my vote for the award.
The reasoning behind this logic is the team each is with in the NFL. Bell is part of one of the more explosive offenses in the league in Pittsburgh. Johnson is different. While the Cardinals have a future Hall of Famer in Larry Fitzgerald, Johnson is the entirety of the offense. The Cardinals runs through Johnson in the running game and passing game. For the Steelers, the team can revolve around multiple players such as: Antonio Brown or Ben Roethlisberger. Take Johnson away from the Cardinals and the team is a one dimensional, easy to stop offense. Johnson is my vote for Offensive Player of the Year.
In year’s past it was JJ Watt and no one else contending for the award. After a historic playoff performance and now end of the NFL season, no player has an affect on a game like Von Miller. He finished with 13.5 sacks on the season, but remember Miller is the player that makes everyone around him better, just like a quarterback.
Miller has the quickest first step as a pass rusher, but his addition of the Dwight Freeney spin move makes him close to supernatural. Run defense and pass rushing is his specialty, but he can cover about as well as any linebacker. He has not recorded an interception on the year, but scouts and fans will all remember the interception of Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game. Khalil Mack is a fine player in his own right and changes games from a defensive end, but he is no Watt. Changing the outcomes of games is Miller’s specialty and is potentially the best closer in the NFL.
As stated earlier, a quarterback has tendencies to make everyone around him, but so can a defensive player. Just Miller’s presence on the defense raises the level of play from everyone on the defense. Miller is the Denver Broncos franchise player and John Elway’s first ever draft pick. Safe to say, it is fitting for a player to replace Peyton Manning than Von Miller. He is no locked for the long haul after signing his eye-popping contract extension in the offseason.
Think for a minute the pressure Jason Garrett was under naming Dak Prescott as starting quarterback. No coach handled a situation better than Garret with two starters at prominent positions. In a shocking turn, Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot turned in one of the more promising years for a franchise. For a team that scrambled to find a quarterback, it is reaping the rewards of having the best young team in the NFL.
Going into the NFL Draft this year, quarterback was a need for the Cowboys and all indications were they wanted Paxton Lynch badly. They nearly had a deal in place to acquire the ex-Memphis Tiger quarterback, but the Denver Broncos swooped in to agree to a deal and draft Lynch ahead of the Cowboys. The Cowboys were now scrambling and had to wait till the middle rounds to draft Prescott.
Body-size alone, Prescott appears to compare well to Donovan McNabb, but Prescott is making better decisions with the football. This alone is praise to Jason Garrett who is molding an offense comfortable for Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot. The future is Prescott and Elliot, but with Jerry Jones still calling the shots who knows if Romo will see the field this season. In my opinion, it is in the best interest of the Cowboys to keep Prescott/Elliot train moving and not turn to Romo.
Aaron Rodgers certainly deserves to be a candidate for Most Valuable Player, but it helped having one of the best wide receivers return to form in 2016. Jordy Nelson suffered a season-ending injury last year leaving the Green Bay Packers scrambling to find a number one. The play of Nelson is a breath of fresh air for a team that needed a boost to their offense in 2016.
Nelson returned to form joining the ranks of the top 10 in receiving yards and receptions. He also topped the touchdown category in the NFL with 14. It helps at wide receiver to play with Aaron Rodgers. But for Nelson, he continues to prove to be one of the best targets in the NFL. He was not a well sought after recruit coming into college and climbed the proverbial ladder to the NFL. Now, Nelson is a top-10 wide receiver in the NFL and deserves more credit.
The quickness and body control to adjust to a ball from Rodgers still takes incredible skill. For Nelson he makes it seem effortless. I am sure you ask Rodgers which target he trusts in his offense, he will tell you Nelson is a top the list followed by Davante Adams and Randall Cobb.
Dan Quinn deserves a lot of praise to bounce back from last year’s disappointment with taking his team to a Super Bowl the following year. Better yet, no player has reaped the benefits best than Matt Ryan. Kyle Shannahan is playing to the strengths of the Atlanta Falcons, utilizing their skilled running backs and for Ryan to throw it to a plethora of weapons in the offense.
Ryan is not a scrambler quarterback, but can make plays in the pocket to avoid pressure from the middle or the edge. Quinn is forming the Atlanta defense into a threat, but the best thing he could have done is protect Ryan. Shanahan’s growth with Ryan is starting to take notice around the league as Shanahan’s expected to take the head coach job in San Francisco.
During the offseason, the Falcon acquired Alex Mack from the Cleveland Browns. Mack is a multi-attendee to a Pro Bowl and one of the best centers in the NFL. This move alone instilled confidence to Ryan, Shannahan and the offense to perform better for a full season. Ryan has a full compliment of weapons in Devontae Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel. All players are matchup problems for any defense to cover and Matt Ryan is my MVP for his performance.