I feel like the season has just started….but the kids are well entrenched in their school books, the Halloween costumes are back in their storage bins, and the first snow has already long clothed the northern terrain. You know what that means…It’s time for my mid-season review! But don’t worry, I’m only going to be focusing on our beloved 8-0 ‘Dirty Birds’ (damn that feels good to say).
Without further adu, let’s get right into it:
Offensive Player of the Year (mid-season): Matt Ryan- For the most part, there has been one thing on the offensive side of the ball that has been extremely consistent throughout the first 8 games of the season, and that is the play of quarterback Matt Ryan. Yes, Julio has blown up a few games and I understand the argument (I towed back and forth with it in my own head…), but he also has had games where he’s only made one or two catches (mainly because his hand injury).
Yes, Roddy White has been the consistent receiver that we have known him to be for the last 4 or 5 years, and it’s great that he is now the fanchise’s leader in all-time receptions, but a lot of that has to do with ball accuracy and where the quarterback is putting it. This offense all comes down to Matt Ryan and his ability to perform at a high level, both physically and mentally. At this point in the season, Ryan ranks 3rd amongst the quarterbacks in QB rating (103.0) behind future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning (who Ryan torched statistically when they played head to head) and Aaron Rodgers. Ryan ranks 1st in the league when it comes to first down percentages (42.1%) and is currently 4th in touchdown passes (17). If you were to take out one game….. I take that back…. If you were to take out one HALF, that being the first half against the Raiders in week 6 when Ryan had 3 interceptions and ended up with a 59.4 QB rating (by far the worst of the year….that’s like Brandon Weeden/Brady Quinn territory), Ryan’s numbers would be off the charts. The Falcons go as Matt Ryan goes, and like they say, ’so far, SO GOOD!
Defensive Player of the Year (mid-season): Thomas DeCoud-In every beauty contest, eventually one contestant must be awarded as the winner. Yes every girl is beautiful, yes every girl has their talents, but usually one just sticks out and sets themselves above the rest. I feel the same way with our defense. There are many “good looking” players out there that are performing at a high level, but Thomas DeCoud, after earning the new contract and all, has come out to play this year. Part of it could be the new schemes, part of it could be having a great cover corner like Asante Samuel in front of him, or part of it could be just to prove to Falcons fans that he deserved the contract he was given. It doesn’t matter to me what it is as long as the production keeps up. The dude has a certain swagger and style in the secondary that is starting to strike fear into opposing quarterbacks. He has also benefited from his hard hitting saftey mate William Moore, because once Moore drills those receivers, those balls are popping right into DeCoud’s hands. He currently ranks 3rd in the NFL with 4 picks, and has established himself as a serious threat in the secondary.
Coach of the Year: Mike Nolan- Mike Nolan has coached the players not only on the field, but in the study rooms and break down rooms throughout the week. He has devised different defensive game plans for every team, and it changes from week to week (imagine that..). One week it is stuffing the run with 3 defensive tackles (Eagles), one week it is dropping 8 players back in coverage while shifting around before the snap to confuse a crafty veteran quarterback (Broncos), another week it is blitzing the outside to contain the explosive plays from the backfield (Redskins). Even with the absence of Curtis Lofton (still one of the top tacklers in the league), Nolan has found a way to make this defense successful. The defense ranks 5th in the league when it comes to points against, which is drastically better than the past few years.
Most Improved Player: Julio Jones- I would argue that Julio Jones is already, in his second season, a top 5 feared receiver in the NFL. This kid went from being an absolute stud at Alabama, to a very solid second receiver as a rookie, to now being the biggest play-making threat on the field anytime he steps on it. He’s a man among boys, a lion amongst ants, a Predator among humans (I wish I could still call him that…)!!! Whatever the case, he’s going to be a force for many years, I just hope he doesn’t transfer to the dark side like Lofton. Instead, may the force be with us….the Falcons!!!