With the Ravens looking ahead at hopefully making another strong run for a Fourth consecutive playoff appearance it’s time to look back at the First Half of the 2011 season.
Yeah, I know that technically the halfway point was last week so we will not include the Seattle debacle in our awards. Keep in mind that we also have four writers on staff so ties are possible.
As always feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts.
BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER: Ray Rice
The staff was surprisingly split on this category. Votes were also cast for for newly acquired Fullback Vonta Leach (Zinman), and rookie burner Torrey Smith (Winner). Both have made their impact on the Ravens offense thus far. Leach has cleared a path for the Ravens running game while Smith’s speed has added a dimension that the team hasn’t had in years.
But Ray Rice is still the star of this offense. He leads the team with 8 Total Touchdowns (6 rushing – 2 receiving) and can seemingly break a big play at any time. Of course debate has sprung up yet again about the consistency of his workload when the team loses. It’s really quite simple. When Rice has been given 15 carries or more the team is 5-0, when he gets less than 15 the team is 1-3. In order for the team to be successful he must be involved.
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Terrell Suggs / Cary Williams
I think that a case can be made for several players from Haloti Ngata,who was dominant early in the season to Ray Lewis who leads the team is tackles (AGAIN). Instead the staff was split over two players.
Terrell Suggs (Scruggs-MJ) has seemingly come into his own in his 9th season in the NFL. He has become a consistent force in the pass rush (leads team with 6 Sacks) while developing other subtle facets to his game like diagnosing screens for picks.
Cary Williams (Zinman-Winner) was drafted in the Seventh Round of the 2008 Draft by the Titans. Now he is the Ravens starting Cornerback. It’s a fantastic story as Williams emergence from the practice squad has been one of the bigger surprises of this season. His effort on the field is hard to ignore.
BEST SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER: Sam Koch
This seemed like a tough award to give out mainly because the Special Teams units have been so poor through most of the first half. Sam Koch has been a usually steady performer over his tenure with Baltimore. His stats may be down slightly for kicks inside the Twenty but he usually puts the Defense in good field position.
Billy Cundiff (Zinman) also received one vote. His ability to boot kickoffs deep is still a weapon that few teams have.
BIGGEST SURPRISE: Paul Kruger
Other receiving votes were Rookie Pernell McPhee (GW) and Cary Williams for their contributions to the pass rush and coverage respectively. But Kruger, the former 2nd round pick from the 2009 draft, has really stepped up his game with his improved play.
Switching Kruger back to his more natural linebacker position has benefited both he and the team. He’s been very efficient getting the Quarterback and is making the most of his role. He is currently second on the team with Five Sacks.
BIGGEST DISAPOINTMENT: Lee Evans
The only category that was unanimous. Evans tantalized fans with his speed in a Pre-season against Washington. Joe Flacco eased back and tossed a beautiful over the shoulder throw to a streaking Evans for a Touchdown. Fans expected to see a lot of that this season. However Evans has appeared only in two games and even then was not at a hundred percent. Fans can only wonder what could have been if he had been totally healthy.
”His soul may belong to God, but his [butt] belongs to me.” – Terrell Suggs
“Ball So Hard University” – Terrell Suggs
“When the receiver has the ball, your job is to disengage him from the ball. You never want to hurt nobody. I’ve been in this business too long.” – Ray Lewis