November 11, 2009

NOPF's 2009 mid-season awards

Offensive MVP of the Half-Year: Pierre Thomas. Brees seems the logical choice here, and he has won his share of games for this team with gutsy play, but it was Sean Payton's devotion to the run game, and Thomas, that pulled out victories in Buffalo, Miami and at home against Atlanta and Carolina. Thomas has recovered from a minor knee injury that kept him out of the first two games yet leads the Saints' #5 rushing attack with 455 yards for a 5.5 average. Thomas has separated himself from Mike Bell and Reggie Bush as the most versatile back on the team.

Make no doubt, Brees is the heart and soul of this Saints offense, and their most irreplaceable player. And while Brees being Brees makes for the most resilient offense in team history, passing stats without balance wasn't enough in 2007 and 2008.

Defensive MVP of the Half-Year: Darren Sharper. Sharper has as many or more touchdowns (3) than these NFL starting quarterbacks: Jamarcus Russell, Matthew Stafford, Marc Bulger, and Derek Alexander. Need we say any more? He continues to be tied for the NFL lead with seven interceptions, and he's good for one or two vicious hits per game. He's serving as mentor to young Saint defensive backs. Jonathan Vilma is the heart and captain of the defense, sure, but Shraper is benefiting from Gregg Williams' system the most.

Rookie of the Half-Year: Thomas Morstead. The rookie punter has gone from draft day puzzler to punt and kickoff mortar. His coaching staff has been asking him sky-kick many punts, which is the reason why his stats are pedestrian - 19th in average and 25th in net average in the league. With only 4 of 24 punts inside the 20, and he's in the bottom half of average punt return yardage, and percentage of punts returned. But only one of his punts has gone for a touchback, thanks to his good directional punting and excellent Saints cover teams. Morstead is doing an excellent job on kickoffs as well, though he's sent two out of bounds. He didn't make this any easier for us with a lousy bounce and a resulting 22-yard punt in the second quarter against n Carolina. Of the Saints' four active rookies this year, only DB Malcolm Jenkins has made an impact, and then only on special teams. Undrafted rookie LB Jonathan Casillas has only played limitedly on special teams and QB Chase Daniel has been the emergency quarterback.

Offensive Plays of the Half-Year: The Saints have had so many big plays, and have now fought from behind in three straight emotional games. We're going with two, then, and both are by the Saints' sensational runningbacks. Reggie Bush's sensational vault from the six yard line on a double reverse for a touchdown in Miami was not only an incredible display of athleticism, but a risky play call that paid off to cap a very important drive that responded to Miami's final touchdown of the game.

The other play is by Pierre Thomas, on his rendition of Reggie's play. Late in last Sunday's victory over Atlanta, Thomas' leap from the two yard line cleared two defenders and his own teammate, Jon Stinchcomb. That score put the Saints up 11 with three minutes left in the game. It was a fantastic play call by Payton and ended up giving the Saints much-needed cushion against the never-die Falcons.

Defensive Play of the Half-Year: How many times has Jake Delhomme beaten the Saints? Go back to last year's season finale, with Delhomme directing a last second, game-winning field goal drive. Or in October 2007, directing 10 fourth quarter points to beat the Saints 16-13. Or in 2006 when he directed two fourth quarter touchdowns. But not in 2009, when his Superdome magic was shattered by Anthony Hargrove, who beat his block, stabbed the ball free from RB DeAngelo Williams, picked it up and stepped into the end zone for the coffin-sealing points that snuffed out Delhomme's hopes of yet another last-second steal.

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