Defensive Player of the Year
This award was one of the tougher ones to decide. It came down to two players, and the winner at the end of the year may be different than the winner today. Right now, It’s Damontae Kazee who has been incredible with both starting safeties out for the season. I wrote about Kazee being the next potential young stud on the Falcons defense, but few could have imagined him being this successful so soon.
The San Diego State product was a notorious ball hawk for the Aztecs in his final two years. So far, that is translating to the NFL as he leads the league in interceptions. All of the sudden, this Atlanta secondary doesn’t look so lost after all, and Kazee is the primary reason for that.
The other player that could have taken home this fictional award, of course, was Grady Jarrett. The main reason he did not get the nod is that he missed two games this season. Although, it was quite noticeable when he was not on the field. If this were a defensive MVP award, there’s no doubt Jarrett would be the winner.
Rookie of the Year
By far the easiest award to hand out; Calvin Ridley has been everything the Falcons could have imagined since being drafted in the first round. I do not think I will ever get over the fact that this man somehow slid all the way to pick 26. In his first 8 games as a pro, he’s hauled in 33 balls for 463 yards and 7 touchdowns. Those 7 receiving touchdowns are tied for the second most in the entire league.
Drafting a receiver wasn’t necessarily a must. The Falcons already had Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Not to mention, some pretty considerable holes on the defensive side. Nonetheless, when you watch this guy play, he was clearly one of, if not, the best player available, and that’s always a good draft strategy to abide by.
Offensive Player of the Year
Julio Jones continues to prove he’s the best receiver in the National Football League. The man is a walking 1,400 yards receiving even if he isn’t healthy. Luckily for us, this has been the best Jones has felt in a long while as far as injuries are concerned, and the results are speaking for themselves.
It’s not totally out of the question by any means that Julio Jones breaks the all-time record for receiving yards in a season. Currently at 933 yards through 8 games, he is just a little bit off the pace of Calvin Johnson‘s all-time mark of 1,964 yards. Of course, Jones would love to become the first receiver to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark in a single season. If there’s anybody who could do that in today’s pass-happy NFL, it is the Jet.
Most Valuable Player
This one is as obvious as it gets as well. There is no questioning it right now: Matt Ryan has been better so far in 2018 than he was in his MVP season back in 2016. Ryan is playing so well, if it was not for a few miscues by his teammates, he could have 20 touchdowns and 0 interceptions through 8 games. That is absolutely insane and he is also on pace for the most passing yards in his career by far.
I wrote something a couple weeks ago about how Matt Ryan deserves way more credit than he receives. He has arguably been the best quarterback in all of football over the last three years. Wake up Atlanta, this is what a Hall-of-Fame caliber quarterback looks like.
Coach of the Year
What?! There’s only one coach of the Falcons, of course, he is going to win coach of the year. I can hear you all saying it already, but I wanted to put this here because Quinn has been that damn good. There have been way too many people giving him grief and some even calling for his head. It’s all rather quite preposterous considering just how much he has done in such little time.
We will not get into all the things he has accomplished over his first three seasons that no other coach in Falcons history can say they did. Instead, we are focusing on this season; his best coaching job to date.
The Falcons have been littered with injuries on both sides of the ball, got off to a 1-4 start that included numerous heartbreaking defeats, yet they find themselves just a half game out of the Wild Card halfway through the season. Somehow, Quinn has found a way to galvanize this group and keep them believing in each other when nobody else did.
You can talk about how he has cheesy clichés, and they may sound like they came out of a poorly made War movie, but there really is no doubting he has a special way of communicating with his players. Quinn is the dark horse in the Coach of the Year race that nobody is talking about… yet.