NFL Awards Watch (cont.)
Defensive Player of the Year
1. Albert Haynesworth, DT, Titans (4): Haynesworth is the most dominant player at his position, and his two-sack effort led a Titans' pass rush that constantly harassed David Garrard in the pocket.
2. James Harrison, OLB, Steelers (NR): The underappreciated Pro Bowl defender picked up where he left off a season ago with a three-sack performance against the Texans.
3. Mario Williams, DE, Texans (2): Although his two-sack effort was not enough to engineer an upset over the Steelers, it was the seventh time in the past eight games that Williams has registered at least one sack.
4. Marcus Stroud, DT, Bills (NR): He spearheaded a dominant defensive effort by the Bills. Though his stat line (six tackles and a half sack) doesn't jump off the page, he was an integral part of a pass rush that produced five sacks in a surprising rout of the 'Hawks.
5. Chris McAllister, CB, Ravens (NR): The three-time Pro Bowl corner came up with two turnovers, and helped the Ravens' defense limit Carson Palmer to only 99 passing yards.
Coach of the Year
1. Dick Jauron, Bills (NR): After overachieving a season ago on the way to a 7-9 record, the Bills opened the season with a dominant performance against a perennial playoff team, the Seahawks. Though few predicted a playoff berth for this young team, it appears poised to make a run at the division title.
2. John Fox, Panthers (NR): The team had every excuse available for laying an egg against the Chargers, but showed surprising grit and determination in pulling off the upset win. With a return to the blue collar approach that led to a Super Bowl run in 2003, Fox has the Panthers on the right track to start the season.
3. Lovie Smith, Bears (NR): In dismantling the Colts, the Bears returned to the formula (dominant defense and a strong running game) that made them NFC champions two seasons ago. With their swagger back, this team could pose a serious problem for NFC foes this season.
4. Mike Tomlin, Steelers (NR): While other teams continue to grab the headlines, the Steelers bludgeon a playoff-caliber opponent and establish themselves as serious contenders for the AFC crown.
5. Wade Phillips, Cowboys (NR): The expectations are high in Big D, but the team didn't disappoint with a thorough whipping of the Browns.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
1. Matt Forte, RB, Bears (2): The Bears' dominating victory over the Colts was keyed by the rookie's standout performance. Displaying an outstanding combination of speed and power, Forte amassed 123 rushing yards, including a 50-yard touchdown run, and became the first back in franchise history to top the 100-yard mark in a rookie debut.
2. DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles (3): The electrifying rookie lived up to the hype with his noteworthy performance. Jackson led the team with six receptions for 106 yards and added a dazzling 60-yard punt return in 38-3 demolishing of the Rams.
3. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans (NR): The speedster provided a much needed spark to the Titans' offense with 93 rushing yards. He also had three receptions for 34 yards and a score. Though he eventually left the game with an injury, Johnson proved to be a difference maker for the Titans.
4. Eddie Royal, WR, Broncos (NR): The former Virginia Tech Hokie was sensational as he torched the Raiders for 146 receiving yards and a score. He dominated his individual matchup against DeAngelo Hall and looked like the best player on the field for most of the night.
Tie-5. Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons (1): "Matty Ice" showed surprising poise and confidence in his debut. Backed by a strong running game led by Turner and Jerious Norwood, Ryan effectively managed the game and punished the Lions for paying too much attention to the run with a couple of deep throws.
Tie-5. Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens (NR): Thought to be a major question mark heading into the contest, Flacco surprised many with his solid performance against the Bengals. His passing numbers weren't spectacular (15 of 29 for 129 yards), but he efficiently ran the Ravens' offense and added a surprising 38-yard touchdown run to seal the game.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
1. Keith Rivers, LB, Bengals (5): As the lone bright spot on a disappointing defensive unit, Rivers racked up 10 tackles in his debut. While he failed to produce any game-changing plays, he showed he has the potential to be an all-star at the position.
2. Antoine Cason, CB, Chargers (NR): The team's top choice had a solid debut as the nickel corner, including forcing a fumble that led to a go-ahead touchdown late in the game.
3. Dwight Lowery, CB, Jets (NR): The surprising rookie starter provided quality coverage on Dolphins' receivers throughout the game.
4. Jerod Mayo, LB, Patriots (4): The rookie was steady in his first game as a Patriot. He added six tackles and played a key role in helping limit Larry Johnson to only 74 rushing yards in the win.
5. Kendall Langford, DE, Dolphins (NR): The former small college standout had a sack and three tackles.