NFL Awards Watch: Week 2
This season appears to be the year of the rookie running back based on what we've seen through the first two weeks of the season. Darren McFadden, Jonathan Stewart and Matt Forte have been as good as advertised, playing pivotal roles in anchoring their respective team's ground attack.
McFadden churned out 164 rushing yards against the Chiefs and flashed a glimpse of his big-play potential with three runs over 20 yards. Stewart's gritty performance included a pair of second half touchdowns and that helped the Panthers topple the Bears. Not to be outdone, Forte continued to display a nifty combination of speed and power on his way to picking up 92 rushing yards against the Panthers.
In spite of those impressive feats, the Titans' Chris Johnson has made the biggest splash among rookie runners. The speedster from East Carolina is coming off his first 100-yard game (109 against the Bengals), and has amassed 246 yards total offense in keying the Tennessee's 2-0 start.
"The kid is impressive," said a Titans' official. "We knew that he was a speed burner, but he is more of a complete back than we expected."
While Johnson was expected to be the Titans' big play threat, few thought the rookie sensation was capable of being a feature back in the smash-mouth offense. However, Johnson has been outstanding in the Titans' zone scheme, and his ability to be productive between the tackles has given the team's offense an added dimension. His 51-yard burst against the Bengals came on a slip draw that started out between the tackles. Johnson used his exceptional quickness to take it to the perimeter once he slipped passed the initial wave of defenders.
In addition, Johnson's explosiveness has enabled him to be far more productive than starter LenDale White, despite an even split in carries on the season. (Johnson has gained 202 yards on 34 carries compared to White's 99 rushing yards on 33 attempts)
"We don't change up our offense based on which one is in the game," said a Titans official. "The difference is Johnson has the ability to take it the distance at any time."
Through two weeks, Johnson has proven to be a difference maker for the Titans, and may turn out to be the best of the most talented rookie crop of runners to hit the league in years.
1. Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles (rank last week: 1): He put on an impressive showing against the Cowboys, throwing for 281 yards and showing he is fully recovered from the injuries that plagued him. Although the Eagles came up short in the shootout, McNabb was at the top of his game for the second consecutive week.
2. Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys (2): Romo bounced back from two early turnovers to lead the Cowboys to a stunning come-from-behind victory. While his 312 passing yards were impressive, his willingness to spread the ball around to seven receivers makes the Cowboys nearly impossible to stop.
3. Jay Cutler, QB, Broncos (NR): The third-year pro has been magnificent through the first two weeks of the season. Not only has he completed over 70 percent of his throws, but also he has thrown for a league-leading 650 yards and six touchdowns. Though he benefited from a questionable call against the Chargers, his clutch touchdown pass and two-point conversion proved he has the moxie to become the league's next great quarterback.
4. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers (NR): The long-time understudy has shocked the league with his magnificent performance under pressure. He has completed 70 percent of his throws, with four touchdown passes and another score on the ground.
5. Peyton Manning, QB, Colts (NR): The two-time league MVP deserves to be mentioned as a candidate after leading his team to victory against the Vikings. Though his numbers are not up to his normal standards due to numerous injuries to the offensive unit, he has shown impressive grit and determination in leading his banged up team to a 1-1 record.
Offensive Player of the Year
1. Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals (NR): The former league MVP has been spectacular while guiding the Cardinals to a 2-0 start. Warner has connected on 70 percent of his passes for 558 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions. His 128.5 passer rating leads the league.
2. Willie Parker, RB, Steelers (2): The two-time Pro Bowl back put in a solid day's work with a 28-carry, 105-yard rushing day against Cleveland. While the Browns kept him out of the end zone, they couldn't stop Parker from topping the century mark for the second straight game.
3. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings (5): The Pro Bowl MVP put up an impressive showing against the Colts. Though his 160 yards on the ground didn't lead the Vikings to a win, it catapulted Peterson into the lead for the NFL rushing title.
4. Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers (NR): The Chargers winless start shouldn't diminish the outstanding performance of Rivers in the first two games. The fifth-year pro has compiled a gaudy 122.5 passer rating while completing 63.5 percent of his passes. His six touchdown passes are tied for the league lead.
5. Brandon Marshall, WR, Broncos (NR): The Broncos' "go-to-guy" made a resounding return to the lineup with an 18-catch, 166-yard day. His astonishing single-game performance included a touchdown and numerous acrobatic catches against a secondary geared to shut him down in the second half.