NFL Awards Watch: Week 7
London Fletcher enters defensive player of year discussion
Trent Edwards continues to lead race for most valuable player
Unfortunate injury ends season of defensive rookie of year frontrunner
Who says that size matters? That phrase certainly doesn't apply to Redskins linebacker London Fletcher, who has been one of the NFL's top tacklers throughout his 11-year career.
At 5-foot-9, 240 pounds, and blessed with outstanding natural instincts and a relentless motor, Fletcher plays the game in fast forward. He routinely beats blockers with his quickness and often appears to know the play before it develops. Though Fletcher relies on his athleticism to avoid and slip blockers in traffic, he is a ferocious hitter who changes the game with bone-jarring tackles. His 60 tackles this season rank fifth in the league, and his knack for creating big plays has keyed the 'Skins' sixth-ranked defense.
"He is a terrific player," said an AFC scout. "He does a great job of using his quickness and instincts to make plays."
Fletcher put that ability on display during a critical fourth quarter goal line stand in the Redskins' 14-11 victory over the Browns last weekend. With the Browns facing first and goal from the 1, Fletcher shot through a gap in the middle of the line to stop Jamal Lewis in his tracks. He snuffed out a play-action pass to Charles Ali in the flat on second down and blanketed Jason Wright on a swing pass on third down. Although he didn't make the play on fourth down, Fletcher's three-play assault helped preserve the Redskins' 11-point lead at a critical stage in the game.
"He has always been an impact linebacker," said an NFC personnel director. "He is instinctive, with coach-like awareness, much like [former Pro Bowl linebacker] Sam Mills."
For Fletcher to be compared to one of the best linebackers to play the game is well deserved praised, and it speaks volumes about the impact he makes. He's never been nominated to a Pro Bowl, but his stellar play this season may finally land him in Hawaii and also earn him the league's defensive player of the year award.
Defensive Player of the Year
1. Albert Haynesworth, DT, Titans (Last week's ranking: 1): The monstrous playmaker is the game's most dominant player.
2. James Harrison, LB, Steelers (2): The underappreciated pass rusher is on the cusp of becoming the league's most feared sack artist. Harrison's two-sack performance against the Bengals is his third multi-sack game of the season.
3. John Abraham, DE, Falcons (3): The former Pro Bowler's timely playmaking has been critical to the Falcons' surprising 4-2 start
4. Charles Woodson, CB, Packers (4): The veteran corner dominated his matchup with the Colts' Reggie Wayne, holding him to two catches. In the process he reminded all observers that he is still at the top of his game.
5. London Fletcher, LB, Redskins (NR)
1. Trent Edwards, QB, Bills (Last week's ranking: 1): Buffalo's franchise quarterback was sharp in his return to the lineup as he connected on 20 of his first 22 throws. Edwards finished with 261 passing yards and has the Bills sitting pretty atop the AFC East with a 5-1 record.
2. Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins (2): The player also known as"Southeast Jerome" continued his torrid pace by topping the century mark for the fourth consecutive week. His 818 rushing yards lead the league and his seven rushing touchdowns rank second.
3. Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals (5): The two-time league MVP has the Cardinals on track to win their first NFC West title. Warner sports a league-leading 70 percent completion rate and his 12 passing touchdowns are fifth-most in the league.
4. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers (NR): Although his numbers aren't eye-popping, Roethlisberger belongs on the list for his workman-like performances that have propelled the Steelers to the top of the AFC North, even with Willie Parker injured.
5. Eli Manning, QB, Giants (NR): While Manning hasn't set the world on fire statistically, his steady play has helped the Giants to a 5-1 start. His completion percentage (61.8) and passer rating (89.1) are at a career-best level and speak to the growth he has made as a decision maker.