With the Eagles' season halfway over, here are my picks for midseason awards:
Offensive MVP: Michael Vick
The case could be made for four guys: Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Even though he only played three full games (and parts of two others), Vick gets my vote.
He leads the NFL with a quarterback rating of 105.3, and keep in mind that doesn't take into account Vick's rushing numbers - 261 yards and 7.3 yards per carry. Plus, he's taken care of the football better than any other QB in the league. Consider this: 39 different quarterbacks have thrown at least two touchdown passes this season. Vick is the only one out of that group who has not thrown an interception.
He is a great fit for this offense - as it's currently constructed. The key is to get the ball to the Eagles' playmakers downfield. Vick has done that with stunning accuracy and efficiency. He's thrown six passes in Jackson's direction that have traveled more than 25 yards from the line of scrimmage in the air. Vick has completed five of those for 243 yards. Overall, he's averaging 8.14 yards per attempt, third in the league.
But what gave him the edge over the other three guys is that no team has figured out how to defend Vick in the Eagles' scheme. In the pocket, he's completing 60.6 percent of his passes. Outside the pocket, that number is nearly identical: 60.0 percent. Blitz Vick, and he can burn you too. Against the blitz, he's completing 59.2 percent of his attempts. And he showed last week he can beat the blitz with his legs also. Vick's been ridiculous on third down, completing 61.8 percent of his passes and averaging 11.68 yards per attempt.
All those numbers point to consistency. Vick's been accurate and explosive. And he's taken care of the football. Those factors earn him the Eagles' offensive MVP for the first half of the season.
Defensive MVP: Trent Cole
This was a two-man race: Cole and Asante Samuel.
Cole gets my vote. He's a rock that sometimes is underappreciated at right defensive end. Sean McDermott rotates his defensive linemen, but Cole rarely comes off the field. He's played nearly 89 percent of the defensive snaps, the most of any player in the front seven. Sacks can be an overused stat, but Cole's got seven through eight games. More importantly, he gets consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks and forces offenses to constantly have to account for him. Cole is outstanding against the run also as teams rarely have success directing their rushing attacks to his side.
Most Improved: LeSean McCoy
This one was pretty easy. The Eagles' second-year back talked about strengthening his lower body in the offseason, and it's shown. He's averaging 4.7 yards per carry, and McCoy's 572 yards on the ground is sixth-best in the NFC. In 155 carries last year, McCoy had one rush of more than 20 yards. In 121 carries this season, he already has three. McCoy's shown the versatility required from a running back in the Eagles' system. He leads all NFL running backs with 41 receptions and continues to improve as a blocker. He might be the most compelling case against Vick for offensive MVP, considering how thin the Eagles are behind him.
Best fill-in: Antonio Dixon
The Eagles have called on several backups to step up this season due to injuries, and none has made more of his opportunity than Dixon.
The big man saw a bump in playing time after Brodrick Bunkley was sidelined during the 49ers game in Week 5. He's stepped in and provided a boost to the Eagles' run defense. In the last three weeks, opposing offenses are averaging just 67.3 yards per game on the ground and 3.16 yards per carry. Two of those three outings have come against teams (the Falcons and Titans) that rank in the top 10 in rushing yards per game. Is Dixon the only reason the run defense has been so good? Of course not. But he's certainly done his job. And Dixon's looked good as a pass rusher too with a pair of sacks. Last year, Dixon was a part of the rotation. This year, he's showing flashes of being able to play at a Pro Bowl level.
Top Newcomer: Nate Allen
This award goes to the player who in his first year with the Eagles is having the biggest impact.
And that's Allen.
The last impression of Allen is not a good one. It's an image of Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt getting between him and Ellis Hobbs time and again in the Week 7 loss. But before that game, Allen was a pleasant surprise, giving the Eagles a playmaker at free safety - something they were without in 2009. His three interceptions are second on the team to only Samuel, and Allen looks like a sure tackler, something that was questioned by several draft pundits when the Birds selected him in the second round. Even after the Titans game, he impressed, taking responsibility for the problems in coverage. Allen's shown the maturity and athleticism to be the answer the Eagles were looking for at free safety.
Under-the-radar: Owen Schmitt
This award goes to the player who flies under the radar, but does the little things necessary for winning. And the recipient is Owen Schmitt.
The Leonard Weaver injury in Week 1 looked like it would be a tough one for the Eagles to recover from. Weaver played at a high level in '09 and proved his versatility as a rusher, receiver and blocker. Schmitt doesn't have those same skills, but he's been more than adequate. He probably had his best blocking game of the season last week, and Schmitt looks sure-handed as a receiver with 13 catches for 106 yards. In all of '09, Weaver finished with 15 catches for 140 yards.
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