Early Detroit Lions Awards for 2012
With a quarter of their season in the books, the Detroit Lions are not dwelling on the past. Their season has been fraught with mistakes, but they're focused on getting better. They're 1-3 and the bye week is the perfect opportunity to take stock and make adjustments.
It's also a perfect opportunity to take a look at what they're doing right. Despite the team's disappointing start, there have been impressive individual performances—even if those performances haven't translated into wins.
Here are the Lions' early-season award winners.
5. Eric Andolsek Award: Nobody
If the season ended today, it wouldn't be a surprise if the Lions chose not to hand out their award for the best offensive lineman.
The O-line has made far too many mistakes to be recognized for any awards.
Center Dominic Raiola won it the past seven years, but his last-second gaffe against Tennessee is still fresh in everyone's mind. An award is out of the question.
Jeff Backus would be the other nominee, but frankly he hasn't been at his best. In Detroit's loss to the Vikings last Sunday, Matthew Stafford was sacked five times. Three of those were courtesy of the defensive end in front of Backus.
One from Jared Allen and two from Everson Griffen.
As a unit they've done an adequate job of protecting Stafford while giving up only eight sacks in four games. However, their run blocking has been suspect.
For now the award goes to no one. For the Lions' sake, hopefully the cream will rise to the top by the end of the season.
4. Rookie of the Year: Bill Bentley
Last year Titus Young won the Lions' Rookie of the Year Award by default. He had a good year, but fellow rookie Mikel Leshoure missed the entire year and Nick Fairley's impact was limited due to injury.
After four games it appears that the Lions are headed toward a similar scenario for this years' crop of rookies.
Bill Bentley won the starting cornerback job in preseason. In three games played he hasn't been spectacular—12 tackles and zero interceptions—but he's played good enough, and he's never looked totally overmatched.
That's an accomplishment for a rookie who opposing offenses are trying to take advantage of.
On the other hand, there's probably more than a few fans wishing the Lions would have drafted Janoris Jenkins when they had the chance.
That's a different article, though.
Bentley's biggest competition for the Lions' rookie award, Riley Reiff and Ryan Broyles, have played only slightly more combined downs than Jahvid Best—who, of course, has been on the PUP list all year.
It could all change, but for now there's no other choice. Bentley is the winner.
3. Defensive Player of the Year: DeAndre Levy
The Lions defense has been maligned this season for not getting after opposing quarterbacks enough and for giving up too many big plays. While that might be true, they're not as bad as you might think.
The problem is that they haven't dominated anyone and that's what fans and media wanted to see. It could be a lot worse, though. The Lions have played well as a unit, and they've had several players step up.
Most notable has been DeAndre Levy. The fourth-year outside linebacker is having his best one as a Lion.
He's averaging just under eight tackles a game—his 31 total tackles leads the team—and has a fumble recovery.
He's also impressed everyone with his ability to shoot the gap and bring down would-be rushers behind the line of scrimmage. He's already tallied four such tackles, which leads the team, for 14 yards lost.
Levy has been the most consistent Lions defender this season, and for that he deserves the award. If he keeps it up, and adds some sacks, he'll have the award at the end of the year too.
2. Offensive Player of the Year: Calvin Johnson
Most people would agree that the Lions offense hasn't played up to standards either. After last season they were due for a letdown, though. Too many things went their way, and that can't last forever.
Unfortunately, they haven't played their best either.
No one on the offense is free from blame. Not even untouchables like Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.
With that said, the Offensive Player of the Year Award winner can only be one of those two. Despite the mistakes they've both committed, they've been the best players on the field by far.
Calvin Johnson gets the nod. He's had some drops and he's only scored one touchdown, but he's still the most dominant wide receiver in the NFL. His numbers are down because defenses have been successful in limiting his big-play potential.
It's not all his fault, though. The Lions have played it conservative when defenders key on Johnson. Yet, he's still been dominant during key drives and—before the bye—was third in the NFL in yardage and fifth in receptions.
The fact that he hasn't played his best and he still gets the award says something.
1. MVP: Matthew Stafford
The Lions' "Golden Child" had a rough year so far. Last season, he didn't suffer his third loss until Week 10.
He also threw 11 touchdowns through the first four weeks in 2011. Eight of those were to Calvin Johnson.
This season, Stafford is still putting up monster yardage. Before the bye the Lions were rated No. 1 in the NFL in passing yards per game and he was the fifth-rated quarterback in total yards.
He's only thrown three touchdowns, though, and none of those have been to Johnson.
So while fans and media wonder what happened to Stafford, the fact is he hasn't slipped that much. He's on pace to throw the same amount of interceptions as last season, and he's only 300 yards off the 5,000-yard pace.
He's also single-handedly responsible for Detroit's only win. In Week 1 he put the team on his back with under two minutes left and successfully led an 80-yard drive which culminated with him completing a game-winning touchdown pass to Kevin Smith.
For that, he gets the award.
If Stafford continues to play at a high level, and the Lions' fortunes change, he'll not only be in the mix for Detroit's MVP, but the NFL's as well.
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