San Francisco 49ers: Early Team Awards After Week 5 of 2012 Season
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Many of the San Francisco 49ers faithful will invariably consider an article that hands out team awards after just five weeks a silly exercise.
Fan sentiments of journalistic prematurity notwithstanding, the 49ers have enjoyed an auspicious start to their 2012 campaign.
And that merits awards being given out.
Its sole loss came at the hands of an up-and-coming—and highly underrated—Minnesota Vikings club that also stands at 4-1.
The 49ers rank No. 3 in the NFL with 29.8 points per game and are sixth in total yards.
And as not to be outdone, the team’s rushing attack is No. 1 with 195.8 yards per game and a phenomenal 6.1 yards per carry.
Moving to the backbone of this squad, the defense holds the No. 2 spot in scoring and total yards, having allowed just four more yards per game than the Seahawks.
San Fran’s passing D—a unit some would deem as a weakness in 2011—has limited opponents to 181.2 yards per game, a mark also good for No. 2 in the NFL. It’s rushing defense remains a formidable unit at No. 7.
Even Brad Seely’s special teams lives in the world of the top five when it comes to kick returns.
With those palpably delightful statistics in mind, let’s hand out the early-2012 team awards for the 49ers.
Special Teams Player of the Year
Kyle Williams goes airborne against the Vikings.
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Yes, people—you can scoff once again at the use (or exploitation) of my journalistic liberties.
But once again, we must honor every contingent of the football team.
When we think valuable in conjunction with 49ers special teams, kicker David Akers and punter Andy Lee immediately come to mind.
Akers set the all-time single-season record with 44 made field goals and 166 points (via FG) in 2011. Lee set the NFL mark for 44.0 yards net average per punt in a single season.
In 2012, however, Akers has missed three field goals, including one between 40-49 yards. His punting counterpart has also out-kicked his coverage unit on a few occasions, despite being his usual awesome self otherwise.
So, let’s move in another direction and give the honor to kickoff returner Kyle Williams.
He ranks No. 3 with a return-average of 35.7 yards. Only Percy Harvin—Mr. NFL Elite—and Marcel Reece’s lone 36-yard return rate higher.
Williams also owns the third spot in longest return with his 94-yard burst against the Vikings.
He has utilized his great short-area quickness, speed and shifting abilities in space. He has also made smart decisions that didn’t always didn’t occur in seasons past.
Overall, Williams has continually put the 49ers in prime field position. He has overcome the immense scorn—death threats included—stemming from his punt-return gaffes in the NFC Championship game last year.
KW is a class act and good player—well deserving of the STPOY.
Defensive Player of the Year
Bowman backs down from no one—Megatron included.
Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE
The defensive player of the year for the 49ers is even in the conversation for DYOP of the NFL.
Through Week 5, Bowman leads his team and league in tackles (according to NFL.com; tackles remain an unofficial stat), and is one of only a few inside linebackers with an interception.
Bowman’s sideline-to-sideline tackling abilities against the run are well documented, but what stands out most prominently is his ascension into the echelon of best-in-the-business in another category.
The 49ers backer can now call himself elite at his position when it pertains to coverage assignments.
Opposing running backs, tight ends and any other pass-catchers can simply forget it if they’re thinking about trying to haul in a pass when Bowman’s around.
Case in point, quarterbacks throwing into Bowman’s coverage area have completed a league-low 44 percent of their passes and produced a rating of 37.1—also worst in the league.
His four deflected passes and zero touchdowns allowed also rank tops in the NFL for inside linebackers. Pro Football Focus takes the aggregate of these statistics and deems Bowman the No. 1 ILB.
In the case that those (hopefully) reading do not hold themselves as a particular stat junkie, just play the eye test.
Bowman is the undeniable best while watching him in person, on TV, in HD, in static, on DVR, in rewind, slow motion, real time or fast-forward.
If you really haven’t recognized No. 53’s preeminent status yet, please take a gander this Sunday against the NY Giants.
NaVorro Bowman—fully worthy of the DFPOY for the 49ers.
Just remember to dole out props to certain teammate of his sporting No. 52; he’s also pretty good.
Offensive Player of the Year
Gore (left) humbly walks off after scoring his fourth TD of the season.
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
A multitude of players on the 49ers meet the criteria for this honor.
Frank Gore ranks No. 7 in the league with 432 yards rushing. More remarkably, he’s tied with Jamaal Charles for an NFL-best 5.4-yards-per-carry (among players with 80-plus rushes).
He holds the same position with four touchdowns on the ground as well.
And Gore recently conveyed his importance for the 49ers with 106 yards and a score as part of a record-breaking performance for the offense.
Vernon Davis, for his part, is top-five in receiving yards by a tight end with 303 and average per catch at 15.2.
Like Gore, he resides in the NFL’s top echelon in multiple categories. Those include touchdowns, first-down percentage and 20- and 40-plus-yard receptions.
Michael Crabtree also deserves the tribute with his team-leading 311 yards receiving and 103 yards after the catch. He has been Alex Smith’s go-to receiver all season long.
However, the primary candidate for offensive player of the year out of this trio is Frank Gore.
Regardless of how pass-happy the 49ers become on any given Sunday, the offense will always run through Gore.
His effectiveness on the ground sets up both the passing game and diversified attack with other 49ers rushers. This team tends to incorporate just about every playmaker in that role.
Gore is the unquestionable heart and soul of the 49ers offense. It simply would not function at a high level without him.
Rookie of the Year
If Kaepernick was the rookie in this photo, he'd certainly get the ROY.
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Well, the complexities involved in this particular selection process weren’t quite as intense as the others.
Seeing that only one of the 49ers’ seven draft picks has seen on-field action, this list of candidates is rather short.
Strong-safety draftee Trenton Robinson has logged a handful of plays on special teams. He has one tackle to his credit.
Undrafted rookie Garrett Celek rounds out this two-man group. The tight end caught his first and only pass against the Bills, but has performed well as a run-blocker during his 28 total offensive plays.
And the winner is…
Let’s go with Celek. Robinson has missed a tackle this season—a purely egregious offense in this highly competitive battle.
The 49ers are just too good for a rookie to make a significant impact in 2012.
Alex Smith has been masterful at the line of scrimmage.
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Please allow the masses of Alex Smith boo birds to arrive in flight.
And for those 49ers fans rocking the Team Kaepernick flag, hopefully they can find some credibility in this selection.
Smith leads the NFL—yes, the National Football League—with a quarterback rating of 108.7. Equally impressive is his 7.9-yards-per-completion, a statistic worthy of No. 4 in the league.
Worry not skeptics—folks on the disinterested side of things were a bit skeptical as well.
The brains at Pro Football Focus tempered theirs, however, and objectively qualified Smith as a top-five quarterback.
For the 49ers, Smith is the field general that orchestrates the offense.
Gore is a prominent conduit, but Smith is the man who diagnoses the defensive formations and makes the appropriate play-call based off his assessment.
It’s also not that he’s just haphazardly determining if the original play or audible, or pass or run will be the most effective play. He’s made the right call time and again throughout the season.
Smith has plenty to improve on—including the deep ball and getting rid of the ball quicker. That said, he’s shown increasingly more consistency in these areas of his passing game.
The former top draft pick has traversed quite the difficult career path since his former disrepute as a first-round bust. He has now earned the distinguished appraisal as one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league.
Smith might not have the reputation or career achievements that come with the name Brady, Manning or Rodgers. The 49ers, though, gladly welcome his skill set every Sunday.
He is their MVP for the first quarter-plus of the 2012 season.
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