Identifying the Falcons' Best Player at the Midseason Mark
Narrowing down a 6-0 team to five potential contenders for the title of the Atlanta Falcons' best player at the midseason mark is difficult as it is.
Doing so for a 6-0 team that's as talented as the Atlanta Falcons are—on both sides of the ball—is even harder.
You could probably make a case for at least a dozen players to be on the list.
Unfortunately, only five get to be nominated and only one gets the crown.
Who will it be?
Read on to find out.
5. John Abraham
John Abraham narrowly beats out William Moore for the No. 5 spot.
But it's well-deserved.
At the ripe age of 34, Abraham continues to be the Falcons' sole consistent pass-rushing threat along the defensive line.
That shows not only in his team-leading six sacks so far this year, but—more importantly—in the timeliness of those sacks. As previously mentioned, Abraham's three sacks in September were all game-changing moments in three separate games.
He even surpassed himself against the Raiders last week, recording three sacks in that game alone. One of those led to yet another game-changing play when he forced a Carson Palmer fumble that would be recovered by teammate Ray Edwards.
Abraham's age may force him to play less than he may like, but the non-stop motor he displays in his brief moments on the field are why he's still one of the best defensive ends in the NFL today.
4. Sean Weatherspoon
Weatherspoon has played every game like it's his last so far this season and the result of that can be found on the stats sheet.
Leading the team in assisted tackles? Check (11). Leading the team in total tackles? Check (35). Leading the team in combined tackles? Check (46). Leading the team's linebackers in sacks? Check (3).
And he has a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and two pass deflections to top it all off.
Whether it's having found new maturity in his third season in the league, having bought into Mike Nolan's system or simply having improved his skills in the offseason, something has turned Sean Weatherspoon into the team's best linebacker.
Weatherspoon's invaluable role as a team leader only amplifies his importance to this team, and makes him more than worthy of the No. 4 spot six games into the season.
3. Roddy White
The way Roddy White's playing, it's no surprise he's the No. 1-ranked receiver in the league according to Football Outsiders.
The longtime veteran is second on the team in catches with 37, leads the team in receiving yards and yards per catch average with 553 and 14.9, respectively, and his stat of four receiving touchdowns is tied for most on offense.
White is on pace to set new career-highs in multiple categories and continues to be one of Matt Ryan's biggest offensive weapons.
White's most valuable role has been catching the short passes, but he has also proved to be surprisingly valuable in another area: down the field.
He may have been relegated to primarily be the team's possession receiver, but White showed he can still be a deep threat after catching longs of 49 and 59 yards against the Panthers, both of which were crucial in helping lead the Falcons to victory.
While that doesn't figure to become the norm, there's no denying White's dominance through the first six games of the season.
2. Tony Gonzalez
With White and Julio Jones receiving the brunt of opposing defenses' attention, linebackers and cornerbacks have been handed the tall task of defending Gonzalez in single coverage.
The result: 430 receiving yards on a team-high 43 catches and four touchdowns from the future Hall of Famer, and a No. 1 spot atop Football Outsiders' tight end rankings.
As impressive as White's own top ranking may be, seeing the 36-year-old defy Father Time as he remains virtually impossible to cover week after week is impressive on an entirely different level.
It's even more impressive when considering Gonzalez was expected to get lost in the shuffle of White, Julio Jones and Jacquizz Rodgers this season.
1. Matt Ryan
Aside from his awful three-interception first half against the Oakland Raiders, Matt Ryan has been nearly perfect in his six starts so far, completing just under 68 percent of his 236 passes for 1,756 yards and 14 touchdowns to six interceptions.
His passer rating is no longer the league-leading 114 mark it was through the first three games this year, but remains a very respectable 98.8.
All of this despite having his offensive line deteriorate before his eyes this season, as Ryan has taken just 13 sacks (14th-lowest in the league) but been hit 34 times, ninth-most in the NFL.
Of course, that's not to say he doesn't deserve some blame himself for seeing his play drop off since the beginning of the season. But the fact that Ryan has been able to bounce back to lead Atlanta to fourth-quarter comebacks every time he has struggled is reason enough to crown him as the unquestioned top player for the Falcons at this point in the season.
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