Now that we are on the brink of the Super Bowl it is time to take a minute and reflect on the 2010 NFL Season. What a rollercoaster ride it was. Just like previous seasons, nothing went as predicted in the NFL. It had injuries, upsets, disappointments, and pure dominance.
There was Mike Vick’s week 10 explosion on the Redskins for 6 TDs.
The Oakland Raiders going into Denver in week 8 and beating the home team 59-14.
There was the revamping of the New England Patriots offense after the Randy Moss trade, which lead to a 14-2 record and most likely Coach of the Year honors for Bill Belichick.
There was yet another Randy Moss trade.
There were supposed Superbowl contenders in the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys, but both team would end up firing their Head Coaches mid-season due to poor performance. And speaking of the Vikings, Brett Favre's latest comeback sure went down in flames.
Of all the ups and downs this rollercoaster ride took us on, the goal here is to focus on the individuals that kept this season going.
Every year there are a few players that take the NFL by storm, seemingly coming out of nowhere to become the next big superstar or rising from the ashes like a Phoenix to revive their career. The 2010 NFL season provided some of the biggest surprises in recent memory. From relative unknowns to franchise cornerstones, this list has plenty of both. Going into the season I do not think anyone in the league would have expected the level of play these individuals brought game in and game out.
So without further ado, let us dive in.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis finished the 2010 NFL regular season 16th in the NFL with 1,008 rushing yards, and was tied for second with 13 rushing touchdowns. Green-Ellis joined Matt Forte and Ray Rice as the only 1,000-yard rushers without a fumble.
Of all the re-tooling Bill Belichick did with the New England Patriots’ offense this season, Green-Ellis was arguably the biggest find. While 1,000 yards for a running back might not seem like much — 62.5 yards per game over 16 games, and only 17 players rushing for more than 1,000 yards this season — it means a lot for the Patriots’.
Nine of the Patriots' 16 games came against the best rushing defenses in the NFL including Pittsburgh, San Diego, Chicago, Baltimore, New York, Miami and Minnesota. Against the league's best, the Patriots rushed for 1,060 yards and Green-Ellis chewed up 577 of those yards.
"That's really a great accomplishment," said Tom Brady, of Green-Ellis' season. "The durability of that running back position and to rush the way that our offense has been rushing lately, it's been great. We've played some really stout defenses lately."
The fact that nobody is sure if Green-Ellis has ever fumbled the ball in his life— ever, is amazing. Even Green-Ellis isn't sure: "I don't think I've ever fumbled in a game. Maybe at practice...Maybe."
There is no denying that Green-Ellis was a surprising player in 2010. None personify the spirit of the Patriots’ franchise and its head coach more than Green-Ellis, who refused all year to elaborate on anything other than winning.
Talk about a Comeback Player of the Year candidate! Williams should win comeback player of the last three years, given the fact that the 10th overall selection of the 2005 NFL draft—picked by the Detroit Lions—was out of football since 2008.
“He really has mounted a comeback. And he did it the best way: working really hard, being really determined,” Seahwaks head coach Pete Carroll said of Williams. “Matt loves throwing to him, such an enormous target. I'm excited for Mike and happy for our football team. We need his help."
With 65 catches for 751 yards and two touchdowns, Williams surpassed his combined 44 catches with the Lions, Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans. Williams also scored two touchdowns in Seattle's divisional playoff loss at Chicago.
While his stats might not seem earth-shattering, Seattle and Pete Carroll sure seem to like what they saw, as evidenced by the three year $11.2 million dollar extension they signed Williams to back in January.
We all knew he was capable of it, but what is surprising is the fact that he stayed healthy long enough to actually prove he could do it. And prove it he did! McFadden had a career year in every sense of the term.
After being labeled as a bust for the early stages of his career, the former Razorback showed his potential. McFadden finally was able to prove his worth, finishing the season with 1,157 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, and leading the Oakland Raiders to an 8-8 record. On top of that McFadden had 47 receptions for 507 yards and three touchdowns.
McFadden had more rushing yards, receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns this season that he had his previous two seasons. And who can forget what he did week seven of the season. I sure can’t, my fantasy team that week got destroyed by him.
I am not talking about the lineup my opponent fielded. Darren McFadden, with his 165 yards rushing and 4 total TDs, beat my whole line up on his own.
Lloyd actually broke Hall of Famer John Stallworth’s record for best season-to-season improvement of any veteran receiver for a receiver with 5 years of experience.
Stallworth’s had 1,295 more yards from 1983 to 1984. Lloyd broke that record by 36 yards by improving his total by 1,331 yards from 2009. Lloyd finished the season with 77 catches for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Lloyd’s 11 touchdowns are 15 less than he had in his entire 7 year career prior to this season. Lloyd had more receptions, yards, and touchdowns this season that he had in his previous four combined.
The most impressive statistic to come out of his 2010 Pro Bowl season is his percentage of first downs on his catches. Lloyd earned first downs on 72 of the 77 catches he made this season. Over the course of the past 10 seasons Lloyd has the highest percentage of catches for a first down (93.5 percent) in a season (with a minimum of 40 receptions), over five percent higher than the next best player.
Dan Marino and Ben Roethlisberger. What do they have to do with Josh Freeman? Well in the Super Bowl era they are the only other quarterbacks to have a QB rating of at least 90.0 under the age of 23.
Along with Marino here are two more name for you: Drew Bledsoe and Peyton Manning. Those are the only other QBs under 23 to throw for more than 20 TDs in a season. Freeman finished the season one short of the Buccaneers season record with 25 touchdown passes. And out of all the QBs discussed above, only Marino failed to win a Superbowl.
Freeman’s rookie year was anything but spectacular, but as the draft gets closer most people will remember him based on his 2nd season. Freeman sat on the bench the first six weeks of his rookie year before taking over with 10 games to go in 2009. In 2010 the Buccaneers achieved the best turnaround in franchise history by going from 3-13 to 10-6. The high point for Freeman came in a week 16 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks when he threw for 237 yards and a franchise record of five touchdown passes. There is no doubt, that with 10 rookie starters and an up and coming young quarterback in Freeman, the Bucs are starting to become a team that can compete in the NFC for years to come.
If you recall, Jamaal Charles finished 2009 with a huge splash, and turned in a signature individual performance as he rushed for 259 yards and two touchdowns in a single game.
Going into the 2010 season, many critics began to question if Charles' 2009 breakout year was just a fluke. Well, I believe that Charles has proved those critics wrong.
Charles finished second in the NFL in rushing with 1,467 yards, had a phenomenal 6.4 yards-per-carry average, and was named to the AP All-Pro team. It is the first All-Pro distinction of his career. This award is one of the more meaningful awards given out after the NFL season.
The last Chief to be named to the NFL's All-Pro team was Tony Gonzalez in 2008. Charles was the Chiefs’ leading rusher by more than 500 yards over their other featured runner, Thomas Jones, even though Jones was handed the ball 15 more times.
“He’s just a great example of a guy that’s put his faith in his coaches and his coaching staff,” Chiefs Coach Todd Haley said of Charles this season. “He has just become a great teammate, and he is on his way to becoming a great player.”
The most impressive feat for Charles was how he defied all odds by coming within a yard of breaking Jim Brown's 47-year-old record for yards per carry in a season. Charles average of 6.4 YPC for the 2010 season should not be overlooked, as we live in a day where running backs rarely get even close to the six YPC average in an entire season.
The best part about this, Charles called it back in training camp when he said, “"My goal is to have a high per-carry average, I want to average six, seven yards a carry. I was proud of last year’s average…I just want to go out and make explosive plays. I love doing that and helping this team with the big play…Hopefully we can do that a lot this year."
Clearly there are QBs that win with their arm, but what probably gets overlooked are the QBs that win simply by managing the game. Since KC has the best rushing attack in the league, it allowed Cassel the luxury of capitalizing on misdirection with little risk.
It’s safe to say, without fear of argument, that he performed his role very well. Amongst quarterbacks, Cassel ranked ninth in Sacks per pass attempt, second in Interceptions per pass attempt, and second in Touchdowns per pass attempt.
Cassel’s improvement from the 2009 season is remarkable. He improved from a QB rating of 69.9, with 2,924 yards passing, 16 TDs and 16 INTs in 2009 to a QB rating of 93, with 3,116 passing yards, 27 TDs and 7 INTs in 2010. Most importantly the Chiefs won six more games in 2010 than they had in 2009, to finish at 10-6.
Although his stats aren’t the most amazing and you could probably think of five QBs off the top of your head that had better stats than Cassel, the reality is, the biggest surprise about Cassel is how much of a leader he has become. He came back to play against the St Louis Rams this year 11 days after an appendectomy.
"He was going to be throwing up blood, or he was going to be playing football," said Brian Waters, a Chiefs teammate. "That's the kind of guy he is."
His leadership, work ethic, and preparation are hugely responsible for the team’s lead in competitiveness and cohesiveness from a year ago. He does everything he can to be successful at his craft and he is the ultimate team player. It’s been said that winning begins and ends with the heart. Well Matt Cassel clear has the heart of a Pro Bowl quarterback.
Think back to six months ago, few people expected anything from Vick. He was a gimmick, only to be used in running the Wildcat, a novelty. He wasn't even the Eagles' starting quarterback. Vick wasn't supposed to be a major contributor. He certainly wasn't supposed to be a Pro Bowl starter.
There is no longer any doubt about what Vick can do, after a season that saw him pass for 3,018 yards, rush for 676 yards, and score a total of 30 TDs while only throwing six INTs. Oh, and that was in only 12 games. The question with Vick and the Eagles becomes, can he remain this effective throughout an entire 16 game season?
Vick was selected to start last Sunday in the Pro Bowl after leading the NFC with more than 1.5 million votes, far ahead of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, the NFC's second-leading vote-getter at 948,410. In the past, Vick's running was largely what got him into the Pro Bowl. He takes satisfaction that his passing was better than it has ever been this season.
"I feel like this one, I had to work hard to get it," he said. "It came in a different fashion. I displayed different talents this year and showed really what I could do in the passing game along with doing everything else. Everything just came together and it worked out for me."
Vick set career highs in yards passing (3,018), touchdown passes (21), touchdowns rushing (nine), completion percentage (62.6) and passer rating (100.2). Vick led the Eagles to a record of 10 to six, but was eliminated by Green Bay in the first round of the playoffs. Philadelphia was 8 to three in games he started and finished.
Denver Broncos fans must really hate Josh McDaniels right now. During his tenure, he traded a Pro Bowl QB who led his current team to the NFC Championship, the team's best WR (Brandon Marshall), and Peyton Hillis and TWO draft picks for Brady Quinn. I seriously hope McDaniels wasn’t questioning why he got fired. But the moves Broncos fans will continue to question, Browns fans are loving.
When opportunity came, Hillis took advantage and posted 1,177 rushing yards, 477 receiving yards and 13 total touchdowns. The Broncos RBs combined for a total on 350 yards more than Hillis, and managed about the same receiving yards.
Hillis is a gamer and it seemed like he played his best against teams that were built to stop the run. Hillis piled up 180 all-purpose yards and a touchdown against the Ravens' tough rushing defense, which allowed just 3.4 yards per carry in the 2009 season.
Later in the year Hillis set career marks in rushing and all-purpose yards against the New England Patriots in Week 9, finishing the game with 184 rushing yards and 220 yards of total offense. And a nice little fact I learned from Wikipedia; Hillis became the first Caucasian running back since Craig James to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season.
Did anyone see this kid coming? Well maybe Maurice Jones-Drew did.
Back on August 2nd, 2010 Jones-Drew told ESPN's Paul Kuharsky that Arian Foster was his fantasy sleeper. Stating, “I really like Arian Foster from the Houston Texans, I think he’s a good running back, especially in their system, the Denver system. And I watched him in college too. It’s his style -- in that zone system, a bigger back (six foot one, 229 pounds) who can get a cut and get his shoulders square. He’s going to be a force to be reckoned with. I really like him and I’ve got some sources, too.”
I remember watching that live thinking, “Yea Right, what does MJD know?” Well next year I will be listening with open ears MJD!
Foster dominated most fantasy leagues this season as the number one RB, surging out of the gate with his week one outburst against the Colts. That day Foster had the second-best, opening-day rushing performance in NFL history by carrying 33 times for 231 yards and three touchdowns.
Foster finished the season with 1,616 rushing yards, 604 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns. His rushing total led the league and his receiving yards led all running backs.