With the end of the Falcons' season, AtlantaFalcons.com managing editor Jay Adams and contributing writer Daniel Cox will take a look back at a tremendous 13-3 regular season that was filled with thrills and chills in this week's 'Best of 2010' series. Today, Jay Adams wraps up the series with the best of the rest — the moments and performances that didn't find a place on our lists
There were so many great moments during the 2010 season but not all of them could be captured in a top five list. So this is my Best of the Rest — the notable moments that couldn't find a home on our lists.
On The Field
Really Valuable Offensive Player: Like the title? I'm staying away from the MVP term to avoid any confusion. Plus, is there ever really a most valuable player on any team? I'm going with Tony Gonzalez's definition of what makes a player valuable here: Who can you not afford to lose the most at any time during a season? Now, there are a lot of players on the 2010 offensive roster that you just can't do without: Gonzalez, Michael Turner, Roddy White, Tyson Clabo, Todd McClure, Ovie Mughelli, to name nearly everyone. But the one player that would change the entire scope of the offense if he wasn't playing would be quarterback Matt Ryan. The third-year QB showed a lot of growth this season and was the engine that made the unit go.
Really Valuable Defensive Player: Same criteria here. There were a lot of players who could be considered for this spot. But the one player who we just couldn't do without on defense was John Abraham. The Predator put up a huge season with 14.5 sacks, more than doubling his output from 2009. The Falcons did face one game without him, against St. Louis, but when Abraham was in the game, the defense was just a different unit. He's such a huge pass rush threat that opposing teams really have to prepare hard for him. Clearly a valuable part of the 2010 Falcons defense.
Really Valuable Special Teams Player: Is there any question? Special teams might as well be Eric Weems' middle name. Weems came through the NFL the hard way as a small-school, undrafted player and spent the early part of his career cutting his teeth on the practice squad. This year, however, was a breakout year for the kick/punt returner. Weems' two kickoff return TDs both set records — the first against Tampa Bay during the regular season set a mark for longest kick return for a touchdown in Falcons history; the second against Green Bay in the NFC divisional round set an NFL record for longest return for a touchdown in playoff history. Not bad for the sparkplug from Bethune-Cookman, who, by the way, was selected for the Pro Bowl.
Most Improved Player: Safety William Moore, hands down. Moore came into his rookie season in 2009 with high expectations, but he was plagued by injuries and saw action in just two games, finishing the year with two tackles. In 2010, Moore became the star safety he was projected to be. Despite missing some of training camp with an injury, Moore earned the starting spot in Week 2 and made his debut with the first interception of his NFL career. He poured it on the rest of the way, finishing with 72 tackles, eight passes defensed and five interceptions.
Best Season Performance by an Underrated Player: The term underrated here doesn't refer to how we as Falcons fans and followers view the players on the roster, but rather the outside perception. No one on the Falcons' roster was picked on more than cornerback Brent Grimes. From his size to his background, quarterbacks thought they could take the field and throw all over him, even after having a standout 2009 campaign. Boy, were they wrong. Grimes had a tremendous season and probably should have been named to the Pro Bowl as he became an opposing QB's worst nightmare with five INTs and 23 passes defensed.
Most Intimidating Player: You don't want to get on the bad side of any of the players in the Falcons locker room, but you certainly don't want to disturb Abraham or guard Harvey Dahl. They tie for my vote here. We've gone over Abe's amazing attributes, but Dahl is one of those players who could — and should — intimidate even the biggest linemen in the NFL. Dahl is the kind of guy you want on your team because he backs his teammates up during a play and afterward, if he has to. A hard-nosed, old-school lineman with a healthy mean streak, Dahl rightfully joins the company of Abraham in this category.
Comeback Player: You never realize what you've got until you don't have it, and that always seems to be the case with cornerback Brian Williams. Williams tends to have quiet games, not really stirring up much in the stat lines, but he returned from a knee injury that kept him out for much of 2009 and provided some stability at the nickelback position. Williams was good in coverage, but also was a key part of the Falcons' blitz package this year. Williams recovered a fumble early in the season that would have been a touchdown if not for being tripped up by the turf monster.
Keep Your Eye On: This category is meant to look ahead to next year, despite this being an awards list of sorts for the 2010 season. If there's one player to choose to keep my eye on for next year, I've got to go with wide receiver Kerry Meier for this one. Meier showed a ton of promise during camp, catching nearly everything that came near him (in fact, I think we counted that he only dropped three passes all camp) and solidifying the final wide receiver spot on the roster. A knee injury during the second preseason game ended his season, but 2011 could be a huge year for him if he's able to stay healthy.