There is an old rule of thumb that comedy is tragedy plus time. The 2012 Eagles season was a football tragedy, but I think we can look back now and find some humor in the misery. With that in mind and since the NFL is starting to give out some awards, I thought this would be the ideal time to give out the 2012 Eagles Awards.
I know 2012 was miserable. All the losses blurred together, like a bizarre memory of a drunken night. Did that really happen? Did I really do that? Yes you did. And you should be ashamed of yourself. That goes for the 2012 Eagles as well.
The winners are...
Offensive MVP - Evan Mathis
The very definition of a bad season is when your starting left guard, who didn't go to the Pro Bowl, is your offensive MVP. Mathis started all 16 games and did everything possible to give his fellow linemen a sense of stability. He had two different left tackles and two different centers play beside him. Mathis had to drop back in pass protection over 12,000 times (rough estimate). And that was just during Nick Foles starts!
Mathis was the consummate professional. He didn't get hurt. He didn't suck. He didn't get pulled into the spiraling vortex of crappiness that so many of his teammates bathed in week after week. Mathis had some terrific blocks, most notably in the game at Dallas. Mathis was effective anchoring in pass pro, getting to the second level on runs, or getting out in space on plays that went wide. Kudos to you, sir.
Defensive MVP - DeMeco Ryans
Since Stewart Bradley tore his ACL in the summer of 2009, being the Eagles middle linebacker has been about the equivalent of being Spinal Tap's drummer or Lindsay Lohan's lover. There will be lots of noise, smoke, inane comments, animalistic screaming, and the ride won't last long. Just ask Joe Mays, Akeem Jordan, Chris Gocong, Will Witherspoon, Omar Gaither, Jamar Chaney, and Casey Matthews.
The Eagles traded for Ryans in the offseason, hoping to end the revolving door and actually have a good middle linebacker. Well...that plan actually worked. Ryans was a bright spot on defense. He led the team in tackles. He had 16 tackles-for-loss, which is an outstanding total. Ryans had a sack and an interception. My favorite thing he did was re-route receivers running shallow patterns. A lot of teams run guys deep and then have one player run a crossing pattern just beyond the line of scrimmage. Since it is withing five yards of the line, a linebacker can legally knock the crap out of those guys as long as the ball isn't in the air. Ryans did this time after time and it prevented several first downs. It's a simple, smart thing to do...which means we haven't seen it done by an Eagles linebacker in a long time. Ryans did it over and over. He was especially effective with this in the win over the Ravens.
Special Teams MVP - Alex Henery
I considered going with long-snapper Jon Dorenbos, but he gets the glory most of the time so I decided to go with the kicker. I'm not going to bore you with a bunch of kicker numbers. Henery had a long streak of kicks that were good, only missing four all year long. Henery had a 53-yard kick wiped out by a penalty in Tampa. He delivered a good onside kick to open the season finale. His kickoffs weren't great, but there was a stretch where he piled up some touchbacks. I think he showed real promise in 2012.
Rookie of the Year - Fletcher Cox
Cox was the Eagles best defensive lineman, rookie or not. He didn't dominate and play at a Pro Bowl level, but Cox was the best rookie defensive lineman the Eagles have seen since Corey Simon. My concern with Cox coming into the season was about his ability to be physical and play the run. NFL blockers are so much stronger and more physical that it can overwhelm some young defenders. Cox was throwing guys around in the Ravens game and showed that he could handle the physical side of things.
We always knew Cox had the agility and quickness to play in the NFL. He had seven tackles-for-loss and 5.5 sacks. Cox can penetrate (I know you were waiting for that joke) and play on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Cox has big time potential and looks like one first round pick that could develop into an impact player.
Least Valuable Player - Darryl Tapp
I hate to pick on Tapp, who is beloved by the coaches and the media, and who seems to be a great guy. The problem is that he was a veteran player who had one good game (ARZ) and made a handful of dumb plays (penalties), while eating up snaps that could have gone to Vinny Curry or Phillip Hunt. Sapp had a tackle-for-loss, half a sack, and recovered a fumble. Nice game, useless season. The man does give 100 percent effort and I hope he finds a better fit in 2013.
Two good stories. Anderson excelled on special teams and even had some good moments on defense. Graham finally showed the ability that fans have been waiting for. He had 5.5 sacks and was a disruptive force. Both guys worked their tail off and can be key players in 2013.
Most Disappointing - Demetress Bell
What a waste. Bell came here to be the left tackle. We all knew he wouldn't be Jason Peters, but the hope was that he'd block better than Jason Bateman. Bell didn't. He got benched in the preseason (never a good sign) and things went downhill from there. The good news is that his physical mistakes were equaled by his mental mistakes. You could beat him with by being better physically or hoping he got confused and didn't block anyone. That happened a few times.
Runner up - I have to mention two stars...Nnamdi Asomugha and Trent Cole. They've been to Pro Bowls. They've dominated games. They both struggled in 2012. I hope Cole bounces back. I think Asomugha is gone. He'll have to take a huge pay cut to even have a chance to talk about sticking around.
Blame Donovan Award - This goes to Michael Vick. The quarterback always gets too much blame, but Vick sure did earn some this season. His four interceptions in the opener should have been a red flag the size of Max Jean-Gilles, but I thought that was just rust from the preseason injury. Oops. Vick improved his game in a couple of areas, but was a turnover machine. The grand experiment that failed.
Blame Anyone Else Award - Nnamdi Asomugha runs away with this award. If we saw Nnamdi play tennis and miss a shot, I guarantee you he'd look into the crowd to see if he could somehow blame that on Kurt Coleman, Nate Allen, or Martina Hingis. Any time Nnamdi got beat on a pass play, he looked for scapegoats faster than Senators in Washington during a political scandal.
Bo Jackson Award - This goes to Bryce Brown, who ran for more than 165 yards in each of his first two starts, making him a part of football history. Brian Baldinger remarked that his combination of size and speed was so rare that it made him think of Bo Jackson.
Hey, Didn't You Used to be Bo Jackson Award - This goes to Bryce Brown, who rushed for 6 and 34 yards in the next two starts. No word on if Baldinger thought he looked more like Lamar Gordon or Tony Hunt.
Best Moment - Jeremy Maclin's long touchdown against Detroit was a magical moment. The Eagles had struggled to score all day. The game was 23-13 with five minutes left. The Eagles were going to in and go into the bye week at 4-2. The team needed work, but Andy Reid always won after the bye so the team would jump to 5-2 and be right in the thick of the playoff hunt. Life was good. Boy did that change in a hurry. We lost, Juan Castillo got fired, and the team fell apart.
Worst Moment - Jason Peters injury. The line suffered a ton of injuries, but losing the stud left tackle proved to be so much worse than we thought. That was the first domino to fall.
You could also argue for the time the receiver was wide open, caught the pass, and scored the long touchdown with ease. What's that you say? It happened more than once. We'll let's see...there was the Cardinals game and the Panthers game and the Falcons game and the Saints game and the Skins game and...oh god...it's endless. Watching receivers run free through the back of the defense was so very, very discouraging. Luckily, Nnamdi always knew who to blame.
* Watching King Dunlap dispute every penalty was funny. You'd then see the replay, where Dunlap so obviously did exactly what they said. In a bizarre way, I actually enjoyed this. Maybe pro wrestling is where Dunlap belongs. He's got the size. His pass blocking resembles wrestling at times. He's already the master of complaining to the official. And his name is King. Watch out WWE.
* Kurt Coleman won a lot of goodwill in the season opener. He had two interceptions and tackled a running back, despite the fact Coleman had lost his helmet on the play. All that goodwill was gone in less than a month as he kept his helmet on and blew deep coverage assignments.
* Seeing the Eagles try to pull off the Stanford/band play with all the laterals at the end of a game was actually funny. Ineptitude at its finest.
* Reid decided to freeze the Giants kicker early in the year. The kicker missed the first attempt and I was beyond irate. Luckily the kicker then missed the next one as well. All was not forgiven, but the hit squad was told to momentarily stand down.
* Damaris Johnson had a 98-yard punt return for touchdown. That was pretty crazy. And awesome. It would have been oh so Eagle-esque if he was tackled at the one-yard line and the team then turned the ball over, but Johnson got the score. I don't fault him for fielding the kick since the Eagles were in desperation mode at the end of a game.
* It was great to see Nick Foles lead the Eagles down for the winning touchdown in the Bucs game. Foles looked very good under pressure and showed enough promise that fans are ready to believe in him. I think he's at about 51 percent on the faith-meter. Not bad, rookie.
* Rookie Mychal Kendricks deserves some mention. He was the second round pick and at times looked very good. He played SAM and WIL. Kendricks had some moments when he looked like a rookie and struggled, but he's got serious talent and should be a good player.