Well, we’re going to find out about the Pro Bowl later on Wednesday, and we all hope there are a couple Buccaneers in the mix. After the season, we should see Doug Martin and Lavonte David at least in the running for Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year, respectively. Hall of Fame voting will continue, too, and we’ll have our fingers crossed for John Lynch and Warren Sapp in the Class of 2013.
There is at least one honor that we know will go to a Buccaneer, however, and that would be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ MVP for the 2012 season. If you find that logic impressive, hang on, because we’re just getting started.
That’s because I propose this topic to be our weekly Point/Counterpoint dust-up, Andrew: Who is the team’s Most Valuable Player this year? Actually, to make it a little more fun and give us a chance to involve a few more deserving players, let’s take a page from the rookie awards and name both an Offensive and a Defensive MVP?
The criteria is whatever you want it to be. I’ll let you go first this time, Andrew…remember to choose one player for each side of the line of scrimmage. And as much as I’m sure the CB readers have enjoyed our digressions into regional cuisine, bad ’90s music and dance routines, I say we try to keep it brief this time around.
Andrew Norton: Keep it brief, you say? Interesting, as up until this very moment I was almost certain that you got paid by the character when it came to Point/Counterpoint articles.
No a problem. I can keep it short and sweet on this one. And to take you one further, I’m going to condense it even more by saying my Buccaneers MVPs are also my Bucs Rookies of the Year. (Rookie of the Years?) I don’t know. I do know that my votes solidly go to running back Doug Martin and linebacker Lavonte David.
Last season the Buccaneers were 30th in the NFL in rushing yards with 1458. This season, Doug Martin himself has 1312. He has injected life into the offense that, with one game left, already has 320 more scrimmage yards than last season.
Dougernaut’s efforts go beyond just the running game and into the receiving game as he has the third most yards from scrimmage in the NFL this season. By showing that this team can effectively run the ball, he has opened up play action and has been a key factor in why the Bucs have had such success down the field and find themselves with 34 passing plays of more than 25 yards this season.
Lavonte David has been no slouch on the defensive side of the ball. The Buccaneers were dead last in the NFL last year in rushing yards allowed, giving up nearly 2,500 yards, 5.0 yards per run and 79 runs of 10 or more yards. This year, they are the best in the NFL, allowing 1,255 rushing yards, a league-low 3.5 yards per run and 43 runs of 10+. In one year, they have cut their rushing yards allowed by nearly half.
In 2011, safety Sean Jones led the team in tackles with 87. This year, the leader is a linebacker, Lavonte David, who has amassed 133 tackles (good for 7th in the NFL), 107 solo tackles (2nd in the NFL), and 14.5 stuffs (2nd in the NFL). He is the signal caller on the defense I honestly don’t believe there is a single player on this team who has left a greater impact.
The massive improvements to our two biggest statistical weaknesses have been completely turned around in a single season. And Martin and David are the two to thank.
Scott Smith: Those are compelling arguments for the Rookie of the Year awards. Can I send them on to the Associated Press? I get paid for such referrals, too.
Your dig at my verbosity notwithstanding (what a self-defeating phrase), I will concede that those are excellent choices. The 2012 Bucs were indeed vastly improved in terms of both running the ball and stopping the run, as compared to last year, and obviously Martin and David had a lot to do with that. What an outstanding job by G.M. Mark Dominik and his crew in this year’s draft.
Unfortunately, while I think those two will be perennial candidates for the team’s MVP award moving forward, I also think it’s a little too early to coronate them now. Rather than do anything to shoot down their candidacies, I will instead simply sing the praises of my two choices.
On offense, with apologies to Martin, Josh Freeman and Donald Penn (as the anchor for a line that lost two Pro Bowlers and was strong for most of the season anyway), I have to go with Vincent Jackson. As indispensable as Martin has been to the rushing attack, could you imagine the Bucs’ passing game without Jackson? Furthermore, could you imagine Martin trying to run his way through nothing but eight-man fronts if it weren’t for Jackson’s presence? With 1,334 yards, he’s within a very typical game for him of setting the team’s all-time record in that category, and it’s no coincidence that Freeman just set the team’s single-season mark for passing yards. He’s also found the end zone eight times and he leads the entire NFL in yards per catch (something a Buc has never done) by a good margin. He even leads the entire NFL, among players with at least 10 receptions, in percentage of his catches that produce first downs. Less tangibly, I feel like Jackson has made the big catches when the Bucs really needed them, more often than not.
On defense, I’m going to have to do this without a lot of numbers, because this is a player who’s impact has gone far beyond what you see in the stat table. My choice on that side of the ball, with apologies to David, Michael Bennett and Ronde Barber, is Gerald McCoy.
The Bucs’ run defense is vastly improved this year, but it’s not all because of David. In fact, some advanced metrics that you find on such sites as FootballOutsiders.com suggest that the thing the Bucs do best in run defense is stop the running back at the first level of defense. Michael Bennett is a great run-stopping end and Roy Miller has been much more of a factor this year in the “tilt-nose” position. But I believe the key player in blowing up the opposing running game has been McCoy. His penetration off the line, right in the middle of that line, has often steered backs into the clutches of other defenders, helping guys like Bennett and David rack up the tackles for loss. McCoy has been no slouch in that category, either, with nine tackles for loss of his own. He also has a team-high 15 quarterback hits, which makes his five sacks look more impressive. According to the number-crunchers at ProFootballFocus, as of last week McCoy was tied for the NFC lead among defensive tackles in “quarterback disruptions.” No player on the Bucs’ defense has done more to combat both the run and the pass than McCoy.
Okay, so “brief” is a relative term when it comes to this feature. That’s 570 words. Where’s my check?
Andrew Norton: If you have an in with the AP, I’d be more than pleased for them to read my arguments, as they refuse to return my emails.
However, I feel that I made a sound case for their MVP candidacy along with their solid consideration for their respective Rookie of the Year campaigns. If this were a verbal conversation, I would apologize because there was a chance that I had misspoken, however, as rereading my argument is as simple as scrolling upwards, I will assume it is a reading comprehension issue if you can not see why they are up for serious Team MVP consideration.
I will reiterate:
- 30th in total rushing in 2011, Doug Martin is currently the NFL’s sixth leading rusher, third in yards from scrimmage;
- Last in rushing defense in 2012 with best tackler at 87. Currently 1st in NFL, Lavonte David with 133 tackles and counting.
I can’t argue your points, I can’t imagine what the passing game would look like without Vincent Jackson. He is having the best season of his career, no doubt. And while it is not necessarily reflected in his statistics, McCoy is having a brilliant season and is a major defensive asset, on par with the best in the league at his position.
But the MVP really does come down to value. I mean, it’s right there in the name. Doug Martin has scored 11 times this season, has racked up more than total 1,750 yards. And he is less than 150 rushing yards away from eclipsing the number the entire team had last season. All of this as a rookie is monumentally valuable. And consider just what he has done for the team as a whole. Doug Martin was the focal point of the national media coverage that the Buccaneers received in the middle of the season, a treat that the Bucs haven’t had for quite some time.
And, as a 22-year old defensive signal-caller in the NFL, I would say that Lavonte David is a rare specimen himself. He is finding himself squarely in contention for a Defensive Rookie of the Year title as a second round draft pick by a struggling defense that many counted out. And while it is Gerald McCoy plugging up the middle, it is Lavonte David cleaning it up. Of David’s 107 solo tackles this season, 19 have been tackles for loss. Meaning that essentially one in every five of his tackles is behind the line of scrimmage.
Gerald McCoy is certainly one of the best in the NFL at his position, and when healthy he is among the most consistent players in the league. Vincent Jackson might just be the best free agent pickup in all of football this year. But even with all those two have done for this building Buccaneer team, I think the rookies take the MVP based on how much they have directly affected and turned around the weaknesses from last season.
Scott Smith: Well, this kind of feels like picking which one of your kids is your favorite, so I’m not really going to say anything bad about your choices. I do chuckle at you dinging me for reading comprehension when it feels like it was you who missed my point. Your initial arguments for Martin and David were compelling, and I would like the ROTY voters to hear them. But this is the team MVP award, which means that each of them needs to be the MOST valuable player on his side of the ball (see how “most” is “right there in the name,” too?). Martin and David were definitely the most productive rookies we had; I don’t think they were the most important players on either side of the ball.
You see, you continue to point out how awesome their achievements are for rookies. (Which they are.) That’s irrelevant in this argument. We’re choosing the most valuable player. For the reasons I listed above, I think that’s Jackson on the offense and McCoy on the defense.
In the interest of brevity, which neither of us really paid much attention to, I’ll leave it at that.