MVP - Grady Jarrett
After spending eight games proving his dominant Super Bowl party was a sample of what’s to come, Jarrett has been a titan on the defensive line. He’s further coming into his own as a run stuffer and an interior pass rusher, and he has the uncanny ability to single-handedly shut down drives. His motor is as relentless as any on the team, and he has a knack of killing opposing teams’ momentums. No Falcon is playing as well as Jarrett is right now.
OPOY - Mohamed Sanu
Even though he’s missed a game-and-a-half, Sanu has been the most consistent pass-catcher on the Falcons offense this season, and the only weapon not to be adversely affected by the coordinator change. He’s got three touchdowns so far, and is on pace to nearly double his regular season red zone output from a year ago. Guys like Alex Mack, Ryan Schraeder and Devonta Freeman deserve love, but Sanu is the key cog to keeping this passing game afloat.
DPOY - Brian Poole
Outside of Jarrett, there are many defensive guys worthy of love, like De’Vondre Campbell, Brooks Reed and Keanu Neal. But, no defensive player has more consistently impressed to a secondary degree like Poole has. He’s taken the slot corner spot and locked it down. One could even argue he’s been the most steady presence in the Falcons cornerback stable this season. The defense as a whole has impressed at times, but no player stands out week-to-week besides Jarrett like Poole does. He’s shaping up to be the best UDFA Atlanta has found since Schraeder.
ROY - Marquand Manuel
Takk McKinley has been a mighty fine addition to this defensive line, and only stands to get better. Though, the orchestrator behind this improved defense is its coordinator Manuel. He’s not quite as effective a play caller as Dan Quinn was down the stretch last season, but for where Atlanta’s defenses have been with coaching over the years, Manuel is turning in the best Atlanta DC performance since Mike Nolan’s 2012 campaign. His defense is inconsistent, but when it clicks, it clicks in a big way. Manuel deserves a lot of credit for that.
MVP - Matt Ryan
I believe pretty firmly Matt Ryan’s numbers would be excellent if his teammates hadn’t let him down so many times. PFF has him as their 6th rated QB in spite of all that has gone on; it’s a testament to how steady he is despite the lack of offense generally speaking.
There’s no one player on the defense who has stood out SO MUCH to me that they’d win it over Matt. Grady Jarrett has been very good, Keanu Neal has been excellent, but with as poor as the defense is at times, I don’t see any one player from that group standing out consistently enough for me.
OPOY - Devonta Freeman
Don’t let the numbers fool you, he has probably been the best player on the offense. He has cooled off in the scoring department lately with rumors of an injury. Either way, that Sark doesn’t seem to trust him in short yardage situations is no fault of his. He’s still as dynamite a back as there is in the league and I expect him to lead the team in non-QB touchdowns once again.
DPOY - Keanu Neal
MVP- Keanu Neal
No Falcon has been more consistent than Neal this season. He is their most reliable open field tackler. When playing in the box, Neal is essentially a third linebacker. His physicality and instincts makes him a true enforcer for a defense that desperately needed one. Not many safeties can set the tone with a crushing hit better than him. There are numerous disappointing things about the season. How the 2016 first round pick continues to play at a high level on a weekly basis should be admired.
OPOY - Devonta Freeman
Similar to Neal, you know Freeman is going to bring it every week. There is no letting up from the hard-nosed back. His vicious cuts and nifty jukes are a nightmare for opposing back sevens. For all of the offensive issues, Freeman hasn’t been greatly affected by it. He is the complete package as a running back. Giving him more than 11 carries would be a wise decision going forward.
DPOY - Grady Jarrett
Jarrett gets the slight nod over De’Vondre Campbell. The underappreciated defensive tackle’s weekly consistency deserves more recognition. His ridiculous first step gives opposing guards fits. With a relentless motor and excellent timing, Jarrett will always make plays more times than not. It will be interesting to see if he can develop into a decent pass rusher. That is the only thing missing in his arsenal.
ROY - Takk McKinley
McKinley wins this award by default. It has been a somewhat encouraging season for him. Despite being incredibly raw, the charismatic edge rusher’s first step has already started to command respect across the league. He will need to learn how to use his hands better. That can boost those freakish athletic traits into more consistent production.
MVP - Grady Jarrett
I firmly believe you can trace a good portion of this team’s defensive improvement back to Grady Jarrett and Keanu Neal, who are playing absurdly great football. While Matt Ryan has been better than the numbers suggest, Devonta Freeman has been terrific, and Julio Jones has been just shy of otherworldly, Jarrett has been the linchpin for the defense, the only man on that defensive line consistently playing well against the run, and a quiet terror as a pass rusher. In such a weird, topsy turvy season, he has simply been the team’s best and most valuable player through eight weeks, in my opinion.
OPOY - Alex Mack
He had a shaky game against the Panthers, but he’s the best Falcons offensive lineman. Like Jarrett on the other side of the ball, he has been a consistent bright light on a deeply inconsistent football team. You can and absolutely should make cases for Ryan, Freeman, and Julio, but Mack gets my vote at the moment for his ability to hold this thing together.
DPOY - Keanu Neal
If I’m handing an MVP off to Jarrett, I have no problem giving the defensive player of the year thus far to Neal, who had a mildly slow start to the season but has been delivering bone-crunching hits all year. He forced two fumbles just last week, and he remains a tone setter and enforcer at the back end of a very good secondary. He was never supposed to be this good, this quickly, and I love it.
ROY - Takkarist McKinley
There’s literally no competition here, but Takk has been a solid run defender, better-than-expected pass rusher, and entertaining presence throughout the first eight games of his career. He’s already getting some of that deeply misguided bust talk because he hasn’t piled up a ton of sacks, but he’s getting pressure, and that means he’ll soon have the kind of numbers that earn more recognition.