ALLEN PARK - Forget about the all-Madden, Phil Simms all-Iron or even the Terry (Bradshaw) awards, let's get to the ones that really count, the LionsFans.com post-season awards. The Lions locker room is waiting with bated breath the outcome of this year's vote.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Kevin Jones: This quiet, soft-spoken rookie did his talking on the field and it showed in a big way. Jones became on the third rookie in franchise history to rush for over 1,000 yards and came close to cracking the 1,200 yard mark, this despite the Lions being unable to open any holes at all for him the first five weeks. Jones kept his mouth shut, worked hard and outperformed every other rookie running back to end up fourth in the conference in rushing and get named a Pro Bowl alternate. Quite simply the biggest offensive force Detroit has had in years.
SECOND: EDDIE DRUMMOND
THIRD: SHAUN ROGERS
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jones for all the reasons listed above
SECOND: DAMIEN WOODY
THIRD: ROY WILLIAMS
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Shaun Rogers: Rogers combination of power and speed has moved him to the elite group of Pro Bowl defensive tackles. Rogers has the ability to dominate the line of scrimmage on a consistent basis and opposing offense have to account for his presence on every play. Detroit rewarded his consistent excellence by giving him the largest signing bonus ever awarded to a Lions player -$15 million-in a six-year $48 million contract.
SECOND: JAMES HALL
THIRD: EARL HOLMES
TOP ROOKIE PERFORMER: JONES
SECOND: TEDDY LEHMAN
THIRD: ROY WILLIAMS
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: James Hall: After being moved from the left end to the right end spot, Hall made waves and let it be known he might not have re-signed with the Lions had he known he would be moved. However, the experiment of defensive coordinator Dick Jauron ended, Hall was moved back to the left side and he flourished, recording a team high 11.5 sacks, the first player to record double digit sack totals since Robert Porcher did it in 1999. Despite being snubbed for Pro Bowl consideration, Hall made a name for himself and will likely be rewarded with future consideration.
TOP FREE AGENT ACQUISITION: DAMIEN WOODY: Detroit spent a ton of money to sign the free agent guard/center from Boston College and it didn't take long for him to exert his big frame and even bigger personality into the Lions locker room. Because of his persistence and his influence, he and Lions offensive line coach Pat Morris were able to change the mindset of the offensive linemen from one of survival to one of domination. The effect of Woody can clearly be seen in the improvement in the play of center Dominic Raiola, - who benefitted from Woody's vast knowledge and experience as a top-flight pivot man - in the solid consistency of Stockar McDougle's play at right tackle and the improved running game overall. Detroit's offensive line could be even better in 2005 if they keep this group together. Woody is the group's influential leader.
SECOND: STEPHEN ALEXANDER
THIRD: TAI STREETS
MOST DISAPPOINTING PERFORMANCE: FERNANDO BRYANT: Detroit had high hopes that Bryant would team with cornerback Dre' Bly to form a rock solid tandem that would slow down opposing teams wide receivers, instead Bryant's play was spotty when he was healthy and worse, he missed five games due to injury. Detroit was forced to go with Andre Goodman as a starter and it messed up their defensive rotation. One can only hope that Bryant can regain the form that Detroit saw in him next season. If he does, Detroit defense could take a step up.
SECOND: BROCK MARION
THIRD: TAI STREETS
MOST UNSUNG PLAYER: TERRENCE HOLT: For a player who always seems to be around the ball, seems to make sure tackles and has a knack for making special teams plays, you'd think that Terrence Holt would get on the field more than he does. Yet the Lions coaching staff has, at times, treated him as if he had the plague. Holt did finally get some much-deserved playing time towards the end of the season, but with Brock Marion struggling mightily and Bracy Walker no more than a glorified special teams player, expect Holt's time to come in 2005.
SECOND: SHAWN BRYSON
THIRD: STOCKAR MCDOUGLE
Other than Jones and Rogers, no one really made an impact on this year's edition of the Detroit Lions. Hopefully, drafting 10th overall and another round of free agent acquisitions and departures, the awards for next year's squad will be for a playoff bound team.