NFC South: Special Teams Player of the Year

All NFC South awards

January, 20, 2011
1/20/11
2:30
PM ET
We've already presented the offense, defense and specialists on our All-NFC South team. Now, it's time for some division-wide awards.

[+] EnlargeMike Smith
AP Photo/David GoldmanMike Smith led the Falcons to 13 victories this season.
Coach of the Year: Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons. There was strong temptation to go with Tampa Bay's Raheem Morris here. He did a fantastic job, but I'm also trying to spread things out. I'll go with Smith. Forget the debacle in the playoff loss to Green Bay. The Falcons won 13 games, and they did that by playing disciplined, smart football.

General Manager of the Year: Mark Dominik, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With the league's lowest payroll and a slew of injuries, the Bucs managed to win 10 games. Dominik pulled some rabbits out of a hat by finding some impact players late in the draft, off the waiver wire and off the practice squads of other teams.

Rookie of the Year: Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Exhibit A of Dominik's success. Williams was a fourth-round draft pick, but he immediately was Tampa Bay's No. 1 receiver.

Coordinator of the Year: Greg Olson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams are bigger names. But I'll take Olson just on this season. With Josh Freeman in his first full season as a starting quarterback, a bunch of young guys playing at receiver and running back, and an offensive line that was hit hard by injuries, Olson still made this the most entertaining offense in franchise history.

Defensive Player of the Year: John Abraham, Atlanta Falcons. This was probably the hardest choice on this list. It was not a banner year for defense in the NFC South. I narrowed the list to Abraham and New Orleans' Jonathan Vilma and Malcolm Jenkins. Vilma might be the most consistent and best overall defensive player in the division, and Jenkins probably has the most upside. But Vilma didn't make a lot of big plays, and I'm hesitant to give Jenkins this honor in his first full season as a starter. Abraham had 13 sacks and made more big plays than any defensive player in the division.

Offensive Player of the Year: Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons. Yes, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Freeman got consideration here. So did Atlanta running back Michael Turner. All those guys are good. But when you look at their production this season only, can you really make a case that they were the best in the league at their position? I think you can do that with White, and that's why I'm going with him.

Special Teams Player of the Year: Eric Weems, Atlanta Falcons. He did it all for the Falcons, returning kickoffs and punts and also helping out on the coverage units. He became a big-play guy as a return man, and that's why he's going to the Pro Bowl.

Breakout Player of the Year: Malcolm Jenkins, New Orleans Saints. He moved from cornerback to free safety, and even made a brief return to cornerback when injuries piled up. He made some huge plays and showed signs he could become a force for the long term.

Equipment Manager of the Year: Jackie Miles, Carolina Panthers. Hey, I had to get the Panthers involved somehow, and there really wasn't a legitimate case for any of their players, coaches or executives. But the one guy with the Panthers who is the absolute best in the league at what he does is Miles. He might not be an owner, player, coach or general manager, but there are times you watch Miles do his thing and you feel like you are watching Ted Williams (the baseball player, not the guy with the big voice) taking batting practice.

Most Valuable Player: You'll have to wait a bit. That's going to be announced in a column that is to appear Friday afternoon.

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