The NFL season may not be over, but as a depressed Jags and Falcons fan, I don't really care about the outcome of the rest of the playoffs. With that said, it's time to take a look back at the NFL regular season for a few of Georgia Tech's pros. First let's start with the player everyone loves to talk about, Calvin Johnson. Megatron had arguably one of the greatest, underwhelming seasons I've ever seen. In 14 games, he caught 84 balls for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns. Now before everyone freaks out, lets take away Calvin's week 8 game against the Cowboys, where he posted 14 catches for 329 yards and a touchdown. Arguably one of the greatest single game performances in wide receiver history, Calvin destroyed the Cowboys secondary. When you take a look at the rest of his season, however, his numbers noticeably dropped while he dealt with injuries and inconsistent QB play. He finished the season as an All-Pro(along with Josh Gordon from the Browns), but he'll be looking to improve going into the fall. If Calvin and Stafford can get back to the connection they had for the previous two seasons, then expect another ridiculous year from him next season.
Demaryius Thomas, with the help of Peyton Manning, is coming into his prime and had an excellent 2013 season. After playing in every game this season, Thomas finished the year with 92 catches, 1,430 yards, and 14 touchdowns and was a vital part of the greatest offense(statistically) in NFL history. The Broncos are still alive in the NFL playoffs and have the Chargers coming to town this weekend, but there's a very good chance he'll be in New York playing for a Super Bowl at the end of the season.
Daryl Smith had perhaps the most surprising year, since no one really knew what to expect from him. The Ravens took a chance by signing him, hoping he would stay healthy and fill Ray Lewis' role in the defense, and it payed off in a big way. As a whole, the Ravens defense had their fare share of problems, but Smith consistently played at a high level. In 16 games this season, Smith had the best statistical year of his career with 123 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions and 19 pass deflections. He was all over the field for the Ravens and outperformed his contract. While the Ravens just missed out on the playoffs, they have some defensive players to build around going into next year and Smith should be a major contributor.
Next up are two players who have shown some success in the NFL since coming out of Tech. Michael Johnson and Derrick Morgan both had successful 2012 seasons and were looking to capitalize on their performances. Johnson finished 2012 with 11.5 sacks, so optimism was high in Cincinnati. Although the Bengals defense took another step forward this season, Johnson wasn't one of the reasons why. In 15 games for the Bengals, Johnson recorded 3.5 sacks and wasn't able to generate the same pressure as he had the year before. This could not have come at a worse time for Johnson either, since he will be a free agent this offseason. Expect to hear his name often when free agency starts in March.
Derrick Morgan had a quieter 2012, but he finished the season strong, which gave a lot of Titans fans optimism for the 2013 season. Looking back, that late season push was merely a flash in the pan, since Morgan again recorded just 6 sacks. While sacks aren't the only important statistic for defensive lineman, you'd expect to see a higher total considering the talent the Titans have on their defense. It will be interesting to watch his development going into next season.
The next four guys may not blow anyone away with their talent, but they always do their job and are reliable role players on defense. Morgan Burnett and Dawan Landry both had successful years, but neither really jumped out at you when they were on the field. Vance Walker also managed to do his part in Oakland, getting 40 tackles and 3 sacks from the DT position, which isn't too shabby. Phillip Wheeler was looking to continue his success after the year he had in Oakland, but was unable to make a difference for the Dolphins. He was a tackling machine for the Dolphins, posting 118 tackles on the season, but really didn't do anything else. It's nice to have a player like Wheeler who does his job, but he needs to improve next year in order to live up to the contract he signed last offseason.
Neither Jonathan Dwyer or Tashard Choice received much playing time this year, and the future doesn't look bright for either of them. Dwyer was pushed down the depth chart with the arrival of LeVeon Bell, who had a productive first season in Pittsburgh. Choice was relegated to third string duties, since CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson stayed relatively healthy all year. It will be interesting to see what both of their respective teams choose to do with them, since neither is used consistently in their offenses.
Last but not least is Stephen Hill, who had a pretty disappointing season in New York. With Santonio Holmes being injured and playing inconsistently when healthy, this was the time for Hill to step up. He was unable to develop a connection with Geno Smith early on, however, and eventually had to battle through injuries later in the year. There isn't much talent on the offensive side of the ball in New York, and they should draft a WR early in the 2014 draft, which will only help Hill. If he can stay healthy, next year should be much better for him.
Since some players are still alive in the playoffs, I'll be posting a playoff edition pros report at the end of season, assuming there's something worth mentioning. Did anyone's season stand out to you? Who do you think had the most disappointing season?