The Nnamdi Asomugha Award for Most Improved Player: Tyvon Branch
Nnamdi struggled through his initial years in Oakland as he transitioned from safety to cornerback. Now, he’s the most dominant defensive back in the NFL. Branch struggled through his injury shortened rookie season as he did the opposite of Aso by going from corner to safety. During his second season, Branch emerged as force in run support and continues to improve in pass coverage.
The Todd Marinovich Award for Biggest Draft Day Disaster: Darrius Heyward-Bey
He was called the biggest reach of the draft and he did little to prove otherwise. Heyward-Bey had more memorable drops than catches. With just 9 grabs in 11 starts, DHB has nowhere to go but up. Unfortunately, if he triples his out put in 2010 it would still only be good enough production for a third option at best and not nearly enough for a top 10 pick with $23-million guaranteed to be in his pocket.
The Todd Christensen Award for Dominating Tight Ends: Zach Miller
Miller is by far the best offensive weapon in the East Bay. Despite playing for the 31st ranked offense in the NFL, and having three different starting quarterbacks, Zach still managed to improve his offensive out put for a third consecutive year. We could be looking at the best tight end to ever wear Silver and Black.
The Kwame Harris Award for Most Penalized Offensive Lineman: Cornell Green
Green is a false start machine. That he still is the best option at right tackle doesn’t say much about Khalif Barnes and Erik Pears who were both brought in to push Green and Mario Henderson for their jobs. If Green is still starting in 2010 then the only explanation can be that he has incriminating photos of Al Davis and has threatened to sell them to TMZ.
The Trevor Scott Award for Best Rookie Defender: Matt Shaughnessy
Like Trevor, Shaughnessy arrived in Oakland as a second day selection but produced like a first round pick. The versatile defensive lineman is a masterful pass rusher who displayed some serious athletic ability on his way to racking up 4 sacks as a part time player.
The Javon Walker Award for Biggest Waste of Cash: JaMarcus Russell
$13-million for 3TDs, 11 INTs, a 50.0 QB rating and a 48.8 completion percentage is hardly going to justify such a huge check. Russell gets the award but Walker will always be the namesake for this dubious distinction. Javon inked a deal worth $55-million last year and didn’t catch a single pass in 2009.
The Mike Shanahan Award for Best Performance by a Former Coach: Rob Ryan
It hurt to lose to the Browns thanks in large part to Ryan doing something he almost never did in the East Bay – blitz! Ryan’s 3-4 D got all up in Charlie Frye’s grill, forcing him to throw 3 horrendous interceptions.
The Ray Guy Award for Putting Pigskin into Orbit: Shane Lechler
Lecher is one of the 7 wonders of the football world. His ridiculous 51.1 yards-per-punt average doesn’t do justice to the manner in which Shane killed footballs every Sunday. One day, there will be a punter in the Hall of Fame and there is a 100% chance said punter will be a Raider be it Lechler or Ray Guy – or both.
The Tom Walsh Award for Worst Coaching Performance: John Fassel
Yes, Sebastian Janikowski and Super Shane both had banner seasons. But those two are on autopilot. As far as the return game and kick coverage goes, Fassel inherited one of the best units in the NFL and ran it into the ground. Maybe it wasn’t his fault that Johnnie Lee Higgins contracted a bad case of the Fair Catches this season, but as the department head Fassel deserves a large portion of the blame.
The Bo Jackson Award for Best Steal of the Draft Class: Louis Murphy
Murphy was the best receiver on the team and despite some up and down performances he put up numbers on par with any of the other receivers picked ahead of him in the ’09 draft. With a year under his belt, look for the former Florida Gator to clean up his mistakes and with a healthy Chaz Schilens in the line up, Murphy could emerge as one of the league’s best big play threats in 2010.
The Marcus Allen Award for Being Unfairly Benched: Michael Bush
After he ran Chucky out of the NFL to end the ’08 season, all of Raider Nation was predicting big things for Bush in ’09. Thanks to Al’s desire to see Darren McFadden earn his contract, Bush spent most of the year watching from the sideline. When given the chance, he had the only two 100-yard performances of the season for the Raiders and led the team in rushing to boot.
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