Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Welcome back Viking fans. Hopefully you have had a chance to take a look at the first part of this series, handing out the awards for Most Underrated Player and Rookie of the Year.  If not, take a moment to catch up!

Today, I wanted hand two additional awards: Most Improved Player and Play of the Year.

Let’s jump in.

Most Improved Player:

There are a handful of names that apply here, I think we did see some strong improvement from a handful of players. Ultimately, this came down to Sharrif Floyd and Xavier Rhodes, in my opinion.

I decided on Rhodes because of his development into a shutdown cornerback.

I don’t like to use that term often when describing cornerbacks, because it’s high praise and using it too frequently really diminishes the praise within itself. Knowing that, Rhode’s play towards the end of the season as good as we’ve seen in Minnesota in a very long time.

Impressively, Rhodes’ coverage grade jumped nearly 5 points in his sophomore year. With a coverage grade of 7.3, Rhodes finished the year with the 14th overall via profootballfocus.com and finished tied for 4th overall in the NFL with 18 total passes defended. Rhodes is continuously around the football, here’s hoping he can turn some of those deflections into interceptions.

There is no doubt that 2013 draft mate, Sharif Floyd is a force on the interior of the defensive line, but let’s face it; with the current state of the NFCN, stopping a #1 wide receiver needs to be your first priority.

Outside of Floyd, strong consideration could be given to Josh Robinson. After watching Robinson get torched by the NFCN in 2013, Robinson rebounded from an injury riddled training camp and harsh words from his new head coach, to put up a solid 2014 season.

Although Robinson improved from one of the worst cornerbacks in the league to a sufficient mid tier cornerback, Rhode’s development was much more impressive in my opinion.

Looking back to the 2013 NFL draft, it’s strange to think about progression the careers of Rhodes, Floyd and Cordarrelle Patterson have had. Patterson went off like a stick of dynamite, but has since cooled drastically. Rhode and Floyd on the other hand seem poised to help the Vikings defense for a long time.

Contenders: Sharrif Floyd & Josh Robinson

Play of the Year:

The Vikings only won 2 games on the road this season, the first coming in week 1 with a trouncing of the Rams.

The second was the overtime win vs. Tampa Bay. It certainly wasn’t the Vikings prettiest game by any means, but the game did produce the play of the year.

Rookie Anthony Barr’s strip, recovery and return for a game wining touchdown on the first play of overtime sealed the victory for the Vikings, but also put Barr on the map as a defensive rookie of the year candidate.
The play represents Barr’s rookie season fairly well. After making a rookie mistake and being beaten in coverage, Barr is able to use his athleticism to make a game winning play.

With Barr, when confident in what he’s doing, he makes plays that are incredible for a guy who has only played linebacker for like 3 years. I can’t wait to see what Barr looks like after a full off season of development under his belt, he could be well on his way to becoming a top tier linebacker.

The Vikings probably shouldn’t have let Tampa Bay into this game, but Barr’s play in overtime ensured we wouldn’t watch another late game defensive collapse.

Contenders: Thielen’s blocked punt for TD, Teddy to Wright for TD vs. Jets, Patterson TD run vs. Rams
Hoping to hand out the next batch of awards towards the end of this year, which will include Offensive and Defensive players of the year and team MVP.

Until then, Skol!