All this week, we’ll be bringing you our awards for the 2005 NFL season:
First up are the offensive and defensive rookies of the year. Offensive Rookie of the Year: Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, RB, Tampa Bay
This was a consensus pick and a no-brainer. In 14 games, the Cadillac ran for 1,178 yards on 290 carries. His 6 rushing TDs was second only behind Brandon Jacobs in rookie TDs. He also became the first rookie in NFL history to rush for 100 yards in each of his first three games. During the season, Williams won the rookie of the week award 3 times and was a finalist another 4 times.
Not only are his stats impressive, Cadillac delivers when it matters. In a pivotal late season game against Atlanta, Williams showed he could shoulder the load by rushing 31 times for 150 yards and a touchdown. An early season injury might have been a blessing in disguise for a playoff bound Buccaneers team as the rest kept Cadillac from hitting the rookie wall.
Defensive Rookie of the Year:
Ryan McGowan: Lofa Tatupu, LB, Seattle Seahawks
A lot of experts are in love with Shawne Merriman or Odell Thurman, but I’m going to go with the kid from Plainville, Mass., via King Philip Regional High, the University of Maine, and USC. Tatupu, son of obscure Patriots legend Mosi Tatupu, was simply the best player on the Seattle defense this year, bringing attitude, leadership, and swagger, not to mention 100+ tackles, 4 sacks, and 3 picks (including one for a TD on Monday Night Football). Merriman might have the flash, but Tatupu brings the substance to a much-improved defense which has climbed Seattle out of perpetually underachieving to securing home field throughout the NFC playoffs.
Trevor Freeman: Lofa Tatupu, LB, Seattle Seahawks
Tatupu is a great example of a guy downgraded by NFL scouts because of “combine” numbers. He was the best defensive player on the field when he played for Pete Carroll’s USC Trojans and he’s been the best player on just about every NFL field he has walked on. The addition of Tatupu transformed the Seahawks defense and makes them contenders for the Super Bowl.
Vin Diec: Lofa Tatupu, LB, Seattle Seahawks
I’m going with Tatupu as well. His stats are gaudy for a rookie: 82 tackles, 20 assists, 4 sacks and 3 INTs. The two other candidates for Defensive rookie of the year, Shawne Merriman and Demarcus Ware, didn’t even come close to those numbers. But the biggest impact he’s made is giving an identity to the previously “choke” happy Seahawks. Tatupu’s season reminds me of Brian Urlacher’s 2000 season and he deserves the same accolades.
Teri Berg: Shawne Merriman, LB, San Diego Chargers
Though Merriman is the favorite of NFL experts, looks like Seattle MLB Lofa Tatupu has the hearts of Vin, Ryan and Trevor. No doubt Tatupu has been a godsend for that usually lukewarm Seahawk defense, so kudos to him on a great freshman season. But I’m going with Merriman, and here’s why. Though he’s fifth on his team in tackles with 54, he leads the Chargers in sacks (9), which puts him in the top 15 in the league. Also, Merriman has largely been responsible for boosting San Diego’s run defense into the No. 1 spot this season, and his two sacks, seven tackles and the late 4th-quarter forced grounding he caused Peyton Manning put his stamp on SD’s convincing upset of the previously undefeated Colts. Finally, Merriman didn’t play the first game of the season, then played only limited minutes in the next five and he didn’t start until Week 7. Pretty impressive impact for a rookie.