1 pass-catching option.Honorable Mention: Eagles WR DeSean Jackson, Niners TE Vernon Davis, Texans RB Ryan Moats, Eagles TE Brent Celek, and Broncos DE Elvis Dumervil Offensive Rookie of the first halfMinnesota Vikings WR/KR Percy HarvinAn explosive player that can beat you a variety of ways (wildcat QB, kickoff returns, in the slot, and out wide), Harvin is one of the main reasons for veteran quarterback Brett Favre’s rebirth. Though not the biggest guy on the field (5'10", 190), this former Gator has game-breaking skills that have made Vikings head coach Brad Childress extremely excited.Harvin’s incredible numbers truly do show his versatility (28 catches for 369 yards, 13.2 YPC, and three TDs; eight rushes for 39 yards; and 28 kickoff returns for 860 yards, 30.7 YPR, and two TDs, including a magical 101-yard return for a touchdown against the Ravens in Week Six).Honorable Mention: Denver Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno, Philadelphia Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin, Baltimore Ravens OT Michael Oher, and Chicago Bears WR Johnny Knox Defensive Rookie of the first halfBuffalo Bills Safety Jairus ByrdThis former second-rounder from Oregon has been a regular starter at free safety and has made a huge impact on one of the NFL’s most underrated defenses.In Week Eight, the October Rookie of the Month picked off two more passes against the Houston Texans, tying an NFL record with three straight games of at least two interceptions (first rookie). Byrd now has seven INTs in eight games (tied for NFL lead) and is inching closer to Mark Carrier’s rookie record of 10 picks.Honorable Mention: Houston Texans LB Brian Cushing, Detroit Lions S Louis Delmas, Green Bay Packers LB Clay Matthews, and St. Louis Rams LB James Laurinaitis Comeback Player of the first halfDenver Broncos Safety Brian DawkinsI wonder if the Eagles front office wants to rethink their contract negotiation strategy with Dawkins from this past offseason. The Broncos, youthful head coach Josh McDaniels, and new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan all thought that the 14-year veteran had more left in the tank, and they were right.Dawkins (36) has more than rewarded the Broncos for their faith, as they have gotten off to an AFC West-leading 6-1 start, and the seven-time Pro Bowl player has been the quarterback of the Broncos defense (leads the NFL with 266.7 yards allowed per game). Dawk’s stats thus far are 46 tackles, seven passes defensed, and two fumble recoveries.Honorable Mention: Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre, Philadelphia Eagles MLB Will Witherspoon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE Kellen Winslow, and Minnesota Vikings WR Sidney Rice. Team of the first halfNew Orleans SaintsThe NFC’s lone unbeaten team (7-0), the Saints are putting up record numbers offensively. Since joining the Cowboys 16 games ago, Williams’ numbers are nowhere near what was expected of him when the Cowboys gave up a No.
1 draft pick for him (33 receptions, 447 yards, three touchdowns).Williams only has 14 catches for 249 yards and two TDs this season, and I don’t want to hear any excuses about his ribs.Clearly breakout player Miles Austin has passed him as the Cowboys' go-to receiver, and the former University of Texas star better work on regaining the confidence of QB Tony Romo and dropping fewer passes (just 14 catches on 35 targets 40 percent catch rate).The delusional Williams said of him being the Cowboys' No 1 receiver, “It’s just not even close It’s not even funny Not even close I’m the No 1 receiver But things are just going No. 2’s way.”Dishonorable Mention: Oakland Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell, Cleveland Browns QB Derek Anderson, and Tennessee Titans QB Kerry Collins Most Disappointing Team of the first halfWashington RedskinsThe NFL’s most dysfunctional team becomes a greater laughingstock weekly. The Redskins (2-5) have lost to formerly winless teams the Kansas City Chiefs (1-6), Carolina Panthers (3-4), and Detroit Lions (1-6).Their offense is only averaging 13.7 points per game this season and hasn’t scored more than 17 in any game despite playing facing six consecutive winless opponents (first team in NFL history). They are 4-11 in their last 15 games, and owner Daniel Snyder inserted offensive consultant Sherman Lewis (hasn’t coached in the NFL in over five years) to call the plays over dead man walking head coach Jim Zorn.You have to feel for a defensive group that has allowed only 283.4 yards per game to rank second in the NFC, but this team is in need of a house cleaning at the end of the season. Stay tuned, as something stinks in the Nation’s Capital, and it has nothing to do with politics.Dishonorable Mention: Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). This article is also featured on Taking It to the House. We’ve seen what they’ve done in the Olympics and World Baseball Classic.
Relatively recently, we’ve been able to see what they can do in a full 162-game season, traveling day after day across a country substantially bigger than their own.Finally, we’ve seen what one of “them” can truly do in the World Series…under the brightest lights…for the brightest team Though there was a lot of pressure, Godzilla did well. Really well.Hideki Matsui, as this World Series’ Most Valuable Player, is a direct epitome of what Asian ballplayers (in this case, Japanese) can do. Not too many have heard of Masanori Murakami pitcher for the San Francisco Giants in 1964 and 1965 so let’s just say that it’s still been a little while since Hideo Nomo jumped the Pacific into the big leagues in 1995. And yet still, there are at times a sort of disconnect from “them” and us.This is supposed to be our pastime, right Though people have acknowledged that the skill level in Asia has vastly improved, there were some blogs and comments during the World Baseball Classic suggestion they’re (Asians) continued inferiority.How could America lose if this is our game, not theirs !!We’ve seen this before: "The game isn’t for Latinos. The game isn’t for African Americans."Thankfully, that has all changed. We’ve seen Latino most valuable players, African American most valuable players, and of course, Caucasian most valuable players.We’ve seen Latin legends like Roberto Clemente and are witnessing Albert Pujols. We’ve seen African American legends like Willie Mays and are witnessing Jimmy Rollins.
We’ve seen white legends like Babe Ruth and are witnessing Mark Texeira. Now, we are also lucky to witness Ichiro and Fukudome.Sure, Hideki Matsui may not warrant a “legend” label, but his performance in this 2009 World Series was a pretty darn good one. The 35-year-old designated hitter batted .513 in the series with eight hits and eight RBIs. But Matsui wrapped up the award after a pretty good all-around team effort by the Yankees by batting .615 with six RBI in the Yankees’ championship-clincher.Only a triple shy of having the first cycle in World Series history, Matsui’s contribution to game six of the Yankee’s 27th championship and first in the new Yankee stadium will indeed be legendary. Godzilla is now the first Japanese-born player to win the World Series MVP award.But perhaps most importantly, his performance will show that Asian players may be worth the bidding required to just contemplate a bid. Six years after Matsui made his jump in 2003, Steinbrenner finally got his money’s worth if he was thinking that he hadn’t before game six.Ichiro has showed this continent that Asian ballplayers can hang with the best.