This week's look at The Leon award is about the Offensive MVP. While we may joke and guffaw that it was, well, offensive, we none the less have candidates on this side of the ball that are deserving when looking at the entire season.
The 2008 Leons
The nominees are:
- QB Tony Romo
- TE Jason Witten
- WR Terrell Owens
- RB Marion Barber
- OT Marc Colombo
Let's look at each player individually:
QB Tony Romo
Romo missed 3 games after injuring his throwing hand in the overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals but ended the season as the 4th rated QB in the NFC, behind Kurt Warner, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. In 2008 his yards per game average (265.2 ypg) continued to increase and, while his touchdown percentage dropped slightly (5.8% from 6.9%) his interception percentage dropped, declining from 3.7% to 3.1%). He finished the season completing 276 of 450 passing attempts for 3,446 yards, with 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. While his care of the ball (13 fumbles, 7 lost) has been discussed, it's not even a question if Romo is this team's best alternative at quarterback (see Rams game).
TE Jason Witten
Witten's importance to this team cannot be solely judged on numbers. He declined from his 2007 campaign, with 81 receptions for 952 yards and 4 touchdowns. 14 of those receptions went 20 yards or more and a whopping 50 receptions went for first downs, cementing Witten as the "go-to" guy for Tony Romo. Even hampered with a sprained ankle, knee and cracked ribs, he didn't miss a game. A more telling stat is that between the 20 yard lines, 65% of his receptions are for first downs. That's clutch.
WR Terrell Owens
Owens had an off year by his standards, he still eclipsed 1,000 yards, ending up with 1,052 yards on 69 receptions and 10 touchdowns (Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson led the league with 12). His monster game came against the San Francisco 49ers, where he caught 7 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown. Owens is still the #1 receiver on this team and, until proven otherwise, not having him on the field would stagnate the offense, as it did after his high ankle sprain last year in the Carolina game.
RB Marion Barber
Barber had a shortened 12-game season, basically shutting down after injuring tendons in his toe during the Seattle game on Thanksgiving. He was on track for a 1,000 yard season, finishing with 238 carries for 885 yards and 7 touchdowns. His style of running showed up well against AFC teams, where he averaged 4.0 yards per carry, and a paltry 3.7 yards against the NFC.
OT Marc Colombo
As Rafael posted in his autopsy of the offensive line, Colombo was the Cowboys' most consistent lineman, despite his penchant for false starts. I'll let his words speak for themselves:
He handled the big rushers on his side and run blocked more consistently than any of his peers. The toss right to Marion Barber was Dallas' best run play, in week one and in week seventeen.