Today I heard a trucker get paged over the truck-stop intercom, notifying him that shower stall No. 2 was cleaned and ready for him. I've never showered at a truck stop, which is a little surprising considering that I have spent over one-third of the last year on the road.
My keyboard player has been at it for much longer than I have, having spent the last 20 years touring with literally hundreds of acts across all musical genres. He is generally the person who knows where the Starbucks is in every town, which venues have the best front of house guys, and who is gonna fleece you with a big cut of merch sales.
As we stood in line buying various road trinkets such as water and batteries, we both noticed the man respond to the page and head toward the truck-stop showers, towel in hand. I pointed toward the soon-to-be-clean trucker and asked my keyboard player, "Have you done that?"
His response: "No, man. I haven't even brushed my teeth yet."
That response wins the award for the day's funniest misunderstanding. But we are not here to talk about hygiene, jokes, or music. This is "The NFL Beat" and here we shower awards (some distinctive, some dubious) upon notable NFL performers of 2011.
Most Disruptive to the Quarterback
Aldon Smith (OLB, 49ers)
The age of the "situational pass rusher" is upon us, and that is no secret in the NFC West. Ask the Seattle Seahawks, who surprisingly took pass-rush specialist Bruce Irvin with their first pick in the 2012 draft after having to face Aldon Smith twice in 2011. While Smith only played 506 snaps in his rookie season (20 3-4 outside linebackers saw more onfield action last year), he ranked second among this group with 15 sacks and tallied 13 QB hits (fifth) along with 36 QB hurries (seventh).
Cameron Wake (OLB, Dolphins) 904 snaps, nine sacks, 20 QB hits, and 52 QB hurries.
Von Miller (OLB, Broncos) 907 snaps, 12 sacks, 19 QB hits, and 29 QB hurries.
Geno Atkins (DT, Bengals) 752 snaps, eight sacks, 15 QB hits, and 26 QB hurries.
Brian Cushing (LB, Texans) Led all inside linebackers in QB Hits (eight) and QB hurries (23).
Calais Campbell (DE, Cardinals) Led all 3-4 defensive ends in sacks (nine) and batted passes (nine).
Tanard Jackson (S, Bucs)
Congratulations, Bucs fans. The injuries that decimated your defensive line, and allowed running backs to run roughshod all over Tampa's 2011 squad cannot be blamed completely for the team's abject inabilty to stop the run. Safety Tanard Jackson led the NFL in missed tackles in 2011, tallying a whopping 24 whiffs to go with only 33 tackles on 534 snaps. His closest competition in this dubious category was another member of the Bucs' defensive backfield. Veteran CB Ronde Barber missed the mark 22 times, although it should be noted that he played nearly double the snaps. Electrifying Alabama rookie S Mark Barron is sure to be a welcome addition in Tampa this season. Former Bucs head coach Raheem Morris will be coaching Jackson once again this year, as DBs coach for the Redskins. Good luck with that, Redskins fans.
Pat Angerer (LB, Colts) While racking up a very respectable 91 tackles, Angerer also had 18 missed tackles, leading all NFL linebackers.
Henry Melton (DT, Bears) Melton led all interior defensive linemen in missed tackles with five misses to go with 14 solo tackles. For approximately every three tackles Melton made, he missed one. On the flip side of the coin, almost one-third of Melton's total tackles on the season were for sacks, making him No. 2 among all interior DLs with seven.
Stanford Routt (CB, Raiders)
It should come as no surprise to Raiders fans (who are annually served up a heaping plate of costly penalties at crucial times) that one of their own is the league's most penalized. Routt averaged more than one penalty per game in racking up his league-leading 17 2011 penalties. Even worse, none of the 17 penalties Routt was called for were reversed or negated due to an offsetting penalty, and many were of the more costly pass interference variety.
Rex Grossman (QB, Redskins) While the future QB of the Redskins franchise was brutalizing Big 12 defenses in 2011, another "RG3" by the name of Rex Daniel Grossman III was busy stinking things up in our nation's capital. He was the dominating winner of most penalized QB honors in 2011, tallying 13 total penalties. His nearest competition at the QB position was Eli Manning with eight, and Manning played almost 250 more 2011 snaps than Grossman.
Biggest Offensive Line Liability
J'Marcus Webb (LT, Bears)
Penalties by offensive tackles predominantly occur in one of two ways: Either the offensive tackle is getting beaten by a pass rusher and needs to commit holding to disrupt his opponent's lane to the quarterback, or he is scared of being beaten and commits a false start penalty to try and get a head start. Committing numerous penalties is costly in itself, but the situation causing the penalty is often even more detrimental to the team and its game plan. Webb's 2011 season was a case in point: The most penalized offensive lineman on the season, Webb also allowed the second most sacks of any in the group, allowing his QB to get wrecked 12 times. He was also among the league's worst in allowed QB hits (six) and allowed QB hurries (30).
Antrelle Rolle (S, Giants)
No safety in the NFL was thrown at more times in 2011 than Antrelle Rolle (who was thrown at 76 times). Apparently for good reason. A whopping 75% of the time a ball was thrown at Rolle, the pass resulted in a completion. This led to Rolle being among the Top 20 most-burned defenders of 2011, checking in at No. 19 overall. No small feat for a free safety. Rolle's teammate LB Michael Boley was the most-burned linebacker in the NFL in 2011, a two-part recipe that culminated in continuous exploitation by opposing tight ends.
Gerald Sensabaugh (S, Cowboys) Of the 27 times opposing quarterbacks threw to receivers covered by Sensabaugh in 2011, an amazing 23 ended up in completions. Sensabaugh broke up approximately one pass for every six completions he allowed. In 2011, if you threw at Sensabaugh, you had almost an 86% chance of making a completion.
[Alex Dunlap (follow on Twitter) is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America, the host of RosterWatch on 104.9FM ESPN Radio Austin, founder of Rosterwatch.com, and a featured expert contributor to the FantasyPros.com network.]
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