The NFL has their "Comeback Player of the Year" in which they give an award to somebody who was injured the previous season and healed which seems like more of an award for their surgeon and physical therapist. That isn't an accomplishment, it's nature. It is pretty much the biggest joke of an award the league hands out.
But in the correct spirit of such an award, I hand out the Most Improved Player award which should be pretty self-explanatory.
Most improved player - Lamarr Houston
Houston was also named the the Raiders Defensive MVP. His dominance this season was entirely unexpected. In a way, he was the comeback player of the year because he had 5.0 sacks his rookie season but fell off in 2011, recording just 1.0 sack the entire season. But there's a lot more to it than sacks.
There was something about Houston this season he didn't have before. His first two seasons, he was at or near 300 pounds. At Texas, he played defensive tackle but the Raiders wanted him as a defensive end. During the 2011 season, it became apparent that he was not going to be able to be a NFL defensive end at that weight.
He was asked to cut some weight to try and be faster off the edge. He dropped to 285 which was 20 pounds lighter than he was at the end of 2011. The difference was incredible.
He was flying all over the field now. His athleticism was already great while he was carrying around 305 pounds on his frame. Suddenly he had 20 less pounds to carry but all the strength to carry it. He was a new player. So much so that in many cases, the play called for him to drop into coverage.
Dropping into coverage may be something a speedy 265 pound defensive end can do but Houston has never been that guy. He has always been a stocky, solid, bulldog of a man who uses his power and strength to get to the quarterback and keep backs from getting by him. Now he is a stocky, solid, bulldog with power, strength, and speed.
The result was career high 67 tackles, and a team leading 4.0 sacks.
Like many awards handed out for the 2012 Raiders, there really was no other choice. So many times the recipient was the obvious choice. This one is no different. Not only is Houston the most deserving, he is the ONLY player on this team who I can say actually improved from last season.
Now he can put this piece of ‘hardware' next to his Defensive MVP award in his virtual trophy case.