The 2011 season for the Bills brought a lot of early highs and a few too many late season lows. Still, there were enough inspiring individual performances this past season to put together a long list of Buffalobills.com season award winners.
Most Valuable Player
RB Fred Jackson – He only appeared in 10 games and still represented a quarter of the team’s offensive yardage output by season’s end. Considered a viable league MVP candidate when still healthy and a lock for the Pro Bowl, Jackson’s fractured fibula injury was unfortunate and untimely as it coincided with Buffalo’s slide out of contention.
Most Improved Player
RB C.J. Spiller – After experiencing growing pains as a rookie in 2010, Spiller had to take a back seat to the ultra-productive Jackson. When Jackson was lost for the season however, the former first-round pick picked up the slack in a big way. Spiller almost matched Jackson’s 5.5 yards per carry average (5.2) and tied Jackson in the touchdown category with six (4 rushing, 2 receiving). The tandem of Jackson and Spiller present tantalizing options for 2012.
Honorable mention – FS Jairus Byrd
WR Stevie Johnson – Playing hurt for most of the year with nagging groin and shoulder ailments Buffalo’s top wideout was almost as productive as he was in 2010 with 76 catches for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns. His two-game performance against the Jets’ Darrelle Revis (11-159-1 TD) served notice that he’s one of the better wideouts in the game in one-on-one matchups.
ILB Nick Barnett – The Bills newcomer quickly established himself as a playmaker in Buffalo’s defensive front. Leading the team in tackles in 2011, Barnett also had the most tackles for loss with 12, posted three sacks, three interceptions, a defensive touchdown, a forced fumble and was tied for fourth on the team with five pass breakups.
Honorable mention – George Wilson
Special teams MVP
P Brian Moorman – The Bills veteran punter bounced back from a subpar 2010 (by his standards) with the fifth-best net punting average of his career (38.1) and the best gross punting average in team history (48.22). Almost 28 percent of his punts in 2011 were dropped inside the 20.
G Andy Levitre – Whether it was his natural left guard spot, left tackle or center, Levitre was indispensable on Buffalo’s offensive line. The left guard was one of the most valuable components of an offensive line that led the league in fewest sacks allowed and ranked fifth in the NFL in yards per carry average on the ground.
Honorable mention – Bryan Scott
Rookie of the Year
DL Marcell Dareus – Buffalo’s top draft choice led the team in sacks and was second in tackles for loss with 10. Dareus also contributed a fumble recovery and a pass breakup with his 43 tackles on the season.