The following is the first annual Brown's Best Awards for outstanding performances that took place this season by the team, by specific units and by individuals. The categories below encompass the entire season.
While reading through some of the best that the 2006 Buffalo Bills had to offer feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) any performances you felt better fit the categories listed below than the ones I came up with and I'll post the most popular entries by you, the fans, a week from today in my blog.
A subsequent installment of Brown's Best on Tuesday will highlight some of the more interesting and forgotten performances in individual games this past season.
BEST DUO: J.P. Losman and Lee Evans - The pair of 2004 first round picks really began to give the Bills a big return on their investment three years ago. The passing combination hooked up for eight touchdowns this season and together accounted for over 42 percent of the team's passing yardage in 2006. The pair was also responsible for more than a third of the 37 big plays (20 yards or more) turned in by Buffalo's offense this season. Of the 13 big pass plays turned in by Losman and Evans, seven went for touchdowns. Honorable mention to Andre Davis and Jabari Greer. The two gunners on the punt team were coverage demons the entire season and finished second and third in special teams tackles.
BEST CONSISTENCY: Rian Lindell - It's very hard to argue with the most accurate kicking season in Bills history. Lindell (23-25, 92%) bested the previous team record held by Scott Norwood (32-37 86.5%). He was also deadly accurate from long distance going 10-12 from 40-yards plus in 2006.
BEST SPECIAL TEAMS PRODUCTION: Mario Haggan - The contributions of Rian Lindell and Brian Moorman are obvious, but for a cover man who does not play one of the gunner positions to be the leader in special teams tackles is an impressive feat. And Haggan pulled it off thanks to a strong finish. Trailing gunners Jabari Greer by two tackles heading into the season finale, Haggan racked up four tackles on special teams including a forced fumble that he came within inches of recovering. As a result Haggan beat out Greer by one tackle for the season title.
BEST NEUTRALIZER: Chris Kelsay - While London Fletcher led the team in tackles for loss with nine, Kelsay had the highest percentage of tackles for loss this season. Almost 16 percent of Kelsay's 38 solo tackles took place behind the line of scrimmage. Honorable mention to Keith Ellison as almost 12 percent of his tackles went for loss this season.
BEST THIRD DOWN DEFENDER: London Fletcher - Almost a quarter of Fletcher's 157 tackles in 2006 came on third down (39). Close to half of Fletcher's third down tackles stopped the opponent short of the first down marker to force punts or a field goal attempt (19). He also had an interception return for a touchdown on a third down play against Green Bay.
BEST PASS DEFENDER: Nate Clements - Buffalo's right cornerback led the team with 26 pass breakups which was just one fewer than the second and third Bills players in that category combined (Fletcher 14, McGee 13). Clements (3) was second only to Fletcher (4) in interceptions. He also returned one of three interceptions for a touchdown against the Jets. Clements was also second on the team in forced fumbles and led the team in fumble recoveries with two.
BEST PASS RUSHER: Aaron Schobel - Kind of a no brainer with a season that included a career-high 14 sacks and a career-best sack streak of six games. More impressively Schobel was tied for third on the team in tackles with 95.
BEST STAT JUMPER: Lee Evans - After putting together a solid 2005 season that included 48 receptions for 743 yards and seven touchdowns, Evans increased his catches by 42 percent (82) and his receiving yards by 43 percent (1,292). That's the biggest stat increase overall for a player who participated in a comparable number of games the season before.
BEST PERSISTENCE: Takeo Spikes - Despite not being the same impact player following his recovery from a torn Achilles tendon, Spikes overcame that injury as well as a hamstring pull to play in 12 games and start the last 10 of the season. He finished the season on a high note posting a season-high 11 tackles in the season finale at Baltimore to lead the team.
BEST DISPLAY OF TOUGHNESS: Willis McGahee - Missing just two starts Willis McGahee returned to play with three broken ribs and later a badly sprained ankle and came within a first down of 1,000 rushing yards.
BEST IMPROVEMENT: J.P. Losman - It's hard to argue when a quarterback can raise his passer rating by almost 30 points, increase his completion percentage almost 15 percent and improve his touchdown to interception ratio. Having played in all 16 games naturally raised his yardage totals, but to see his game steadily improve as the season wore on was very encouraging.
BEST SPARKPLUG: Anthony Thomas - Whether it was his inspired running in week one at New England which included an 18-yard touchdown run, his fill in performance for McGahee against Green Bay when he averaged five yards per carry against the ninth-ranked run defense or his blitz pickup at Houston and four catches on the game-winning drive, Thomas came in and performed like a savvy veteran. A-Train was often a lift to the offense when it was needed most.
BEST MITTS: Ryan Denney - The Bills 6'7" defensive end got his hands in the passing lanes this season so much that he finished sixth on the team for pass breakups. He tipped a pair of passes against Minnesota, and his second tip led to an interception by Angelo Crowell. He also had the big batted pass at the end of game against the Dolphins to preserve the shutout.
BEST ROOKIE: Donte Whitner - Buffalo's top pick made his presence felt from the very first week with an interception that should have counted for what would've been a potential game-winning touchdown at New England were it not for a poor block in the back call. He finished second on the team in tackles with 107. Honorable mention to Keith Ellison and Kyle Williams.