As we look back at the the 2014 season, which player stood out as the most improved when compared to his performance in previous seasons?
There are not enough measurable stats to adequately compare each of the players to one another in their respective roles, so the old "eye test" vote is absolutely acceptable. I will provide year-over-year comparisons of individual performance where I can for you to consider.
*Team leader for interceptions.
Bouye played a lot more in 2014, and was the highest targeted defensive back, so his penalties increased accordingly.
2013: Defensive holding (1).
2014: Defensive holding (2), pass interference (3), face mask (1), illegal contact (1).
He was ranked in the top-ten of PFF's grading system for offensive linemen in 2014. The offensive line only allowed 26 sacks all season in 2014, compared to 42 sacks allowed in 2013.
2013: False start (5).
2014: Offensive holding (3), false start (1), chop block (1), illegal use of hands (1).
On paper, it looks like a marginal improvement from his
rookie year first active season, but he has come through with key scores when the team needed it most. That career game against the Ravens where he made six out of six field goals showed the true value of this role when the offense stalls out. For a team struggling with quarterback play, it is vital to have a weapon available like Randy Bullock.
Crick has come a long way under the guidance of coach Bill Kollar. J.J. Watt has collected the majority of the well deserved spotlight, but Jared Crick has certainly made a huge leap forward along the defensive front for the Texans. His most notable stat increases are the tackles for a loss and passes defended.
2013: Roughing the passer (1), defensive offside (1).
2014: Roughing the passer (1).
*Team leader in reception yards.
Clearly Hopkins has risen as the primary receiver on the roster. He has certainly learned quickly from the humble teachings of the great Andre Johnson.
2013: Offensive pass interference (1), unnecessary roughness (1).
2014: Offensive pass interference (1), unsportsmanlike conduct (1), false start (1).
Some will argue that Whitney's 2013 stats were the result of opportunistic situations that didn't make much of an impact in the games, but the "eye test" for 2014 showed that he has made a significant leap forward as an "impact player" under the coaching of Mike Vrabel.
2013: Neutral zone infraction (2), defensive offside (2), roughing the passer (1).
2014: Neutral zone infraction (1), roughing the passer (1).
PFF ranked Derek Newton 19th overall among 84 offensive tackles in 2014 and 4th-best in the run game. That's a huge improvement from his previous ranking of 73rd out of 79 offensive tackles in 2013. I think he has officially earned the right to discard the "Hologram" nickname.
2013: False start (5), offensive holding (5).
2014: False start (3), offensive holding (2), illegal formation (1).
His coverage was slightly improved in 2014, and he did a better job of being in control when tackling overall. D.J. still likes to try and strip the ball and shoulder-tackle more than form-tackle, but things seem to be improving for the young safety.
2013: Face mask (1), defensive holding (1), taunting (1), unnecessary roughness (1).
2014: Personal foul (1), roughing the passer (1).
So there you have it folks. Now go vote and share your thoughts below on who you feel was most improved in 2014.