Next up in the 2014 POD Awards is the category for the Detroit Lions' Breakout Player of the Year. Here are the nominees:
RB Theo Riddick
Riddick received a lot of hype from teammates in the offseason, and he delivered, at least as a receiver. He only rushed for 51 yards on 20 attempts, but he caught 34 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns. His role was still pretty limited despite performing well when on the field, but Riddick made the most of his opportunities in the passing game.
DE George Johnson
When he was first signed, Johnson was viewed as nothing more than a camp body. He ended up coming out of nowhere to earn a spot in the rotation at defensive end, however, and he finished the year with 29 tackles, 6.0 sacks and one pass defense. Johnson didn't have a single sack coming into 2014 despite being in the NFL since 2010, but he quickly changed that as a member of the Lions.
LB Tahir Whitehead
For the first two years of his career, Whitehead was really just a special teams player. This year, though, he emerged as the Lions' top option at strongside linebacker after a solid preseason. Then, when Stephen Tulloch went down with a season-ending injury, Whitehead slid inside to middle linebacker and had a career season with 86 tackles, five pass defenses and two interceptions.
CB Darius Slay
Slay had a rough rookie season that resulted in him being ranked 92nd at cornerback on Pro Football Focus. Slay's second season in the league went much smoother, though. In PFF's cornerback rankings, he jumped all the way up to 19th in 2014, and he had 61 tackles, 17 pass defenses and two interceptions. He made a big jump as a player from 2013 to 2014.