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Zwiller: Mid-season NFL awards

| Wednesday, November 4, 2020

After the first four games of the NFL season, I had wanted to do a quarter season awards show, but as I looked over the data, I realized that it was simply too early in the year to do so. So much could change through the remaining three-quarters of the season, that it was too early to pick awards. However, now that the NFL season is approaching the halfway point (some teams have played seven games, some have played eight) and the body of work from teams and players is taking shape, it seems more appropriate to start voting for candidates.

Most Valuable Player: Russell Wilson

The narrative all year has been Russell Wilson has never had a single MVP vote in his entire career, a career which has seen him in two Superbowls and hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Those years were different, years where he didn’t deserve the MVP. He was being carried by the Legion of Boom, an elite defense who had become the story in Seattle, a defense that essentially carried Wilson. The situation has changed now. Wilson carries a defense that is one of the worst in the league. Through seven games, he has a 72% completion percentage, 2,100 yards, 26 TD and only six INT, leading his squad to a 6-1 record. While people want to give the MVP to Aaron Rodgers (who is deserving), they often cite him already having won the award twice before and Wilson never before. That is a terrible argument. Give the award to the best player! Rodgers through seven games boasts 66% completion, 1,900 yards, 20 TD and two INT with a 5-2 record. I think these stat lines are incredibly similar; Rodgers has fewer TDs, but he also has fewer INTs. The tiebreaker for me is the ground game. Rodgers has 48 yards from scrimmage and averages 4.4 per touch, Wilson has 260 yards from scrimmage and averages 7.4 yards per carry.

Offensive Player of the Year: Alvin Kamara

As much as I was tempted to give the award to Patrick Mahomes, I find it fitting to give it to a non-QB; the MVP is almost always a QB. Alvin Kamara, through seven games has 7 TDs, and 987 yards from scrimmage rushing for 431 yards and receiving 556 yards. His closest competition is Derrick Henry with 856 yards from scrimmage but has eight touchdowns in seven games. The difference to me is that Alvin Kamara has an 83% catch percentage, while Derrick Henry only has a 56% catch percentage. While yes, Henry may have more rushing yards, (775 to 431), to me, Kamara more evenly distributing his yards between rush and reception makes him a lot more valuable.

Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald

Aaron Donald currently has nine sacks in eight games, which is tied for first and makes him on track to have 18 sacks in the season. He also is tied for fourth in Tackles for loss with 13. Donald also has three forced fumbles — tied for second — and even recovered one of his forced fumbles. Donald does lack in the tackle area however, he has 15 solo and 11 assists, but he makes up for this by simply being such a dominant force. He forces teams to game plan around him, often able to eat up double teams and ruining blocking schemes. Look for him to continue to be a force this season.

Rookie of the Year: Justin Herbert

Justin Herbert came into the league behind Tyrod Taylor, but due to the injury and then medical complication of Taylor, Herbert was given the start. Since then, Justin Herbert has never looked back. He has posted a 67% completion percentage, has a 3-1 TD-INT ratio at 15-5 and has 1,800 yards! That, to me is better than…

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Joe Burrow

Joe Burrow was the No. 1 pick in the draft after his rockstar year at LSU, where he won a national championship, and he has proved that he was worth it. He is clearly the QB of the future for the Cincinnati Bengals. That being said, he isn’t the rookie of the year because his stats simply aren’t as good as Herbert’s, still good but not spectacular. He also has a 67% completion percentage and more yardage at 2,300, but only has 11 TDs and five INTs. There is still time for this to flip-flop, but I think since Burrow plays against both the Ravens and Steelers defense, he will have the tougher opponents.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Patrick Queen

Patrick Queen was drafted in the first round at pick No. 28 by the Baltimore Ravens. He has been stellar for the Ravens through eight weeks, while he has yet to record an INT, he has one defended pass and has two forced fumbles and two fumbles recovered. On those recoveries, he averages 25 yards, and one of them was a scoop and score. He has two sacks and five QB hits, so he is able to apply pressure to the passer. He is also able to make tackles, he has 35 solo tackles and 13 assisted tackles, for a total of 48. The Ravens are arguably one of the best defenses in the league, and Queen is one of the cornerstones of that defense.

Comeback Player of the Year: Alex Smith

Alex Smith was injured last year while playing for the Washington Racial Slurs. This injury not only put his football career in jeopardy but his life. To try to repair his injury and salvage his leg, Smith contracted Necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating bacterium. To stop the spread, he had to have skin and muscle tissue removed. Alex Smith came back and was able to stand, then walk and then run. He came back, and played against the Rams in Week 5, defying the odds of staying alive, let alone playing football.

Coach of the Year: Mike Tomlin

In my opinion, Mike Tomlin should have gotten the coach of the year award last year. He led his Steelers to an 8-8 record, narrowly missing the playoffs, with a backup QB, no, a third-string QB. Tomlin has also lost Levon Bell, (who since leaving the Steelers has declined) and Antonio Brown, (who since leaving has had off the field issues) who were core components of the team. Tomlin has continued that success and built upon it coming into this year, with the Steelers leading the league at 7-0. He also has been able to navigate the problematic season of COVID-19, while his team wasn’t affected, his opponent was, causing his bye week to change and forcing him to adapt. Despite this, the Steelers have a top-3 defense, and have a quality offense and a league-best record, despite facing unprecedented challenges.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Thomas Zwiller

Thomas is a sophomore currently in attendance at Holy Cross College, and is a Business major and Computer Science minor. He is from Saint Joseph MI, and went to high school at Saint Joseph High School SB, playing both varsity football and hockey. Feel free to contact him about all things NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB, particularly if you're a stathead.

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