Early New England Patriots Awards for 2012
The 3-2 New England Patriots are now more than a quarter through their 2012 campaign, and many players have had a hand in helping them get on the winning track. Of course, some have had much more impact than others.
Here is a look a look at those who have stood out and would be the team's award-winners if the season were to end today.
MVP: Tom Brady
No player has more of an impact on the game each time the Patriots take the field than Tom Brady.
Through five games, Tom Brady has thrown 8 touchdown passes and just one interception. He is completing 67 percent of his passes on the season, which would rank as the second most accurate season in his career, only behind his earth-shattering season in 2007 when he completed an outstanding 68.9 percent.
This team will only go as far as Tom Brady can take them, and if he and the offense is clicking on all cylinders come the postseason, that could be a very long way.
Offensive Player of the Year: Stevan Ridley
Obviously on a team like the New England Patriots, there are many candidates for offensive player of the year. At this point though, the man who has performed the best and impacted the offense the most, both in terms of production and evolution, has been tailback Stevan Rildey.
The second-year back has replaced the departed BenJarvus Green-Ellis in a way that most people had no idea he was capable of. Ridley is currently No. 4 in the NFL with 490 rushing yards, just shy of 100 yards per game. He also is New England's overall leader behind Tom Brady with four touchdowns.
The fact that Ridley is getting the amount of carries and yards he is on an offense with Tom Brady and so many weapons in the passing game shows just what the coaching staff thinks of him.
The one negative you can dish out on Ridley is ball security. Through five games he has fumbled twice, losing one of them. When you handle the ball as much as he has, fumbles will happen, but he needs to make sure they occur as few and far between as possible.
Defensive Player of the Year: Vince Wilfork
Vince Wilfork has shined in his second season in New England's 4-3 defensive front. It may not show up on the stat sheet, but Wilfork has been dominant; he has made plays in a number of ways and has looked more versatile than he has in the past.
Wilfork may not have numbers across the board, but if he continues to play at the level he has been, they will come sooner or later this season.
Rookie of the Year: Chandler Jones
The Patriots are fortunate this season to have four standout rookies in Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower, Tavon Wilson and Brandon Bolden. Through five games, though, it would be hard to argue that any of them have impacted the team like defensive end Chandler Jones.
He has stepped right in and taken the team lead in sacks with three and is tied for the team lead in forced fumbles with Brandon Spikes at three.
Andre Carter may have been an outstanding veteran pass-rusher for the team a year ago in his Pro Bowl season, but Jones has gone above and beyond what Carter brought to the team. Carter may have had 10 sacks, but he either got there or he didn't. Jones, on the other hand, has created pressure on many occasions, altering the quarterbacks' play even when he cannot get the sack.
Jones and the rest of the 2012 draft class will go a long way in improving the Patriot defense down the road.
Most Improved Player: Jermaine Cunningham
In 2011, Jermaine Cunningham was an afterthought. Through the entire season, he was active for just nine games and recorded just one tackle.
This season he has been utilized as an interior pass-rusher in sub packages and has been very successful creating pressure. He recorded a sack right off the bat in Week 1 in Tennessee, but has had none since. However, what he has done is force holding calls on desperate players preventing him from getting to the quarterback.
Cunningham has gone from a player that many thought this summer was in trouble of losing his job to being a player who is a regular contributor to the defense. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Patriots try to get him on the field more and more as the rest of the season plays out.