Jacksonville Jaguars Awards at Quarter Mark of the 2014 NFL Season
Well, we've reached the quarter mark of the season, and things haven't quite gone the way the Jacksonville Jaguars were hoping.
After a promising first half against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1 in which they jumped out to a 17-0 lead, it has been all downhill from there. They lost that game 34-17 and lost their next three games by a combined score of 118-41.
Despite this lack of success, there have been some noteworthy performances that give Jaguars players and fans alike hope for the rest of the season. Some players have stepped up when they weren't expected to, while others have held the team together with continued success.
Let's take a look at the quarter-season award winners.
Most Valuable Player
And the award goes to: Blake Bortles
Yes, this may seem a bit premature since he has played only six quarters, but there is no denying Bortles is their most valuable player.
Bortles was originally supposed to sit behind Chad Henne for the year because he was too valuable to risk ending up like Blaine Gabbert. They didn't want him to crack under the pressure of starting too early and ruin his career.
He performed very well in the preseason, which led to calls for him to start. The coaching staff decided to stick with their plan and let him continue learning. That was until Henne led the Jaguars to 10 quarters of mediocrity on offense. During the game against the Indianapolis Colts, the coaching staff decided Bortles was too valuable to sit on the bench and decided to bring him in during the second half.
And so the Blake Bortles era started. He led the Jaguars on three scoring drives in the second half, including two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. He performed admirably against the San Diego Chargers in his first start, completing 29 of 37 passes (78 percent) for 253 yards and a touchdown. He made some rookie mistakes, especially on his two interceptions, but didn't let it phase him and continued on like a veteran.
Bortles wins this award hands down because of what he means to the fans. Before Henne got benched, it was very clear the fans wanted Bortles in, so much so you could hear it on CBS' broadcast. When he came in, the cheers were the loudest they've been in years.
Bortles brings a renewed sense of hope to the fanbase and epitomizes the youth movement in Jacksonville which has everyone excited for the future.
Offensive Player of the Year
And the award goes to: Allen Hurns
Allen Hurns exploded onto the scene in Week 1 catching four passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns. His first two career receptions went for touchdowns of 34 and 21 yards, respectively. He showed that he has big-play potential and has taken advantage of it so far, being tied for first among rookie receivers with three touchdowns and sporting an insane 21.2 yards-per-catch average.
Hurns has the potential to be a deadly weapon for the Jaguars, coming in at 6'3". He just needs to work on his consistency. After his breakout performance in Week 1, he all but disappeared in Week 2 with just two catches for 13 yards. Then against the Colts he managed only one reception, but it went for 63 yards and a touchdown.
He bounced back against the Chargers to post five receptions for 68 yards, including a 44-yard reception. His season totals as of now are 12 receptions for 254 yards and three touchdowns. At this rate, he is on pace for over 1,000 yards. If he can master the intricacies of the position, the sky is the limit not only for him but for the passing offense as a whole.
Defensive Player of the Year
And the award goes to: Andre Branch
In his third year in the league, Andre Branch is starting to round into the premier pass-rusher the Jaguars expected him to be when they drafted him in the second round of the 2012 draft. He has been the leader of a league-leading pass rush that has racked up 12 sacks through four games so far.
On the season, Branch already has three sacks, one quarterback hit and three quarterback pressures. He has earned himself a larger role in this defense and is currently on pace to play upwards of 750 snaps compared to 604 last year. His presence has been a big reason why the Jaguars boast one of the top pass-rushing units.
At his current pace, he is slated to finish with 12 sacks, which would tie the franchise record set by Tony Brackens in 1999. He has a lot of work to do to reach this milestone, but if he continues growing, it is definitely achievable.
Comeback Player of the Year
And the award goes to: Chris Clemons
There was a time when Chris Clemons was one of the top pass-rushers in the league. During a three-year span in Seattle, when his current head coach Gus Bradley was Seattle's defensive coordinator, Clemons racked up 33.5 sacks, leading the team all three years.
Last year, his production dropped off significantly after suffering an injury in the previous postseason. He managed only four sacks and lost production to newcomers Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. He was cut during the offseason and signed on with his former defensive coordinator in the hopes of reviving his career.
So far he has done a good job of doing so. The Jaguars' pass rush has racked up 12 sacks, with two coming from Clemons. They currently lead the league in sacks, and it is in no small part due to him. He isn't the long-term solution for the team at defensive end but is certainly proving to be a good short-term solution.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
And the award goes to: Allen Robinson
For sake of mixing things up, this award goes to Allen Robinson instead of Hurns.
Robinson certainly is no slouch and does deserve consideration for the award. Over the first four games, Robinson has 17 receptions for 192 yards, leading the team in receptions.
Robinson had a stretch over Weeks 2 and 3 where he had at least 75 yards receiving, proving that he was a reliable target. He has all the makings of a No. 1 receiver, and his numbers should start to increase as the season goes on.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
And the award goes to: Telvin Smith
In all honesty, Smith is really the only one who could win this award, as he is the only defensive rookie to see any significant time. However, just because he won it by default doesn't mean he didn't deserve it.
Smith has logged time at both the outside and middle linebacker spots and has done fairly well in both. He has used his speed to his advantage in coverage, limiting opposing receivers to four receptions for 13 yards from the middle linebacker spot, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
He needs to work on his run coverage, something that isn't too unexpected given his small size for a linebacker (6'3", 218 lbs).
In time, Smith could see his snaps increase substantially, especially if the other linebackers keep struggling in coverage. He has the potential to be a starter on this team for a long time.
Here are some additional awards for some deserving players.
Player with most growth potential: Denard Robinson
Robinson has seen his workload increase over the past two weeks with a running back-by-committee approach. So far he has modest numbers on limited touches: 20 carries for 66 yards. Due to his speed and agility, look for his numbers to significantly increase by the halfway point of the season and beyond.
Most disappointing player: Sen'Derrick Marks
Marks had a breakout year last year, totaling four sacks, 12 quarterback hits and 24 quarterback hurries, grading out as one of the best pass-rushing defensive tackles in the league according to Pro Football Focus. So far this year he has two sacks but only two QB hits and two QB hurries, well below his pace from last year. He hasn't improved in the run game either, as the Jaguars sport one of the worst run defenses in the league. For the sake of the team, hopefully he will turn things around soon.
Best free-agent acquisition: Red Bryant
The Jaguars made a couple of flashy moves in free agency such as getting Toby Gerhart and Zane Beadles, but one player who went under the radar was Red Bryant. Bryant was cut by the Seahawks and came to the Jaguars to be their run-stuffing defensive end. So far he has lived up to the billing, rating as the second-best defensive end against the run per PFF with a plus-5.9 grade. It would be scary to think how bad this run defense would be without Bryant.