Full New England Patriots Midseason Awards
The season is far from over, but it's nevertheless not too early to look back on the first half of the season and hand out some awards.
Whether it's a rookie who's making a fast transition to the NFL, a player with high hopes who has failed to live up to the hype, a veteran who's not getting his due or any number of other superlatives, there seems to be a player to fit any bill you might think about.
There's obviously a lot more good than bad on a 7-0 football team. Here's a look at some of the Patriots' midseason awards.
First-Half MVP: Tom Brady
This maybe a little obvious, but it's also completely necessary.
Tom Brady might not only be the Patriots MVP but also on track to be the league MVP. He leads the league with 20 touchdown passes and has thrown just one interception—a fluky interception at that. He also leads the league in passer rating at 115.8.
He's also done it mostly without the presence of boundary wide receiver Brandon LaFell and center Bryan Stork and with inexperienced guards and injuries at offensive tackle. Basically, if you want to know why Brady has the lowest time-in-pocket average in the NFL through Week 8, look no further than the depleted offensive line.
It's crazy to think that the Patriots might not have had Brady for the first four games of the season, but they are fortunate his suspension was overturned. Does anyone think Jimmy Garoppolo could have thrived in this situation?
Most Improved Player: Duron Harmon
The Patriots have taken some interesting approaches to fielding their secondary this season with so much flux at the cornerback position this offseason, but one defensive back in particular has seen a dramatic uptick in his playing time this season, and he's making the most of his new opportunity.
Safety Duron Harmon has played 257 snaps this season through Week 8, which is nearly as many as he had all last regular season (283). He has shown a lot of the coverage skills that the Patriots have needed at the safety spot and in the secondary in general.
According to Pro Football Focus, Harmon has the 10th-highest grade of any safety in the NFL through Week 8. He has also given up three receptions on 10 targets for 23 yards and had an amazing interception against the Miami Dolphins (see above). He has a passer rating allowed of 0.0—one of only three safeties in the NFL with that distinction.
The Patriots have really found a gem in Harmon, and they are wise enough to find ways to use him.
Biggest Disappointment: Aaron Dobson
The Patriots drafted Aaron Dobson in the second round in 2013, but in three seasons, the former Marshall standout has done little to separate himself from the pack in the Patriots offense.
The 2015 season appeared to present him a new opportunity to prove himself. With Brandon LaFell out for the first six games of the season, Dobson competed with Brian Tyms this summer for the right to take those snaps on the boundary in the Patriots offense. Thus far this season, Dobson has pulled in just 11 receptions for 119 yards.
With LaFell returning to the team and Keshawn Martin making his own case as a game-day wide receiver, the Patriots are finding little-to-no room for Dobson in their offense. He played 70 snaps against the Buffalo Bills in Week 2 and 44 out of 81 snaps against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3. Since then, he's been on the field just 27 times on offense, including four snaps against the Miami Dolphins in Week 8.
At this rate, this might be Dobson's last season in a Patriots uniform.
Rookie of the Year: David Andrews
The Patriots made 11 picks in the 2015 NFL draft, but as it turns out, one of their undrafted free-agent signings might be the best rookie on the team right now.
No one would have blamed rookie center David Andrews if he had struggled after being thrust into the starting offensive lineup when Bryan Stork went down with an injury. Andrews hasn't used it as an excuse, though. In fact, he's been one of the strengths of the line so far this season. According to Pro Football Focus, Andrews, Tre' Jackson and Josh Kline are the only offensive linemen with positive grades.
This season, Andrews has yielded five quarterback hurries, four hits and two sacks. Most of that damage has been done in the past two weeks, when the Patriots faced arguably the two best defensive lines they'll face all season long: the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins. In those efforts, Andrews yielded a total of three hurries and two hits.
Andrews has played so well, in fact, that he's single-handedly kick-started a debate over whether Stork should move to guard when he comes back. The Patriots are lucky to have found a diamond in the rough like Andrews to plug into such an important spot.
Most Important Win of the Season: Week 7 vs. New York Jets
The Patriots will tell you that every win is important, but none was as important as their 30-23 win over the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium.
This win showed that not only can the Patriots win when they're playing their worst but they can also respond to adversity to make enough plays and win late in a game.
The Patriots were down 20-16 with just over 10 minutes to play in the game. Facing 3rd-and-17, the Patriots appeared all but done but responded with a 27-yard completion between Tom Brady and Julian Edelman to keep the drive alive and eventually ended up scoring a touchdown.
Had the Jets won that game, they would be 5-2 right now against the Patriots' 6-1. Instead, the Patriots are three games up in the division and hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Jets at the moment.
Worst Injury: Nate Solder
No injury is good, but some are worse than others. That being said, this one was a two-way tie between left tackle Nate Solder and center Bryan Stork. Solder is lost for the remainder of the season, so the severity of that injury is worse than that of Stork, who is only on the short-term injured reserve. Also, the Patriots have plugged David Andrews in at center with success.
So far, they're still shuffling the pieces and searching for answers in response to the injury to Solder.
The first time (Week 6), Marcus Cannon moved straight in at left tackle, and everyone else stayed where they were. The next two games (Weeks 7 and 8), the Patriots moved Sebastian Vollmer to left tackle and plugged in Cameron Fleming at right tackle.
Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon gave Fleming and Vollmer, respectively), a hard time on Thursday night (they combined for four hurries, one hit and two sacks), but those are two of the best pass-rushers the Patriots will face all season. That being said, it was just one example of a time when the Patriots sorely missed Solder's presence on the left side of the line.
Most Underrated Player: Danny Amendola
When you think about the Patriots offense, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski (and now Dion Lewis) are the first names that come to mind in terms of skill position players (and players not named Tom Brady). With each passing week, slot receiver Danny Amendola inserts his name into that category by being a steady hand for Brady.
He's pulled in five or more receptions in three of the Patriots' seven games this season so far and six out of the past 12 games dating back to December 21, 2014 (including the playoffs).
The Patriots needed someone to shine with wide receiver Brandon LaFell out of action for the first six games of the season, and even in LaFell's first game back, the veteran receiver was plagued by a bad case of the drops against the New York Jets in Week 7. Amendola caught the go-ahead touchdown against the Jets and has more third-down receptions than any other player on the team. He also has the third-most fourth-quarter receptions on the team.
Amendola isn't always going to put up monster numbers, but he'll come through with some key catches in critical spots just about any time he's asked.
Unless otherwise noted, all advanced stats obtained via ProFootballFocus.com.