It’s early November, and we’re talking NFL individual awards?
Sure, why not? Halfway through the 18-week season seems like a perfect time to reflect on who has achieved what thus far in the races for those awards.
The 33rd Team is fortunate to have several contributors who also vote on the official league awards that are handed out during Super Bowl week by The Associated Press. They include Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Polian, 2002 NFL MVP Rich Gannon, and journalists Paul Domowitch, Clark Judge, Vic Carucci and Charles Davis.
Make sure to also check out our Midseason All-Pro Team.
MVP – Jalen Hurts, QB Philadelphia Eagles (3)
There are no runaway leaders, which often occurs midway through the schedule. Aaron Rodgers closed fast to win the last two MVPs.
“Hurts has really turned the corner with accuracy, decision making and ball security while using his legs each week as well,” Gannon said.
“Best of all,” adds Judge, “he’s the quarterback for the NFL’s only unbeaten team and is the first quarterback in Eagles history to win 11 consecutive regular-season starts. But it’s not numbers that make him invaluable to Philadelphia. It’s his maturity, poise and leadership on and off the field.”
Offensive Player of the Year (Co-winners) – Tyreek Hill, WR, Miami Dolphins (3), Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills (3)
Others receiving votes: None
This award often is based largely on statistics. The likes of Kupp, Henry and Michael Thomas have won it recently.
That bodes well for Hill, who isn’t missing Kansas City and Mahomes much. Hill, who along with Allen got three selections, seemingly can’t be covered, and his 1,104 yards receiving and 76 catches through nine games are, well, intimidating.
“Tyreek Hill is on a 17-game pace of 2,085 yards receiving, which would break the single-season receiving yards record held by Calvin Johnson,” Davis said. “He has aided in the development of Tua Tagovailoa in a major way.”
Carucci went with Allen: “I’m giving him a slight edge over Patrick Mahomes in this category because Allen won the head-to-head matchup.”
Defensive Player of the Year – Micah Parsons, EDGE, Dallas Cowboys (6)
Others receiving votes: None (Unanimous)
Dallas linebacker Micah Parsons, who ran away with the top defensive rookie honors last season, is doing the same in this category in 2022. His do-everything performances, whether rushing the passer, dropping ball carriers with devastating hits or dropping back in coverage earned him six selections from our panel.
“He’s the definition of a game-changing force that most opponents can’t handle,” Carucci said.
Adds Domowitch: “The most dominant defensive player in the league.”
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Kenneth Walker III, RB, Seattle Seahawks (5)
Others receiving votes: RB Dameon Pierce (1)
The running backs got the attention in this category, with Seattle’s Walker leading Houston’s Pierce 5-1.
“Walker is Derrick Henry 2.0,” Judge said. “Quick through the hole, big enough to run over defensive tackles, fast enough to run away from defensive backs and strong enough to excel as games grow longer. Of his seven TDs this season, six occurred in the fourth quarter.”
Davis says Walker “has allowed Pete Carroll to return to his team’s identity of running the football.”
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, New York Jets (5)
Others receiving votes: DE Travon Walker (1)
Gardner not only has been very tasty for a revitalized Gang Green and its fan base, but he drew five selections here. The fourth overall pick in April’s draft has displayed the kind of man coverage skills rarely seen from such inexperienced pros. He also has enough faith in his skills to fill MetLife Stadium.
“Sauce Gardner is playing like a veteran corner with such confidence and aggressiveness,” Gannon said. “He is terrific with the ball in the air, so throw on someone else.”
Comeback Player of the Year – Geno Smith, QB, Seattle Seahawks (5)
Others receiving votes: RB Saquon Barkley (1)
When the Seahawks dealt Russell Wilson to Denver, the “Woe Are We at QB” cries could be heard up and down Puget Sound.
Those have changed into chants of “G-E-N-O, G-E-N-O” in Seattle for the way quarterback Smith has played thus far. A journeyman and career backup since 2015, he not only seized the job for the Seahawks, he leads the NFL with a 73.1 completion percentage – and he isn’t simply throwing dump-offs; he’s using DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett to their full abilities.
“I never thought I would see the day,” Gannon said. “When you consider the struggles he had in New York with ball security and decision making. But he’s made a believer out of me. Geno is a different player, especially with respect to accuracy and completion percentage.”
Smith earned five votes, with Barkley getting the other. Polian suggests keeping an eye on Giants QB Daniel Jones moving forward.
Coach of the Year – Brian Daboll, New York Giants (2)
Others receiving votes: PHI Nick Sirianni (1), SEA Pete Carroll (1), TEN Mike Vrabel (1), MIN Kevin O’Connell (1)
This one is wide open and will likely remain so throughout the schedule. Daboll, Sirianni, Carroll, O’Connell, Saleh, Smith and Vrabel (last year’s winner) have drawn consideration. Indeed, all have their clubs in playoff contention, surprisingly so for some.
“Brian Daboll has done wonders with the Giants,” says Domowitch of the only man who got two votes. “But the Eagles are 8-0 for the first time in franchise history. If not now, when?”
Carucci counters: “Daboll finally brings stability to the Giants’ head coaching job, along with an offensive scheme that maximizes their talent. He gets plenty of credit for Daniel Jones’ improvement.”
Assistant Coach of the Year – Six-way Tie: NYG Wink Martindale (1), BUF Ken Dorsey (1), BUF Leslie Frazier (1), PHI Jonathan Gannon (1), DAL Dan Quinn (1), SEA Shane Waldron (1)
Traditionally, this award draws lots of names in the AP balloting. The 33rd Team’s panel has suggested Martindale, Dorsey, Frazier, Waldron, Gannon, and Quinn – who won the award in 2021; Daboll took it in 2020.
“There were plenty of questions before the season about how the Bills’ offense would function without Brian Daboll,” Carucci said. “The answer is that, amazingly, it has managed to get even better under Dorsey.”
Judge chose Gannon: “There’s more, much more, to Philadelphia besides Jalen Hurts, A.J. Brown, Miles Sanders and Nick Sirianni, and you’re looking at him.”