Through 9 weeks of the 2017-18 NFL regular season, here are my picks for the midseason NFL awards:
Offensive Player Of The Year: The best offensive player through the first half of the season has undoubtedly been Carson Wentz. The one-year pro out of FCS North Dakota State is absolutely lighting the NFL on fire and quickly wiping away any remaining doubts due to his lackluster collegiate competition. Wentz has propelled the 8-1 Eagles atop the NFL. Although he withstands a below average rushing attack, inconsistent offensive line play, the absence of an elite receiver, and a lack of depth in his receiving corps every week, he has still found a way to get it done. He leads the NFL in passing touchdowns, is fourth in passing yards, and fourth in quarterback rating despite being sacked the eighth most of all passers in the league. He is able to beat teams through the air with his unique blend of poise, leadership, and accuracy, and he also can beat teams on the ground with his speed and athleticism. He is the future of not only the Eagles but the entire NFL.
Defensive Player Of The Year: Arguably the best free agent signing of the 2017 NFL offseason has been the Jacksonville Jaguars taking a gamble on the 31-year-old Calais Campbell. The longtime Cardinal hit the free agent market, and the Jaguars reeled him in. I’m sure they’re fairly happy looking back on that decision. Campbell has been a nightmare on the interior of the Jaguars defensive line. This is the defense the front office has been building for years and fans have been eagerly awaiting. Campbell leads the NFL with 11.0 sacks including a 4-sack performance against Houston. There seems to be no shortage of gas left in the tank for veteran. He still helps plenty in the run game and has been a handful for offensive lines and quarterbacks alike. He is so effective in every facet of the game no matter where he is lined up at. Campbell has been nothing short of dominant during the first half of the season and it finally looks like that ferocious Jacksonville defense is coming to fruition.
Defensive Comeback Player Of The Year: After registering only a single sack, dealing with injuries, sustaining a 4-game suspension, and only appearing in 9 games last year, DeMarcus Lawrence has completely changed the identity of the Dallas pass rush this year. He sits at the number two spot in sacks, trailing only Calais Campbell by 0.5, with 10.5. Lawrence has always been a talented athlete, evidenced by his 8.0 sacks back in 2015. If Dallas can keep him motivated, he could be the future of a scary front seven. The Cowboys have been in desperate search of a defensive player to build that side of the ball around, and it seems they are finally forming a solid young nucleus led by Lawrence. He has been an unstoppable force on the outside and has regularly sought special attention by offenses. Although early, it looks as though the Cowboys finally found their long-awaited bookend on the defensive line, which makes everyone’s job a little easier.
Offensive Rookie Of The Year: No rookie has had a more remarkable impact on the game than Deshaun Watson in 2017. Watson has had an undeniable role in bringing the Texans to their current win total. The Texans began the season hoping that Tom Savage could manage his way to low scoring victories thanks to Houston’s dominant defense. Well, neither of those assumptions turned out to be true. Savage was replaced by Watson opening day, and the defense has dealt with constant injuries. So, how did Watson handle the pressure? He took charge and single-handedly transformed his unit into the number one offense in the league with him under center. Despite only starting in seven games, he has thrown for the second most touchdowns and holds the sixth best QBR in the NFL. He has been a pure gunslinger and has even produced monster games against top defenses (Tennessee, Kansas City, Seattle). Watson also dominated games on the ground and was the ultimate dual threat before suffering a torn ACL during practice before Week 9.
Defensive Rookie Of The Year: Although T.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers seems to be the popular pick for DROY and looks the best on paper, Tre’Davious White has quietly been the best defensive rookie through the first 9 weeks. After losing Stephon Gilmore in free agency and Ronald Darby in a trade with Philadelphia, the team was forced to put their hope in the rookie LSU product handling number one cornerback duties. White has quickly become a staple of the surprisingly good defense. He is emerging as a legitimate shutdown cover corner. White has recorded 12 pass breakups to go along with an interception, 26 tackles, a forced fumble, and 2 fumble recoveries in the first half of the season. As if his defensive contributions weren’t enough, White also has the ability to handle punt return duties as well. Because he was relied upon so heavily from the start in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Buffalo, he has risen above all initial expectations. He is largely to thank for Buffalo’s under the radar defense and should further develop into a true star on the outside.
Coach Of The Year: Perhaps no team has truly done a 180 quite like the Los Angeles Rams have in 2017. After dragging through another dreadful offensive campaign last year, it looks like the Rams finally have something to work with. Thank you, Sean McVay. McVay worked as the offensive coordinator in Washington, guiding Kirk Cousins through the best years of his career. Somehow, someway, McVay turned what many thought to be a bust (Jared Goff) into an above average NFL starter. He is the youngest head coach in NFL history but continues to prove himself week in and week out. Todd Gurley is experiencing a breakthrough year that reminds fans of his jaw-dropping rookie season. This Rams offense is firing on all cylinders, averaging an NFL best 32.9 point per game, up from an NFL worst 14.0 last season. They are competing for the top spot in the NFC West along with the Seattle Seahawks. The defense is still the defense, but McVay’s offensive system is flourishing among the players and new look team. McVay looks to have completely transformed this team into a perennial contender for years to come.