Sunday, January 10, 2016

Patriots 2015 Regular Season Awards

Hello all,

The playoffs give the 2015 Pats a chance to be special, but before we get to that, here are the much-coveted YourPatriots Regular Season Awards for 2015. Look for the Patriots/Chiefs preview later this week!

The Offense

Most Valuable Offensive Player: Tom Brady
Honorable Mention: Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman

It’s simple, folks; without Brady, the Patriots offense simply isn’t championship caliber. And that is AFC East-championship caliber. His command at the line of scrimmage, his ability to identify defenses and the best matchups, his accuracy (even in throwing the ball away), his movement inside the pocket, and even his success rate on third- and fourth-and-short plays -- they all add up to one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game.

Enjoy him while he’s here.

Gronkowski is the other irreplaceable piece on offense. Not only for his receiving abilities and sometimes jaw-dropping yards-after-catch stats, but his blocking is great and his football intelligence allows him to thrive in one of the most complex offenses in the league.

Edelman went down during the Giants game. But with him in the lineup the team averaged 33.6 points per game, and without him they averaged 23.1 -- and never once scored 33 points without Edelman. Also, the team went 9-0 with Edelman in the lineup, 3-4 without him.

Most Improved Offensive Player: LeGarrette Blount
Honorable Mention: James White

Blount ran for 422 more yards (703 vs. 281) and had more than twice as many touchdowns (7 vs. 3). He also carried a lot more of the load on first and second downs, that being forced when Dion Lewis went down with an injury.

For White, more playing time gave him the chance to do more damage in the passing game, and he came through, especially late in the year. He had eight-times as many catches (40 vs. 5), and almost eighteen times as many receiving yards (410 vs. 23). And in fact, he will be a key player in the playoffs, getting time in the shotgun formations and passing downs.

Offensive Newcomer of the Year: Dion Lewis
Honorable Mention: David Andrews, Shaq Mason

Lewis was a revelation this year, picking up the offense immediately and for seven games he was an excellent replacement for Shane Vereen. His injury halfway through the season was a bigger blow than you’d expect for a first-time Patriots player.

Lewis ran for 4.8 yards per carry, totaled 234 yards, and had 36 catches for 388 yards, including some big ones. He also was very good in pass protection, picking up the blocking schemes faster than any other running back in recent memory.

Andrews and Mason both played well, though Andrews tailed off later in the year. Mason was better on run blocking, but with all the offensive line injuries, these two brought needed talent to that group.

The Defense

Most Valuable Defensive Player: Jamie Collins
Honorable Mention: Dont’a Hightower, Jabaal Sheard

Even though Collins missed three games mid-season with an undisclosed illness (and one other with an injury), he had the most sacks (5.5), most passes defended (6), and most forced fumbles (5) of his career. He made the Pro Bowl for the first time, and is the only linebacker the team has who can rush the passer, hold the edge against the run, make tackles inside, and cover backs and tight ends in the passing game.

Hightower missed four games, too, and when his impact against the run was obvious when he was out of the game.

Sheared had eight sacks, four forced fumbles, and two passes knocked down this year. He also did a great job against the run, and could well have been the team’s best outside defensive lineman.

Most Improved Defensive Player: Malcolm Butler
Honorable Mention: Logan Ryan, Chandler Jones

Butler barely saw the field last season, though there was that one important play in the Super Bowl. This season he was clearly the most consistently good corner on the team. He didn’t always take the best receiver one-on-one, but when he did, he either held them in check or competed like hell trying.

Butler led the team with 15 passes defended (he had just 3 last season), and got his first two regular-season interceptions. He is also excellent in run-support.

Ryan started from the first game of the season, and for a while was playing better than Butler. He tailed off toward the end of the year, so Butler was a better corner in 2015, but Ryan had 14 defended passes of his own and also notched four interceptions.

Jones did not have as good a year as some thought, but he did have 12.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. He also got his first NFL interception.

Defensive Newcomer of the Year: Jabaal Sheard, Malcom Brown
Honorable Mention: Akiem Hicks

Sheard for the reasons mentioned above.

Rookie Brown was one of the best interior defensive lineman on the team, improving while Sealver Siliga’s play dropped off.

Hicks was brought in from New Orleans, and provided the same kind of persistent effort and stability to the interior defensive line that made that unit one of the most dependable on the team.

Special Teams

Most Valuable Special Teams Player: Stephen Gostkowski
Honorable Mention: none

Gostkowski led the NFL in scoring for the fourth straight year, and almost 70% of his kickoffs were touchbacks, good for third in the NFL. He really only missed one big kick all year, the one in the Miami game gave the opposition good field position and led to a seven-point deficit at the half. Gostkowski also attempted two onside kicks, and the Patriots recovered both of them.

Punter Ryan Allen and coverage specialist Matthew Slater had good years overall. But both had failures at critical junctures that led to poor plays in the punt game, so they didn’t merit Honorable Mention status.

Most improved Special Teams Player: none
Honorable Mention: none

Too many special teams failures to name anyone much improved.

Special Teams Newcomer of the Year: Joe Cardona
Honorable Mention: Brandon King

Cardona was the new long snapper, and he had only one bad snap that I noted this season. The Pats rotate this position quite frequently; they must think it’s easy enough to coach a guy up so they want to save the salary cap space.

King challenged Slater for fastest player on special teams, and his coverage was mostly very good.

Special dis-honorable mention: the new special teams coach, Joe Judge. The team basically lost the Eagles game on special teams, giving up a punt-block touchdown, a punt-return touchdown, and using some ill-conceived drop-kick onside attempt by a non-kicker. Those failures are on the coaching; we never saw things like that with previous coach, Scott O’Brien.

Those are the awards for this year. Congratulations to all the winners, and good luck heading into the playoffs.

Enjoy the games this weekend!

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS. 0-0!

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