Monday, January 8, 2018

Patriots 2017 Regular Season Awards

Yep; it's that time of year, folks. Time to reflect on the best the Patriots had to offer in the 2017 season... before we move forward to the up-coming playoff run!

Here are my regular-season awards for the 2017 season. (Note: lighter on the text and research this year; just don't have the time I used to have.)

Most Valuable Offensive Player: Rob Gronkowski
Honorable Mention: Tom Brady and Dion Lewis

Brady has won this award 10 times in 12 years, but this season, Gronkowski was even more valuable than Brady. Sure, you can make the argument that the QB is always the most valuable player. For the counter to that argument, go back and watch the second Miami game, when Gronk sat. The offense completely stagnated.

Gronkowski was also the third-best run blocker on the entire team (after an offensive lineman and a blocking back who does nothing else). And when he's blocking well, it opens gaping holes for the backs. Haven't seen Brady do that in a while ;)

With Julian Edelman out for the year and Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, and Danny Amendola missing significant time, the team simply wouldn't be anywhere near a playoff bye without Gronkowski.

Gronk barely edged out Brady, who had a down year and will only win the MVP this season :D

Lewis gets honorable mention for much the same reason as Gronk; the other injuries made it essential that he step up -- and he did, big time!

Most Improved Offensive Player: Dion Lewis
Honorable Mention: Shaq Mason and James Develin

Lewis tripled his carries and running yards, double his catches and receiving yards, and score six touchdowns versus zero last year. Without Edelman the team depended more on running backs in the passing game. And Lewis not only came through in that area, but his ability to make the first tackler miss kept the chains moving and drives alive all year.

Mason was a beast in run blocking and was the most dependable O-lineman this year. This award could have gone to center David Andrews, but he missed a few games, thus limiting the most important ability of all: dependability.

Develin was one of the best blockers on the team this year, and even caught a few passes to boot!

Offensive Newcomer of the Year: Rex Burkhead and Brandin Cooks
Honorable Mention: None

This is a tough choice. Cooks was more consistently productive (65 catches, 1082 yards, and 7 touchdowns), while Burkhead had a big impact in the few games he played (8 touchdowns in 10 games).

Cooks would have this award to himself if he would fight more for the ball, not quit on routes, and been willing to sacrifice comfort for some important catches. He wasn't a bad player, but his impact was felt in about as many games as Burkhead's was. So it's a tie.

Most Valuable Defensive Player: Trey Flowers
Honorable Mention: Kyle Van Noy

Flowers led the defensive linemen in tackles, led the team with 6.5 sacks, and added 2 forced fumbles. He also played some linebacker when the team was thin there, and was easily the Pats most consistent defender this season.

To understand Van Noy's value, just watch the linebacker play in games he missed. And also consider that he was third on the team in tackles, even though he essentially missed four entire games.

Most Improved Defensive Player: Van Noy
Honorable Mention: None

Van Noy started twice as many games and had over twice as many tackles, and added in 5.5 sacks (after notching just 1.0 last year).

Defensive Newcomer of the Year: Deatrich Wise, Jr.
Honorable Mention: Stephon Gilmore

Wise, Jr. gets the nod almost by default. Five sacks in your rookie year isn't half bad; and he will make an able replacement for Alan Branch when they cut his ass in February.

Gilmore came in with high hopes, but had just two interceptions and took over half the season to learn the defense. But he was okay enough to get an honorable mention.

Most Valuable Special Teams Player: Stephen Gostkowski
Honorable Mention: Ryan Allen

Gostkowski had by far the most kickoffs returned (58 versus 46 for the second-most), and that was by design. He kicked high and short so other teams would have to return the kick instead of taking the ball at the 25 yard line on a touchback. And it worked like a charm. The Pats were third in the league, with opponents starting at the 18.6 yards line on average.

Note #1 for the playoffs: all of Gostkowski's missed field goals were between 40-49 yards this year. So maybe go for it on fourth down if that's the situation... just sayin'. Note #2: please have him practice onside kicks; it's the one real flaw in his game.

I have no stats to back up my choice of Allen. But stats don't tell the whole story when the offense always has you punting from near midfield. I just remember the game where three punts in a row were inside the other team's five yard-line, and I think he deserves honorable mention just for that game.

Most Improved Special Teams Player: None
Honorable Mention: Gostkowski and Allen

If there was a seriously improved player, I must have missed it. Gostkowski and Allen get the honorable mention because both slightly improved over last year.

Special Teams Newcomer of the Year: Johnson Bademosi
Honorable Mention: None

Bademosi had 24 tackles on the year, and it felt like half of them were on special teams. (Wait, not sure that's a good thing.)

That is all for now. Enjoy the prep time for the Titans game, and keep an eye out for my pre-game breakdown!

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS. 13-3 & 0-0!

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