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Pats Pulpit Midseason Awards: Patriots MVP, rookie of the half-year, biggest surprise, and more

The first half of the regular season is in the books, and now it’s time to hand out some awards.

Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images

The first half of the New England Patriots’ 2022 regular season is in the books, and it sure was a fascinating one.

Sitting at 5-4, the Patriots have the same record they had last year after nine games. However, the road to get there was a rocky one at times. On offense, for example, starting quarterback Mac Jones missed time because of injury while the entire unit sputtered out of the gate. The defense, meanwhile, established itself as one of the best in the NFL and saw surprise contributions from several players.

What lies ahead remains to be seen, but for now let’s take a look back at the half-season that ways. So, without further ado, here are our Pats Pulpit Midseason Awards.

Make sure to head down to the comments to share your own winners, or any other thoughts you have on the topic.

Patriots MVP so far

Bernd Buchmasser: Matthew Judon. One of the most impactful players in the NFL this season, Judon is in the middle of yet another Pro Bowl campaign. In fact, he has a legitimate case as the top defender in the entire league after posting 11.5 sacks in his first nine games.

Oliver Thomas: Matthew Judon. Setting a franchise record for consecutive games in the sack column to begin the season helps the case. So does the fact that the three-time Pro Bowler has gone on to pace the NFL in sacks. At this point in November, he is one shy of tying his career high from 2021.

Brian Hines: Matthew Judon. Easy choice here. Judon has a legit case for NFL Defensive Player of the Year as he leads the league with 11.5 sacks and is on pace to break Andre Tippett’s single-season franchise record of 18.5 (maybe even challenge Michael Strahan and T.J. Watt’s NFL record of 22.5). Besides sacks, Judon is tied for ninth in QB hits and second with 44 pressures. He’s been dominant, but now the question is can he maintain his success after fading down the stretch last season.

Alec Shane: Matthew Judon. Judon has been an absolute beast all season and New England’s most consistent pass rusher. The defense as a whole could get this award, but since it’s just for one player, I’m going Judon.

Pat Lane: Matthew Judon. Judon has been an absolute wrecking ball and without a doubt the best player on the Patriots this year.

Matt St. Jean: Rhamondre Stevenson. He has really emerged this season as an all-purpose back who isn’t brought down by the first tackler.

Barrett Hodgson: Matthew Judon. Judon has been a monster all season as he leads the league in sacks with 11.5. His high motor and improvement when it comes to run defense have been a major factor in the Patriots’ success on defense.

Patriots Offensive Player of the Half-Year

Bernd Buchmasser: Rhamondre Stevenson. The Patriots’ leader in touches, yards from scrimmage and touchdowns, Stevenson has taken a massive second-year jump. Not only is he a viable power rusher, he also has proven himself capable of filling the receiving back role previously filled by since-retired James White.

Oliver Thomas: Rhamondre Stevenson. There’s the elusiveness and there’s the power. There’s also the hands. While Stevenson has eclipsed 600 rushing yards, the sophomore running back also stands second in receptions this fall for New England. His five touchdowns from scrimmage lead the offense. The honorable mentions here range from the blocking of Michael Onwenu to the kicking of Nick Folk.

Brian Hines: Rhamondre Stevenson. Another easy decision. Stevenson has absolutely carried the Patriots offense the past several weeks. Stevenson has developed into a true dual-threat out of the backfield, ranking second on the team in receptions. He’s been just as good on the ground despite the Patriots poor offensive line play. His 493 rushing yards after contact are the sixth highest in the league.

Alec Shane: Nick Folk. As the only player on the team who consistently puts up points, I have to go with Folk. I’m not particularly happy about it, but Nick Folk scoring a bunch of field goals is the only thing we can count on week-to-week.

Pat Lane: Rhamondre Stevenson. Stevenson has take a second-year leap and been the best and most consistent offensive player for the Patriots (outside of Nick Folk, of course).

Matt St. Jean: Rhamondre Stevenson. See above.

Barrett Hodgson: Rhamondre Stevenson. This offense has been carried on the back of Stevenson. Without him they may be the lowest-scoring team in the league.

Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

Patriots Defensive Player of the Half-Year

Bernd Buchmasser: Jonathan Jones. Matthew Judon gets MVP, and Jonathan Jones earns Defensive Player of the Half-Year honors. The seventh-year man moved to the outside to help replace departed Pro Bowler J.C. Jackson, and has since answered any questions there might have been about New England’s cornerback position.

Oliver Thomas: Matthew Judon. Pro Football Focus has charted Judon for 44 quarterback pressures. That tally currently checks in only behind Za’Darius Smith among edge players around the league.

Brian Hines: Jonathan Jones. While Judon gets team MVP, we’ll pivot to Jonathan Jones here for Defensive Player of the Half-Year. Cornerback was one of the biggest question marks entering the season after the departure of J.C. Jackson, but Jones has been awesome after moving out of the slot to the boundary for the first time this season.

Alec Shane: Kyle Dugger. Dugger is proving himself to be an elite NFL player, and the defense is a different unit without him in the lineup. He can play against the run or the pass and has the versatility to line up all over the field.

Pat Lane: Matthew Judon. See above, the man has been a baller, and could be in the running for Defensive Player of the Year.

Matt St. Jean: Matthew Judon. On pace for another career year. The red sleeves are a menace for every opponent.

Barrett Hodgson: Matthew Judon. Given he’s the MVP of the Half-Year, Judon also has to be the Defensive Player of the Half-Year. He’s a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate across the league.

Patriots Rookie of the Half-Year

Bernd Buchmasser: Jack Jones. There are other candidates deserving of the honor, but the combination of consistent contribution and big plays being made leaves Jack Jones as the logical choice here. The fourth-round pick is a valuable member of the Patriots cornerback rotation, and has held his own against NFL-level competition on a weekly basis.

Oliver Thomas: Jack Jones. New England’s rookie class has contributed early. But relative to arrival times, perhaps no member of the class has exceeded theirs like pick No. 121 overall, whose cornerback play has covered more than two interceptions, one touchdown and one start.

Brian Hines: Bailey Zappe. Cornerback Jack Jones, who currently is Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 ranked cornerback, gets some serious consideration here, but where would the Patriots be without Bailey Zappe? Zappe stepped up out of nowhere and delivered two great starts when the Patriots needed him the most — the start against Cleveland being one of the best quarterback games from a Patriot QB in the post-Brady era. Those two wins are massive for a team that will be trying to claw their way into the playoffs. Special shoutout to Brenden Schooler here as well.

Alec Shane: Marcus Jones. Jones has been a fantastic surprise in the return game, particularly given New England’s early struggles. Jones’s ability to consistently generate solid returns to set the Patriots up with good field position has been absolutely crucial, as the team goes three and out so often the field position game is heavily influenced by what Jones has been able to do on Special Teams.

Pat Lane: Jack Jones/Brenden Schooler. Jones has been one of the best rookie defenders in the draft. Opposing teams hasn’t even looked his way the last few games, because, when they have, he is constantly making plays on the ball. Schooler has been Matthew Slater 2.0, and made play after play on special teams for the Patriots this year

Matt St. Jean: Jack Jones. Number 13 is very unlucky for every opposing QB.

Barrett Hodgson: Jack Jones. Jones has been really impressive in his first season with the Patriots. He is one of the highest graded cornerbacks in the league.

Biggest Surprise of the Half-Year

Bernd Buchmasser: Deatrich Wise Jr. We all saw the breakout coming, right? Wise Jr. has turned into a key member of the New England defense over the first nine game of his sixth season, playing the role of Robin to Matthew Judon’s Batman. He also has been voted a captain for the first time, although that did not come as too big a surprise given his upbeat persona.

Oliver Thomas: Jake Bailey. The surprise has been in the struggles for the 2020 first-team All-Pro selection. A net average of 35.3 yards per punt and five touchbacks were not the expectation after beginning August with a four-year, $13.5 million extension.

Brian Hines: Kendrick Bourne. There were two choices in my mind for this one, but I’ll go with Kendrick Bourne. Bourne broke out as one of the team’s best playmakers last year but now has just 14 receptions this season. His playing time has increased of late and he is getting open a lot, so perhaps a second-half resurgence is in the cards — which would be massive for the offense. My other option was Deatrich Wise Jr., who has appeared to take the notorious six-year jump.

Alec Shane: Bailey Zappe. Nobody saw anything Zappe-related coming, from his performance as a starter to that wild six minutes against the Bears where he came in and lit the entire stadium on fire before coming back down to earth. Not sure what kind of career he’s going to have, but one thing I never thought I’d see this season is anything like what I saw from Zappe, for better and for worse.

Pat Lane: Jahlani Tavai. I talked a whole bunch of junk about Tavai this offseason, and he has proven me wrong. He’s been a pretty consistent player for the Patriots, especially against the run.

Matt St. Jean: Bailey Zappe stepping up. Who would have expected a rookie 4th rounder to play well enough for force a QB controversy?

Barrett Hodgson: A mid-season quarterback controversy. Who could have seen a midseason QB battle between Mac Jones, who went to the Pro Bowl last season, and Bailey Zappe, who was drafted 137th overall, coming?

Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Biggest Disappointment of the Half-Year

Bernd Buchmasser: Mac Jones. There was plenty of optimism surrounding sophomore quarterback during the offseason, but almost everything that has happened since has been a disappointment. External factors — the offensive play-calling, production along the offensive line and at wide receiver, his ankle injury — have contributed to the struggle, and as a result Jones has not looked comfortable running the offense.

Oliver Thomas: Mac Jones. The pass protection hasn’t been where it needs to be. The wide receiver production outside of perennial catch leader Jakobi Meyers hasn’t been where it needs to be, either. And while other factors include the play-calling and the high-ankle sprain, the quarterback who went 10-7 as a rookie starter is trying to get back to 2021.

Brian Hines: Mac Jones. While it’s not all his fault, Mac Jones’ Year 2 regression is certainly the choice. He’s dealt with injuries, questionable play-calling, and awful offensive line play, but Jones has not looked like the sharp decision maker he was throughout his rookie season. Through nine games, he’s 32nd in passer rating, 27th in EPA/play, and 38th in PFF grade, while already throwing seven interceptions and logging 10 turnover worthy plays. Getting him back on track is priority No. 1 down the stretch.

Alec Shane: Ty Montgomery. Montgomery can’t seem to get off the IR, and his absence leaves the Patriots without a true third-down back for the first time in the Bill Belichick Era. From Kevin Faulk to Shane Vereen to James White to Dion Lewis, that role has been an absolutely crucial part of the 21st century Patriots offense, and it’s a huge hole for this team. Stevenson has been doing an admirable job as an every down guy, but New England has always done best with a player like Montgomery to pick up blitzes, set up screens, and serve as the outlet receiver. Hopefully he comes back after the bye.

Pat Lane: Mac Jones. Whatever the reason, Jones has not taken the step forward that we were all expecting this season. There are new offensive coaches, and he has dealt with an injury, but he still should be playing better than he has so far.

Matt St. Jean: The Offensive line, specifically Isaiah Wynn. Nobody could have seen a step back this big. Honorable mention: Jake Bailey.

Barrett Hodgson: The offense as a whole. Everyone thought this offense would grow but it has severely regressed over the course of the season. They are getting little to no production from pass catchers not named Jakobi Meyers.

Patriots Moment of the Half-Year

Bernd Buchmasser: The opening drive of the second half against the Jets. For once, everything was clicking for Mac Jones and the Patriots offense. Going against one of the best defenses in football, the Patriots went on a six-play, 62-yard touchdown drive that saw them hit several big play.

Oliver Thomas: Brenden Schooler’s recovery of Gunner Olszewski’s muffed punt return at Acrisure Stadium. And the meeting that followed on the sideline between the undrafted rookie, his head coach and his special teams coordinator.

Brian Hines: It was truly Zappening. Bailey Zappe taking over for Mac Jones and leading two immediate touchdown drives, featuring several big plays, was an all-time moment on Monday Night against Chicago. It was truly just unbelievable to watch unfold. Unfortunately, The Fever quickly lost it’s magic, but those two drives were all-timers.

Alec Shane: The Matthew Judon strip sack to the Kyle Dugger scoop-and-score against the Lions. It opened the floodgates for a home blowout in the old school throwback unis. Yes please.

Pat Lane: Jack Jones pick-six in Green Bay. Not a much cooler moment than a rookie picking off a future Hall of Famer and taking it back to the house at Lambeau Field. It was right before the half, and completely changed the complexion of the game.

Matt St. Jean: Kyle Dugger fumble-six against Detroit. A signature turnover for the defense that got the team back to .500 in the throwbacks.

Barrett Hodgson: Jack Jones’ pick-six on Aaron Rodgers. The rookie made his presence felt when he intercepted the league MVP on his home turf. Rodgers rarely gets picked off, especially at home. That’s what makes this moment so special for the rookie.

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