Packers Midseason Awards
Nine games down, seven to go. Although the Green Bay Packers are actually 56 percent of the way through their regular season, it’s still not too late to hand out some midseason awards.
Non-Aaron Rodgers MVP: Jordy Nelson
Honorable mention: Eddie Lacy
Aaron Rodgers is obviously the MVP of this team. That’s not up for debate. But the runner-up is, and for that, I’m going with Jordy Nelson. Of all the Packers’ main skill players on offense – Rodgers, Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jermichael Finley, Eddie Lacy and James Starks – only Nelson has played in every game. This offense, and the whole team, for that matter, has been killed by the injury bug this year, but Nelson’s steady production has helped the team fight through it. He was the one consistent weapon Rodgers could rely upon, and he’s also helped Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien produce off the bench.
Rookie of the Year: Eddie Lacy
Honorable mention: David Bakhtiari
This year’s rookie class looks like it could end up being Ted Thompson’s best, but one guy clearly stands out above the rest, and that is Eddie Lacy. Over the past few offseasons, the need for an improved running game has always been a huge storyline. Lacy has helped to finally turn the running game from a weakness to a strength. He’s racked up 669 rushing yards and four touchdowns through basically seven full games. That pace is good for 1,529 yards and 9.1 touchdowns over a normal 16-game season. And don’t forget his strength in short-yardage situations. The Packers now can actually pound out first downs instead of having to throw on third and one.
Defensive Player of the Year: Ryan Pickett
Honorable mention: Sam Shields
This is a tough one. While the defense has, for the most part, looked pretty good this year, no one player is sticking out above the rest with his performance. So, I decided to go with Ryan Pickett. The reason is simple – the defense has been best against the run, and Pickett is the best run defender. He’s always been the team’s most underrated player, and I think it’s time Pickett gets his proper credit.
Special Teams Player of the Year: Mason Crosby
Honorable mention: Chris Banjo
Mason Crosby’s 2-4 performance against the Eagles is still fresh in everyone’s mind, but he’s still had an incredible 2013 season, especially considering how far his performance fell in 2012. He’s improved from his 63.6 percent success rate last year to an awesome 84 percent this year. If that stands, only his 2011 performance of 85.7 percent would be better.
Most Improved: Mike Daniels
Honorable mention: A.J. Hawk, entire offensive line
Mike McCarthy always says he looks for most improvement in players from year one to year two. Mike Daniels has certainly lived up to that expectation. Hampered by a shoulder injury during the offseason leading up to his rookie year, Daniels didn’t get a full offseason of preparation until 2013. It’s paid dividends. Daniels has only played about half of the team’s defensive snaps, but he leads the team in sacks with 4.5. He usually only plays against the pass, but he’s held up very well in the running game as well. He’s providing a pass rush not seen on the defensive line since Cullen Jenkins left in free agency following Green Bay’s Super Bowl XLV win.
Coach of the Year: James Campen (offensive line coach)
Honorable mention: Winston Moss (inside linebackers/assistant head coach)
Eddie Lacy may be the guy carrying the ball in the Packers’ newfound rushing attack, but the offensive line deserves just as much credit for the ground game’s development. The line is by far the team’s most improved unit from last year. Consider everything James Campen has had to deal with this year: an overhaul that flip-flopped Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang and Marshall Newhouse and Bryan Bulaga; Bulaga, arguably the team’s best offensive lineman, going on IR before the season began; preparing a rookie fourth-round pick to protect the blindside of Aaron Rodgers; and losing his two projected backup centers to season-ending injuries. Not only has the run-blocking significantly improved, but sacks per game has dropped from 3.19 in 2012 to 2.56 this year.
Most Pleasant Surprise: David Bakhtiari
Honorable mention: Jamari Lattimore
In a season full of disappointing injuries, the first big blow came before the preseason began when left tackle Bryan Bulaga tore his ACL. Most teams wouldn’t be able to survive such a devastating loss so early, but most teams don’t have a young talent like David Bakhtiari. The fourth-round pick out of Colorado was only 21 when the season began and figured to be a raw prospect who would take a couple years to develop before he was ready to man the second-most important position on the team. But he has proven he’s ready to play now. Not only has he held up very well as a rookie with such little experience, he’s done it against some of the league’s best pass-rushers, including Aldon Smith, Brian Orakpo, Michael Johnson, Terrell Suggs, Jared Allen and Julius Peppers. I think Bulaga’s going to have to switch back to right tackle in 2014.
Biggest Disappointment: Jeremy Ross
Honorable mention: Nick Perry
Everyone thought the return man situation was fixed. Though Jeremy Ross muffed that infamous punt at San Francisco last January, he still showed flashes of brilliance as a returner. When the Packers decided to keep him coming out of training camp instead of holding on to other young players who were more promising as pure receivers, expectations for Ross’ returning abilities skyrocketed. His performance, however, plummeted. He played so badly, he was cut after only three games.