Pro Football Guru’s 2019 NFL Midseason Awards

Russell S. Baxter

Pro Football Guru’s 2019 NFL Midseason Awards

By Jesse Pierson and Pete Fasulo

Special to Pro Football Guru

We are officially at the halfway point of the season for all 32 NFL teams. So it’s time to give out a little hardware.

Now that each team has played at least half of their games (and some have played nine), we have a better understanding of where things stand league wide. To celebrate the halfway point, let’s take a look at the players, teams, coaches, and games that deserve recognition. Keep in mind that these are not predictions for what’s to come but rather accolades for what has already happened. Enjoy!

Best Offensive Player: QB Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Wilson has led the Seahawks to a solid 7-2 record by throwing 22 touchdown passes and only one interception. He has completed 68.3 percent of his passes for 2,505 yards. This puts him on pace for a record year if he can keep this success going during the second half of the season. In addition, his ability to run for yardage and scramble to buy time on plays where his receivers struggle to get open has set him apart from the field this season. He has run for 203 yards and three touchdowns thus far, as well.

Honorable Mention: RB Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers; WR Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints

Best Defensive Player: CB Stephon Gilmore, New England Patriots
New England’s defense has been historically good in their 8-1 start to the year. They have five players with multiple interceptions, including Devin McCourty, who leads the league with five. Gilmore, though, has been the straw that stirs the drink. He often shadows the opponent’s top receiver and has played as well as any cornerback since the days of “Revis Island.” When quarterbacks have decided to challenge him anyway, he has responded with three interceptions and 10 passes broken up.

Honorable Mention: DT Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams; OLB Shaquil Barrett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Comeback Player: WR Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams

After missing the bulk of the Rams’ 2018 season with a torn ACL, Kupp has returned better than expected. He is currently third in the NFL with 792 receiving yards from hauling in 58 passes. In addition, his yards per catch average (13.7) is a steady and he has scored five touchdowns. His return to the lineup gives quarterback Jared Goff an excellent possession receiver to go along with speedsters Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, and Josh Reynolds. Kupp’s ability to get open and his precise route-running have made him a very strong weapon in Sean McVay’s pass-happy offense.

Honorable Mention: S Earl Thomas, Baltimore Ravens; QB Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers

Offensive Rookie: QB Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars signed Nick Foles in March as their quarterback of the future, moving on from former first-round pick Blake Bortles. Unfortunately, the Super Bowl LII MVP broke his clavicle in the first quarter of the first game, only to be replaced by charismatic rookie Gardner Minshew – a sixth-round pick out of Washington State. All he has done since is complete 61.2 percent of his passes, toss 13 touchdown passes to only four interceptions, and lead his team to a 4-4 record as the starter. Although Foles will be back in Week 11, Minshew Mania looks like it could be around Duval County for some time.

Honorable Mention: WR Terry McLaurin, Washington Redskins; RB Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders

Defensive Rookie: DE Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh received an early Christmas present back in April at the NFL draft when the Niners landed Bosa. He has been even better than advertised, rejuvenating a San Francisco defense that had struggled last season. Bosa has racked up seven sacks, one interception, a forced fumble and 21 tackles. It’s actually possible that he could land both NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and NFL Defensive Player of the Year should he be able to keep this up during the second half of the season. He has anchored a 49ers’ defense that has been overwhelming in leading the team to an 8-0 record.

Honorable Mention: S Darnell Savage, Green Bay Packers; DE Brian Burns, Carolina Panthers

Pleasant Surprise: Indianapolis Colts

Once Andrew Luck announced his retirement approximately two weeks before the regular season began, most pundits thought any chances the Colts had of returning to the playoffs for a second consecutive season were finished. Enter Jacoby Brissett, head coach Frank Reich’s positive attitude, and a young defense with a chip on its shoulder. While other teams have made more drastic improvements in the win column, what this team has done during the first half of the season makes them our winner.

Honorable Mention: San Francisco 49ers; Buffalo Bills

Best Game: Rams at Seahawks, Week 5
This Thursday Night Football game featured stellar quarterback play, lead changes aplenty, and a divisional rivalry to boot. The back-and-forth nature of this game, as the teams continued to march up and down the field in this battle for footing in the NFC West, made for perfect prime time entertainment. It went down to the last play of the game, as the usually reliable Greg Zuerlein lined up to boot the game-winning 44-yard field goal. Unfortunately for the Rams, he missed. It put the Seahawks ahead of the Rams in the playoff race, though both are still looking up at San Francisco.

Honorable Mention: Packers at Chiefs, Week 8; Texans at Chiefs, Week 7

Best Coach: Kyle Shanahan
Fans of NFL offensive schemes have known about Shanahan for a while. He has the legacy as Mike Shanahan’s son, of course, but Kyle is proving to be his own man. After an injury-plagued 2018 season that saw him start three different quarterbacks on the way to a 4-12 record, Shanahan has taken the 2019 season by storm. He is pushing all of the right buttons for Jimmy Garoppolo and a dynamic rushing attack, and his defensive staff is leading the league’s second-best unit behind only New England. Upon the strength of a perfect 8-0 record, Shanahan is an easy choice here.

Honorable Mention: Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills; Frank Reich, Indianapolis Colts

Jesse Pierson (@jessetpierson) is a former teacher and high school football coach who has written about the Colts for over a decade. He loves football, dogs, food, and comedy, and you can follow his work on his Facebook page, Jesse Pierson, Mediocre Writer. Pete Fasulo (@LISportsFans) is a freelance writer covering business, music, and sports. He has written for music publications such as Revolver and Aural Fix. His sports writing career has been resurrected here after numerous years at The Torch and The Long Island Tribune (many moons ago).

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