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With this being the Colts' bye week, there's some time to take a look back at the first half of the season (plus one game). Let's do so in the form of handing out some midseason awards.
MVP - Pat McAfee, P
Wait - a punter for midseason MVP? Really? Really. Remember, punters are people too, and the Colts have a great one in Pat McAfee. In a season filled with a lot of struggles, McAfee has remained at the top of his game and has been spectacular. He has punted the second-most times of any player in the league (that's the bad news), but he has averaged 48.6 yards per punt, 43.4 net yards per punt, has pinned 13 punts inside the 20 yard line, and returners are only averaging 8.1 yards per return against him (it would be tied for the league-best at 4.7 if you take away the punt return touchdown against the Broncos last week). Furthermore, McAfee continues to serve as an excellent kickoff specialist and all-around special teamer.
If you're wondering why a punter gets the nod as the MVP, I'd suggest to you that it reflects the disappointing season for the Colts so far. Their best and most important player really has been a punter, and while that's a great credit to McAfee, it's also an indictment on the team's struggles. But when you think about it, a large part of the defensive struggles have been because of turnovers putting them in bad situations - when McAfee punts, he helps the defense out. And the offense has struggled enough that McAfee has had to punt often. At 48 punts through nine games, McAfee has averaged 5.3 punts per game - the most punts per game of any season in his career besides the awful 2-14 season in 2011. So the defense is greatly helped out when McAfee punts vs. the offense turning it over, and the offense has had to have McAfee punt the ball quite a bit. Overall, he has had as big of an impact as anyone, and while hopefully that will change over the second half of the season, through the first nine games Pat McAfee is the team's MVP.
Offensive Player of the (Half) Year - Frank Gore, RB
The Colts' offense, with so many big-name players and a lot of talent, has been underwhelming so far in the 2015 season, making it hard to figure out who should be the offensive player of the year for the Colts at the midway point. Andrew Luck? He'll get an "award," but definitely not this one. T.Y. Hilton? He has had a good year, but even he has struggled some. Donte Moncrief? He's been a very pleasant surprise, but he's not been the offense's best or most important player. Believe it or not, backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and guard Jack Mewhort could have a case to be included in this section, but ultimately I've decided to give it to running back Frank Gore.
One free agent signing that has actually worked out, Gore has been a consistent contributor for this Colts' team. Gore has rushed for 599 yards this year, which is the seventh-highest total in the league, and his four rushing touchdowns tie him for the tenth-most. He has averaged four yards per carry and he has picked up 29 first downs on the ground, which is the fifth-most in the NFL. Gore has also caught 20 passes for 135 yards, putting him at 734 total yards for the Colts this season. He's on pace to rush for 1,065 yards and seven touchdowns, which would be the franchise's first 1,000+ yard rusher since 2007. Furthermore, he's on pace for 1,304 total yards this season, which is a very good number - particularly considering he's a 32-year old back. Gore has seen his carries limited in some games due to the nature of the offense and due to his team falling behind, but when he gets the chances, Gore has produced. That's more than some of the other offensive players can say, and Gore has been the best and most consistent offensive player through the first half of the season for Indy.
Defensive Player of the (Half) Year - Mike Adams, S
If you wanted to give this award to defensive lineman Henry Anderson or Kendall Langford, I wouldn't argue with you, but I'll go ahead and give the nod to safety Mike Adams. The Colts have had a lot of issues in the secondary this year, and the first several weeks of the season were spent trying to find enough healthy bodies to play a game. Even since then and since guys have stayed healthy, the cornerback position hasn't been great overall. They've been solid, but not great. The safety position, though, has been consistent and reliable. Veterans Mike Adams and Dwight Lowery don't make up the most formidable safety duo in the league, but they have been playing well. Adams in particular has followed up his Pro Bowl play from a year ago with another nice season so far, and he has made an impact.
Adams has started eight games (missing one due to injury) and has recorded 40 tackles, six passes defensed, five picks (tied for the most in the NFL) and returned one of them for a touchdown. He was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week in week five after intercepting two passes, and then he has also recorded interceptions of both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning this year. That's an impressive resume, and he has been a very important part of the Colts' defense this year.
Special Teams Player of the (Half) Year - Adam Vinatieri, K
We can't forget about special teams, and since Pat McAfee already took the MVP award, let's give the special teams player of the (half) year to kicker Adam Vinatieri, who also has had a great season. Vinatieri had a rough start, missing his first two kicks in the first two weeks of the season, but since then he has hit 11 in a row, with seven of them coming from 40+ yards out (including three from 50+). He just set his new career long in a Colts' uniform by hitting a 55 yard kick against the Broncos, and Vinatieri has been an important part of the team this year. He hit the game-winning field goal against the Jacksonville Jaguars, hit another field goal to send a game to overtime against the Carolina Panthers (and hit the go-ahead field goal in overtime, too). Vinatieri's numbers don't match up with some of the top statistical kickers this season, but since the first few weeks he has been great and a very important part of the success the team has had.
Best Newcomer - Henry Anderson, DL
There are three guys who I want to give this award to, so I'll give them all some credit here. Henry Anderson was drafted by the team in the third round of this year's draft and was a huge contributor in the first nine games. He filled in for Arthur Jones nicely and really helped the run defense along the line. Unfortunately, Anderson just suffered a torn ACL that will end his season, but he has been a huge addition to the team. Kendall Langford also deserves some recognition here, as he has also been a huge addition to the defensive line after being signed as a free agent. Lastly, running back Frank Gore also should be mentioned here, as he has been a big boost to the offense. Even safety Dwight Lowery or defensive lineman David Parry could earn some votes here as well. Ultimately, I've given this award to Anderson, but I won't really argue with any of those three mentioned here.
Worst Newcomer - Trent Cole, OLB
There are two players that could fit here: either outside linebacker Trent Cole or wide receiver Andre Johnson. Neither one of them have produced despite being big free agent signings. Trent Cole gets my vote for the worst newcomer award, however, as Andre Johnson has at least had his moments despite not living up to expectations. Johnson has still caught 24 passes for 288 yards and three scores, putting him on pace for a 43 catch, 512 yard, five touchdown season. That's not great, but it's far from awful. Trent Cole falls much closer to that latter category. Signed as a free agent to provide the Colts with a reliable veteran pass rusher, Cole has instead been invisible. Despite playing in all but one game, Cole has managed 18 tackles, three passes defensed, one forced fumble, and one quarterback hit. Yes, you heard that right: signed to be a pass rusher, Cole has generated zero sacks and one quarterback hit through nine games. That is absolutely awful, and while he has made some plays in the run game, it doesn't even come close to compensating for his massive failures in the area that the Colts signed him for.
Biggest Surprise - Defensive Line
The entire defensive line gets the recognition here because I think it's hard to single out just one of them. Neither Henry Anderson and David Parry entered training camp as starters, but both of them have started every game this season (Anderson due to an injury to Arthur Jones; Parry due to beating out Josh Chapman). The team entered the season with very little experience along the defensive line and with legitimate concerns at the position, but Anderson and Parry have absolutely quelled those fears and have played good football through the first half of the season. Furthermore, Kendall Langford has had a big impact this year as well - perhaps never more noticeable than last Sunday against the Denver Broncos. Remember, this was a unit that was considered a massive question mark entering the season and a weak spot. There are questions once again now with Henry Anderson's torn ACL, but through the first half of the season the defensive line has been a big positive on defense - which has been a very pleasant surprise.
Biggest Disappointment - Andrew Luck, QB
Want to put someone like Trent Cole or Andre Johnson here? That's fine, but they weren't expected to carry this team. They weren't expected to be the reason this team contended for a Super Bowl. They weren't supposed to be in the running for the NFL MVP award. All of that was true of Andrew Luck, however, and that's why he's the easy choice for the biggest disappointment "award." Now, understand what this isn't: this isn't me saying that Luck has some uncorrectable flaw or that he hasn't had his moments (like the fourth quarters of the Titans and Panthers games, or the Patriots and Broncos games). But overall this year, Andrew Luck has been bad. He's struggled. And that has absolutely, without a doubt been the primary cause of the Colts' 4-5 record through nine games. It's simply because of this: the team has been built around Andrew Luck. This team was built around the assumption that Luck would be able to mask flaws and carry them to a Super Bowl, while they tried to surround him with as good of a supporting cast as possible. We can argue all we want about how well that supporting cast has been established, but the guy who was supposed to be the star of the show hasn't produced. Andrew Luck has struggled, and while there's reason to think that he'll turn it around and be fine moving forward in his career, the 2015 season has been a disaster for him.
What are your thoughts on these midseason awards? What do you agree or disagree with?