Now that the Kansas City Chiefs are through the halfway point of the season, let's see which Chiefs are deserving of mid-season awards. Although it's been a tough year (so far), there have been some fantastic stories in Kansas City.
*Two key defenders coming back from Achilles injuries.
*An incredible recovery and comeback from cancer.
*A rookie cornerback making interceptions, including his very first NFL snap.
*A rookie taking hold of the center position.
*A former UDFA stepping in and making a name for himself at running back after losing Jamaal Charles.
*A veteran outside linebacker taking a pay cut to stay with the team, presumably for a lesser role, but he is showing that he has plenty left to offer.
*Two members of the o-line going from the (presumed) doghouse to being two of the best players on the line the last couple of games.
Individual awards mean nothing if the team isn't winning. That said, here are some meaningless awards:
Comeback Player of the Year: Eric Berry
Honorable mention: Derrick Johnson, Mike DeVito
Getting DJ back from injury has helped both the pass and run defense, and he's really playing to the level we all are used to seeing. DeVito has been a rock on a very good d-line, even though he's been overshadowed by Jaye Howard.
But I'll say it again: Eric Berry's return from cancer is the best story in all of sports, and he still hasn't gotten the recognition he deserves. In one offseason, he beat cancer, actually gained weight in the process, continued to work out while going through chemo, came back for camp, and is now playing on a high level once again. He should win the NFL version of this award running away.
Offensive rookie of the year: Mitch Morse
Honorable mention: Chris Conley, James O'Shaugnessy
Conley and Shags have started to work their way into the offense and have made plays at times. However, it's been Morse who grabbed the starting center job in camp and never let it go. He's been among the best linemen on the Chiefs, although the group as a whole has struggled. He looks (on and of the field) like a 10 year veteran already. The rookie from Mizzou has made most of us content with the decision to let Rodney Hudson leave, given the cost savings (nearly $9M per year vs. $1.1M per year).
Defensive rookie of the year: Marcus Peters
Honorable mention: Ramik Wilson
Peters has been the most targeted cornerback in the NFL but he's responded with three interceptions (including a pick-six) and 11 passes defended. He's shown elite level feet and hips, and a relentless and fearless attitude. Peters will be in the conversation for best rookies across the NFL, and he's only getting better.
Offensive player of the year: Jeremy Maclin
Honorable mention: Jamaal Charles, Travis Kelce
This one hurts. No question Charles is the Chiefs best offensive player, and arguably he's the best player on the team (Justin Houston being the only one close). Many of us felt the season was essentially over when Charles tore his ACL.
Kelce has been Kelce this year. He always plays with a lot of emotion and finds ways to get open and make plays. He's among the league's best in running after the catch, and isn't easy to cover. Angry Travis has 40 catches for 538 yards and three touchdowns, and we can all agree that he's still under-utilized.
But Jeremy Maclin has been tremendous for the Chiefs week-in, week-out (minus the game missed for a concussion). His 42 receptions for 566 yards and two touchdowns would represent a good full season for a KC WR in the past few years. He's explosive, runs fantastic routes, and has elite hands. Maclin has been everything the Chiefs hoped he would be, and worth his very sizeable contract.
Defensive player of the year: Justin Houston
Honorable mention: Jaye Howard, Allen Bailey, Tamba Hali
Howard has been tremendous this year, arguably the team's best defensive lineman. He bulked up this offseason, and has clearly been working on his technique. Howard has been disruptive vs the pass and the run, and really helped give the defense a boost when Dontari Poe was ailing. Howard is playing like a man who really wants a new contract, and the Chiefs should respond accordingly.
Justin Houston has 5.5 sacks, five passes defended, an interception and a forced fumble. While the sack numbers may be well below his 2015 NFL-near-record-pace, Houston has been as solid as ever. His all-around game is second to none in the NFL, and he's the player most feared on the Chiefs defense. Houston appears to be stepping up as a more vocal leader this year, he can be seen yelling on the sidelines in good times and bad. I'm not sure what else we could ask of Justin Houston, so just appreciate what a special player he is.
Coach of the Year: N/A
Honorable mention: Andy Reid, Bob Sutton, Dave Toub
I'm not picking a winner on this one. When things go wrong, and it appears that the team has the talent they need to win ... the blame falls on the coaching staff. There have been brilliantly called games by Reid, and terrible ones. Great adjustments and pressures called by Sutton, and other games where it appeared he was clueless. Special teams has been good at times, but penalties have killed many big plays thus far. It's a very mixed bag for this group in 2015.
MVP: Tamba Hali
Honorable mention: Justin Houston, Alex Smith
I realize listing Smith as a candidate at all seems crazy, given the fact that he has been VERY inconsistent (maddeningly so) this season. But, Smith is on pace for his best statistical season passing with 1,969 yards, nine touchdowns, three interceptions and rushing with 202 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and one touchdown through eight games. His worst games were the Denver and Green Bay losses that started the losing streak that nearly cost the Chiefs any hope for a winning season. His best games were in decisive victories against Houston and Detroit. There's a reason the NFL usually names a QB as MVP and it's because teams live and die by their QBs.
That being said, I'm going with Tamba Hali for this award, partially because of his play and partially because of what he means to his team. Tamba is the consummate Chief, restructuring his contract to stay with the team, mentoring Houston and Dee Ford, and giving absolutely everything he has on every play. Early in the year, there was chatter that he had "slowed down" because he wasn't getting to the QB ... but he was always close. Hali is top three in the NFL in pressures, and his sack / strip sealed a victory vs Pittsburgh. Hali and Houston are the heart and soul of the Chiefs defense, which relies on pressure to make everyone look good. The coin flip goes to Tamba in recognition of his career in Kansas City.
Most Improved Player: Eric Fisher
Honorable mention: Charcandrick West, Jaye Howard
This may be the toughest one to choose. West has a toucdhown and around 100 yards in his last two games as the starter, and is playing with tremendous vision, balance and power. He's not Charles but he's showing that he has the ability to be a workhorse back in this league. The future appears bright for him. We talked about Howard above, how his game has really elevated this season and he looks like he really belongs in the lineup.
The story should be about the former No. 1 overall pick. Fisher started off the season missing game one with an injury that made people doubt his toughness. Then he was shifted to right tackle, and people used it as another reason to call him a "bust". Quietly, though, he played well at right tackle and when Stephenson failed at left tackle, Fisher slid over to the blindside without much of a hitch. Fisher is now showing that he has improved, and that he can be a cornerstone offensive tackle for the Chiefs. The sample size is still relatively small, but the arrow is certainly (finally) pointed in the right direction for Fisher, and that's HUGE for this team. Even if the national media won't catch on for a while...
Sportsmanship Award: Chiefs Fans
Honorable mention: Eric Fisher, Alex Smith
This is another dumb category. I think we could consider some of the players who have been criticized non-stop but have generally done a good job of keeping focused on their game, and doing what they can do to help the team win. I like how Fisher took his "demotion" to RT, worked to improve, and when teams take
I'll give this to the Chiefs fan base that has endured brutal losses, questionable decisions, frustrating QB play and more ... and yet we still show up to support the team, still spend most of our waking hours talking Chiefs football. Someday, it'll pay off like it has for Royals fans. Until then ... hang in there, Chiefs fans.