You'd think with the number of injuries the Packers have sustained, midseason awards would simply go to whoever's healthy. But even with Rodgers' shoulder no longer whole and hamstrings blowing up left and right, the Packers have still managed to put together a solid first half of football. A lot of that success can be attributed to the depth the Packers have on the roster.
So while some midseason awards might have once seemed like a no-brainer, the number of new guys playing key roles caused some debate among our writers here at Acme Packing Company. In the end, we came to a consensus like any healthy team environment would - by dipping our hands in glue, rubbing them in glass shards and fighting this thing out Van Damme style.
If you have not done so already, make sure you head over to the community voting page to submit your own selections. Here are our picks.
Offensive Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers
As we were reminded of Monday night, there's no player more instrumental to the Packers success than Aaron Rodgers. To that point, perhaps no quarterback in the league did more with less help than Green Bay's #12 (apologies to Tom Brady). With the departure of Greg Jennings and injuries to Cobb, Jones, Finley and Bryan Bulaga, Rodgers kept the offense humming right along. His stats haven't been as otherworldly because of those losses, but his command of the offense has never been better.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Micah Hyde
Whether you view this selection as a pleasant surprise because of Hyde's emergence or a letdown that first-round pick Datone Jones has been so invisible is up to you, one thing's for sure - Hyde can play. In a lot of ways, he's the quintessential Packers corner. Tough, a solid tackler, smart and as we saw on his punt return last week versus the Vikings - extremely versatile. As a 5th-round pick without a ton of speed, Hyde entered the league without much buzz. Eight games in, he's doing plenty to change that.
Special Teams Player of the Year: Mason Crosby
Runner-up: Tim Masthay
Admittedly, the one Masthay pick came from me and that's mostly because I voted Crosby for Comeback Player of the Year. Granted, with the Packers offense Masthay doesn't actually have to punt that often, but when he does, he routinely puts them in good field position. Ultimately though, it's hard to argue with Crosby. After a year that saw more wild kicks than a Ndamukong Suh temper tantrum, Crosby has come back extremely strong - missing just two field goals overall and earning NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for October.
Defensive Player of the Year: A.J. Hawk
Runner-up: Sam Shields/Johnny Jolly/Ryan Pickett
In any other year this award pretty much belongs to Clay Matthews. And as you can see, him being out caused all sorts of chaos among our writers. No other award was more divisive than this one with myself giving the nod to Jolly for his run defense and leadership, while Jason cited Sam Shields' consistency and shutdown play against elite receivers as his pick. Evan, our fearless leader, went in another direction with Ryan Pickett:
Ryan Pickett has led the charge in the turnaround of the Packers' run defense. As usual, the big veteran nose tackle is not producing much in the way of pass rush, but he is anchoring the middle of the defensive line in the base defense and occupying multiple gaps, doing exactly what a nose tackle is supposed to do in the 3-4 defense. This has allowed the linebackers, A.J. Hawk and Jamari Lattimore especially, to flow unimpeded to the ball. Pickett is, in my mind, the single biggest reason for the Packers' turnaround in defending the run.
In the end though, it was A.J. Hawk (holy hell who saw that coming that eight games ago?) who got the majority of the votes. And with good reason. With number of key players out with injury, Hawk's been on a warpath this season, playing some of the best (and helmetless) football of his career. Said our own Josh VanDyke:
Hawk is on pace to set a new career-high in tackles (120 last season) and sacks (3.5 is rookie season) and is a big reason the Packers defense has been able to stay afloat amid the collection of injuries within the already thin linebacking unit. Hawk appears lighter and quicker, and is consistently getting into the other team's backfield. He may still have trouble covering a Reggie Bush-type in the open field, but Hawk's rejuvenation at middle linebacker is a big reason why the run defense and pass rush have improved over the past month.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Eddie Lacy
Runner-up: David Bakhtiari
Not since 2009's Clay Matthews/B.J. Raji draft have there been two Packers rookies who have contributed as much as Lacy and Bakhtiari. With Bryan Bulaga going down to injury early in camp, Bakhtiari stepped in and hasn't missed a beat in protecting Aaron Rodgers. Said our Dan Turczynski of his choice:
Lacy has been very impressive, but he's not the sole reason the run game is improved. James Starks has run for 100 yards in a game this season, as has Johnathan Franklin. That leads me to think that the offensive line deserves more credit than they're getting and Bakhtiari has been a big part of that. Also, the backbone of this team is still the threat of its passing game. Bakhtiari protects the NFLs best QB's backside, Seneca Wallace (first Seneca Wallace joke). At the end of the day, Bakhtiari has been productive, durable and impressive for a low-round draft choice playing a big-time NFL position.
But even though Bakhtiari has been great, we simply couldn't look past Lacy's production thus far. And we're not alone. With Lacy consistently churning out big games, he's now firmly entrenched in the NFL Rookie of the Year discussion. With Rodgers out for at least a few weeks, the Packers will be relying on Lacy to continue to carry much of the offensive load. From the looks of it, he'll be up to the task.
Most Improved Player: Mike Daniels
Runner-up: Johnny Jolly
There's no denying that Jolly's story is a great one - a complete 180 from where he was just a couple years ago. But Mike Daniels has been different player altogether. Not only is the former Iowa Hawkeye the team's leader in sacks, he's also one of their hardest workers. The guy brings it on every down and plays with a fire and mean streak so many of us have been clamoring for along the defensive line. Our own Jason Hirschhorn picked Daniels for his Most Improved Player of the Year and had this to say:
In the past two years, the Packers have made several big investments along the defensive line. They used a first and second round draft pick on Datone Jones and Jerel Worthy respectively while bringing back Johnny Jolly from his drug-related exile. However, the addition that's made the biggest impact this year is second-year lineman Mike Daniels. Daniels was an inconsistent contributor as a rookie, having the occasional splash play between long stretches of invisibility. He added strength and worked on his technique in the offseason, and now he's the best pass rushing defensive lineman on Green Bay's roster.
There you have it - our selections for the best Packers so far this year. Make sure to get your picks in, and we will be recapping the community selections tomorrow.
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