The New England Patriots are off this weekend, so it’s a good time to look back and reflect on their season thus far. The Patriots are 5-1 and sit atop the AFC East. They started the season with an offense based almost solely on Tom Brady’s arm and a defense that was getting shredded through the air. After a loss to divisional rival Buffalo in Week 3, the Patriots began to shift gears. Their offense became more balanced and the defense started to tighten up. There are several players that have contributed to the team’s success over the course of the first six games, so let’s hand out some awards to deserving players.
Best Draft Pick
OT Nate Solder. The Patriots’ first-round pick has started 5 out of the team’s first 6 games at right tackle due to Sebastian Vollmer’s back injury. You wouldn’t really know that there was a rookie at right tackle, aside from the occasional holding penalty. Solder has held his own and helped to keep Tom Brady upright.
Best Free Agent Pickup
G Brian Waters. Waters didn’t join the Patriots until after the preseason, but he’s arguably the team’s best offensive lineman. He can pass block, run block, pull, screen, he can do it all. On top of it all, he’s been a tremendous locker room guy. The Pats’ two big trades (Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth) haven’t come close to making the impact that Waters has.
Best Offensive Player
WR Wes Welker. Welker has been on a tear, and you could certainly give the guy throwing him the ball this award (more on him later), but Welker has been simply incredible this year. He leads the league in two categories: catches (51) and yards (785). He’s on-pace to break Jerry Rice’s receiving yardage record, which stands at 1,848 yards. When the team needs a play to be made, it’s likely that #83 will be the number they call. Honorable Mention: TE Rob Gronkowski
Best Defensive Player
DT Vince Wilfork. Wilfork, a team captain, has played more snaps per game than he has any year of his career due to injuries along the defensive line. Despite the extra work, he continues to make an impact, getting pressure, stuffing the run, and eating up multiple blockers. In addition, he’s a smart, heads-up player, shown by the two interceptions he has thus far.
QB Tom Brady. The way the defense played through the first three games, does anyone doubt the team would have lost those games had it not been for Tom Brady? How about last week’s game against the Dallas Cowboys? Brady’s late 4th quarter comeback was reminiscent of the team’s Super Bowl years. He is currently on-pace to break Dan Marino’s single-season passing yardage record (5,084). The Patriots are a team to be reckoned with because #12 is their quarterback, and nobody can deny that.