NFL Awards Watch: Breece Hall, Sauce Gardner Put Jets On Pace To Sweep Top Rookie Honors

Welcome to NFL Awards Watch, my weekly column that will take a look at the five major awards handed out in the NFL: MVP; Offensive and Defensive Player Of The Year; and Offensive and Defensive Rookie Of The Year.

JONATHAN HUTTON NFL AWARDS WATCH ARCHIVE

Week 5 featured New York rookies rising up the charts, dominant defensive performances in the clutch, and elite quarterback play at the top. We have an MVP showdown this Sunday in Kansas City, but this week I’m starting with the rookie awards, where the Jets are fueled through their 2022 draft picks. Let’s get to it:

NFL AWARDS WATCH WEEK 5 

jets rookies
Jets rookies Sauce Gardner and Breece Hall. (Getty Images)

Offensive Rookie of the Year

RB BREECE HALL, New York Jets 

Hall is known as The Beast in the backfield by his Jets teammates, and the punch he brings to the New York offense provides balance for the young offense. He posted 197 scrimmage yards last Sunday, a Jets’ rookie record. Hall’s production will continue to benefit QB Zach Wilson, who connected with the Iowa State standout on a 79-yard catch and run on the final play of the first quarter in what became a 40-17 win over the Dolphins. Robert Saleh has a home run hitter in his backfield.

Two More To Consider

  • WR Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints. All the Ohio State rookie wide receivers have been fantastic, none better than Olave, who currently ranks in the top 30 for receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns and yards per catch. He enters Week 6 in concussion protocol after he slammed into the ground headfirst while making a diving touchdown grab. The play was initially ruled incomplete, but changed upon review to add another touchdown catch to Olave’s rookie stat sheet.
  • WR Drake London, Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta’s top pick posted big numbers in early September, and while he’s the favorite target for Marcus Mariota, his overall production is down just a bit compared to the 13-160-1 TD stat line from Weeks 1 and 2. That may be because defenses are adjusting to him more in the second month of the season. But make no mistake about his overall skillset; he can separate from the top corners in the league. That was something many draft analysts were concerned about, but it hasn’t been an issue whatsoever. He’s a great piece for Arthur Smith’s offense.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

CB SAUCE GARDNER, New York Jets 

The 4th overall selection in April’s draft makes a weekly impact for the Jets defense, with this past Sunday producing two highlight reel moments. He hammered Dolphins QB Teddy Bridgewater on a corner blitz in the end zone which resulted in a safety and sent Bridgewater to the locker room. Gardner then jumped a route and intercepted Skylar Thompson’s pass attempt to River Cracraft. His first career interception gave Miami great field position and set up a 19-7 lead in the second quarter.

Just FYI: The last time two players from the same team won Rookie of the Year honors in the same season was in 2017. Alvin Kamara and Marshon Lattimore took home Offensive and Defensive honors with the Saints. This season, Sauce Gardner and Breece Hall are both setting the tone for the Jets. And I shouldn’t leave out wide receiver Garrett Wilson.

Two More To Consider

  • CB Jack Jones, New England Patriots. The fourth-round pick from Arizona State made his second career start last Sunday and grabbed his second interception in as many weeks. He jumped the route, skied to get the football, then toe-tapped on the sideline to secure the takeaway. His first start came in Week 4 and he impacted the game with a 40-yard Pick 6 of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He became the first Patriots rookie since Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan to record interceptions in back-to-back games. He’s fun to watch, and he’s one of the steals of the 2022 draft.
  • LB Devin Lloyd, Jacksonville Jaguars. Even when the Jaguars look like the Jaguars, Lloyd flies around the field and impacts the game. The Inside Linebacker position is not nearly as valued as it used to be, but Lloyd’s ability to glide and cover ground puts him in position to make a number of impact plays every Sunday. He leads Jacksonville in both tackles (49) and interceptions (2).

Most Valuable Player

My two MVP favorites face off in a can’t-miss Week 6 matchup in Kansas City.

QB JOSH ALLEN, Buffalo Bills 

In Week 5, Allen threw four touchdowns that covered a combined 199 yards in the first half, and finished the first two quarters with 348 yards passing. His career day began with his 98-yard touchdown to Gabe Davis, a play where he climbed the pocket to deliver a strike for his striding wide out. That 98-yard score tied a Bills franchise record for longest passing touchdown first set by Ryan Fitzpatrick and Terrell Owens. Hall of Famer Norm Van Brocklin’s 554 yards in the 1951 season opener remains the most passing yards ever in a NFL game. Allen’s afternoon ended with 424 yards passing. Up next: the MVP showdown in Kansas City.

Two More To Consider

  • QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs. OutKick’s Armando Salguero, an NFL awards voter, told me Mahomes would receive his vote. It’s hard to disagree with how dominant Mahomes has been to begin the season. The former MVP tossed four touchdowns against the Raiders on Monday night, all to Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. He’s constantly out-dueling the quarterback on the opposite sideline, including his history vs Allen. I won’t waste my time reminding you how last year’s playoff game ended. We’ll see plenty of those 2021 highlights throughout the Week 6 Chiefs/Bills showdown. A Mahomes stat that puts Mahomes’ dominance in perspective: Mahomes now has 166 touchdown passes, one more than Troy Aikman had throughout his entire career. Mahomes reached 166 in 100 fewer games than Aikman’s career mark. (By the way, if you agree with Armando you can get Mahomes’ MVP odds somewhere around +400 or +500 at Outkick.com/bet).
  • QB Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles. Through five games, the unbeaten Eagles set the bar offensively with 58 explosive plays (15+ yards), and Hurts ranks first in explosive plays with 42. His immediate reaction to Philly’s fifth win is a glimpse at the young QB’s MVP-like mindset. “I have mixed emotions right now because I feel like the game could have been over a little earlier,” Hurts told FOX. Good is not good enough for Hurts. I love his leadership qualities to begin the season. Up next: Micah Parsons and the Dallas defense. Hurts will climb up my board again if he posts a big performance Sunday night against the Cowboys.

Offensive Player of the Year 

RB NICK CHUBB, Cleveland Browns 

What Chubb is doing in Cleveland shouldn’t go unnoticed. He’s rushed for 593 yards and 7 touchdowns through five games, and he’s produced those numbers on fewer than 100 total carries. Last week he opened the game against the Chargers with a 41-yard TD run and scored again just before halftime. He’s averaging an absurd 6.1 yards per carry, but also averages more than 4 yards per carry when he’s faced with a loaded box.

Two More To Consider

  • WR Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings. With 11 minutes remaining in the second quarter of the Vikings-Bears game, Justin Jefferson already had 8 catches for 122 yards. The Vikings star leads the NFL with 547 receiving yards. He’s hauled in 301 of those yards on 22 catches the last two weeks.
  • WR Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams. Last season’s award winner is averaging 105 yards per game in 2022, with 49 receptions in five games. He averages nearly 11 yards per catch, and has five catches for 20 or more yards. He’s scored four times this season, none prettier than his one-handed grab on the 71-yard touchdown against Dallas. Michael Thomas holds the NFL record of 149 catches in a single season. Kupp is on pace to shatter that mark. The Rams can’t protect their quarterback. Their other receivers aren’t consistent. L.A.’s run game isn’t effective. Kupp means everything to the Rams offense.

Defensive Player of the Year

WLB MICAH PARSONS, Dallas Cowboys 

There’s no one better on defense than Micah Parsons right now. He strained his groin in the first quarter Sunday in Los Angeles and played just 46 snaps, but Parsons wrecked the Rams offense in the final two minutes of the game. He sacked Matthew Stafford twice on the closing drive, and the second forced a fumble to end the game. It was Parsons’ third multi-sack game this season. Dallas has a defense that’s held all five opponents to 20 points or less. Parsons leads the way.

Two More To Consider

  • DE Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers. Bosa is tied for the league lead with six sacks on the season, but was held without a sack this past Sunday for the first time in his last eight games. To be fair, he left Sunday’s game early due to a groin injury and there’s a chance he won’t be able to play in Week 6. 
  • DT Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams. I’ve left Donald off this weekly list for too long. He had two sacks of Cowboys QB Cooper Rush in Week 5, one of which drew a holding penalty on rookie OT Tyler Smith. Donald dropped the Cooper Rush anyway. Has he lost a step? Um… no. 

Jonathan Hutton is the host of OutKick 360 and will write weekly about NFL awards. 

Follow Hutton on Twitter.

Written by Jonathan Hutton

Jonathan Hutton hosts OutKick 360 each weekday afternoon. He spent 16 seasons as the gameday host and sideline reporter for the Tennessee Titans Radio Network and covered the biggest NFL events. Follow @HuttonOutKick on Twitter/Instagram.

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