NFL Awards Watch: Josh Allen Takes Early MVP Lead; Jahan Dotson, Sauce Gardner Top Rookies

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.

Week 1 is complete and we have a first glance at the the frontrunners for each award. Let’s go:

nfl awards
Commanders WR Jahan Dotson, left, and Bills quarterback Josh Allen. (Getty Images)

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

QB JOSH ALLEN, Buffalo Bills.

He torched a talented Rams secondary last Thursday: 26-of-31 for 297 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs. Whether on the move or stepping up in the pocket, Allen made big throws look effortless.

The bombs to Gabe Davis and Stefon Diggs stood out against Los Angeles, but don’t overlook the skill it takes to get the ball to Zach Moss for an 8-yard gain while avoiding Bobby Wagner’s tight coverage. That’s a small example of a routine play for Allen that only a handful of quarterbacks in this league can make.

Josh Allen
QB Josh Allen (17) of the Buffalo Bills drops back to pass during the first quarter of the NFL game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on September 08, 2022, in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Two More To Consider

  • Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. No Tyreek Hill, no problem for the former MVP. Mahomes was 30-of-39 for 360 yards and five touchdowns against the Cardinals. We now get Mahomes vs. Justin Herbert in primetime Thursday night. The Chargers should learn from Arizona it’s not smart to blitz KC’s QB.
  • Ravens QB Lamar Jackson. What do you do after turning down a contract extension that includes $133 million guaranteed? Go show why you’re worth more than Deshaun Watson. Jackson was fantastic in Week 1 and it wasn’t due to running the ball. All 3 touchdown passes were on deep passes.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR 

WR AJ BROWN, Philadelphia Eagles.

What a debut for Philly’s biggest offseason acquisition. Brown demanded a new contract in Tennessee and when the Titans decided they weren’t going to pay him $20 million-plus annually, the Eagles landed a difference maker.

‘Always Open’ AJ Brown put on a show against Detroit. He had 6 catches for 128 yards in the first half and finished with 10 catches for 155 yards. His debut was the most receiving yards for any player making his first Eagles start.

AJ Brown
A.J. Brown (11) of the Philadelphia Eagles plays against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on September 11, 2022, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Two More To Consider

  • Giants RB Saquon Barkley is back, healthy and dynamic as ever. Barkley made a Titans defense known for being stout against the run look pedestrian, torching Tennessee for 194 yards from scrimmage. He was the best player on the field and led the Giants to the road upset.
  • Vikings WR Justin Jefferson hauled in 6 catches for 158 yards and two touchdowns in the first half vs. Green Bay. He’d finish with a career-high 184 yards. New head coach Kevin O’Connell has to be thrilled with his top option. 

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR 

FS MINKAH FITZPATRICK, Pittsburgh Steelers.

Man is this guy fun to watch. He lines up everywhere and makes impactful plays to change outcomes. His pick-6 to start the day put the Steelers up 7-0.

He also blocked Evan McPherson’s game-winning PAT with 2 seconds left. The Steelers went on to win in overtime. Fitzpatrick made 14 tackles in the game and was the difference in a road win for the Steelers over their division opponent. 

MINKAH FITZPATRICK
Minkah Fitzpatrick (39) of the Pittsburgh Steelers returns an interception for a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on September 11, 2022, in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Two More To Consider

  • Chargers OLB Khalil Mack sacked Raiders QB Derek Carr three times, all of which came in big moments of the game. He’s a proven difference maker, adding four QB hits and one forced fumble.
  • Titans DT Jeffrey Simmons is a disruptive force and a terror for opposing interior offensive lineman. He was dominant Sunday against the Giants, totaling two sacks and a forced fumble on QB Daniel Jones. 

OFFENSIVE  ROOKIE OF THE YEAR 

WR JAHAN DOTSON, Washington Commanders.

He caught the game-winning pass from Carson Wentz with 1:20 left in regulation. Dotson finished his rookie debut with two touchdown receptions among his three catches. 

JAHAN DOTSON
Jahan Dotson (1) of the Washington Commanders looks on before the preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on August 27, 2022, in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Two More To Consider

  • Falcons WR Drake London
  • Titans WR Kyle Phillips 

DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

CB SAUCE GARDNER, New York Jets 

I know, I know. The Jets were blown out by the Ravens. But they have a bonafide talent in Gardner, who allowed just one catch in the game and added a pass breakup in the process.

Sauce Gardner
Sauce Gardner (1) of the New York Jets looks on against the Baltimore Ravens at MetLife Stadium on September 11, 2022, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Two More To Consider

  • Texans CB Derek Stingley, Jr.
  • Chiefs DE George Karlaftis

Jonathan Hutton is the host of OutKick 360 and will write weekly about NFL awards.
Follow Hutton on Twitter and email him here.

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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