We've officially reached the half-way point of the 2010 NFL regular season, and your Buffalo Bills are 0-8. True, they're a plucky, slightly entertaining 0-8, but they are still, unfortunately, winless.
Not everything is going poorly here in Buffalo, and we'll have plenty of time to cover the negative. For now, I'm in the mood to hand out a few mid-season awards; rather than trying to turn 0-8 into sunshine and daisies, however, we'll try to tweak the awards a bit to more properly reflect the current state of the Bills.
Most Valuable Player: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Simply giving an award to the best player on a crappy football team wouldn't do the true meaning of this award justice. I wanted to give this award to a player that is playing well, sure, but I also wanted to give it to the player who most closely resembles the current play of his team, the current make-up of the locker room, and who most accurately depicts how far there still is to go for this team. Ryan Fitzpatrick fits that description perfectly, in every possible way.
Fitzpatrick is enjoying his best season by a country mile. In six starts, he has thrown for 1,499 yards and 13 touchdown passes while completing 59.9% of his passes. He has run Chan Gailey's offensive system brilliantly at times. He prepares hard, he plays hard, and he has a lot of traits that have quickly made him a fan favorite in a blue collar city like Buffalo. He has also thrown seven interceptions, with all of them coming in games in which the Bills lost by one score, and has proven that he is not physically gifted enough to overcome critical mistakes like that. Fitzpatrick embodies the 2010 Buffalo Bills in every way possible - the gritty, try-hard-and-succeed-on-occasion type that's fun to watch on occasion, but can't perform when it truly counts. That's why Fitzpatrick is our MVP.
Offensive Player of the Half-Year: WR Stevie Johnson. We talked about Stevie a bit this morning, so this will be brief: Johnson has been a revelation in his third NFL season. A former seventh-round pick out of Kentucky that is not remarkable in any way aside from his excellent production, Johnson has very capably replaced Terrell Owens in Buffalo's starting lineup. Through his first eight games as an NFL starter, Johnson has hauled in 41 passes for 554 yards and six touchdowns. For half a year's work, that's outstanding production - and with the amount of time the Bills spend passing the football, don't expect a slowdown in production any time soon.
Defensive Player of the Half-Year: DT Kyle Williams. Despite two straight performances that can only really be described as "better" to those who understand the reference point, there obviously aren't a lot of contenders to choose from here. And really, there isn't a more obvious player to get this award than Williams, who despite constant fluctuation in his defensive alignment and very little front seven talent around him is having the best season of his career. Williams, who set career marks with 66 tackles and four sacks in 2009, has already accrued 42 tackles and three sacks this season. Statistically, he's producing, and he's also doing a lot that doesn't show up on the score sheet. This, ladies and gentlemen, is Buffalo's best defender by a country mile. (Unless Shawne Merriman has something to say about that starting, possibly, this week.)
Offensive Rookie of the Half-Year: WR David Nelson. Our next two awards will reward solid play from rookies, obviously, but you'll need to read between the lines a bit, as it will also indict the play of some of Buffalo's more highly-touted rookies. It's Nelson, an undrafted free agent acquisition out of Florida, and not C.J. Spiller, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, that gets our offensive rookie award. Nelson has settled into the fourth receiver role very well and quickly found a niche as a possession receiver for the Bills, catching 17 passes for 189 yards in his first eight NFL games. That's solid production out of any rookie receiver, but the fact that Nelson is producing despite his limited role speaks volumes about his reliability. He is rock solid.
Defensive Rookie of the Half-Year: OLB Arthur Moats. Slim pickings here, for sure. Second-round pick Torell Troup has been very average and third-round pick Alex Carrington hasn't played much at all, so this award kind of goes to Moats - a sixth-rounder out of James Madison - by default. Moats has been OK, and is becoming a bigger factor in Buffalo's defense on a weekly basis, with the Bills slowly evolving back to a predominant 3-4 base thanks to players like Moats being available. He has eight tackles and a half-sack on the season, and has three special teams tackles as well.
Comeback Player of the Half-Year: WR Roscoe Parrish. In 2009, Roscoe Parrish caught three passes for 34 yards. Those were his season totals. Left to rot in the doghouse even after Perry Fewell replaced Dick Jauron as head coach, many people openly wondered if Parrish would even make the team this year. Flash forward half a season: Parrish is one of Buffalo's most valuable offensive weapons. He has already set a career mark for receiving yardage (400), and needs just two more receptions (he's at 33) to match his career high in that department. His two touchdowns also tie a career high. Parrish is a little unorthodox, but like Johnson, he's proving that he belongs in an NFL receiving rotation - and may have belonged there all along.
Play of the Half-Year: TE David Martin's four-yard TD reception against the New York Jets. Yes, there were better individual efforts on single plays this season. Clearly. You don't need to tell us that. But just like with our MVP award, we wanted to find a play that encapsulated what this Bills season has been about thus far. Therefore, we were looking for a play that was kind of entertaining to watch, yet was also a complete disaster that would look better if played to circus music. The play needed to come at an ultimately meaningless time, yet still give us hope in the situation. That description fits this play perfectly. There is no single play this season that more accurately describes this 0-8 football team. Just try not to laugh when you watch this sucker.
I'm sure many of you are just itching to flex your creative muscles in awards for certain players - Aaron Maybin chief among them - and have many more superlatives you'd like to bring forth in the comments section. Have at it.