The NFL Honors Awards happens live later tonight. Among the most publicized of the awards given out this evening will be for Comeback Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and of course the NFL MVP and Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.
While the odds tend to favor certain players in many of these categories, there are often surprises in store at each ceremony. Of course, there are several Buffalo Bills players in contention for tonight’s awards, as well players from other AFC East teams.
But what if the awards were handed out by division — who would each category in the AFC East? I have some thoughts...
AFC East Comeback Player of the Year: Breece Hall
There is no doubt that Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin should take home the honors due to everything that he went through last season. However, there is a portion of the NFL fan base that believes the award should take into account the player’s on-field performance as well. If you were to look at it from that perspective then New York Jets running back Breece Hall has a strong case for the award.
As a rookie, Hall was on a mission before tearing his ACL. In his sophomore season he also put up impressive stats. He had 994 yards on the ground with five touchdowns, but he was also a threat in the passing game with 76 receptions for 591 yards and four touchdowns. When you think about the performance of Hall, it should be appreciated more due to how he was the primary target that teams wanted to take away from the New York Jets’ offense.
Offensive Player of the Year: Tyreek Hill
There may be no tougher player to guard than Miami Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill. His game-breaking speed makes him a challenge to guard on deep balls and even crossing routes because there’s a good chance he’ll take it to the house. At multiple points during the 2023 NFL season, Hill was on pace to become the first receiver to have over 2,000 yards for a season. However, nagging injuries slowed him down the final weeks of 2023. Hill finished the year with 119 receptions for 1,799 yards and 13 touchdowns. He averaged over 15 yards per catch. He had five games where he had over 150 receiving yards (all victories), and even had over 200 yards receiving in Week 1.
Defensive Player of the Year: Rasul Douglas
I am going with a wild card here and giving the defensive player of the year to someone that didn't even start the year in the AFC East. Cornerback Rasul Douglas was acquired by the Buffalo Bills at the trade deadline — and boy did he make an impact for the team. In eight games with the Bills, Douglas had four interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He was able to immediately stabilize a secondary that was banged up throughout the season. Douglas was physical and all over the field making plays wherever he could, and he was a huge reason the Bills were able to turn things around the second half of the season.
Most Valuable Player: Josh Allen
You don’t have to like it, but Bills quarterback Josh Allen should be the MVP of the entire league — and the stats back it up. People will point out the turnovers but his other numbers more than make up for it. Allen led the league in total touchdowns with 44. He was fourth in the league with 4,306 passing yards and third in QBR at a 69.6. No one is more important to their team than Allen is for the Bills. He was able to rally this football team with five straight wins to end the season by taking home the AFC East for a fourth straight season. In those five games he had five passing touchdowns and six rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Lamar Jackson will most likely win the MVP award due to the Baltimore Ravens having the best record in the league, but Bills Mafia knows that their quarterback is the true MVP.
Walter Payton Man of the Year
Each season the NFL honors a player for their excellence on and off the field, naming one individual as the Walter Payton Man of the Year. Who am I to distinguish which player in the division did more or less than the other? Instead, let’s highlight the four nominees who represent the division.
For the Buffalo Bills that’s of course left tackle Dion Dawkins and the Dion’s Dreamers foundation he started in 2020. The goal of Dion’s Dreamers is to provide mentorship and support to young people in underserved communities.
The Miami Dolphins are represented by fullback Alec Ingold. Ingold has the Ingold Family Foundation, and in just his second season his efforts have made a strong impact in South Florida. Ingold has partnered with the Children’s Home Society of Florida to host a free summer camp for youth who are in foster care.
Defensive back Jonathan Jones is the nominee from the New England Patriots. He hosted his fourth annual football camp this year but more important this past season, Jones became the first male ambassador for iPlay Like A Girl, an organization that supports women and girls in STEM and sports.
Rounding up the division is defensive tackle Solomon Thomas with the New York Jets. In partnership with his parents, Chris and Martha, Thomas founded The Defensive Line (TDL) in 2021. Through TDL, the goal is to provide a supportive community for all, with a focus on those who are in crisis and/or impacted by mental health. Thomas supported two families this year after a mass shooting impacted his home state of Texas. Thomas has focused on devoting himself to mental health awareness, which includes the address he gave to coaches and athletes at Texas Christian University.