The NFL Season is now halfway done, making it the perfect time to look at the first eight games of the season and debate which Denver Broncos deserve some coveted awards.

Who has been the Broncos’ MVP? Who have been their most impressive rookies? Who’s having the most inspiring bounceback season? Let’s take a look.

Comeback Player of the Year: K.J. Hamler

Finalists: Josey Jewell, LB; Mike Purcell, IDL; Bradley Chubb, former EDGE

When considering the fact that the NFL’s ‘Comeback Player of the Year’ award is, has been, and will always be a narrative-based award, K.J. Hamler is the clear choice.

Earlier this year, Hamler had an exceptionally powerful press conference, during which he mentioned his mental health struggles and devastating depression following his ACL tear, and the loss of his grandmother last season. It was an incredibly hard time for Hamler, and according to him, one he almost didn’t make it out of.

“At one point, I didn’t want to be here,” Hamler shared during that emotional presser. “I didn’t want to be in this world. There was one point where I didn’t want to be heard from anymore because I lost my granny and that really hurt me. God gave me the strength to just get out of that hole because he knew I was strong enough to get through [it]. I didn’t feel like I was at the time. Just getting out of that hole was very hard, very tough. Just having all of these things going on and piling on top of each other, it was a hard process. Just to see where I am at from where I started and where I’m at now, [it’s] been a big change. I’m proud of myself and I know my grandmother is proud.”

There’s no denying that fact. How could anyone in Broncos Country not be proud of Hamler, at this point?

He’s come up with clutch play after clutch play in an effort to help spark the Broncos’ offense, and help his team win. Can’t ask for more.

Coach of the Year: Ejiro Evero

Finalists: Marcus Dixon, defensive line coach; Christian Parker, defensive backs coach

This is an absolute no-brainer.

The Denver Broncos’ defense is arguably the best defense in the NFL, and they’ve accomplished that despite getting almost no help from the offense.

Making Ejiro Evero’s debut coordinating performance even more impressive is the fact that he took over from Vic Fangio — a man universally heralded as one of the two greatest defensive minds in the last 20 years of the NFL.

Evero came in, and with nearly identical talent, took a defense that ranked 20th in defensive DVOA, 14th in EPA per play allowed, and 32nd in pass rush win rate, and transformed it into a unit that ranks first in both DVOA and EPA and second in pass-rush win rate.

Not only is the production there, but he’s doing it in modern, innovative, and creative ways. The Denver Broncos lead the NFL in simulated pressures, the new in-vogue defensive concept, and we’ve also seen Evero break out all sorts of unique fronts, featuring odd combinations of pass-rushers to create isolated matchups and to perplex the opposing offense.

In a decade that’s featured legends Wade Phillips, and Fangio, this columnist would pick Evero to run his defense, among Denver’s defensive play callers from the last 10 seasons. It’s a beautiful modern adaption of the Fangio concepts presently dominating the league.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Damarri Mathis

Finalists: Nik Bonitto, EDGE; Matt Henningsen, IDL

With a rookie class that hasn’t been super impactful, there aren’t many great selections for Defensive Rookie of the Year, for the Denver Broncos.

Matt Henningsen has been an unsung hero on the defensive line, but his role has been minuscule. Nik Bonitto leads all rookies in pass-rush win rate, according to Pro Football Focus, but once again, the sample size has been tiny.

As a result, Damarri Mathis earns the honor of being the best defensive rookie from the first half of the Denver Broncos season. Mathis barely played prior to Ronald Darby’s season-ending injury but has done a good job since a disastrous first game against the chargers.

According to Pro Football Focus, Mathis has been targeted 35 times, allowing 26 receptions for 241 yards and a passer rating of 92.7. That’s not terrific, but it’s still a lot better than you expect out of a Day 3 Rookie CB. Among rookie corners with at least 100 coverage snaps, Mathis ranks fourth in forced incompletion rate, seventh in passer rating allowed, fourth in yards allowed per target, and eighth in yards allowed per snap.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Greg Dulcich

Finalists: Montrell Washington, KR; Luke Wattenberg IOL

Over the first quarter of the season, Montrell Washington would have been the only choice for this award, but the sudden and dramatic rise of Greg Dulcich demands this recognition.

Dulcich has been one of the Denver Broncos best offensive weapons, ever since finally returning from the hamstring injury that sidelined him for much of the summer and early fall.

But, to be fair, being one of the best players on this Broncos offense isn’t exactly the most impressive bar to clear. The extremely impressive part of Dulcich’s game is that he’s currently experiencing one of the greatest rookie seasons we’ve ever seen from a rookie tight end, despite missing so much preparation.

If Dulcich were to play 17 games at his current rate of production, he would finish the season with approximately 1,031 yards and six touchdowns on 68 receptions and have the best rookie tight end season by anyone not named Mike Ditka. Only three rookie tight ends have ever amassed over 1,000 yards. Only four have ever amassed over 60 receptions. Only 20 have tallied six touchdowns.

Last year, Kyle Pitts had a generationally great rookie campaign for a tight end, and finished with an eerily close 68 receptions for 1,026 yards and one touchdown.

Even when you consider that Dulcich has missed five games, and could only play 12 weeks, he’s still on pace for 728 yards and four touchdowns off 48 receptions. That would still be good for the sixth-most yards and 10th-most receptions ever by a rookie tight end. No one in the top 25 of either statistic played fewer than 14 games.

Defensive Player of the Year: Dre’Mont Jones

Finalists: D.J. Jones, IDL; Randy Gregory, EDGE; Ronald Darby, CB; Bradley Chubb, former EDGE

In the season-end, leaguewide NFL Honors, there’s a weird unspoken rule about the Offensive Player of the Year award, where it doesn’t go to the best offensive player, but rather, the best offensive player that didn’t win MVP.

This award is going to follow a similar rule, with the clear DPOY for the Denver Broncos also being the clear MVP.

As a result, Dre’Mont Jones, who’s in the midst of a career year, gets the nod here.

Jones has been a one-man wrecking crew week in and week out on Denver’s defensive line.  He’s a force rushing the passer, and defending the run.

Among defensive linemen with at least 150 pass rushes this season, Jones ranks ninth in pass rush win rate (16.0%) and second in total pressures (31) according to Pro Football Focus. His 5.5 sacks on the season are the third-most among all interior defensive linemen. Only Javon Hargrave and Quinnen Williams (6.0 each) have more, and even then, it’s by the slimmest of margins.

Offensive Player of the Year: Jerry Jeudy

Finalists: Courtland Sutton, WR; Greg Dulcich, TE

In the immortal words of Hannibal Burress, “Why are you booing me? I’m right.”

Knowing how Broncos Country generally feels about the team’s 2020 first-round pick, this might not be a popular selection, but it’s the right selection.

Russell Wilson, the heavy preseason favorite for this award, has played like a bottom-five quarterback so far this season (sorry, but it’s the truth, and unless you believe the staff is explicitly instructing him to misidentify blitzes and not throw to the wide open receivers, it’s hard to blame all of that on Coach Hackett), so he’s not getting the award.

Javonte Williams only played in three-and-a-half games, and the other running backs have been entirely pedestrian, so it’s not going to a member of the backfield.

Denver’s only reliable offensive linemen have been Quinn Meinerz, Garett Bolles, and Billy Turner, but all have missed a considerable amount of time, and all have had spurts of poor play. So, the linemen are out too.

That leaves you with Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, and Greg Dulcich.

Dulcich should be the odds-on favorite for the season’s-end title, but he’s only played three games at this point, hurting his candidacy.

Sutton comes closest to unseating Jeudy, but his maddening inconsistencies over the past month of the season, leading to Jeudy getting the nod.

Although it spits in the face of the narrative which Broncos Country clings to, Jeudy has been the most consistent and reliable weapon on Denver’s offense this year. Pair that with the highs Jeudy has reached this season, and it’s clear he deserves this award, so long as your Jeudy analysis is more nuanced than simply clinging to one drop-rich performance against the Chargers from his rookie season.

All of the Jeudy drops narrative circles back to that one game, and it’s unfair to the player that Jeudy is. Outside of that one game, Jeudy’s career drop rate is a mere 4.3%. League average in 2021 is 6.1%. Even if you want to cling to one performance that is clearly a dramatic outlier, because you’re entrenched in your stance, his career drop rate is just 6.7%.

If you’re not racing to praise Jeudy for being 1.8 points better than league average in 97% of his starts (and you shouldn’t be), you shouldn’t be racing to vilify him for being 0.6 points worse than league average overall.

Now, don’t get it twisted, Jeudy struggles to win at that catch point, will likely always be a frustration, and those mistakes are loud and extremely noticeable to the viewer. There are flaws in Jeudy’s game. The drop one, however, is dramatically overblown, and Sutton’s struggles with drops, and failure to reel in passes is arguably worse, considering his play style is heavily predicated on winning at the catch point.

Sutton has dropped more passes than Jeudy and has a higher drop rate than him this season. Over his career, his drop rate is 5.6%, and without his most outlying performance, his drop rate is 5.1%. They’re not all that different.

Now that we’ve dismissed that faulty narrative, let’s dive into what Jeudy is doing well in order to deserve this award.

He’s emerged as a dominant slot receiver in recent weeks, with masterful releases, surgical route-running, and a deceptive amount of juice after the catch.

No wide receiver in the NFL has been more efficient against man coverage this year, a testament to Jeudy’s natural ability to create separation and conjure up yards after the catch.

Averaging six yards per route run is the type of efficiency that should make your head spin.  Factor in that Jeudy is only getting targeted 19.7% of the time, so he can’t add to that tally four out of the five times he runs a route. Yet still, he’s creating yardage with ease against man coverage.

If Jeudy continues to produce like that, he might finally blossom into the elite weapon the  Denver Broncos thought they were drafting.

Most Valuable Player: Patrick Surtain II

Finalists: Dre’Mont & D.J. Jones, IDL; Randy Gregory, EDGE; Bradley Chubb, former EDGE

There’s no denying who the most valuable player on the Denver Broncos is.

Patrick Surtain has emerged as arguably the best cornerback in football this season. Not only that, but he’s a near-perfect cornerback. He has the rare size and long speed to match up with the NFL’s best X receivers, the quickness and agility to match up with the shiftiest slot receivers, and the grit to make plays in the run game.

The past three weeks have seen Surtain reach yet another peak, as he has been near flawless. Despite being targeted eight times, according to Pro Football Focus, Surtain allowed just three receptions for 12 yards. Against the Jaguars, he allowed just one reception for negative four yards.

The pick was much-maligned at the time, but now, Surtain looks the part of a perennial All-Pro and future Hall-of-Famer. Hard to take issue with drafting that.