Winner: Cam Newton
When we handed out the First Quarter awards for the Carolina Panthers, this award went to Josh Norman but at this point in the season the Panthers' quarterback has to be considered the most valuable player. This is not a reflection on Norman, who is still playing at a high level, but rather what Newton has done over the first part of the season.
Newton's passing stats won't jump off the page at anyone as he is currently middle of the pack among NFL starters with a completion percentage of 53.7%, 1,820 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a QB rating of 81.3. However, anyone that looks at just the passing numbers for Newton discredits a large part of what has made him so dynamic. The Panthers' lead the NFL in rushing yards per game at 142.3 yards and Newton has accounted for over 30% of the team's rushing yards (343 yards) and leads the team in rushing touchdowns (5) and rushing first downs (27).
The biggest surprise for this team is the fact that the Panthers have the fourth highest scoring offense with an average of 28.5 points per game which is an increase of just over seven points per game. Many thought this offense would take a step backwards with the loss of Kelvin Benjamin but Newton has elevated his game, and made the players around him better. There may not be a better definition of MVP than that.
Winner: Kony Ealy
This award went to a player who has improved as the season progressed and no one has improved more than Kony Ealy from the start of the season to now. After a strong finish to the 2014 season, Ealy was expected to be ready to take that next step and become a dominant pass rusher. He was expected to take the starting job from the start of OTAs and run with it.
That wasn't the case as Ealy struggled through training camp and preseason and right into the regular season. The competition for that starting position was heated because of Ealy's lack of production but something clicked after Week 3 when he wasn't the starter. Through the first three games, Ealy had no sacks, no QB hits and was averaging only 1.67 QB hurries per game. Since that game, Ealy has averaged 2.8 QB hurries per game and the past two weeks has had a strip sack in each.
The Panthers pass rush was a concern early in the year, especially when Charles Johnson was placed on the injured reserve-designated to return list. Over the past few games though, the Panthers have gotten after the quarterback with Ealy, Jared Allen, Mario Addison, and Ryan Delaire. Once Johnson returns, this group should only be stronger.
Winner: Ted Ginn Jr.
There may not be a player who has struggled more than Ted Ginn Jr. this year. The Panthers knew they were going to see a lack of production from the wide receiver position when Benjamin went down with an injury. However, Ginn Jr. has been beating himself with careless drops, drops that have come at inopportune times. According to Pro Football Focus, Ginn Jr. is tied for fifth in the NFL with six drops.
One example would be against the Colts in overtime, he beat the defensive backs deep and had a chance to grab a pass from Newton and walk into the endzone to end the game. However, the pass fell to the ground and the Panthers kept playing. They did win the game in the end so the mistake wasn't too costly but this is something they should not count on going forward.
There is still plenty of time for this to be corrected and Ginn Jr. should have plenty of opportunities as he will be heavily involved in this offense with limited options at wide receiver.
Rookie of the Half Year
Winner: David Mayo
This may have been the hardest award to pick a winner as there really hasn't been much to write about with this rookie class, which is a drastic difference from a season ago. Last year, the Panthers were getting major contributions from rookies like Kelvin Benjamin, Trai Turner, Andrew Norwell, Philly Brown, Bene Benwikere and Kony Ealy.
This year the team has seen offensive tackle Daryl Williams miss most of the season with injury, Cameron Artis-Payne limited in carries, Devin Funchess not be heavily involved before the game against Green Bay, and Shaq Thompson even miss time. The one player who has been the most consistent and productive has to be David Mayo. He is third on the team in special team tackles with four and Pro Football Focus has given him a grade of 2.0 through the first half of the season.
Mayo, a tackling machine from Texas State University, was a fifth round selection by the Panthers and has been a welcomed addition to a group that struggled a season ago. Entering this year, playing time at linebacker was going to be limited with the depth the team has but he has found a way to contribute and be an important piece to this team on a weekly basis.
Winner: Mike Remmers
One of the reasons for Cam Newton's success is the fact that he now has time in the pocket to make those throws or set up those runs. This is due in large part to an improved offensive line and Mike Remmers is a big part of that.
Since Remmers was named the starting right tackle in Week 13 of last year, he has given up no sacks and only 4 QB hits over 15 games per Pro Football Focus. To put these numbers in perspective, the team's starting right tackle at the beginning of the year, Nate Chandler, through 11 games gave up seven sacks and two QB hits.
Offensive linemen don't usually get a great deal of credit and it is actually better when there name isn't mentioned regularly. It means they have done there job and no one is doing a better job than Remmers this year.