New England Patriots 2021 Season Awards

The New England Patriots 2021 season got off to a rocky start when they went 2-4 in their first six games. But the Pats then rattled off seven straight wins; however, they faltered after their Week 14 bye and wound up losing the AFC’s top seed and the division title. Their season ultimately came to an end with an embarrassing loss to the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. But just because their season concluded on a sour note does not mean the Patriots season was a total disaster. They did hold the number one seed in the AFC for a time, came up just short of winning the AFC East, and finished with a 10-7 record. There were some really talented players on the Patriots roster for the 2021 season, especially after New England’s off-season free-agent spending frenzy. Here are some awards for the Patriots players who stood out above the rest during the 2021 season.

New England Patriots 2021 Season Team Awards

Most Valuable Player (And Defensive Player of the Year): Matthew Judon and J.C. Jackson

Matthew Judon spent his first five NFL seasons with the Baltimore Ravens where he was named to the Pro Bowl in 2019 and 2020. In his first season with the Patriots Judon had a career year as he notched 12.5 sacks (tied for seventh in the league), 60 tackles, 14 tackles for loss (tied for 10th), and 25 quarterback hits (11th) and was named to his third straight Pro Bowl. The Patriots defender with the second most sacks during the 2021 season was Kyle Van Noy, who had four quarterback takedowns.

Through the first 13 weeks, when he basically amassed all of his stats, Judon was the Pats MVP, but since each team plays 17 games in a season, J.C. Jackson had an opportunity to close the gap as Judon’s production slowed a bit at the end of the season. In his fourth season in the league, all with New England, Jackson had a career-high 23 passes defended (tops in the NFL), eight interceptions (second-most in the league), and a career-high 58 tackles. Jackson also finished the season with a passer rating against of 47.8 (second-best among corners with at least 150 coverage snaps). Both Judon and Jackson arguably finished the season in the top-10 rankings for Defensive Player of the Year candidates in the league.

While he might not have had the same overall impact throughout the season as Judon or Jackson, kicker Nick Folk needs an honorable mention here. In his third season in New England, Folk made 42 of 47 extra points and 36 of 39 field goals (with a long of 53 yards) and was good on kickoffs as well. If not for Justin Tucker being Justin Tucker, Folk would have made the Pro Bowl.

Offensive Player of the Year: Damien Harris

In his third season in the NFL, all with the Patriots, Damien Harris had career highs in carries (202), rushing yards (929), touchdowns (15), catches (18), and receiving yards (132). And what is more impressive is Harris put up these career-best numbers despite missing two games due to injuries. Harris also led the team in rushing attempts (202), rushing yards, 20+ yard rushes (including his 64-yard touchdown run against the Bills), and rush yards per game (61.9).

The only back with more rushing touchdowns than Harris’ 15 was Jonathan Taylor, who had 18 and was a unanimous First-Team All-Pro selection. Some honorable mentions for Offensive Player of the Year include quarterback Mac Jones, wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (more on both later), center David Andrews, and right guard Shaq Mason.

Comeback Player of the Year: Brandon Bolden

Brandon Bolden has spent eight of his first nine NFL seasons (in which he played, he opted out of the 2020 season) with the Patriots (he was with the Miami Dolphins in 2018). In his first eight seasons in the league in which he played Bolden had 59 receptions and 497 receiving yards and in 2021 alone, he had 41 catches for 405 yards after he took over for the injured James White. He also had 44 carries for 226 yards in 2021 after having only 37 rushes for 230 yards in the previous four seasons in which he played.

While Bolden gets the nod for Comeback Player of the Year, Dont’a Hightower deserves some recognition too. After opting out of the 2020 season, Hightower started 15 games and posted 1.5 sacks, 64 tackles, one tackle for loss, and four quarterback hits in 2021.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Mac Jones

Mac Jones struggled a bit down the stretch, as did many other Patriots players. But his overall performance throughout his rookie campaign deserves praise and he is the running to be named the NFL’s Offensive Rooke of the Year (if Jones does not win the award it will go to Ja’Marr Chase). He started all 17 games for New England and helped lead them to a 10-7 record. He completed 67.6 percent of his passes (eighth-best in the league) for 3,801 yards and threw 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and set multiple Patriots rookie quarterback records. Granted, he went to arguably the best situation of all of the rookie quarterbacks, but he had the best season of all of them too.

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The former Alabama signal-caller also displayed incredible poise and leadership throughout the season, especially for a rookie. Jones was a huge reason New England was back in the postseason and they are no longer in the market for a quality quarterback.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Christian Barmore

Christian Barmore, like Jones, played at Alabama. And just as he was in college, Barmore was used more in the pass game than the run, but even so, he managed to draw the most holding penalties in the NFL on run plays among defensive tackles. While Barmore had only 1.5 sacks in his rookie campaign, he also led the team in total pass rushes and was second on the Patriots in quarterback pressures. He also had 46 tackles, three tackles for loss, two passes defended, and nine quarterback hits. Even though he was a rookie, Barmore finished in the top-10 in pressure percentage among all defensive tackles with at least 30 pressures. Barmore certainly proved why the Patriots made the correct choice in trading up with the Cincinnati Bengals in order to select him in the second round.

Most Improved Player: Kendrick Bourne and Kyle Dugger

There are two players who deserve to be mentioned here. In 2021 Kendrick Bourne had 55 receptions on 70 targets for 800 yards (all career highs) and five touchdowns (tied his career-best), and he also contributed in the ground game. After not rushing the ball at all in his four seasons (all with the San Francisco 49ers) in 2021, Bourne’s first in New England, he had 12 rushes for 125 yards.

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After starting seven games in 2020, his rookie year, and not recording an interception, Kyle Dugger started 13 games and played in 15 for the Patriots, and had four interceptions in 2021. He also had five passes defended after not recording any the previous season. In addition, Dugger improved in coverage in his second season and also had 92 tackles after posting 64 in 2020. He also increased his tackles for loss and quarterback hits from one to five and zero to two, respectively.

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