Handing out quarter-season awards isn’t as clean cut as it used to be ever since the NFL transitioned from a 16-game to a 17-game season, but there are still Packers that deserve recognition a quarter (or so) of the way through the season. The Packers moved to 3-1 after a thrilling overtime victory against the New England Patriots on Sunday and featured dominant performances from very familiar faces.
The Packers will likely look very different in December as they evolve throughout the season. These awards aren’t meant to be predictive of the standings by the end of the season, but instead recognize the players who have been crushing it four games in.
Offensive MVP: RB Aaron Jones
Aaron Rodgers has been just average through four games, but the backfield has made up for the lack of passing production. Aaron Jones is on pace for the most productive season of his career while splitting touches with AJ Dillon.
Rushing and receiving combined, Jones has 60 touches for 408 yards and 2 touchdowns. He’s also averaging an astounding 6.8 yards per carry.
Jones is who the Packers have been able to rely on when the offense is stalling. The split carries with Dillon have made it so the Packers can keep Jones fresh, and it really shows on the field. This might be the most explosive and powerful I’ve ever seen Jones run.
As much as the Packers would benefit by getting Jones the ball even more, the split carries seem to be working well for him and will keep him healthier deep into the season. He’s truly been the guy the Packers can count on when they’ve needed him most.
Defensive MVP: EDGE Rashan Gary
Rashan Gary enjoyed a breakout campaign during the 2021 season with 9.5 sacks. Through four games in 2022, he’s already more than halfway to that total.
Gary has 5 sacks so far, including two against New England. He’s improved in nearly every facet of his game from last season, both as a run defender and a pass rusher. He has at least one sack in every game this season.
Gary is on pace for 21 sacks, which would almost be enough to break the NFL single season record of 22.5. That probably won’t happen, but it’s a testament to his dominance in these four games.
Gary has covered up holes in a defense that has been slightly underwhelming and has single-handedly bailed the team out on several occasions this season. He’s a player the Packers desperately need to stay healthy.
Best Rookie: WR Romeo Doubs
Romeo Doubs began his NFL career with immediate hype and expectations that are unfair for a 4th-round rookie. He’s lived up to it anyway.
In such a thin receiver corps, Doubs has been asked to do a lot in the Packers offense. He’s had his share of drops, including what was so close to being a spectacular touchdown Sunday against the Patriots. Still, there’s plenty to be excited about in terms of his projected development and what he’s put on the field already.
Doubs’ production and share of targets has been steadily increasing through the first four games. He had 8 catches for 73 yards and a touchdown last week against the Buccaneers, and followed up that breakout game with 5 catches, 47 yards and what was nearly 2 touchdowns versus the Patriots.
Rodgers said he plans to keep looking Doubs’ way, and the offense will benefit from it. He brings athleticism and big-play potential like no other receiver on the roster. Doubs played a big role in getting the Packers through the past couple tough, close games and is slowly building a great connection with Rodgers.
Comeback Player: LT David Bakhtiari
David Bakhtiari suffered a severe knee injury in December 2020, ending his season and allowing him to play only 27 snaps in one game in 2021, essentially missing the entire season.
Bakhtiari entered 2022 rehabbing the same knee injury that’s has multiple setbacks. Throughout training camp, preseason and the first two weeks of the regular season, coach Matt Lafleur repeated “we’ll see” weekly to reporters regarding Bakhtiari’s status. It seemed like there was a legitimate chance he would never see the field again.
Suddenly, in week 3 this season, Bakhtiari was cleared to go. He returned against the vaunted Buccaneers defense, but it didn’t matter. He came back looking almost like the same All-Pro caliber player he’s been for the Packers the past six years.
In his first game back, he was the Packers highest-graded pass blocker per PFF and allowed only 1 quarterback pressure.
The fact Bakhtiari came back after what could have been a career-ending injury deserves praise and recognition, but even more so because he returned and immediately played at an above-average level. Bakhtiari being a solid rock on Rodgers’ blind side significantly raises the floor of their offense.——————
Liam O’Donnell is a devoted Packers fan and an aspiring sportswriter from Milwaukee. He writes for PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @liamodonnell___.
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