The Miami Dolphins are 4-4 at the mid-way point of their 2016 regular season, one spot out of the playoffs and looking to continue to improve on their current three-game winning streak. Sunday, the team will face the San Diego Chargers, looking to avenge a loss they suffered in Southern California last year. Before we get to that game, however, we as the Phinsider staff thought we would award some mid-season awards for the team.
Six members of the staff, Kdog92, Chris Early, Houtz, SUTTON, Alex Parish, and I, voted on each of the following awards. One award had a three-way tie, with two votes received by each player, but every other award had a clear winner. Will the winners be the same at the season’s end?
Here are The Phinsider Half-Season Awards for the Miami Dolphins:
MVP - Jay Ajayi, running back
This was a unanimous vote, with all six of us picking Ajayi. I am a little saddened that Matt Darr did not pick up a vote because the punter has been responsible for keeping the Dolphins in some games as he flips field position. Branden Albert could also have been deserving of the award, but this is clearly Ajayi’s award at the moment.
Offensive Player of the Half-Season - Branden Albert, offensive tackle / Jarvis Landry, wide receiver / Jay Ajayi, running back
Some of us looked at this award as a chance to recognize someone other than Ajayi, and some of us realized Ajayi has put up incredible offensive stats this year and is clearly deserving of the award. Whichever way you lean on that argument, we have a three-way tie with three deserving players. Albert has been a beast at left tackle, allowing just one sack this year and locking down that side of the line-of-scrimmage. Landry is Landry and is tied for ninth in the league in receptions, despite a week last week in which his head coach admitted he was not involved in the game plan enough. And, then there is back-to-back 200-yard rusher Ajayi. You can honsetly pick any of the three and be right.
Defensive Player of the Half-Season - Ndamukong Suh, defensive tackle
Another unanimous vote has Suh recognized as the top player on the defense this half-season. It would have been interesting to see where the vote would have gone if Reshad Jones had remained healthy, but Suh is second on the team in sacks and fourth in tackles, so, even though he plays a position that is about more than just stats, he is having a great year. (By the way, Jones is still second on the team in tackles despite being on Injured Reserve). If you want to make an argument for Cameron Wake, he is probably the only player who could be considered alongside Suh.
Rookie of the Half-Season - Laremy Tunsil, guard
The Dolphins are getting good production out of their rookies, with cornerback Xavien Howard serving as a starting cornerback (when healthy) and Kenyan Drake and Jakeem Grant working as the primary returners and making Miami the only team with a punt return touchdown and a kick return touchdown this year. Leonte Carroo is starting to see more offensive playing time. All of that does not add up to the impact of Tunsil, who has settled into being a left guard and is excelling at it. Every now and then you will have a rookie mistake, but overall, the Dolphins getting Tunsil has been a steal. This award was unanimous.
Veteran Addition of the Half-Season - Kiko Alonso, linebacker
Also receiving votes: Andre Branch, Isa Abdul-Quddus
Alonso was considered the “throw-in” player in the trade that brought cornerback Byron Maxwell from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Dolphins. I thought then that Alonso would be the top player in the deal, and I still think that now. He has solidified the middle of the field and is the team leader in tackles - even when Jones was healthy, Alonso was leading. He is not the perfect middle linebacker, but he has been really good so far this year. Branch has been a surprise this year, showing more pass rush ability than he did with the Jacksonville Jaguars and being a force setting the edge against the run. Abdul-Quddus came to Miami and moved from his normal strong safety position to free safety to allow Jones to operate. He played the role well, but has not moved effortlessly back to strong safety to cover the loss of Jones, absolutely making him a key addition for Miami this year.
Comeback Player of the Half-Season - Cameron Wake, defensive end
There were several pre-season candidates for this award, including running back Arian Foster and defensive end Mario Williams. Foster is now retired and Williams has lost his starting position to Branch. Wake, meanwhile, has returned from the Achilles tendon tear that ended his season prematurely last year, and he now leads the team with five sacks, which has him tied for 20th in the league, but also on pace for double-digit sacks and looking stronger and stronger as the season continues. Wake was a unanimous selection for this award.
Breakout Player of the Half-Season - Jay Ajayi, running back
This may be the easiest award on our list, and it was unanimously given to Ajayi. When you become the fourth name on a list that had consisted of just O.J. Simpson, Earl Campbell, and Ricky Williams, that probably is a big help in your “breakout.” Ajayi has 646 rushing yards this year, with over 500 yards coming in the last three games. He is one spot ahead of the running back who was ahead of him on the depth chart last year, now-Houston Texans running back Lamar Miller. If Ajayi keeps this up the rest of the season, there is no reason why he should not be considered among the top young running backs in the league.
Most Improved Player of the Half-Season - Jay Ajayi, running back
Others receiving votes: Jordan Phillips (2), Tony Lippett
Ajayi completes his domination of the awards - making them look like the Buffalo Bills defense trying to stop him - with the most improved award. This one, however, was not unanimous, with Phillips and Lippett both receiving votes. Phillips worked his way into the starting lineup next to Ndamukong Suh and has been growing into that role. He does not play the most glamorous position, but his interception and hurdle may be the highlight of the year for the Dolphins this season. Lippett is continuing to transition from college wide receiver to professional cornerback, but he is now being asked to do it as a starter - and he is. There are times where he makes mistakes, but overall, Lippett has been a key member of the Miami defense.
Where did we mess up? What award did we forget? Let us know in the comments.