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Several 49ers listed on ESPN’s midseason awards

What a difference a year makes

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers have faced adversity this season, similar to years past. The difference this year is how the team has responded. On Sunday night football, Chris Collinsworth was making excuses for the Patriots. Citing that New England needs to get their left tackle back, and they’d be a different team. Could you imagine? Missing your left tackle? What a tough loss for the Pats. It’s not easy to win in this league at full strength, let alone down two of your best offensive lineman and the best fullback in football. That speaks volumes to San Francisco’s depth on the roster as well.

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell put together a list of midseason awards. The article has an award for MVP to All-Pro teams and everything in between. The 49ers are well-represented throughout the article. Coming into the season, it was thought that Jimmy Garoppolo would be a shoo-in for comeback player of the year. Barnwell went in a different direction.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

He did choose the obvious selection for Defensive rookie of the year:

I’ll narrowly give the nod to the younger Bosa brother, who has created nine sacks with his pass rushes this season, tied for sixth in the league. Bosa has created those nine sacks on 111 pass-rushing opportunities, in contrast to Allen’s seven sacks created on 147 pass-rushing reps.

The Defensive Player of the Year hype surrounding the second overall pick might be a little inflated -- he might not even be the best member of the Bosa family for that discussion -- but he has made an instant impact for the league’s most-improved defense.

Opportunity is everything. Bosa came into the season with basically zero practice, so it took him a bit to get into game shape. We’ve seen Bosa at full strength in October, and he was a force.

Coach of the Year

Kyle Shanahan is undefeated. That’s it. Of course, he’s the coach of the year, right?

The 8-0 49ers are beating teams up at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football. You can argue that they’ve been more dominant than the Patriots; the Niners have trailed for a total of just under 17 minutes in the second half this season, and not once since their Week 3 victory over the Steelers.

The 49ers have been healthier on the defensive side of the ball than they were a year ago, but it’s scary to think that they’re doing this with a severely compromised offense. Maybe it’s too simplistic to just give the award to the coach of the one undefeated team left in the league. Given that the 49ers were 1-7 this time last season, I’m willing to keep things simple.

It should be that simple.

George Kittle was third on the list for offensive player of the year. That’s rare for a tight end to be mentioned. Barnwell linked Akash’s tweet, which is cool:

Kittle has been targeted on an even one-third of the routes he has run and has caught a pass on 26.4% of those routes, with the latter figure ranking first among all pass-catchers.

Where Kittle has really shined during the first half, though, is as a blocker. If he’s not quite at the Rob Gronkowski level, he’s not far off. There are new Kittle blocks to fawn over on Twitter every week, and as the 49ers have lost Juszczyk and both of their tackles, Kittle’s work in the running game has become even more important

All-Pro team’s

There were two 49ers to make the All-Pro team for midseason. If I gave you five guesses, I bet you couldn’t guess the player not named George Kittle. That player is center Weston Richburg, who, shockingly, isn’t bad! Richburg battled through some injuries in 2018 and got a bad wrap for his play. I’m happy that he’s had a chance to showcase his skills. The center calls the protections, blitzes, and has a ton of responsibility in this offense. Richburg has passed his mid-term with flying colors. Richburg hasn’t allowed a sack all season, and only two quarterback hits. Considering as much help as the offensive has had to give to their tackles while Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey have been gone, it makes Richburg’s numbers that more impressive.

On defense, two Niners made it. DeForest Buckner and Richard Sherman. I would have put Arik Armstead over Buckner. Buckner has rushed the passer 218 times. Armstead has rushed the passer 195 times. Buckner has four sacks, four QB hits, and 16 hurries. Armstead has six sacks, one QB hit, and 13 hurries. Buckner has one more stop than Armstead on 31 more snaps than Armstead. Buckner has been very good this season. Armstead has been great. The impact goes beyond the numbers. I imagine Buckner’s “stats created” is up there, though.

Sherman has gotten better as the season has gone along. Sherman has a completion percentage of 51.5% on passes his way. Three interceptions, three pass breakups, and a 35.7 passer rating allowed. Sherman’s success rate is up 4% from last season to 64%. It’s apparent that Sherman is moving better and playing with more confidence. His biggest impact has come as a tackler and in the running game. Sherman only has three missed tackles compared to eight run stops.