With the conclusion of week 9, we are officially halfway through the 2022 NFL season. As we sit at the midway point, I thought it would be fun to do some midseason awards for the 49ers' first half of this season.
MVP - Nick Bosa
Bosa has been far and away the best player on the 49ers this season while also putting himself right in the thick of things in the Defensive Player of the Year race. Bosa currently ranks top five in the NFL in pressure rate and sacks and has been a game-changing force for the 49ers.
Bosa has recorded a sack in each of the six games that he has started and finished, and the only game he has taken the field in without recording a sack was against Carolina in week 6 when he sat out the second half with a groin injury.
Bosa’s signature performance of the first half came against the Rams on Monday Night Football in week 4 when the 49ers' star edge rusher recorded a jaw-dropping total of 14 pressures, including two sacks.
Offensive Player of (half) the Year - Jimmy Garoppolo
Who could have seen this coming? Brandon Aiyuk has made a strong push as of late, but the nod here goes to Garoppolo, who I believe is playing the best football of his career right now.
Garoppolo’s big-time throw rate of 5.0 percent is nearly double what it was during his career year in 2019 and currently ranks fourth among all quarterbacks in the NFL. Garoppolo has shined particularly when targeting the intermediate area of the field with a depth of 10-19 yards, posting an 8.0 percent big-time throw rate which ranks fifth in the league.
For perspective, Garoppolo’s big-time throw rate in the intermediate area of the field in 2021 was just 1.5 percent. He looks much more decisive pushing the ball downfield this season, and his 8.1 yards per attempt are tied with Josh Allen for the third-best in the league.
Garoppolo’s best game of the first half was Week 8 against the Rams, where Garoppolo posted an 84 percent completion percentage, the highest by a 49ers quarterback since Steve Young in September of 1997.
Defensive Player of (half) the Year - Talanoa Hufanga
In a more traditional award ceremony, this would probably go to Bosa as well, but since he already took home the MVP awards, lets spread the love around and give some flowers to the 49ers' second-year safety who has burst on the scene in a major way in his sophomore campaign.
In his rookie season, Hufanga showed he was a valuable asset in the box, but where he has really taken a leap forward this year has been his ability in coverage. Hufanga is allowing just a 29.0 passer rating when targeted, which is the second-best among all safeties in the NFL this season. Here is where Hufanga ranks among safeties with at least 250 coverage snaps:
Yards allowed in coverage - 5th
Pass breakups - T-2nd
Passer rating when targeted - 2nd
Interceptions - T-5th
Hufanga has also been the same menacing presence in the box as well, recording 19 STOPS this season which ranks second in the NFL among safeties this season.
Hufanga’s best game of the first half was week one in Chicago when he recorded eight tackles, six STOPS, and an interception and held his opponents to just one reception for three yards when targeted.
Most Improved Player - Aaron Banks
This one is tough because the sample size was so small last season, but Banks had to make this list one way or another, given the way he has played thus far. The 49ers' second-round pick from 2021 has been one of the best guards in football this season, seamlessly stepping in for departed longtime starter Laken Tomlinson.
Banks has allowed one pressure or less in half of the 49ers games this season, including two where he didn’t allow a single pressure. His ability to move in space has allowed the 49ers to be more versatile in their run scheme, giving Banks the chance to pull regularly on counter.
Banks best game of the first half was against the Chiefs in Week 7, when he did not allow a single pressure across 55 pass-blocking snaps.
Rookie of (half) the Year - Spencer Burford and Drake Jackson
I cheated and picked two because I had such a hard time selecting between these two. Both have been thrust into prominent roles from day one and have delivered right off the bat on a team with championship aspirations.
Burford has allowed multiple pressures just one time in eight games and has posted two clean sheets as well. Burford has been the model of consistency in pass protection week after week, and his athleticism has shined in the run game. His impact on this offensive line cannot be overlooked.
Jackson has been a vital cog in the 49ers' LIGHTNING package which has allowed them to weather the loss of both of their starting interior lineman. Jackson currently ranks second among all rookie defensive linemen in sacks this season with three, and it’s reasonable to expect that number to jump in the second half as he gets more comfortable adjusting to his role at this level.
Coach of (half) of the year - Chris Foerster (OL coach/Run Game Coordinator)
All offseason, we had to hear about how the 49ers' offensive line was going to be the weak link on the team. Not only have they not been a liability, but they have also been a major strength and a vital part of the 49ers' ability to handle the injuries they’ve suffered on the offensive side of the ball.
Foerster has coached up and overseen a group with three first-time starters on it, and the results have been admirable, to say the least.