Well, Bills Mafia, the regular season has ended, and the playoffs rage on. Countless records were broken and boxes checked. The Bills won 13 games this year (the most since 1991). They won a playoff game and the AFC East for the first time since 1995. Let’s take a few moments (minutes actually) to honor the players who got Buffalo to this point. Welcome to the 2020 End of Season Awards!
In this article, I will present my “Most Valuable Player”, “Rookie of the Year”, and “Most Improved Player” for the entire 2020 season. Then I will present the “informal” end of season superlatives as submitted by myself and my wonderful Twitter friends (@SportsRoc2 and @LowBuffa). So, cue the award show music, and let’s dive in.
Note: These awards were decided prior to the Wild Card game. There will be no discussion of postseason performance in this piece.
Most Valuable Player: Josh Allen
Was there ever any doubt here? Josh Allen is the “Most Valuable Player” on this year’s Buffalo Bills squad. (The fact he’s in the NFL MVP conversation is a testament to his success.) He had a historic 2020 season, breaking franchise records left and right. The offense literally ran through Allen, who accounted for 82.1% of Buffalo’s offensive touchdowns. Furthermore, Allen was named a second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press, which is significant (both as an honor and a snub). The Bills have been searching for a quarterback worthy of this award for 25 years and now they found him.
Honorable Mentions: Stefon Diggs, Jordan Poyer
Rookie(s) of the Year: Gabriel Davis & Tyler Bass
This one was tough, as many members of the 2020 Bills draft class exceeded expectations in their rookie seasons. So I have decided to name Gabriel Davis and Tyler Bass “Co-Rookies of the Year”. (I know ties are a cop-out, but they both earned it.)
I’m pretty sure that most Bills fans, including myself, did not expect Davis to be a major contributor in the receiving core this year, but he was. In fact, he ended up first on the team in yards per reception (17.1), second in touchdowns (7), third in targets (62) and yards (599), and fourth in receptions (35) in 2020. (I still can’t believe my season projection was that close!) Not too shabby for a fourth-round pick.
Bass, on the other hand, came into his rookie year as a starter and still found a way to exceed expectations. (For a detailed breakdown of Bass’ rookie season, check out my last “2020 Vision” profile).
Honorable Mention: Zack Moss
Most Improved Player
It would be all too easy to just to name Josh Allen the “Most Improved Player” and move on. However, there are a couple players who are not commonly discussed that deserve recognition for their efforts.
Weeks 12-17: A.J. Epenesa
Despite a lack of statistical production, A.J. Epenesa has improved drastically from the first half of the season to the second half. As BF Contributor Mitch Broder said in a recent article, Epenesa’s slow start was likely due to his drastic weight loss. That being said, he looked and moved better in the last six games, tallying eight tackles, one tackle for loss, two quarterback hits, and one pass defensed.
Full Season: Corey Bojorquez
Corey Bojorquez has to be the first player to be named “Most Improved” while doing less work than the previous year. In 2020, he averaged 50.8 yards per punt (most in NFL) on 41 attempts (second-least in NFL). His 41 punts are also the second-least by a full-time punter in Bills history: Greg Cater, 1982. He also recorded the longest punts of the season (72 and 71 yards). Moreover, he was consistent and effective at flipping field position throughout the season, including that perfect coffin-corner punt against Miami in week 17. (He did have a disappointing 12-yard punt against Arizona, but there have been worse in NFL history.)
Honorable Mentions: Cole Beasley, Jerry Hughes
The “O Captain, My Captain” Award: Sean McDermott
This award, named for one of the greatest scenes in cinematic history, is given to the best leader on the team. Sean McDermott is the Mr. Keating of “The Process”. He can manage and motivate the hell out of players and fans alike. He makes us all want to run through walls and jump on tables in the pursuit of the ultimate prize. So let us all stand on our desks and shout those immortal words…
Honorable Mention: Josh Allen
The “Pleasant Surprise” Award: A.J. Klein (@LowBuffa)
Overall, A.J. Klein did well in Matt Milano’s stead. He struggled early in the season, but ended up with 75 tackles, five tackles for loss, five sacks, nine quarterback hits, four passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovered. (He set or tied career highs in most of those statistical categories.) So, it’s safe to say that Klein was, in fact, a pleasant surprise.
One Hit Wonder (Weeks 12-17): Jake Kumerow
Ladies and Gentlemen, we have found another immaculate “One Hit Wonder”. It was in Week 15. On their fourth offensive drive of the game, the Bills marched all the way down to the Denver five yard-line only to be backed up 25 yards on penalties. Then, the football gods intervened, allowing Josh Allen to complete the holiest of dimes. Jake Kumerow, “Touchdown Jesus”, blessed that drive with that 22-yard touchdown then departed back to the heavens (after four more offensive snaps) as Buffalo clinched their first AFC East title in 25 years.
Honorable Mentions: Antonio Williams, Taron Johnson, Josh Norman
The “Major Disappointment” Award: Dawson Knox (@LowBuffa)
I completely understand this one. Most Bills fans came into 2020 expecting Dawson Knox to breakout. He did not. In fact, he only recorded 24 receptions, 288 yards, and three touchdowns this year. However, it was not all disappointing as his drop rate decreased drastically from 20.0% (10 in 50 targets) in 2019 to 9.1% in 2020 (4 in 44 attempts). (He did have two fumbles, but Andre Roberts had three and nobody’s calling for his head on a spike.) Furthermore, as I noted in a recent “2020 Vision” profile, Knox is having a strikingly similar career to Bills legend Pete Metzelaars. Patience is a virtue. Let us wait to pass judgement until the end of 2021.
The Lorenzo Alexander “Process Player” Award (Weeks 12-17): Isaiah McKenzie
This award, named after Buffalo’s OG “process player”, goes to the individual who made the greatest contribution when pressed into service. Isaiah McKenzie has been the “next man up” in the receiving core for most of the season. (Gabriel Davis became more of a focal point as the season progressed.) This was best exemplified in his performance in Week 17 against the Dolphins. With Cole Beasley out and Andre Roberts resting, the Bills turned to McKenzie to fill the void at slot receiver and return specialist. He caught six of nine passes for 65 yards and two touchdowns plus an 84-yard punt return touchdown. McKenzie went from sporadic gadget player to legitimate offensive threat in 30 minutes. Well done.
Honorable Mention: Dean Marlowe
The “Unnecessary Roughness” Award: Levi Wallace (@SportsRoc2)
Some players, like Dawson Knox and A.J. Klein, were justifiably ridiculed for their lack of production during the season. However, there were some players who did not deserve such criticism. While Levi Wallace did struggle at points as CB2, he had a decent season overall. He was only marginally worse than Tre’Davious White. Wallace allowed only three more completions on five more targets, resulting in a 0.2% higher completion percentage against. (He also allowed one fewer score than White.) Furthermore, Wallace had a better passer rating against (85.0) than Kyle Fuller (CHI), Marshon Lattimore (NO), Patrick Peterson (ARI), Byron Jones (MIA), Darius Slay (PHI), and Jason McCourty (NE).
Best Hair: Cole Beasley
I mean, have you seen his hair?
Honorable Mention: Dawson Knox
The “Ageless Wonder” Award: Jerry Hughes (@SportsRoc2)
Jerry Hughes had an interesting 2020. Even though he produced similar numbers to 2019, he seemed more effective this year. This is likely due to a marginal improvement in the pass rush. In 2019, he had four and a half sacks, 17 pressures, four knockdowns, and eight hurries. In 2020, Hughes had four and half sacks, 22 quarterback pressures, five knockdowns, and 12 hurries. He also tied T.J. Watt for the highest pass rush win rate among edge rushers in 2020. (It was also nice seeing him pick off a pass and return a fumble 21 yards for a touchdown.) Not bad for a 32-year-old.
Class Couple: Josh Allen & Stefon Diggs
Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs were the “Class Couple” of the 2020 season. They made a deep connection leading up to training camp, which made them better as teammates. Then, once they got on the field, they were unstoppable. (Like Sonny and Cher, Diggs was there when Allen needed him.) Diggs was targeted by Allen on 29.0% of passes and accounted for 32.1% of his completions, 33.7% of his passing yards, and 21.6% of his touchdowns.They go together like “rama lama lama” and “ka dinga da dinga dong”. (Hopefully next year they upgrade to “shoo-bop sha wadda wadda yippity boom de boom”!)
Honorable Mentions: Micah Hyde & Jordan Poyer, Sean McDermott & Brandon Beane
The “Ninth Lineman” Award: Lee Smith (@LowBuffa)
Whenever Lee Smith goes on the field, you can bet the Bills are running the ball. (Joe Miller refers to this as “Lee Smith Bingo”.) That is because the 6’6”, 265 lb. tight end is a blocker through and through; a de facto ninth lineman. This made it all the better when Smith broke off a 27-yard reception against the Patriots.
Golden Boot: Tyler Bass & Corey Bojorquez
This one was tough to decide as both strong-legged players have done well this year. Fortunately, since footwear usually comes in pairs, I can give both Tyler Bass and Corey Bojorquez “Golden Boots”; the right and left one respectively.
Best Free Agent Signing: Daryl Williams (@LowBuffa)
Daryl Williams gets this award for the same reason he got the “Bang for Your Buck” award mid-season: availability and anonymity. He ended up playing 96% of the offensive snaps and avoided criticism from commentators. (The only remarks I’ve heard about him were those of praise, like when he held his own against T.J. Watt.) All this for the measly sum of $2.25 million. Money well spent.
Best PSA: Stefon Diggs
To be honest, I’ve never been much of a flosser, but maybe that’s only because of the bland marketing. (I mean, who wants to hear their dental hygienist nag them about flossing while they stab your gums with sharp metal objects?) What the American Dental Association needs is an update. Stefon Diggs could be the new face for dental hygiene as he was spotted flossing his teeth during week 17. He didn’t say a word, but the message was clear: “If a star wide receiver can take the time to floss during a football game, then Joe Schmoe can make time for it too.”
* Player stats provided by Pro Football Reference.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@zvaughn2712).