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2023 New England Patriots Awards

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New England Patriots linebacker Jahlani Tavai celebrates his interception during the first half of an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

The New England Patriots came to an end on Sunday. A 17-3 loss to the New York Jets felt like a fitting way to end a disappointing season in New England. The Patriots finished the 2023 season with a 5-12 record, securing a top three pick in the 2024 NFL Draft in the process.

But even though the season didn’t go the way many had hoped, there are still some players worth celebrating in New England. With that, here are the first annual Patriots Football Now season ending awards. The 2023 New England Patriots honorees are…

Tom Brady Award (MVP) – Jahlani Tavai

Only Kyle Dagger played more snaps for the New England Patriots than Jahlani Tavai in 2023. He played 837 snaps on defense, and 359 on special teams. Tavai emerged as a reliable and versatile defender. His ability to play anywhere helped the Patriots disguise their defensive schemes. He lined up in the box (446 snaps), defensive line (302), slot corner (65) and wide corner (24). He also contributed all on special teams units. Tavai finished second on the team in tackles (110) and led the Patriots in creating turnovers. He had two interceptions and two forced fumbles. The only linebackers in the NFL to receive higher grades from Pro Football Focus in 2023 were San Francisco’s Fred Warner and New Orleans’ Demario Davis.

Bill Belichick Award (Coach of the Year) – Jerod Mayo

The defense was the bright spot of the 2023 New England Patriots season, so it makes sense to honor the coach that leads the unit. Although Steve Belichick calls defensive plays, Mayo runs defensive meetings. It is a combination that worked out well for the Patriots. Not only did New England’s defense do an excellent job throughout the majority of the season, they did it despite a plethora of injuries. Most notable among the missing were Matthew Judon and Christian Gonzalez, both lost for the season after only four games. The final numbers would have been even more impressive had the offense, via turnovers, not put them in so many difficult spots throughout the year. Jerod Mayo is now likely in line for a head coaching position, either with the New England Patriots or elsewhere.

John Hannah Award (Offensive Player of the Year) – Mike Onwenu

There was not a lot to feel great about with the New England Patriots offense this season. Some players played well, but were not available often enough (Trent Brown, Demario Doulgas). Some were underutilized (Hunter Henry). Others had to split playing time (Rhamondre Stevenson, Ezekiel Elliott). But Mike Onwenu was the most consistent quality player on offense throughout the season. Onwenu began the season at right guard, but was switched to right tackle after four games. Despite missing two of the first six games due to injury (including the opener) Onwenu played in the final 11 games, holding down the right end of the line. He allowed three sacks over 15 games, and was effective as a run blocker.

Andre Tippett Award (Defensive Player of the Year) – Christian Barmore

Christian Barmore became a force on the New England Patriots defensive line this season. He finished the season with 49 pressures. This included 8.0 sacks, 34 hurries and seven QB hits. He led the Patriots in all of these categories. Barmore also registered a team-high five batted balls at the line of scrimmage. He also registered a forced fumble and 40 stops (second on the team). Barmore has established himself as a player the Patriots should look to lock up longterm and try to build around.

Matthew Slater Award (Special Teams Player of the Year) – Brenden Schooler

Cam Achord’s special teams unit struggled this season, so it was not easy to find a winner. But Brenden Schooler was ultimately the Patriots most impactful special teams player. He tied for the NFL lead in special teams tackles (13) and his field goal block against the Miami Dolphins was one of the season’s top plays. Schooler did pick up four penalties on the season, which might have cost him a Pro Bowl selection, along with eight missed tackles. But aside from Jalen Reagor’s kickoff return for a touchdown against the Bills, there wasn’t a lot to celebrate on this unit in 2023. Schooler at least showed up on film.

Mike Haynes Award (Rookie of the Year) – DeMario Douglas

Despite finding himself in Bill Belichick’s doghouse after an early season fumble, Douglas emerged as a difference-maker on the New England Patriots offense, something not many others could say this season. He led the team in receiving yards (561) while finishing second in receptions (49) to Ezekiel Elliott. Despite missing multiple games with concussions, Douglas wanted to finish the season on the field, and did just that. The man known as ‘Pop’ quickly became a fan favorite in Foxboro, which should continue to rise along with his production in the future.

Gino Cappelletti Award (Unsung Hero) – Anfernee Jennings

Jahlani Tavai could easily have earned this award as well, though it seemed strange to give the MVP an unsung hero award as well. So instead this award goes to Anfernee Jennings. After injuries to both Matthew Judon and Josh Uche, Jennings stepped up huge along the edge. His pass rushing is not up to the level of those guys, but his all-around play was excellent. As Taylor Kyles pointed out, Jennings finished tied with the Raiders Maxx Crosby for most run stops among edge defenders (38). He also tied the Chargers Khlail Mack for second in tackles for a loss or no gain (15). Both Crosby and Mack are headed to the Pro Bowl. Some nice company for Anfernee Jennings.

Vince Wilfork Award (Fan Favorite) – Jabrill Peppers

A lot of potential fan favorites (Christian Gonzalez, Matthew Judon, Kendrick Bourne) landed on IR early in the season. There were still plenty of players that got fans pumped up during the year, but the nod here goes to Jabrill Peppers. Peppers had an excellent season, and could have contended for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year as well. He established himself as a playmaker and a team leader with some personality. He finished the season with the highest defensive grade (87.3) by Pro Football Focus on the Patriots. Look for Peppers to be a team captain in the future, and for more No. 5 Patriots jerseys in the stands.

Adam Viantieri Award (Play of the Year) – Mac Jones and Mike Gesicki

There were not a lot of celebratory moments throughout the season, but beating the Buffalo Bills was one of them. Not only did the New England Patriots knock off Buffalo 29-24, they did so in dramatic fashion. A come from behind fourth quarter win capped off by a Mac Jones to Mike Gesicki touchdown pass with only 12 seconds remaining. It was Griddy Time in Foxboro!