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Detroit Lions midseason awards

Through the first eight games of the season, the Detroit Lions sit atop the NFC North with a 6-2 record. That trails only the 7-1 Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC.

There's still a lot of football left for the Lions to accomplish their goals, but the bye week is the perfect time to appreciate what got them to 6-2.

I asked the crew to hand out some midseason awards, and these are the results:


Tim Twentyman: Quarterback Jared Goff

Goff is fourth in passing yards (2,174), ninth in touchdowns (12), ninth in passer rating (96.4) and his 35 completions of 20-plus yards are second most in the NFL among all signal callers. He is the most important player on the league's second-ranked offense after eight weeks.

Mike O'Hara: Quarterback Jared Goff

He's had his bad moments – the pick that was returned for a TD vs. the Raiders being one of them – but he has shown leadership and high production. He could be a league MVP if the Lions continue to win.

Dannie Rogers: Quarterback Jared Goff

We saw glimpses of Goff's best ball last season, one year removed from being traded to Detroit after leading the Rams to the Super Bowl. Now, we're getting a full dose of a consistent Goff every week who is in the top 5 in passing yards and eighth in QB rating. Goff is playing the best football of his career, per the QB himself.

PJ's Pick: Quarterback Jared Goff

Goff looks as comfortable as ever, utilizing the time provided by an elite offensive line to be more aggressive downfield. He's been dominant on in-breaking routes over the middle and is still one of the best play-action passers in the league. Goff ranks ninth in EPA per play through eight games, giving the Lions top-ten quarterback play again following his strong finish to 2022.

Editor's Pick: Quarterback Jared Goff

It's easy to pick the QB as the MVP, but in this case it makes sense. Goff is the leader of the Lions' offense and his play has been MVP-worthy so far this season.

Top offensive player

Tim Twentyman: Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown

Even flu-like symptoms can't hold St. Brown back. He notched another 100-yard receiving performance in Monday's win over the Raiders despite feeling under the weather. He is the first Lion to produce three straight 100-yard games and five 100-yard games in a six-game span since Golden Tate in 2014.

Mike O'Hara: Tackle Penei Sewell

He wins consistently at his position and is one of the elite players at his position.

Dannie Rogers: Running back David Montgomery

Montgomery is battling a rib injury right now, but the entire offense feels different when he's out there. Montgomery is a dynamic wrecking ball force that sits just outside the top 5 in rushing yards per game with 77. He will be a major factor down the stretch for Detroit if they want to make a deep run in the playoffs.

PJ's Pick: Tackle Penei Sewell

Two starts at left tackle, six starts at right tackle - the side doesn't seem to matter for perhaps the best OT in the league. Per PFF, Sewell's allowed the lowest pressure rate (1.6%) among all tackles in 2023 and just allowed his first (and only) QB hit of the year in Week 8. Sewell held the NFL's leader in pressures, Maxx Crosby, to just one in 21 pass blocking snaps on Monday night.

Editor's Pick: Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown

He proves week after week just how valuable he is to this team. He's consistent and explosive, a rare combo at the position.

Top defensive player

Tim Twentyman: Linebacker Alex Anzalone

His move to the WILL linebacker spot has been terrific for both him and the Lions' defense. He's the heart and soul of that side of the ball. He has 57 tackles, five tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks and four passes defended through eight games.

Mike O'Hara: Linebacker Alex Anzalone

From play to play and game to game, he's been consistently productive at a high level as the leader on defense.

Dannie Rogers: Cornerback Cam Sutton

My nickname for Sutton is the silent assassin. You don't hear his name often because he puts his head down and goes to work every game. He's one of the toughest players on this roster, he's always available, and teams have taken note and stopped throwing the ball his way.

PJ's Pick: Defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson

Developing into the top-tier edge rusher that the Lions envisioned when drafting him No. 2 overall, Hutchinson is second in pressures through eight weeks, just one behind the aforementioned Maxx Crosby. The players Hutchinson ranks directly in front of? Micah Parsons and last year's Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa. That's the company you want to be in.

Editor's Pick: Defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson

Hutchinson is leading the team with 4.5 sacks, but his impact goes beyond that. He hustles on every play and the attention he receives from the opponent opens up plays for his teammates. He also organized the Thriller dance celebration on Monday night, which counts for something in my book.

Standout rookie

Tim Twentyman: Tight end Sam LaPorta

How great is it that I spent the most time thinking about this one. I'm going with LaPorta because he's doing things we rarely see from rookies at that position. He's already established the new franchise record (43 and counting) for receptions among rookie tight ends, passing Charlie Sanders, who previously set the record with 40 catches in 1968. There are still nine games left in the season.

Mike O'Hara: Tight end Sam LaPorta

It's hard to bypass a running back when he's starting to blossom the way Jahmyr Gibbs is -- unless tight end Sam LaPorta is in the mix. If they can't share the award, there's a slight lean to LaPorta.

Dannie Rogers: Tight end Sam LaPorta

Availability is the best ability. We've held our breath this season over injuries to other rookies, but LaPorta has been consistent and available through eight weeks so far. He's a first down machine (22 first-down catches!!) that has not only learned the TE position in the NFL at an incredible rate, he's turned himself in a weapon in the pass and blocking games that other teams have to account for.

PJ's Pick: DB Brian Branch

Branch has been on a path to stardom since he arrived in Detroit, forcing his way onto the field with his play during the offseason program and training camp. LaPorta's been great, but Branch has held down the fort as a rookie in a secondary that lost its other two offseason additions by the end of Week 5.

Editor's Pick: DB Brian Branch

There are several names you could put here, which is a testament to the job GM Brad Holmes has done. Branch has been impressive since Day 1 despite missing some time due to injury. He's a game-wrecker on the defensive side of the ball, which is exactly what the Lions needed.

Most improved player

Tim Twentyman: Defensive lineman Alim McNeill

The big man in the middle is having a Pro Bowl season in my book. He took the time to lose weight and improve his quickness this offseason without losing a bit of strength. He already has a career-high 4.0 sacks and anchors Detroit's run defense.

Mike O'Hara: Linebacker Derrick Barnes

A fifth-round pick two years ago from Purdue, he has earned every snap he gets. He's another example of how well the Lions have done in mid-round selections.

Dannie Rogers: Defensive lineman Alim McNeill

McNeill finally received his flowers Week 8 during Monday Night Football and it was his third game this season where he tallied at least four pressures. With his athleticism up front creating havoc not only on opposing QBs but in the run defense too, McNeill will continue to lead the way for the defense setting the tone every game.

PJ's Pick: Defensive lineman Alim McNeill

He's always been sturdy against the run, but the new-look McNeill has given the Lions an interior pass rush that they've desperately needed over the past few years. It will take a bit of a run to hit double-digit sacks this year, but McNeill is grading out near the top of the league among interior linemen.

Editor's Pick: Defensive lineman Alim McNeill

A near sweep for McNeill. The work he put in to transform his body and his game this offseason has been well documented, and it sure has paid off. With 4.0 sacks he's already doubled his previous high (2.0 - 2021) and there's still nine more games left this season.

Best play

Tim Twentyman: 31-yard reverse flea-flicker touchdown to tight end Sam LaPorta

Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson is as creative as it gets as a play caller and designer, and that was in full effect Week 5 vs. Carolina with a reverse flea-flicker David Montgomery to Jameson Williams back to Jared Goff for a 31-yard touchdown to a wide open Sam LaPorta.

Mike O'Hara: Wide receiver Jameson Williams' 45-yard TD

He's had an inconsistent first two years, but this play stood out against the Bucs. A 45-yard TD catch when he turned twice to locate the ball going into the end zone. That catch gave the Lions some breathing room in a battle with the Bucs.

Dannie Rogers: Craig Reynolds' first touchdown

I'm going with an under-the-radar best play. Reynolds scored the first touchdown of his career back in Week 5 against the Panthers. Reynolds was gassed just before that play and wanted to sub out, but RBs coach Scottie Montgomery along with Gibbs and Montgomery over his shoulders, signaled to Reynolds that he wasn't coming out of the ball game so he could score. This wholesome exchange gave us insight into how much this team cares about each other.

PJ's Pick: Aidan Hutchinson's one-handed interception

As great as the sacks and pressures are, Hutchinson might be at his best as a playmaker. Recognizing a delayed tight end screen off the snap, he snagged Bryce Young's dump-off with just his right hand for his fourth career interception. The play recognition was superb, the catch was even better, but he may have to work on the return ability for next time.

Editor's Pick: Brian Branch pick-six in KC

Throwing it back to Week 1. A monster pick-six by a rookie against Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes in the NFL opener? It doesn't get much better than that.