HuskersInTheNFL

All league-wide awards in the NFL are given out at the end of the year, but as the league nears the halfway point of the regular season, it’s a great opportunity to look back at players and teams that have impressed.

This week, we’ll break down some former Huskers that starred in Week 8 of play as well as give out some mid-season awards.

Most Valuable Offensive Player: Andy Janovich, FB, Cleveland Browns

Fullback Andy Janovich was drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. He spent the next four seasons in Denver and signed a three-year, $5.7 million extension in October of 2019. However, in Week 11 of last season, he suffered a dislocated elbow that ruled him out for the remainder of the year. 

Janovich was then traded to the Cleveland Browns in March 2020 and has been making a big impact in the Browns’ prolific rushing attack. Janovich has been playing just over 20% of the Browns’ offensive snaps and just over 60% of their special teams snaps. 

The Browns are fifth in the NFL in rushing yards per game, averaging 150 yards per game. They are also second in the NFL in total rushing attempts at 238, behind only the Los Angeles Rams. 

Janovich has played a key role in opening up rushing lanes for dynamic Cleveland running backs Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb this season, but plays an equally important role in the Browns’ passing game. In fact, Janovich is graded as the No. 1 pass-blocking and run-blocking fullback in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.

In the Browns’ 16-6 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, Janovich had his lowest usage rate of the season, featuring on just six of the Browns’ offensive snaps.

The Cleveland Browns are currently 5-3 and in third place in the AFC North heading into their Week 9 bye.

Most Valuable Defensive Player: Lavonte David, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This was the most difficult choice of all three awards. Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Nate Gerry and fellow Buccaneer, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, have to be considered very close runner-ups. 

However, it’s hard to ignore linebacker Lavonte David, who has been nothing short of dominant through eight games. David is second on the Buccaneers in tackles with 60, has 1.5 sacks, one interception and four passes defended. 

David has played in 520 of the 522 Tampa Bay defensive snaps this season. David and fellow linebacker Devin White have been called the “league’s top linebacking duo” by ESPN’s Jenna Laine. 

In the Buccaneers’ 25-23 win over the New York Giants on Monday, David tallied five tackles and one pass defended.  

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are currently 6-2 and first in the NFC South. They’ll host their divisional foe the New Orleans Saints in Week 9 on Sunday Night Football. 

Most Valuable Special Teams Player: Sam Koch, P, Baltimore Ravens

Former Pro Bowl punter Sam Koch has continued to be of the best at the position in the NFL this season. In 2019, due to the Baltimore Ravens’ historically prolific offense, he attempted just 40 punts — the lowest total of his career. His next lowest total was 60 attempts in 2014 and 2018. 

In 2020, Koch has seen his punting duties increase once again as he is on pace to finish the season with about 57 punts. So far this season, he has averaged 45.1 yards per punt on 25 punts with a long of 59 yards. 

This can most likely be attributed to a drop off in offensive production for the Ravens through eight games. Last season the Ravens finished first in offensive efficiency and total offense, while this season the Ravens ranked 20th and 22nd respectively in those categories. 

In the Ravens’ 28-24 loss to the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Koch had three punts for 119 yards, pinning two of them inside the 20-yard line.

The Baltimore Ravens are currently 5-2 this season and are second in the AFC North behind the Steelers. Next up for the Ravens, they’ll visit the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at noon on CBS.

sports@dailynebraskan.com