Extra Points is handing out its Patriots team awards this week. This is the third in a series. Today, we choose Patriots Rookie of the Year.
T SEBASTIAN VOLLMER
Vollmer was a 6-foot-8, 315-pound curiosity when the Patriots selected him with the 58th pick of the draft. He played football for the first time at age 14. He grew up in Germany and played college football at Houston. He spoke English with both a German accent and a Texas twang; Tom Brady thought he sounded Australian.
By the end of the year, it had become simple to categorize Vollmer. For now, he is one of the true bright spots of the Patriots season. For the future, he is the next anchor of the Patriots offensive line, the player who will someday – and likely someday soon – protect Brady’s blind side.
Vollmer, along with Baltimore’s Michael Oher, might have been the best rookie offensive lineman in the league. He played in all 14 games in which he was healthy, earning his first big opportunity when Matt Light hobbled off against Denver in Week 5. He played left and right tackle with equal aplomb, flashing uncommon versatility. With some help, he stonewalled the Colts’ Dwight Freeney, holding him without a sack for the first time in nine games.
The Patriots may or may not decide to bring back Matt Light, the anchor of the line for nearly a decade. Whenever Light leaves the team, Vollmer, the man his teammates call “Sea Bass,” will be the replacement.
DL MYRON PRYOR
Pryor’s value to the Patriots is best measured not with statistics, but with his presence. Simply, the Patriots trusted him enough to give him a uniform. By the season’s third week, he had usurped fellow rookie Ron Brace as the player coaches chose to dress on Sunday and spell Vince Wilfork. Since the Patriots picked Pryor in the seventh round and Brace in the second, that is no small feat.
Pryor made 20 tackles as he became a regular part of the defensive line rotation. For his size, Pryor played with surprising agility. As he adjusts to the Patriots’ style and continues to get into better shape, Pryor will likely make himself a piece of the defensive line for a long time.
WR JULIAN EDELMAN
Edelman’s narrative – from Kent State option quarterback to Wes Welker’s replacement in one year – is well-worn by now. The most underappreciated facet to his story is how Edelman faced it: He never blinked. While he transitioned from small school quarterback to NFL slot receiver and everyone wondered how it was possible, Edelman played and behaved as if that type of thing happens all the time. Against the Ravens, he caught two touchdown passes and at times seemed like one of the few Patriots who had any interest in being on the field.
The most enticing thing about Edelman, who caught 37 passes for 359 yards and ran like a dervish when he returned punts, is his ceiling. Given his limited experience, Who can say how good he will be? After watching him develop in his first season, it will be fascinating to see what he can do next.
January 18: Comeback Player (Tom Brady)
Yesterday: Most Improved (Mike Wright)
Today: Rookie of the Year
Tomorrow: Special Teams Player
January 22: Defensive Player
January 23: Offensive Player
January 24: MVP