As we continue unveiling our awards series chronicling the Cincinnati Bengals’ outstanding 2021 season, up next is the Unsung Hero of the Year.
Ja’Marr Chase won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award and Tee Higgins was a monster in the last three games of the postseason (and largely through the regular season). But, Boyd was Mr. Clutch in extending drives and making tough over-the-middle catches throughout most of 2021.
Boyd finished the regular season with 67 catches, 828 yards and five scores in 2021. He added another 15 for 110 and the huge touchdown versus the Raiders in the Wild Card round. Even when he knew his stats would take a little bit of a hit with Chase coming into the fold, Boyd embraced his role and was a quiet key to the offense’s run.
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Stanley Morgan, Jr.
Unfortunately, a lot of Bengals fans still have the bitter taste in their mouths of Spain’s allowance of Aaron Donald’s hit on Joe Burrow to end the Bengals’ Super Bowl dreams. However, Spain was a nice pickup on a one-year deal last year.
Joe Mixon saw a career season behind a line anchored by Spain, as did Burrow, who set franchise single-season passing marks. Spain ended the season with a respectable 72.3 overall Pro Football Focus score.
Everybody lauded the rookie kicker Evan McPherson and for good reason. But, yet again, a key to the Bengals’ kicking success was the steadiness of the guy delivering quality snap after quality snap.
Harris was quietly one of the most consistent players on the team this year, which has pretty much been a theme for his career since he took over for Brad St. Louis back in 2009.
Stanley Morgan, Jr.:
The guy who does a lot of the dirty work deserves some praise. While Morgan isn’t a statistical stalwart on offense (just 14 total yards on offense this year), he is a coach favorite for his willingness as a blocker and special teams ace.
Morgan had 11 special teams tackles this year (eight solo) and was constantly downfield on punt coverage. And, when he wasn’t doing that, he was unselfishly springing Joe Mixon into the end zone.
We don’t usually put a starter and/or a player with such a high snap count on here because that type of player doesn’t often get overlooked. Yet, with Hubbard, he wasn’t talked about as much as Trey Hendrickson or the interior forces of B.J. Hill and Larry Ogunjobi.
This is especially odd, as one could consider Hubbard’s 2021 season the best of his solid career. He had 10.5 sacks (7.5 in the regular season and three in the postseason), 17 tackles-for-loss (12 in the regular season and five in the postseason) and 21 total quarterback hits (17 in the regular season and four in the postseason).
The postseason numbers are especially admirable, as he had to play more snaps because of the loss of Ogunjobi halfway through the Wild Card game against the Raiders.
One of the criteria for this award is in a player stepping up in a big way in the wake of injury. With the disappointing injuries to Trae Waynes, an opportunity arose for Apple to make a name for himself.
There were struggles, no doubt, but Apple came up big on a number of occasions. He had two interceptions on the year, with one being the game-clincher against the Raiders in Las Vegas. He added 64 total tackles and a fumble recovery, including the postseason. Of his 13 total passes defended, none were more impactful than the deflection at the end of the Divisional Playoff Game, which led to the game-winning field goal over the Titans.