By: Gladys Louise (Twitter: @neverenoughglt)
There really hasn’t been too much surprise in the Defensive Player of the Year award, that is until last year. Since 2010 seven of the past 10 winners were either edge guys or defensive tackles. New England Patriots’ cornerback Stephon Gilmore changed that last year. Was it just an aberration?
Let’s check the betting odds first:
Bet MGM in May had these odds for Defensive Player of the Year:
Aaron Donald Defensive Line+750
Khalil Mack Linebacker+1000
Nick Bosa Defensive End+1300
TJ Watt Linebacker+1500
JJ Watt Defensive End+1700
Von Miller Linebacker+1800
Now SBD has an October update on the odds for Defensive Player of the Year:
TJ Watt Linebacker +450
Aaron Donald Defensive Line +700
Myles Garrett Defensive End +850
Za’Darius Smith Linebacker +1500
Khalil Mack Linebacker +1700
Joey Bosa Defensive End +2000
Xavier Rhodes Cornerback +2700
Chandler Jones Linebacker +2900
Not to be a contrarian or anything, but there are a couple of names missing from both tables. Here are six men who are in the early line for Defensive Player of the Year.
TJ WATT, LINEBACKER, PITTSBURGH STEELERS
We will, for the moment, forget the snub that was last year, Watt certainly has. His resume in three games this year includes being named AFC Defensive Player of the Month for September. That may be because he has nine tackles in three games, five tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 10 quarterback hits, two passes defended, and one interception. Not bad for a month’s work.
MYLES GARRETT, DEFENSIVE END, CLEVELAND BROWNS
Garrett ended last season a little inauspicious. Then he started this year getting a contract that momentarily made him the highest player in the NFL (being second highest can not be too bad). Last week he was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for the work he did on Dak Prescott and the Cowboys. That would be two sacks and a strip-sack that sealed the game for the Browns. He has racked up 10 tackles for the season, and one assisted tackle, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, six quarterback pressures, and five sacks.
AARON DONALD, DEFENSIVE LINE, LOS ANGELES RAMS
There will never be a “too early defensive player of the year” talk where two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and five-time All-Pro selection, Donald is not mentioned. Last season was a ‘slow’ year for Donald, where his tackles drop to 48, and his sack total fall to 12.5. That was then. Donald will always command the double-team from opponents, and this year is no different. Even so, he has finished four games with 13 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, 10 quarterback hits, and 3.5 sacks. This AD continues to dominate on the football field.
DEFOREST BUCKNER, DEFENSIVE TACKLE, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
In a rather surprising move, Buckner was traded from the San Francisco 49ers to the Indianapolis Colts at the beginning of the season. While there is a change of scenery there is not a different look to his output. Buckner is solidifying the Colts defensive line with 18 total tackles, one safety, 1.5 sacks, and one pass defended. Wherever he goes he is chewing up the scenery.
STEPHON GILMORE, CORNERBACK, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
You are the king until you are unseated, and Gilmore has not been unseated. At the beginning of the year, we have witnessed a bit of rust on his crown, specifically the match-up with DK Metcalf in week two lost to Seattle Seahawks, which has lowered his Pro Football Focus coverage grade to 62.9. But even so, he is running with 11 tackles, one forced fumble, and one interception. Gilmore has been diagnosed positive for COVID for week five match-up.
JUSTIN SIMMONS, SAFETY, DENVER BRONCOS
In every race, there is always a long-shot, and this is Simmons. Simmons is playing this year under the franchise tag. He is one good thing about a Broncos’ team that is unraveling before our very eyes. His consistency through four games has netted him 20 solo tackles, four assisted tackles eight stops, and one interception. He has an overall 73.0 grade from Pro Football Focus while being on the field for 291 defensive snaps. Simmons is only getting better.
We are a quarter of the way through a season that was in doubt. That is an accomplishment. What these men do while dodging COVID, injuries, and throwing their bodies relentlessly at their opponents is worthy of being praised.