November 21, 2012

The Race For the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award is Really Heating Up

By - Andy Garcia

It's about that time of the season when the discussions about who will win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award begin to heat up.

While it is understood that there is plenty of football left to be played, the race for the top defender in the league is coming down to a select few.

Here are the top 5 candidates.

1. J.J. Watt, DE - Houston Texans

Photo by: Juan DeLeon
The freak of nature from Wisconsin was the front-runner early in the season. Watt began his sophomore year phenomenally, tallying 9.5 sacks and 8 passes defended through his first 6 games. The big defensive end was the talk of the NFL, helping the Texans get off to an impressive 6-0 start. Since then, J.J. has somewhat cooled off. He now has all eyes on him and is facing constant double teams, which has made it tougher to add to his stats. Regardless of the slump, Watt's 11.5 sacks is still among the league leaders, and his 49 total tackles is the most by any defensive lineman. What's even more impressive is that his 11 passes defended is currently tied for 6th among all defensive players. The only other non-defensive back in the top 40 is 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, who is tied for 32nd in the league. The 2012 DPOY Award might very well be Watt's to lose.

2. Charles Tillman, CB - Chicago Bears

Now playing in his 10th season, Tillman has always been one of the more underrated cornerbacks in the league. No. 33 has been a cornerstone for a consistently solid Chicago defense year in and year out, and at age 31, he's finally getting much deserved attention. Tillman has only 2 interceptions on the season, but both were returned for touchdowns, which is tops in the league. He also leads with 7 forced fumbles, 4 of which he produced in a single game against Tennessee in Week 9. "Peanut" consistently shuts down the opposing team's top receiver every week. Some of his most impressive performances this season have come against elite wideouts such as Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson. He is a major reason why the Chicago Bears are again one of the best defenses in the NFL, making Tillman a no-brainer candidate for the DPOY Award.

3. Von Miller, LB - Denver Broncos

Through the first half of the season, it was mostly a 2-man race, but since then, Miller has made a big push for the defensive player crown. The second-year linebacker out of Texas A&M got off to a fairly slow start after coming off a solid rookie campaign. However, he has 7 sacks in his last 3 games to put him at 13 total on the season. Miller now has 24.5 sacks in his first 25 career games, second only to the great Derrick Thomas, who had 25 over the same time span. Von has been an extremely disruptive force for the Broncos as of late, and has played a vital role in the team's current 5-game winning streak. If he continues his tear, don't be surprised if the man with the lensless glasses comes away with the hardware.

4. Aldon Smith, LB - San Francisco 49ers

No defensive player has had a more impressive individual performance this season than the one Smith turned in this past Monday night against the Chicago Bears. The 23-year-old finished with 7 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, and an astonishing 5.5 sacks. Smith's ridiculous stat line catapulted him to the top of the sacks lead, and he is now a top candidate for DPOY. His 15 total sacks on the year has already surpassed the mark of 14 he set his rookie season in 2011. No. 99 also reached triple digits in total yards lost by sack, and leads the NFL by a fairly wide margin. Smith missed the preseason due to injury and got off to a slow start once the regular season began, but with one outing of putting up video game-type numbers, the Mizzou product has certainly added his name on the DPOY ballot.

5. Tim Jennings, CB - Chicago Bears

At first glance, it might be hard to make a case for Jennings, but when you look at his stats thus far, Tim is very much in contention. The veteran cornerback doesn't get as much respect as his teammate lined up on the other side, but his numbers speak for themselves. Jennings leads the NFL with 18 passes defended and 8 picks. No other player has more than 5 INTs this season. Tack on 48 tackles and 1 touchdown just for good measure, and you have yourself a DPOY-worthy stat line. Granted, it will be difficult for Jennings to beat out all the other nominees, let alone his teammate, but you can consider the feisty CB a dark horse candidate to steal the award at the end of the year.

With all the bye weeks in the books, every team has just 6 games remaining in the regular season. With the Bears, 49ers, Broncos, and Texans all competing for division crowns and the best record in their respective conferences, expect all these DPOY nominees to continue making a push for the award.

Nobody has run away with it yet. Instead, the race is really starting to heat up.


  1. Watt. Hands down. Anchors the best defense in the league.

    1. He definitely does. Like I said, it's his to lose. Thank you for your comment, Anonymous.

  2. Watt by a landslide.

    1. Anwar, he's for sure in the lead at the moment, but I think it'll be close at the end, especially if he keeps slumping. Miller and Smith are making up ground fast!

  3. I was thinking Tillman but after Monday's game it seems to me that Aldon Smith is the man.

  4. I commend you for leaving Clay Matthews off of your list. Lol

  5. A Chicago fan that dislikes Matthews? Imagine that. LOL

  6. I don't have a horse in this race, but IMO, Houston doesn't have the best defense in the NFL...