by Matt Bowen
January 05, 02011
Who is your vote for the NFL’s Defensive Play of the Year? We should all agree that Tom Brady has wrapped up the MVP award, but in terms of the top defensive player in the NFL, there are some solid candidates to choose from. Today, I going to turn in my vote for DPOY to the Pro Football Writer’s Association—and I have four names on my list.
Clay Matthews, Green Bay
The Packers linebacker finished the 2010 season with 13.5 sacks, 60 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and an INT. I love watching him play because he is the type of athlete that will win with technique. Uses his hands at the point of attack and we all see the speed he has around the edge that allows him to dip that shoulder and cut down the angle to the QB. The type of linebacker you must have if you are going to run a pressure scheme—and the key to the success of this Packers’ defense.
James Harrison, Pittsburgh
ICONPittsburgh's James Harrison.
Football player. That is how I view Harrison. Racked up 100 tackles this season to go along with 10.5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles and 2 INTs. I love the way he hits, attacks the run downhill and competes on Sundays. Again, showed us the ability to blitz off of the edge, drop into coverage and make plays. What you want to see from an OLB in a 3-4 scheme. I do think that the league office targeted Harrison this season with helmet-to-helmet hits coming under fire—and that might hurt him when the votes come in. But I don’t see how that should change our view of what he can do as one of the top defensive players in the league.
Julius Peppers, Chicago
The Bears defensive end isn’t going to have a stat line that compares with the other names on this list (54 tackles, 8 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 2 INTs) but that doesn’t discount his impact on this Chicago defense. He has turned out to be an ideal defensive end in the Tampa 2 scheme because he allows the Bears to play the run with a seven-man front and rush with four in passing situations. The type of player that is more valuable on tape than in the box score on Monday morning. As a three-down player, Peppers is the best defensive end I have watched this season--and worth the free agent price tag.
Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh
With all due respect to Ed Reed, Polamalu is the best safety in the game. I have watched him make plays this season as a Cover 2 safety, in the deep middle of the field and at linebacker depth when he drops down from the secondary. 63 tackles to go along with 7 interceptions. However, we all know that Polamalu’s impact goes deeper than numbers—because this has been a different defense in Pittsburgh this season with the safety back in the lineup. A game changer and a player that will alter opponent’s game plans because of what he brings to the stadium on Sundays.
My final vote...Clay Matthews
Hard for me to overlook Matthews. The 13.5 sacks do stand out, but I have never been a “numbers guy” when I break down NFL football. I look at players and how they work within the scheme of the defense, their impact on the overall unit and how disruptive they can be throughout the course of a Sunday, and in this case, the entire season. Saying that, I am turning in my ballot today with the Packers’ linebacker getting my vote. He is the best overall defensive football player in the NFL this season.
My question: who gets your vote? Let me know...
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