Talk of Fame Network
There has been some great defense played in the NFL this season.
The Carolina Panthers have intercepted 22 passes and forced 35 turnovers. The New England Patriots have 47 sacks and the Denver Broncos are allowing fewer than 280 yards per game. The Cincinnati Bengals have allowed only 243 points this season.
Great defense is a result of great coaching, great schemes and great players. In this week’s Talk of Fame Network poll, we want to know who deserves to be named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year, and we have seven excellent candidates — a defensive end, middle linebacker, two outside linebackers, a cornerback and a couple of safeties.
Let us know what you think. So here’s your slate:
(Courtesy of the Carolina Panthers)
Luke Kuechly, MLB, Carolina.
The leading tackler on the NFL’s third-ranked defense, Kuechly excels both in the box and in coverage. He has 101 tackles with two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery despite missing three early-season games with a concussion. He also intercepted four passes and broken up 13 others. Two of his interceptions came on Thanksgiving against Tony Romo and the Cowboys, and he returned one of them 32 yards for a touchdown. Kuechly had a 15-tackle game against the Giants and 14-tackle games against Seattle and Indianapolis for the 14-0 Panthers.
(Courtesy of the Oakland Raiders)
Khalil Mack, OLB, Oakland.
It’s a big jump from the University of Buffalo to the NFL, and it was slow going for Khalil Mack as a rookie in 2014. He was the fifth overall pick of the draft but had little impact in his debut season, collecting just four sacks. Fortunately for the Raiders and new coach Jack Del Rio, Mack is a quick learner. He had more sacks in one game this season – a five-sack effort against the Broncos — than he had all of last season. Mack also has had two-sack games against the Browns, Chiefs and Titans. His 15 sacks lead the NFL through 14 weeks. He also has forced two fumbles for the Raiders.
(Courtesy of the Arizona Cardinals)
Tyrann Mathieu, S, Arizona.
The Honey Badger was the best player on the NFL’s No. 7-ranked defense before suffering a knee injury in the 14th game against Philadelphia that ended his season and possibly short-changed his bid for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Mathieu had a team runner-up 89 tackles, so he stood tall in Arizona’s Top 5-run defense. He also had five interceptions and broke up 21 other passes in coverage. Toss in a sack on a blitz and a forced fumble, and you have a defender who makes big plays on both sides of the line of scrimmage for the NFC West leading Cardinals.
(Courtesy of Eric Bakke/Denver Broncos)
Von Miller, OLB, Denver.
The best player on the NFL’s best defense. Miller is to the Broncos coming off the edge in the pass rush what Lawrence Taylor was to the Giants and Derrick Thomas to the Chiefs. His speed gives offensive tackles fits. Miller is in double figures in sacks for the fourth time in his five NFL seasons. The one time he missed was 2013 when he sat out six games with a suspension. And the play doesn’t end with a sack by Miller. He shares the NFL leads in both forced fumbles (four) and fumble recoveries (three). Miller had a two-sack game against San Diego and eight other single-sack games. He makes his presence felt every week.
(Courtesy of the Cincinnati Bengals)
Reggie Nelson, S, Cincinnati.
Nelson leads the NFL with eight interceptions in the NFL’s ninth-ranked defense. He personally has more interceptions than five NFL defenses and as many interceptions as three others. Three of his thefts have come against Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and he has another against Carson Palmer. During one stretch from Weeks 9-13, he intercepted passes in five consecutive games. Nelson also had an 11-tackle game against Buffalo and a nine-tackle game against Kansas City.
(Courtesy of the Carolina Panthers)
Josh Norman, CB, Carolina.
Norman has given the Panthers a shutdown corner with ball skills. Every week he lines up against the opposition’s best weapon – whether it’s Julio Jones with the Falcons, Dez Bryant with the Cowboys or Odell Beckham Jr. with the Giants — and protects the perfect season of the Panthers. He intercepted four passes in the first four games of the season before opponents became more selective throwing at him. Norman returned one of his interceptions 46 yards for a touchdown against Tampa Bay. He also ranks in the Top 20 with 20 passes broken up and has forced fumbles against the Giants and Redskins.
(Courtesy of the Houston Texans)
J.J. Watt, DE, Houston.
Tom Brady is the NFL’s perennial candidate for Offensive Player of the Year honors, and J.J. Watt is the perennial candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. He doesn’t have bad seasons; just degrees of good. Even though he is in just his fifth NFL season, Watt has already been a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He won in 2012 when he led the league with 20 ½ sacks and again in 2014 when he finished second with another 20 ½ sacks, also forcing five fumbles recovering four others and intercepting a pass. This season he’s second in the NFL with 13 ½ sacks for the AFC South-leading Texans.