We’re not saying that it has been a while since a member of the Cleveland Browns won an NFL Defensive Player of the Year award but the only instance we could find of it happening came in 1976 when defensive lineman Jerry Sherk was the Newspaper Enterprise Association’s winner of the award. That award ceased to exist after the 1997 season.
Fellow defensive lineman Michael Dean Perry was named the winner of the now-defunct United Press International’s AFC Defensive Player of the Year award. That honor stopped being awarded after the 1996 season. He also won the Kansas City Committee of 101’s AFC Defensive Player of the Year honor and that is the one that is still active to this day.
That streak could come to an end this year as Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett is the heavy favorite according to the NFL odds to win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Let’s take a look at the top contenders
- Team: Cleveland Browns (6-6)
- Opening Odds: +300
- Current Odds: even
The Cleveland Browns have once again failed to live up to the lofty NFL predictions that saw them as a factor in the AFC North race and a top playoff contender. While the Browns aren’t out of either race, it has been another disappointing season with inconsistent play on both sides of the ball.
About the only thing that long-suffering Browns fans can count on is that Garrett will be making life as uncomfortable as possible for opposing quarterbacks and running backs.
Garrett is the NFL leader with 14 quarterback sacks and his 15 tackles for loss is one of San Francisco 49ers’ defensive end Nick Bosa’s NFL lead. Garrett has only two games without at least a share of a sack and it is a bit surprising that the Browns won both of those contests.
- Team: Dallas Cowboys (7-4)
- Opening Odds: N/A
- Current Odds: +450
The second-year cornerback was an afterthought following an up-and-down rookie season. However, he emerged out of the shadows when Diggs intercepted passes in each of the first six games.
Last season, quarterbacks had a rating of 85.8 when targeting the receiver that Diggs was covering. That number dropped to 54.5 this year.
Diggs leads the NFL with eight interceptions and is second with 15 passes defended but he would probably need to go on another interception run to close ground on Garrett who is still the heavy favorite according to the Las Vegas odds.
- Team: New England Patriots (8-4)
- Opening Odds: N/A
- Current Odds: +500
Talk about your impactful free-agent signings. One of the many issues that the New England Patriots dealt with during a 7-9 season in 2020 was the lack of a pass rush as they finished with 24 sacks in 16 games. New England went out and signed Judon away from the Baltimore Ravens.
Judon is third in the NFL with 11½ sacks to go with 12 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery. More importantly, his presence has given opposing defensive coordinators a player to build an entire gameplan around slowing down and that is not something that the New England front seven had a season ago.
- Team: Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5-1)
- Opening Odds: +900
- Current Odds: +550
It seems like just a matter of time before Watt joins his brother J.J., the three-time winner, as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. However, this is not the year.
If Watt hadn’t missed three games, perhaps he would be challenging Garrett for the top spot As it is, he has 12½ sacks and 13 tackles for loss. But he was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list so that could certainly slow his rise up the list of Defensive Player of the Year candidates.
Another week, another high-profile Steelers player added to the NFL’s covid list.
This time, it’s linebacker T.J. Watt. https://t.co/S1ZL6iQzxJ
— Tribune-ReviewSports (@TribSports) November 30, 2021
The Other Contenders
Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams (+1000): Donald has won this award in three of the last four seasons. He is not having a poor season but the attention has turned to some other defensive stars in 2021.
Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers (+2000): The older of the pass-rushing Bosa brothers, he has 7½ sacks including one in each of the last four games. He’ll need more of those to move up the list of contenders.
J.C. Jackson, New England Patriots (+2000): Let’s hear it for having an undrafted player on this list. Jackson is second in the NFL with seven interceptions and has a league-leading 16 passes defended as he continues to put himself in the conversation as the best cornerback in the league.
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year: Parsons Leads
Let’s be honest, it is going to be hard to make the case for too many other than the former Penn State Nittany Lion and current Dallas Cowboys star Micah Parsons to win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Cornerback Patrick Surtain is the only other one close to Parsons in the race and he is not exactly breathing down Parsons’ neck.
Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys linebacker (-800): Parsons has nine sacks and 67 tackles as he looked unblockable at times. He has had some issues in pass coverage but with the way Parsons can come charging off the edge, other Dallas players can handle covering the tight ends or running backs.
Patrick Surtain, Denver Broncos, cornerback (+600): With three interceptions, 37 tackles and 11 passes defended, Surtain could be the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in some seasons. Surtain is allowing 47% of the passes to be completed when quarterbacks come to his side of the field. He is going to be a mainstay in the Denver secondary for years to come but it is going to take something spectacular for him to be anything more the second-best defensive rookie in the voting.
NFL Sacks Leader
Cleveland’s Garrett has a slight cushion over strong field of pass rushers.
The Chicago Bears’ offensive players probably still have nightmares about Garrett after he had 4½ sacks in a game earlier this season. That game propelled him to the top of the charts and it is going to take some work for somebody else to lead to NFL in sacks this season.
Garrett (+160): Garrett has already set a career-high with 14 sacks and a 20-sack season is not out of the question. About the only surprising aspect of Garrett’s season to date is that he hasn’t been credited with a forced fumble after jarring the ball loose from opponents nine times over the last three seasons.
Watt(+500): Watt is second in the NFL with 12½ sacks but the news that he was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list certainly won’t have those who bet online rushing out to put money down on Watt moving by Garrett.
Judon (+550): Judon has five sacks during New England’s current six-game winning streak that vaulted the Patriots to the top of the AFC East. He is proving to be more than just a chaser of quarterbacks with at least five tackles in four different games this season.
Robert Quinn, Chicago Bears linebacker (+750): Quinn is making a charge after recording 5½ sacks in the last three games pushing his season total to 11. He deserves a mention for having double-digit sack seasons for three different teams.
Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers defensive end (+1200): Bosa seems like he is undervalued on this list. He already has 11 sacks and plays in the pass-happy NFC West so he has the chance to make a run at this.