NFL Defensive Player of the Year: Making a Case for the Top 5 Players

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystFebruary 4, 2012

NFL Defensive Player of the Year: Making a Case for the Top 5 Players

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    Among the hardware that was distributed Saturday was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, with defensive end Terrell Suggs of the Baltimore Ravens being awarded the trophy for 2011.

    There were several deserving candidates this season, so let's take a look at some of those players, what they did to merit consideration in the first place, and the defender we believed should have taken home the hardware.

5. DeMarcus Ware: OLB, Dallas Cowboys

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    2011 Stats: 58 tackles, 19.5 sacks, two forced fumbles

    Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware had another excellent season rushing the passer in 2011, notching his sixth straight year with double-digit sacks, but his relatively low tackle totals for a linebacker and the Dallas Cowboys 8-8 record likely prevented Ware from receiving serious consideration for the award.

4. Justin Smith: DE, San Francisco 49ers

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    2011 Stats: 58 tackles, 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles

    The numbers don't tell the whole story with San Francisco 49ers defensive end Justin Smith, as the 11th year veteran was a force on the front end of one the National Football League's best defenses last year.

    However, those same numbers also don't jump off the page, and it was unlikely that enough voters would see past them for Smith to take home the hardware, as appears to have been the case.

3. Jason Pierre-Paul: DE, New York Giants

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    2011 Stats: 86 tackles, 16.5 sacks, two forced fumbles

    New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul emerged as the best pass rusher on a roster filled with pass rushers in his second NFL season, ranking fourth in the National Football League in sacks while posting a mind-boggling tackle total for a defensive end.

    It's a very close call, and Terrell Suggs, Jared Allen, and Pierre-Paul are all very deserving candidates, but I just can't get past 86 tackles by a defensive end, so if I had a vote to cast for Defensive Player of the Year it would have gone to Jason Pierre-Paul.

    I don't, though.

2. Jared Allen: DE, Minnesota Vikings

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    2011 Stats: 66 tackles, 22 sacks, four forced fumbles, one interception

    The 2011 season was a complete nightmare for the Minnesota Vikings, but certainly not due to the play of defensive end Jared Allen, who made a run at Michael Strahan's single season sack record and had six games with multiple sacks, including 3.5 in the season finale.

    Allen's chances at winning Defensive Player of the Year hinged on the voters ability to look past the Vikings woeful record in 2011, and although an argument can be made that it actually made Allen's spectacular season look even better in comparison, they were apparently unable to do so.

1. Terrell Suggs: DE, Baltimore Ravens

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    2011 Stats: 70 tackles, 14 sacks, seven forced fumbles, two interceptions

    Baltimore Ravens defensive end Terrell Suggs had yet another monster season in his ninth year in the NFL, leading the AFC with a career-high 14 sacks while leading the National Football League with seven forced fumbles.

    That sort of rock-solid resume speaks for itself, so it was no big surprise to see Suggs take home the hardware, and he's absolutely a deserving winner as Defensive Player of the Year.