The Defensive Player of the Year award is a better award than the MVP, because the MVP award is often determined based upon popularity, while the Defensive Player of the Year is won by the player who has shown himself as a star, and his team has responded by being successful in the league. It is not purely an individual award, because the player with the best stats won't necessarily win. It is the players who have shined individually, and as a result of this have made the entire defense and team preform better.
If frustrates me that the MVP award hasn't been given to a Defensive Player since 1986 (Lawerence Taylor). As the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots have showed us, championships are won through defense. The Greatest Show on Turf (2001 Rams) is nothing more than a show without the defense to back it up. I realize that the defense did very well during the regular season, but against the Patriots when they needed a stop, the defense wasn't able to do it for them. Defense wins championships, and the Defensive Player of the Year is the general of that defense. These are the five players this year who I think are the respective generals of their team, who are leaders both in word in action and thus deserve recognition.
I realize this is a shocker pick, but after only starting five games, David Hawthorne is 23rd in the league with 71 tackles. David Hawthorne is currently averaging 12 tackles a game. If he were to have played the entire year, he would be leading the league with 120 tackles, and would get 192 tackles by the end of the year. He leads all linebackers with three interceptions, and has even gotten three sacks and two forced fumbles, all of this in only five games. David Hawthorne is a star, and although he doesn't have a chance to win this year Defensive Player of the Year this year, largely because the Seahawks defense ranks 20th in the league, next year with the Seahawks vastly improved look for him to be a challenger for the award.
After an 0-6 start, the Titans are finally rolling, and it is because of the veteran leadership of Keith Bulluck. While the Titans were figuring out their quarterback situation, Chris Johnson kept pounding the ball, and Ketih Bulluck led the defense to seventh in the league, despite constant pressure because the offense couldn't keep the ball. The Titans have always been known for having a strong defense, but because Albert Hanyesworth left in the off-season, people wondered whether that success would continue. Albert Hanyesworth's role is being filled by journeymen defensive tackles, the defensive line led by Kyle Vanden Bosch are not generating as much pressure, and the defensive backs are not doing nearly as well as they did a year ago. However, despite it all, Keith Bulluck is the Ray Lewis holding this defense together. He has 79 tackles this year, good enough for 11th in the league, and over 1000 tackles in his long career. He has been the captain of the Titans defense for years, and he is a consistent force year after year.
Elvis Dumervil is a monster. He currently leads the league with 12 sacks, and in only his short NFL career of four years, he's made 38 sacks, so he certainly has the consistency needed. But the question I always have for defensive ends, is are they merely sack specialists? (Like Dwight Freeney) Elvis Dumervil ranks 15th among defensive lineman in tackles with 35. This is an impressive number considering his sacks, but still shows that he has a tendency of just immediately running around the line to get to the quarterback. This is further evidenced by the Broncos 19th run defense ranking. They rank third in pass, but only 19th in run, and this is partly the fault of Elvis Dumervil. He is an excellent player who is having an excellent year, but Defensive Player of the Year is more than just about personal stats, but about helping the team overall.
Patrick Willis has been the leader of the 49ers defense ever since his rookie season. As a rookie he made 174 tackles, was made Defensive Rookie of the year, and made the Pro Bowl. He has made the Pro Bowl both years he's been in the league, and it is very probable he will make it again this year. He is second in the league in tackles with 96, and at his current pace will end up with around 160 tackles. He leads the league over the last three years with 441 tackles. He leads the 49ers Rushing Defense that is ranked sixth in the league. The 49ers defense have ranked poorly the last couple years, but that has not been the fault of Patrick Willis or the rushing defense, it is their pass defense that is atrocious. Patrick Willis has done everything he can to carry the defense, and he is the unquestioned leader of the team.
You can't argue based upon individual stats, you can't argue based upon team stats, you can't argue based upon consistency, all you can do is admit James Harrison is the best candidate for Defensive Player of the year. He is third in the league with 10 sacks. He has consistently gotten to the quarterback with 10 sacks in the last eight games. He is 11th in the league in tackles for outside linebackers. The Pittsburgh Steelers for the third year in a row lead the league in total defense. They're Super Bowl champions, and he was defensive player of the year last year. James Harrison is the obvious choice for Defensive Player of the Year, and if the Steelers win again, he deserves to be MVP of the entire league.