The Associated Press has awarded the NFL MVP trophy every year since 1957. In that time, only two defensive players have been given the award, and none since 1986 (Lawrence Taylor). So basically, this is the MVP for defensive players. The candidates for 2017 may be names you recognize but they’re definitely not NFL “superstars” by any standard. In this article you won’t find the J.J. Watt’s, the Von Miller’s or the Luke Kuechly’s of the league but it’s time to recognize these up and coming defensive stars..
Here are the nominees:
The leader up front for this revamped defense, Campbell was signed by the Jaguars this offseason after almost a decade in Arizona. The Jag’s D earned the appropriate nickname “Sacksonville” and Campbell did his part for sure. The University of Miami product registered 60 tackles and 14.5 sacks this season. Jacksonville’s defense was #1 against the pass and 3rd overall this season and Calais was definitely a huge part of that success as the Jaguars head to the postseason for the first time since 2007.
The Middle Tennessee State product has shined for a defense that has had to carry Tennessee’s anemic offense at times this season. His most notable performance was a 3 INT game against the Cleveland Browns in a 12-9 victory on October 22nd. With two good cornerbacks joining him in the secondary, Byard has been able to become more of a field general and take some chances at balls. He’s also not afraid to go make a tackle up in the box either. Byard has 81 tackles and 6 INTs this season as he and the Titans look to win in week 17 and head into the playoffs.
Eric Weddle has been a very competent, very reliable safety for a long time in this league. He spent nine years in San Diego before making the move to Baltimore in 2016. The second round pick out of Utah, registered 62 tackles 1 sack and 6 INTs for a defense that pitched three shutouts this season. He was the leader of a Ravens defense ranked 9th in the league in total defense and 4th in points per game. And I’m sure he isn’t done yet. The Ravens are fighting for a playoff spot in week 17 and Weddle stands to make a $1 Million bonus should Baltimore achieve that playoff spot.
Another great free agent signing for “Sacksonville,” A.J. Bouye has been huge for the Jaguar secondary. The University of Central Florida undrafted free agent has record 52 tackles and 6 timely INTs to rejuvenate the teal and gold. He and Jalen Ramsey have teamed up to shut down the outer half of the field. The Jaguars were #1 against the pass this year and A.J. was a huge reason why.
And the winner is…