When it comes to defensive awards, sacks don’t mean everything. But they don’t hurt, either.
Last season, Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors despite recording fewer sacks (11.5) then San Francisco’s Aldon Smith (14). This year, the scenario is different.
Miller won as a rookie because Smith was—and in some circles, still is—viewed as a one-trick pony. His 19.5 sacks through fifteen games, however, are hard to overlook, and he’s added three forced fumbles and an interception to his stat sheet.
Still, with a strong finish in the regular season, Miller could top Smith in votes once again by closing the gap in the sacks category. Miller already has more tackles (60-to-58), forced fumbles (6-to-3), tackles for losses (25-to-17) and has scored a defensive touchdown this season.
Miller’s biggest competition at this point is actually not Smith, but Houston’s J.J. Watt, who is the most likely candidate to walk away with DPoY honors this season.
Watt, a defensive end/defensive tackle hybrid, has recorded more tackles (74) and defended more passes (15) than either Miller or Smith and is tied for the most sacks with 19.5. All second year players, the DPoY race between Miller, Smith, and Watt will be close to the very end.
Miller faces the Browns and Chiefs in his two remaining games. Combined, Cleveland and Kansas City have allowed an average of 4.7 sacks per game this season. That is good news for Miller, who is 3.5 sacks behind Smith and Watt.
The last player to win Defensive Rookie of the Year honors and win Defensive Player of the Year in his second season was New York’s Lawrence Taylor (1981, ’82), who unofficially recorded 17.0 sacks through his first two seasons.