Will the NFL's best pass rusher have a reason to celebrate at the NFL Honors show on Saturday night? (Photo by Adam Bettcher /Getty Images)
The National Football League will give out its post-season awards tomorrow night at the first ever "NFL Honors" show, which will be broadcast live from Indianapolis. While they'll be giving out awards like the Most Valuable Player (who cares) and Offensive Player of the Year (seriously, who cares), there's one category that nobody seems to really have a great handle on at this point, and that's the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
In most years, one would think that Vikings' defensive end Jared Allen would be a runaway winner for the award. After all, he put together one of the best individual efforts the NFL has seen defensively in a long time, racking up 22 sacks, throwing in 66 tackles, and even adding in an interception covering a back out of the backfield in this year's season opener. However, the thing that might work against Allen is the fact that some voters feel the need to let a team's performance play a role in deciding who gets an individual award. You know. . .like Cris Carter and the Hall of Fame.
The Vikings went 3-13 this season, allowed the most touchdown passes in the NFL, and gave up the second-most points in the National Football League, despite the Vikings' defense being tied for the league lead in sacks with 50. This shouldn't take away from Allen's individual performance. . .but it will.
After the jump, we take a look at some of Allen's competition for what will probably be the most tightly contested award tomorrow night.
Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants - The second-year man out of Central Florida was a beast for the NFC champions this season, racking up 16.5 sacks on a team that has no shortage of great pass rushers. The disadvantage that he might have is that, with so many other great pass rushers on that defense (Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, etc.), opposing teams can't devote as much attention to Pierre-Paul as they can to somebody like a Jared Allen.
Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets - Revis could be a victim of his surroundings, too. . .but in a bad way. While he is probably the best cover guy in the National Football League, the Jets completely fell apart down the stretch of the 2011 season, dropping five of their final eight games and having a complete meltdown on the sidelines and in the New York media. Those sorts of things, whether fair or not, probably don't play much into his favor.
Justin Smith, DE, San Francisco 49ers - Smith is an interesting case, as he put up some really good numbers from the defensive end spot in the Niners' 3-4 defense. . .a position that generally doesn't lend itself to big-time statistics. However, Smith might be hurt by the fact that there were a lot of guys on that Niner defense that had huge seasons, such as potential Defensive Rookie of the Year Aldon Smith, cornerback Carlos Rogers, and inside linebackers Navorro Bowman and Patrick Willis.
Terrell Suggs, DE/OLB, Baltimore Ravens - Suggs was the best player on what was probably the best defense in the NFL this past season, and put up some pretty solid numbers in his own right. The nine-year veteran had what could be considered his best year this past season, putting up career highs in sacks, tackles, and forced fumbles. If they did separate awards for the AFC and NFC Defensive Players of the Year, Suggs would probably get the AFC award in a landslide. But, he has to compete against the guys from the other conference.
DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Dallas Cowboys - Ware had a chance to catch Jared Allen in the sack race this year until Allen went off in Week 17, and he might face the same issue as Revis does. The Cowboys lost four of their last five games to go from the NFC East driver's seat to third place in the division. Again, the play of the rest of the team shouldn't have an affect on an individual award. . .but if it can potentially affect someone that had as good a season as Jared Allen did, it can certainly affect everyone else, too.
In the end, I think the two main horses in this race are going to be Allen and Suggs. Can our favorite defensive player pull it off? Well, we'll find out tomorrow. The NFL Honors show will be broadcast on NBC starting at 8 PM Central time. . .and if you have the NFL Network, there will be a "red carpet" show that starts an hour prior to that.