WHO IS THE TOUCHDOWN'S Defensive Player of the Year?

Entering 2019, Aaron Donald was looking to make it three straight years as the defensive player of the year. In fact, eight of the last nine years the award has been dominated by players involved in the pass rush. However, with the 2019 season drawing to a close, Donald has not had a major impact on as many games this season, and we are left looking at a brand new winner of the 2019 version of the award.

Mark Ross: T.J. Watt

The only reason the Pittsburgh Steelers still have a shot at the playoffs this year is because of their defense. The main reason their defense has been so successful, TJ Watt. The pressure that Watt has been getting of the edge is what has forced opposing quarterbacks into early and dangerous throws and in turn this has led to numerous interceptions from that ball hawking secondary. Watt has become the only NFL player since 2008 to have at least 14 sacks, 14 tackles for a loss, 33 quarterback hits, 7 forced fumbles and 4 fumble recoveries. On top of that he also has two interceptions of his own. You can put all the success of Pittsburgh’s season on this mans shoulders as without him I would hate to think what the Steelers record might have been.

Simon Carroll: Shaq Barrett

Defensive player of the year 2019

In 2018, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Defense allowed almost 124 yards per game on the ground – 24 th in the NFL. In 2019 they average less than 73 yards per game – the best in the business. One of the biggest reasons for that is Shaq Barrett, an unheralded free agency pickup from Denver who knew he was good but couldn’t seem to give him enough snaps. Whilst he’s been explosive getting after the quarterback – his 16.5 sacks put him second in the NFL – it’s his run defense that has helped turn this unit’s fortunes around. 52 tackles, 16 of which were for a loss, and 6 forced fumbles. He’s been a one-man wrecking machine.

Paul Mainwaring: Stephon Gilmore

I think DPOY is a tough award to decide upon. I think it would be easy to pick Aaron Donald given he is a truly special talent and when you watch him he dominates games, however the Rams defense hasn’t been great so that takes him out of contention for me. In my mind to win DPOY you have to be a top player on a top defense and that means I am going with Stephon Gilmore, he plays for the best defense in the league this season and his stats are frightening. Through 15 games, he has a league-high six interceptions. With two pick-sixes, he’s one of three players with multiple defensive touchdowns. 

Gilmore has also deflected a league-high 19 passes, allowing just 25 receptions on 70 attempts for a 35.7 completion percentage. When opposing quarterbacks target Gilmore, their passer rating is only 0.1 higher than if they threw the ball away on every possession. Ok, Corners very rarely win this award but they should this year and it should be Gilmore.

Ben Rolfe: Minkah Fitzpatrick

This year we have seen three major defensive pieces traded. Minkah Fitzpatrick from the Dolphins to the Steelers. Jalen Ramsey from the Jaguars to the Rams. Marcus Peters from the Rams to the Ravens. Of those three players, two of them deserve consideration as one of the best defensive players this season. Surprisingly, Ramsey is the odd one out.

Rightly or wrong, turnovers is what makes a defensive back stand out. Those players do so much more than just intercept passes, but those turnovers are the headline making plays. Marcus Peters has done just that, with five interceptions, returning an impressive three of them for touchdowns. You could make a very good case either Gilmore or Peters deserves serious consideration.

However, Fitzpatrick has been simply incredible. Since arriving in Pittsburgh he has six interceptions and a fumble recovery. Two of those turnovers have been returned for touchdowns. The reason Fitzpatrick stands out to me is that his performances have been a huge reason that the Steelers are anywhere near the Super Bowl. That is what he and Gilmore have that makes them stand out from Peters, their offenses have not lit the world on fire, and their teams have REALLY needed the performances those two have put up this season to make them as relevant in the playoff picture as they are.

Image credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports, AP Photo/Paul Sancya