So, The Seahawks Might Not Have Aldon Smith After All

The Seahawks sure do have a knack for bringing in troubled defensive linemen who never end up playing a single down thanks to off-field shenanigans.

I was recently SO excited about the signing of Aldon Smith, while of course knowing full well the risks inherent to such a signing. I suppose, given our history – the Malik McDowell of it all – I should’ve been more wary and tempered my expectations.

I don’t know what the rules are that he’s supposed to follow as part of his reinstatement in the NFL, but presumably they involve staying away from substances (alcohol or otherwise) and off-field violence. I guess I have to tack on an “allegedly” here, but it sure as shit allegedly seems that he broke the second part of the agreement, and while there’s no indication he broke the first part, who chokes out another grown man in a fit of rage that isn’t fueled in some way by “substances”? I mean, if he was stone sober, in a way that’s worse, right? That just means he has a complete and utter lack of impulse control in his daily life.

Obviously, this has yet to play out in the courts. But, if there is video evidence, I think that brings with it a minimum of a suspension from the league. If the video is bad – and how could it not be, he allegedly choked a guy unconscious – then I have to imagine the Seahawks will be cutting him (thankfully, with little repercussions to our 2021 cap).

The bummer of it all is that the Seahawks aren’t likely to acquire anyone of his talent, for such a cheap price, so that’s a blow to our pass rush depth that I’ve been crowing about. Sigh. HOW HARD IS IT TO NOT BE A KNUCKLEHEAD?!

The Seahawks Are Signing Aldon Smith

Someone on Twitter reported that the Seahawks are signing Aldon Smith to a 1-year deal, and I just couldn’t wait! This is terribly exciting news!

Obviously, there are two ways you have to write about Aldon Smith: the man and the football player. The man is … kind of a lot, and predominantly negative. Admittedly, I’m not super informed on all that he’s been involved with, but Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence are more than enough. For (some of? all of?) these things, he was suspended by the NFL from 2016-2019. He was reinstated, so he must have gone through extensive work on himself to make it back (it’s hard to return from an indefinite suspension like that; most people can’t hack it), but, you know, it feels wrong to be excited. I don’t know what he did or didn’t do to the woman he allegedly did whatever to, but it couldn’t have been good. At some point, you have to know better the first time when it comes to violence; if you’re not capable of that kind of rudimentary awareness, do you even deserve a second chance?

That’s not for me to decide, thankfully. He’s back in the NFL, he’s up for grabs in free agency, and the Seahawks have apparently gone and grabbed him. What am I going to do, not root for the Seahawks? That’s fine for other people to take a stand on, but if you dig deep on pretty much everyone and everything, you’re going to find darkness that people might say you should take a stand on. The safe bet is to sit alone in a room twiddling my thumbs for all of eternity. Failing that, I’m going to separate the man from the art, as they say. I’m going to continue to watch football and root for the Seahawks, so cram your opinions up your ass about everything else. I’m not a monk; sue me.

GREAT NEWS, EVERYONE! Aldon Smith is joining the Seahawks’ pass rush!

Smith played for the Cowboys last year (a fairly mediocre defense, as far as I can remember), and appeared in every game. I seem to recall him having a better season than he did (only 5.0 sacks), but I imagine my opinion is skewed because 3.0 of those came against the Seahawks in Week 3. He was a starter, and apparently started to wear down as the season went along, but that’s okay! Because I don’t think he’ll be a starter for the Seahawks if things break they way they’re supposed to.

Carlos Dunlap and Kerry Hyder figure to be our starters at either end. Smith, presumably, would be the next man up at one of those end spots, with Benson Mayowa also providing tremendous value on pass rushing downs. That’s FOUR quality pass rushers! Not counting what we might get from holdovers like L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, Alton Robinson, Darrell Taylor, and Bobby Wagner and the rest of the linebacking unit. I mean, it’s not a ton of sacks from those guys, but if everyone contributes anywhere from 2-5 in the season – on top of what our big dog defensive ends rack up – that’s a force to be reckoned with!

Oh, and let us not forget Jamal Adams blitzing from the secondary and his 9.5 sacks last season. He still figures to be the highest paid safety in the game, and therefore a significant part of what we do from a pass rush perspective.

What an embarrassment of riches! This is, no joke, a championship-level pass rushing unit. To be fair, don’t look behind the curtain over there at what we’re doing with the cornerback spots … it’s fine, it’ll be fine, but LOOK OVER HERE! Sacks on sacks on sacks!!!

I feel so great about what the Seahawks have done this offseason, and it’s still not done! All it really cost us was Jarran Reed, Shaquill Griffin, and maybe K.J. Wright (how Wright is still not signed by anyone yet is appalling to me). With what we had for cap space, it’s truly remarkable.

#9 – Russell Okung

To see the full list of the Top 10 Most Important Seahawks in 2014, click here.

In this offense, and with this quarterback, the necessity of a lock-down left tackle isn’t nearly as dire as, say, back when Holmgren coached the team and Hasselbeck needed blind-side protection.  In many ways, though, the offensive line as a whole is even MORE important than it was even ten years ago.

The Seahawks, by and large, had probably one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last year.  A lot of that had to do with injury:  the three best linemen we have – Okung, Unger, Giacomini – missed huge chunks of season, often simultaneously.  Even when everyone was healthy – or “healthy” in the sense that they were able to put on pads and give it a go at some figure less than 100% – they were often ineffective.  Guys frequently blew past a missed assignment, getting free runs at Russell Wilson, who would in turn have to flee for his life.  Since our quarterback is so dynamic, he’s able to make chicken salad out of this type of blocking.  But, there’s a very noticeable difference between a healthy offensive line, and a “healthy” offensive line.

Russell Okung is the most talented member of this offensive line, which is why he’s ranked so high on my countdown.  The drop-off from Okung to the next left tackle on the depth chart is pretty staggering compared to the rest of the O-Line.  Last year, we had Paul McQuistan going much of the time Okung was out.  If you don’t remember this dark period of our 2013 season, you can at least imagine how horrible he was anchoring the left side of this line.  He’s a solid depth guy, and he was pretty valuable as a versatile interior lineman, but Paul McQuistan is the beans when it comes to playing tackle.

This year, I would imagine we’re taking a step up with Alvin Bailey as the #2 behind Okung.  He’s had some experience in the regular season last year – and as a sixth lineman in jumbo packages in the playoffs – so it’s not like we’d have a total greenhorn in there should Okung get injured.  But, ideally, it wouldn’t come to that.

We’re entering an interesting time in Okung’s career.  He’s signed through 2015.  This is the first year where – if we waived him – we wouldn’t be penalized by dead money.  We could SAVE money.  Now, obviously, I’m not advocating that, but it’s just interesting.  He’s been in the league since 2010, a starter the whole way as a high first round draft pick (and replacement of Walter Jones).  Something else that’s interesting:  he actually makes LESS money next year than he does this year.  His cap hit in 2014 is a little over $11 million; his cap hit in 2015 is a little over $7 million.  This is actually to his advantage – if he wants to spend the vast majority of his career in Seattle – because in his four years in the League, he has never played a full 16-game season.  Indeed, he’s averaged only 11.25 games per year in the regular season.

A lot of people believe this team is in for another huge contract with Okung pretty soon.  You’d have to think, if he puts in a full year, and his level of play doesn’t start to decline, he’ll be looking for an extension of some sort at season’s end.  After all, $7 million is a pretty paltry sum for a first round left tackle who should still be in his prime.

However, if he comes out and plays in 11 games this year, then you have to wonder if the Seahawks will look to be moving on after the 2015 season.  It’s pretty hard to justify a lengthy, expensive contract extension for a guy who can’t stop injuring his feet.

Either way, we’re talking about 2014, and Russell Okung is important to making this offense go.  Let’s face it, Russell Wilson was sacked WAY too many times last year.  44, to be exact.  And this year, we have the Defensive Lines Of Death to worry about.  The Rams are a fucking bonanza of pass-rushing talent.  The 49ers are always stout (and, by the time we play them, you’d think they will have brought back Aldon Smith).  The Cardinals overall are tenacious and relentless.  Tack on the Packers (with a healthy Matthews for game 1), the Panthers, the revamped Broncos with DeMarcus Ware … the list goes on and on.

We need more than just healthy bodies on the offensive line.  We need TALENT.  It would be nice if that talent could stay healthy for a long period of time.  Russell Okung has the type of talent where you don’t have to worry about him.  He HAS an All Pro level of skill!  With him at 100%, you don’t even have to think about him.  Save your worries for the other four guys on the line.

Contrary to 2013’s level of line play, the 2014 O-Line actually has the potential to be great.  It would require health out of Okung and Unger, and big steps forward out of our guards, and hopefully a diamond in the rough at right tackle.  I’m not saying it’s a guarantee, but the potential is there!  And, frankly, it all starts with Okung.

Concerning The Saints Game This Weekend

The Seahawks play the Saints on Saturday.  For starters, don’t you just hate being the first game of the weekend?  I guess, in one sense, it’s nice to get it out of the way.  You also don’t really want to be the last game of the weekend either; the mounting pressure becomes too much to handle.  But, that first game?  Doesn’t it always seem like something weird happens in that first playoff game of the weekend?  It would’ve been nice to have been that overlooked second game of the Saturday slate.  Get in, get out, and you’re already forgotten by the time Sunday rolls around.

I don’t want anything weird to happen.  I want a regular, boring ol’ game with the expected outcome and no aggravation at the end.  The Seahawks are expected to win this game.  They’re favored by a good 8 points.  But, more than that, they’re a 1-seed playing a 6-seed.  They’re at home, with probably the best Home Field Advantage in the game.  They’re playing a team whose defense can be scored upon.  They’ve got the best secondary in the game (to combat New Orleans and their awesome passing attack).  This is, in short, the perfect playoff matchup.  We couldn’t have expected anything better.  There’s no reason why we should lose this game.

Then again, there’s no reason why we should have lost ANY of the games we’ve played this year!  We’re the best team in football!  Yet, the best teams don’t always end up winning it all.  And that’s what we’ve got left to worry about.

It’s that time of year.  You’ve got to play every single game like it’s your last, because a single loss will MAKE it your last.  This is what we’ve been looking forward to all this time.  When the season started, we expected the Seahawks to be great.  Through the regular season, the Seahawks HAVE been great.  Now, it’s up to these last three games.  But, really, it’s up to this game on Saturday.  All that stuff we’ve been hearing all season long, about how the Seahawks just want to go 1-0 every week, and about how every game is a “championship opportunity” … well, those chickens are coming home to roost.  That shit’s just a lot of filler.  It’s things athletes say to make it sound like they’re saying the right things.  It’s also something athletes say to stay focused.  These guys read all the press just like we do.  But, they need mantras to see past all that.  To keep their eyes on the prize, as it were.

There’s no reason for the Seahawks to EVER lose, but some losses are easier to understand than others.  Losing to the 49ers makes some sense, because their defense is great and their offense can do just enough to get the job done.  They’re like the evil, bizarro Seahawks.  But, to lose to the Saints?  That just sounds too absurd to compute.

I don’t necessarily expect it to be as easy as it was in Week 13 when we played the Saints last.  Then again, I have no reasoning behind that statement.  Why WOULDN’T we beat them by four touchdowns again?  Everyone points to the elite quarterback, as if that’s just the great equalizer.  In a sense, yeah, it is.  You’re not going to go anywhere in this league without an elite quarterback.  Just look at the remaining teams in this year’s playoffs:  Wilson, Newton, Kaepernick, and Brees in the NFC; Manning, Brady, Luck, and Rivers in the AFC.  More or less, these are 8 of the best quarterbacks in football!  But, how many times have you seen great quarterbacks get shut down in the playoffs?  Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning all have one Super Bowl win apiece.  Brady has three, but none since the 2004 season.  All of these quarterbacks have been shut down by solid defensive play.  Why, just last week, Aaron Rodgers was shut down by the 49ers!  Brady was taken down twice by the Giants in the Super Bowl; Manning was taken down countless times by the Patriots back in the day.  Is Drew Brees any different?  I would argue not.  He’s no more special than any of these other elite quarterbacks.

Are the Seahawks on defense any different?  I would argue so; I would argue that they’re BETTER than the Giants, Patriots, and 49ers of recent years.

When people compare the Seahawks and the 49ers on defense, it’s common to give the secondary to Seattle and the front seven to San Francisco.  The Seahawks have three All Pro-calibre players in their secondary, and a couple others in Maxwell and Thurmond who fall just short (but would likely be Pro Bowlers elsewhere if given a chance to start); so I don’t think there’s any question that the Seahawks have the better secondary.  It’s not even close, and you’re a fool to say otherwise.  But, I don’t think the front seven is as open-and-shut as many others like to make it out to be.  The 49ers certainly have the name recognition, with guys like NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis, Ahmad Brooks, Justin Smith, and Aldon Smith (just to name a few), but the Seahawks compare very favorably when you look at the numbers.

The Seahawks have 44 sacks this year, and another 39 tackles for loss.  The 49ers have 38 sacks and 41 tackles for loss.  The 49ers have their Pro Bowlers and their All Pros along the front seven, but the Seahawks have guys like Bobby Wagner (who led the team in tackles again with 120, and also added 5 sacks and 2 INTs), Michael Bennett (who led the team in sacks with 8.5, while being an all-around force both inside and on the end), Cliff Avril (who tacked on 8 more sacks), Chris Clemons (who came all the way back from an ACL tear to net 4.5 sacks and play very solid run defense), Clinton McDonald (who added 5.5 sacks on the inside after being cut and missing the first game of the season).  Not to mention guys like K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith getting it done at outside linebacker (combining for 134 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, and a forced fumble).  And Bruce Irvin was quietly effective in transitioning from a pass rushing specialist in his rookie season last year to a strong-side linebacker this year.  He ended up with 40 tackles, 2 sacks, and a pick.

What you’ll notice from the Seahawks is that no one guy really stands out from a national perspective.  But, when you put them all together, and you factor in glue guys like Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane (who arguably had the most dominant season of his career), this front seven as a unit did just as good, if not better than the 49ers.

So, getting back to my original point:  even WITH Drew Brees, why would anyone even remotely consider the Saints a threat?  If elite defenses shut down elite quarterbacks with regularity, and the Seahawks have the best defense in football, are you really telling me that I should fear the Saints because they have one of the five best quarterbacks in football?

And yet, to harken back to my other main point:  anything can happen in the National Football League.

If the Seahawks are going to blow this game, it’s not going to be because we couldn’t force the Saints into a punt.  It’s going to be because our offense shit the bed.  In our two recent losses – to the 49ers and Cardinals (because I still feel like that Colts loss was an anomaly) – the Seahawks struggled to move the ball; and when they did move the ball, they struggled to get it into the endzone.

The Saints’ defense isn’t on par with that of the 49ers or Cardinals, but they do enough things well to be of concern.  They actually gave up the 4th fewest yards and points in football.  Their secondary gave up the second-fewest yards per game, which is pretty impressive when you consider that they were an 11-win team and often held leads that required their opponents to pass to get back into the game.  Of course, the Seahawks gave up the fewest passing yards, and 22.1 yards fewer per game to boot.  The Saints were 19th in rushing yards per game allowed, so that’s something we can hang our hats on (though, they did just hold the best rushing attack in football – the Eagles – to only 80 yards on the ground, in a game that was never really TOO out-of-hand).

What we really need to watch out for is the pass rush.  The Saints were fourth in sacks, which sounds about right when you think about a Rob Ryan defense.  They probably blitz a lot, which means there are big plays to be had.  If we struggle like we did against the Cardinals in hitting on the big plays, then we might be doomed.  We’ll need to watch out for the likes of Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette, who each had at least 12 sacks this past season.  I fear those two guys WAY more than I fear someone like Drew Brees.

So, yeah, we’ll lose if our offense lets us down.  That’s if all things are equal.  I don’t even want to think of how this game will turn if we have to deal with the kind of injuries the Chiefs had to deal with last week.  Or the kind of botched refereeing we’ve come to expect out of this league on its biggest stage.  It’s not quite Pac-12 Refs-bad, but it’s getting there.

Mostly, I’m just concerned because I’m a worrier.  That’s why my friends call me Whiskers.  I’ve been here too many times over the last 15 years.  I’ve endured pretty much everything you can possibly endure in the playoffs with this team.  The Trace Armstrong Game in 1999 against the Dolphins.  The “We Want The Ball & We’re Gonna Score” Overtime Game against Green Bay in 2003.  The Bobby Engram Dropped Pass Game against the Rams in 2004.  The officiating fiasco that was Super Bowl XL in 2005.  The Rex Grossman long bomb in overtime against the Bears in 2006.  The six consecutive touchdowns by the Packers in 2007 (after notching a 14-0 lead thanks to two fumbles on their side of midfield).  The 28-0 lead by the Bears in 2010 (before the Seahawks made it a marginally interesting 35-24 defeat, with 21 points in the fourth quarter).  And of course, who could forget the 20-point halftime deficit to the Falcons last year, which we made into a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds left, only to lose thanks to a field goal with 13 seconds left in the game?

This is our 9th time in the playoffs in the last 15 years.  The previous eight have ended in defeat, in spectacularly embarrassing fashion.  This is the team we need to end a couple generations’ worth of losing.  It all starts on Saturday.  Take care of business and move on to the NFC Championship game.  Fail and … well, that’s something I’d rather not think about right now.

Can Richard Sherman Win Defensive Player Of The Year?

***Update 12/27/2012*** Aaaaaannnnnd Sherman has been acquitted.  Free at last!

Well, for starters, not making the Pro Bowl is a bad sign.  But, that probably says more about the Pro Bowl than it does about Sherman’s abilities and his status as the best cover-corner in the NFL.

Nobody’s really talking about this right now (not tooting my horn or anything; I just haven’t seen any articles on the topic), so let’s take out the possible suspension of Sherman for Adderall for the sake of argument.  I don’t know if you’re allowed to win any awards if you’re suspended for this, but my gut tells me either way, by the simple fact that we have these allegations, there will probably be people who leave him off their ballots entirely.

There have been 41 winners of the D-POY award.  15 have been linebackers, 9 have been defensive ends, 7 have been defensive tackles (including Cortez Kennedy in 1992), 5 have been safeties (including Kenny Easley in 1984), and 5 have been cornerbacks.  So, right there, it’s pretty rare to have a cornerback win the award.

When you think about the D-POY, what do you think of?  You think of a defensive player who has made the biggest impact in the league.  What does that mean?  Well, for starters, you have to like the chances of a guy who’s going to the playoffs over a guy who doesn’t.  Only 6 players who’ve won the D-POY did not participate in the playoffs that season (with Cortez Kennedy being the most mind-boggling in this regard, coming off of a 2-14 season with those ’92 Seahawks).  You also gotta figure he’s on a defense that’s in the top half of the league.  There’s only one player who was on a defense ranked worse than 14th and that’s Reggie White in a 1987 strike-shortened season where the Eagles missed the playoffs; their defense was ranked 23rd out of 28 teams.  Still, when you’re Reggie White and you get 21.0 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and a touchdown, those are the kinds of undeniable numbers you can’t ignore.

Richard Sherman is on a top-flight defense (easily in the top 3 in the league in most catagories).  Richard Sherman’s team is also going to the playoffs.  Those are two big checks in his favor.  Of course, they’re not the ONLY things voters look at.

Going back, you’re talking about a guy who makes the biggest impact; what does that mean?  Having a lot of tackles is great and all, but tons of guys have a bunch of tackles.  Those won’t separate you from the pack.  Impact plays are, in no particular order:  sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, and touchdowns.  Then, when you’re talking about cornerbacks, you’ve gotta look at Passes Defended, you’ve got to look at number of penalties against, you’ve got to look at number of targets (i.e. how many times that player was challenged by the opposing quarterback; because if a quarterback is avoiding that side of the field due to the level of competition on defense, that’s a HUGE impact), and finally, I’m sure the voters do the ol’ Eye Test.  Does he LOOK like a defensive player of the year?  This could go any number of ways.  They can watch the games, they can watch highlight packages, they can read about him in local and national articles, they can hear what players and coaches say about him.

Anyway, that’s what you’re looking at.  I’m just a humble blogger, so I don’t know things like how many times he was targeted, or what the players are saying about him.  But, there are plenty of websites that can give me the hard stats.  First, let’s take a look at past winners; specifically, past winners who were cornerbacks.

What does it take to be a cornerback and win the D-POY?

  • 2009 – Charles Woodson (Green Bay):  2 sacks, 9 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 3 touchdowns, 65 tackles, 18 passes defended.
  • 1994 – Deion Sanders (San Francisco):  6 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery, 3 touchdowns, 34 tackles, 14 passes defended.
  • 1993 – Rod Woodson (Pittsburgh):  2 sacks, 8 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 touchdown, 95 tackles, 23 passes defended.
  • 1980 – Lester Hayes (Oakland):  13 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 touchdown, an unknown number of tackles & passes defended (because these were not recorded stats back then).
  • 1975 – Mel Blount (Pittsburgh):  11 interceptions, an unknown number of tackles and passes defended.

I don’t know a thing about Mel Blount, but I know he played for the Steelers.  The Steelers in the 1970s had one of the most fearsome defenses in the league.  A Steeler won the D-POY 4 times out of the first 6 years the award was given out, all in the 70s.  I gotta think that’s a major reason why Blount won it in ’75 (plus, you know, 11 interceptions is pretty fucking insane for a cornerback).

I don’t know much about Lester Hayes either, but that’s a pretty damn good season.  Plus, he had some cachet back then.  If you’re a cornerback and you have eyes on the D-POY award, you’ve got to have some name recognition.  Hayes (for being just a brutal hitter and tackler), Rod Woodson, Deion (Primetime) Sanders, and Charles Woodson all have HUGE name recognition.  Normally, the best athletes are reserved for offense.  It’s pretty rare to be the best athlete on your team and also play corner.  In the case of these last four guys, you’re talking about just that.  You’ll also notice that a lot of these guys have returned kicks in their days; not a coincidence.  If your best player is a cornerback, you do whatever it takes to get him on the field with the ball in his hands.

Of the five guys listed above, I think Rod Woodson’s season was probably the most impressive.  I mean, 95 tackles for a corner?  Are you KIDDING me?

Anyway, let’s take a look at Sherman’s numbers for reference:

  • 2012 – Richard Sherman (Seattle):  1 sack, 7 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 2 touchdowns, 53 tackles, 23 passes defended.

He’s up there in interceptions, which is good.  He’s got some forced fumbles, he’s got a couple touchdowns, he’s got a ton of passes defended, and he’s even got a sack for good measure.  These are all numbers right in line with the best seasons of any cornerback.  So, let’s look at some of the other great cornerbacks this year.

  • 2012 – Charles Tillman (Chicago):  3 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 3 touchdowns, 71 tackles, 14 passes defended.
  • 2012 – Tim Jennings (Chicago):  8 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 53 tackles, 19 passes defended.
  • 2012 – Patrick Peterson (Arizona):  7 interceptions, 5 fumble recoveries, 50 tackles, 15 passes defended.
  • 2012 – Champ Bailey (Denver):  2 interceptions, 58 tackles, 9 passes defended.
  • 2012 – Johnathan Joseph (Houston):  2 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 53 tackles, 9 passes defended.
  • 2012 – Antonio Cromartie (New York Jets):  3 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 28 tackles, 13 passes defended.

In case you were wondering:  those are the six starting cornerbacks selected to this year’s Pro Bowl.  Whether you agree with the decision or not, these are six premiere corners and thus need to be taken seriously as competition with Richard Sherman for D-POY.

If you look among the league leaders, Sherman is tied for 2nd with 7 intereptions (Jennings is alone at the top with 8).  In forced fumbles, among defensive backs (including safeties), he’s tied for 7th in the NFL with 3.  Tillman has a GROTESQUE 10 forced fumbles to lead the league, regardless of position.  If you take the safety position out of the equation, then Sherman is tied for 2nd among cornerbacks with 3.

If we just stick with cornerbacks, it’s only Sherman and Tillman and everyone else.  Tillman has forced a combined 13 turnovers.  Sherman has forced 10.  Both have multiple touchdowns.  Both have name recognition.  Tillman has been in the league for 10 years, so he has a little MORE name recognition, but still.  People know who Richard Sherman is, and they will only continue to know who he is.  He leads the league in opposing quarterback rating when he’s thrown at.  Don’t know where Tillman ranks, but based on the fact that he has nearly 20 more tackles, I gotta think opposing quarterbacks don’t fear him quite as much.  It’s not opposing QBs’ fault that their wide receivers keep getting stripped by the guy.  Likewise, Sherman has nearly 10 more passes defended.

Looking elsewhere, J.J. Watt is getting a lot of pub down in Houston.  As a defensive end, he currently has 20.5 sacks.  Aldon Smith for the 49ers has 19.5, but you can see his play has tailed off considerably with Justin Smith injured.  Getting punked by Russell Okung in primetime surely didn’t help his chances either.

As for the linebackers, you’ve got a dark horse in Arizona by the name of Daryl Washington.  He’s got 123 tackles and 9 sacks to go along with an interception and 2 forced fumbles.  You’ve got London Fletcher with Washington:  128 tackles, 1 sack, 5 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 10 passes defended.  Then there are the big dogs in tackles – Luke Kuechly (151, with 1 sack, 2 INTs), Chad Greenway (145, with 3 sacks, 1 INT), NaVorro Bowman (144, with 2 sacks, 1 INT), and Jerod Mayo (142, with 3 sacks, 1 INT).  I’m going to say, with his name recognition, and the fact that everybody LOVES the guy, I’m putting London Fletcher as the clubhouse leader among linebackers.  He’s got a nice stat spread that could go a long way in this race.

I don’t think there are any serious contenders among the safeties.  The usual suspects – Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed – have either been injured, or less stellar than in years past.

That leaves us with four legitimate candidates:

  • London Fletcher
  • J.J. Watt
  • Charles Tillman
  • Richard Sherman

My hunch?  I really like London Fletcher’s chances.  Remember when they gave Denzel Washington the Academy Award for that awful Training Day movie?  This is kind of like that.  A belated award to an industry veteran who’s at the top of his game while slumming it.  In the case of Fletcher, “slumming it” means he’s on a TERRIBLE defense, but is the one shining vision of glory holding things somewhat together.

But, I don’t necessarily think anything is decided yet either.  Will Sherman win his appeal?  That’ll go a long way.  Will Sherman close out the regular season in dramatic fashion?  Maybe he gets another interception, scores another touchdown, keeps the national focus on himself.  Do they put into consideration playoff performance?  I don’t know, but if they do, then Sherman will have more opportunities to shine.  I would wager:  more opportunities than either Fletcher or Tillman.

A lot of things up in the air for the D-POY award.  It’s not impossible for Sherman to win it, but right now I’d say he’s a longshot.