Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month on Thursday, for the month of November.
This is Woodson’s second such award this season, the first coming for his play in September. Additionally, Woodson has twice been named the NFC’s defensive player of the week, most recently for his play last week.
In November, Woodson posted three interceptions, two sacks, three forced fumbles and 28 tackles, along with one touchdown. On the season he has seven interceptions, two sacks, four forced fumbles, 54 tackles and two touchdowns.
Woodson is on his way to a career year at 33 and has put himself squarely in the conversation for the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year, something we fully endorse him for. Of course, we’re totally biased, so let’s really take a look at the competition.
Charles Woodson, cornerback, Green Bay Packers
54 tackles, 7 interceptions, 2 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 2 touchdowns
Projected stats: 78 tackles, 10 interceptions, 3 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, 3 touchdowns
Team defensive rank: 1st overall, 12th scoring, 4th rushing, 6th passing
Team record: 7-4, projected 10-6 (NFC Wild Card)
Jared Allen, defensive end, Minnesota Vikings
38 tackles, 1 interception, 12.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 0 touchdowns
Projected stats: 55 tackles, 1 interception, 18 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 0 touchdowns
Team defensive rank: 8th overall, 8th scoring, 2nd rushing, 19th passing
Team record: 10-1, projected 14-2 (NFC North Champion)
Darren Sharper, free safety, New Orleans Saints
46 tackles, 8 interceptions, .5 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 3 touchdowns
Projected stats: 69 tackles, 12 interceptions, 1 sack, 0 forced fumbles, 4 touchdowns
Team defensive rank: 16th overall, 15th scoring, 20th rushing, 18th passing
Team record: 11-0, projected 16-0 (NFC South Champion)
Elvis Dumervil, outside linebacker, Denver Broncos
37 tackles, 0 interceptions, 14 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 0 touchdowns
Projected stats: 54 tackles, 0 interceptions, 20 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 0 touchdowns
Team defensive rank: 5th overall, 5th scoring, 17th rushing, 5th passing
Team record: 7-4, projected 10-6 (AFC Wild Card)
Note: projected stats and records are based on averages achieved through 11 weeks of the season.
I think the fairest way to break down the players is to assign a weighted value to their rank in each of the categories above. I’ve pulled out what I’ve deemed the most important statistics, so let’s rank them. Current stats and projected stats will give the players the same ranking, so we’ll only use current stats.
I have also implemented two stipulations to the scoring. *1. If someone has recorded a zero in a category, such as Sharper in forced fumbles, they don’t get any points in the rating system for that category. **2. If two players have recorded the same number in a category, such as Allen in Dumervil in forced fumbles, we will combine the points for both places and split them evenly between the two players.
Tackles: Woodson (4), Sharper (3), Allen (2), Dumervil (1)
Interceptions: Sharper (4), Woodson (3), Allen (2), Dumervil (NA*)
Sacks: Dumervil (4), Allen (3), Woodson (2), Sharper (1)
Forced fumbles: Woodson (4), Allen (2.5**), Dumervil (2.5**), Sharper (NA*)
Touchdowns: Sharper (4), Woodson (3), Allen (NA*), Dumervil (NA*)
Defensive rank: Woodson (4), Dumervil (3), Allen (2), Sharper (1)
Defensive scoring: Dumervil (4), Allen (3), Woodson (2), Sharper (1)
Defensive rushing: Allen (4), Woodson (3), Dumervil (2), Sharper (1)
Defensive passing: Dumervil (4), Woodson (3), Sharper (2), Allen (1)
Record: Sharper (4), Allen (3), Woodson (1.5**), Dumervil (1.5**)
Totals: Woodson (29.5), Allen (22.5), Dumervil (22), Sharper (21)
Now, this isn’t scientific by any means, but it certainly combines all the elements the voters will consider: 1. How good has the player performed individually, 2. How good is the defense as a whole, and 3. How good is the team as a whole.
Although he’s brought a lot to the table in New Orleans, I’d argue that Sharper is the least likely to win the award. While he’s made a lot of tremendous plays, 1. The Saints win with offense, and 2. Opposing teams have been playing catch up all season, so Sharper gets more opportunities than most defensive players.
Dumervil plays on a very strong defense and leads the league in sacks, but the rest of his statistics just don’t stack up to his competitors. Frankly, I’d make the same argument about Allen. Only half a point separate them on our scale.
The argument for Allen is that he plays on both a great defense and a great team. These things are true. Dumervil and Woodson play on great defenses, but their teams aren’t nearly as good as the Vikings or Saints. Sharper plays on a great team that has an average defense.
After looking at all of these factors (personal stats, defensive performance, team performance), I think you ultimately have to break the race down to individual dominance.
Both Allen and Dumervil are great, but they’re only great at one thing: rushing the passer. I won’t say you can’t win Defensive Player of the Year as a pass rusher because the Packers’ own Reggie White did just that, but it’s hard to make a case against a guy who excels in almost every facet of the game.
A guy like Charles Woodson.
Factoring out the defensive rankings and team records gives us this breakdown.
Totals (without team rankings): Woodson (16), Sharper (12), Allen (9.5), Dumervil (7.5)
Woodson is the leader by a fair margin because he performs well in every facet of the game. Sure, he can make interceptions, but he’s also a sure tackler (1st among the competitors), can rush the quarterback (3rd) and can take the ball to the house (2nd). You’ll notice that Woodson was the only player not to finish fourth in any category.
If anyone can make an intelligent (this means you, Vikings’ fans) argument why Charles Woodson isn’t the leader in the race for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, I’d love to hear it.