The 2016 Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year: Khalil Mack

As the end of the NFL season draws near its time to talk about the awards for the 2016 campaign. Here at Taylor Blitz Times we’re about defense and it’s the most prestigious award The Chancellor doles out. Its been a banner year as we have recognized two defensive giants who made 2 different Hall of Fames. Our words were read to introduce Robert Brazile into the Gridiron Greats Hall of Fame in June, then our invite to Kevin Greene’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August. So this 6th time offering the Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year will be a special one. Especially now that alumnus from here have made their way to football immortality.

Before we get started on this year’s Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year, lets take a look back at past winners:

  1. D'Qwell Jackson leads a new pack of Dawgs in Cleveland.

    D’Qwell Jackson leads a new pack of Dawgs in Cleveland.

    2011 -D’Qwell Jackson: Cleveland Browns – Recorded 158 total tackles (115 solo) 3.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble with 2 recoveries and garnered 1 interception as the only light on a 4-12 team. The Browns were in the top ten defensively all year and finished 10th.

  2. 2012 –Navorro Bowman: San Francisco 49ers – Garnered 148 total tackles (98 solo) 2 sacks, 6 passes defensed, and 1 interception with a fumble forced. Was an All Pro force who outperformed his more celebrated All Pro teammate Patrick Willis. Starred on the NFL’s #3 defense and made the play of the year knocking down a 4th down pass to Roddy White on the last play of the NFC Championship Game. Sent the Niners to the Super Bowl.
  3. 2013 – Richard Sherman: Seattle Seahawks – He led the NFL with 8 interceptions, returning them for 158 yards and a week 4 TD against Houston that turned their season around. He also had 48 tackles, defensed 17 passes, recovered 2 fumbles and tipped Colin Kaepernick’s desperation throw into the game clinching interception in the NFC Championship Game.
  4. watt2014 – J.J. Watt: Houston Texans – One of the greatest defensive performances ever with 78 tackles, led the league with 20.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 5 recoveries returning 1 for a touchdown. Then had 1 interception returned 80 yards for his 2nd defensive touchdown. He drug a rebuilding Texan team to within a game of making the  playoffs with a 9-7 record in Bill O’Brien’s rookie season. May have been the greatest season by a defender in NFL history.
  5. 2015 – Thomas Davis: Carolina Panthers – The 6th best defense in 2015 & made it to Super Bowl L where Davis played with a plate in his broken arm just 2 weeks after the original injury. Toughness aside he garnered 105 total tackles (75 solo) 5.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 4 interceptions, and 2 fumble recoveries. Although his teammate Luke Kuechly garnered national media attention, the 4 additional sacks and 2 more forced fumble won Davis the last Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year Award.

When gauging a defender’s impact the first thing you have to remember is at what point of the game does the defender make plays. When it comes to Khalil Mack he just had an 8 game streak snapped where he garnered at least 1 sack. The longest streak in the NFL in the last 7 years.

Mack terrorized Cam Newton in Oakland a few weeks back.

Mack terrorized Cam Newton in Oakland a few weeks back.

However a closer look and you’ll see his forcing a fumble in overtime to short-circuit a Tampa drive in a 30-24 win in week 8. Another flash came late in the 4th quarter in week 13 when a gassed Raider defense was hanging on by a thread as Buffalo drove to the Oakland 17. A touchdown seemed imminent as momentum was teetering in the Bills direction. Well until this generation’s Derrick Thomas dipped his shoulder, came around the corner sacking Tyrod Taylor forcing and recovering the fumble preserving a 38-24 win.

Not bad until you realize the week before saw the Raiders clinging to a 35-32 lead with 1:00 to go and the NFL’s reigning MVP Cam Newton had the Panthers in Oakland territory at the 44. One more completion and Carolina, clinging to fading playoff hopes, could attempt a game winning field goal. On cue Mack burst into the backfield steamrolling Newton for a sack forcing a fumble and recovering it preserving another victory. These points are the difference between an 11-3 Raider team in line for homefield advantage, and Tampa 1 game out of the NFC wildcard, Carolina & Buffalo 1 loss from playoff elimination.

Mack forcing the game winning fumble. All but eliminating the defending NFC Champions from postseason play in 2016.

Mack’s season has been transcendent as he has collected 55 tackles (46 solo) 11 sacks with 5 forced fumbles. He’s recovered 3, returning 1 for a touchdown before we remind you he has 1 pick for another touchdown that also came in the win over Carolina. These are huge impact plays that decide contests not innocuous stats in the middle of a game without meaning or context. In the last 2 seasons he has 14 sacks that have come in the 3rd & 4th quarter of games. What happens if he carries that type of presence into the postseason??

Sure there are 2 games left in the season but no defender has meant more or produced more during the 2016 campaign.  Khalil Mack is the 2016 Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year.

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Armchair General Manager: Cleveland Browns

In the NFL, Monday and Thursday night games are opportunities to showcase your top players and units. Two weeks ago was no exceptions as the Cleveland Browns lethal defense stood toe to toe with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Heinz Field. Anyone that watched that goal line stand, where the Steelers took four shots from the two, had to come away impressed.  They ran away from leading tackler D’Qwell Jackson then Chris Gocong and the rest of the Browns slammed Rashard Mendenhall violently to the turf. If the thought didn’t hit you “How good would the Browns be if they had some offense?” You had to be a Steelers fan. So with a 4-10 record, where do they go from here??

They need an immediate offensive boost at the quarterbacking position. So at first glance you have to ask if Colt McCoy is the future. We don’t think so and you have to make moves now to take advantage of their immediate defensive excellence.  So what would we do??

Exhibit A: Make a move for Peyton Manning. Would offer our 2012 first rounder and a 1st rounder in 2013, and secure the future Hall of Famer knowing we had a two year window with him on the field. With him in tow there would be the selling point as to why we’d be able to secure a free agent RB and first rate WR to produce some immediate offense. Convincing of the Indianapolis Colts that they have to rebuild now that Manning won’t be there is why we’d offer the two #1s.  If they bit, it would be a coup to possibly challenge for the Super Bowl in the next two years. Isn’t that worth the risk for a team that has only made the playoffs one time since 1999?? Think about it…

Exhibit B: Trade their number 1 pick in 2013, if they have to, to secure Robert Griffin III, along with getting a mid range receiver. They can lean on Griffin III’s ability to run and stretch the defense with half rolls and shotgun rolls to open running lanes for Peyton Hillis or a total dual threat Josh Cribbs in the backfield with him. The attention on the short game will open up the passing lanes 15 yards downfield.  What free agent running backs and receivers can they attract after drafting the Heisman trophy winner??

D'Qwell Jackson leads a new pack of Dawgs in Cleveland.

Remember this team has given up only the 7th most points thus far this season with 274. Right now they have the most unsung star in football in D’Qwell Jackson who has outplayed Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis this year at Middle Linebacker. He is second in total tackles to London Fletcher (146) with 138 yet has 17 more solo tackles than Fletcher. Of all the top ten tacklers, he’s the only one with at least 3.5 sacks along with an interception, a forced fumble and 3 fumble recoveries. The Browns have slipped to 14th in defense but for most of the year they were a top five defense. This could be the start of the rebirth of the Cleveland Browns. What could they have been had they had a little offense this year?? Doesn’t matter. This can be the turn around team of 2012. We thought we’d volunteer who we thought would be catalytic acquisitions to turn around a moribund offense.

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