Charles Tillman: The NFL Defensive Player of the Year

Charles Tillman: The NFL Defensive Player of the Year

Four forced fumbles in one game.


Some perspective: going into Sunday's games, the NFL leaders - Denver's Elvis Dumervil and New England's Rob Nikovich - had four total.

With Sunday's performance in the books, Tillman now has seven for the year.

Obviously one game doesn't win a player an honor like Defensive Player of the Year alone, but that's far from the case for Tillman. Peanut's been ballin' all year, and it's time for folks to recognize him as a legitimate candidate for the league's top defensive honor.

Tillman was the Defensive Player of the Month in October after taking both of his interceptions back for touchdowns. He is tied for the NFL lead with those two pick-sixes (with Lance Briggs, who returned his two in the same games as Tillman).

Tillman was named the Defensive Player of the Week twice in October, including his epic one-on-one performance against Detroit's Calvin Johnson on Oct. 22.

A lot of people have Houston's JJ Watt listed as the prohibitive favorite for the award, and he's certainly worthy of consideration. He ranks among the league leaders in passes defended as a defensive lineman, something that's unheard of; he has become a master of the school of thought that preaches "if you can't sack the quarterback, get your hands up."

Historically, it's been harder for a cornerback to win the DPOY award than a defensive end. Since 1990, only three corners have won the award: Rod Woodson (1993), Deion Sanders (1994) and Charles Woodson (2009). Two of those gentlemen are in the Hall of Fame, and Woodson will be enshrined quickly after becoming eligible.

Over the same timespan, the honor has gone to a defensive end five times: Bruce Smith (1990, 1996), Reggie White (1998), Michael Strahan (2001) and Jason Taylor (2006).

What's great about a potential competition between these two dominant players is the similarities between the teams they play for, and next weekend's implications.

The Houston Texans are 7-1, with their only loss coming to the Packers. Obviously the Bears are also 7-1, suffering their lone blemish at the hands of their hated rival as well.

Both teams are statistically in the top five in the NFL in most categories, thanks in large part to a relatively easy schedule. Both teams have enjoyed easy wins against Jacksonville and Tennessee, and will face one of their biggest tests to date when the teams meet in the next Sunday Night Football national broadcast.

As the two teams begin facing better offenses, the performance of the defense around them will impact their potential of winning the award. Since 1990, only three players - Cortez Kennedy (10t - 1992), Bryce Paup (13 - 1995) and Strahan (14 - 2001) - have been the league's best defensive player on a unit that ranked outside the top ten.

Strangely, Bears fans might want to hope for Watt to win the award, though; only four of the the last 22 Defensive Players of the Year have been a member of that season's Super Bowl Champion.


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  • What really amazed me was that while the usual view from the "stands cameras" just made it look like the Titans had butterfingers, the closeup replays definitely showed each time that Tillman punched out the ball. Billick also pointed out that (except for the one that went out of bounds) other Bear defenders were there to recover.

    The Bears must also be tailoring the defensive tactics per opponent, i.e. there was an Urlacher interception today, but none from Briggs, Tillman, or the two safeties, and definitely 4 punch outs.

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