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Old 12-04-2008, 01:52 PM   #1

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Default James Harrison's Strong Case for D MVP- Pat Kirwan


More than just sacks go into the ranking of defensive MVPs
Pat Kirwan By Pat Kirwan | NFL.com
Senior Analyst
Elsa / Getty Images
James Harrison's all-around presence on the field puts him at the top of Pat Kirwan's list of defensive MVP candidates.

Most Valuable Player discussions can dominate my radio show on Sirius, with a number of interesting candidates on offense and defense. I thought I would make an attempt to quantify the defensive candidates so an informed conversation can follow this report.

There are a number of good pass rushers this season, a point that was driven home this weekend as the top nine pass rushers collected 16.5 sacks. Jared Allen, Mario Williams and DeMarcus Ware each had three sacks and the race for sack leader is much more intense than last year. Allen led the NFL with 15.5 sacks last year, a number nearly matched this season by Ware (15) with four games remaining. Eight other players could match Allen's mark from 2007.

But are sacks enough of a measure as to whom the defensive MVP should be? I think it is important to look deeper into the overall production for that answer.

Here's a look at the top nine outside pass rushers, taking into account the following factors: sacks, quarterback knockdowns, quarterback hurries, tackles, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, safeties, passes defended, touchdowns scored, and interceptions. Players are deducted a point for roughing the passer and personal foul penalties. Tackles are not an official statistic because they are subjective, so I awarded one point for every 10 tackles. These 11 categories should give us a pretty good indication of who is the defensive MVP.

Of course, a defensive tackle such as Albert Haynesworth will get worthy consideration and a few late risers like Robert Mathis or Dwight Freeney may be in the discussion by the end of the season. But here are the top nine players when you add up the points. After looking at how the list finished up, I'm comfortable with the standings at this point. With four games left, however, that can still change.
An indicator of defensive MVP
Name Sack KD Hurry Tackle FF Rec. Safety PD TD Int. Pen. Total
James Harrison 14 18.5 8 8* 6* 0 1 4* 0 1* -2 58.5
Joey Porter 14.5 24.5* 5.5 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 -2 50.5
LaMarr Woodley 11.5 17 7.5 5 2 4* 0 3 1* 1* -2 50
DeMarcus Ware 15 21.5 4.5 6 2 1 0 0 0 0 0* 50
John Abraham 12.5 18.5 10 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0* 47
Jared Allen 11 18 11* 4 2 0 2* 0 0 0 -3 45
Julius Peppers 11 17 10.5 4 5 0 0 0 0 0 -3 44.5
Justin Tuck 11.5 13.5 8 5 3 0 0 2 1* 1* -3 42
Mario Willilams 11 16.5 7 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 -1 41.5

The top four players all line up in the 3-4 defense, and their ability to drop into coverage does help their overall numbers. But their sack numbers, quarterback knockdowns and hurries really show that they attack a lot more than they drop into coverage. I made note of the leaders in each category (*) and Pittsburgh's James Harrison not only had the best point total but he excelled in four categories.

You may like someone on this list over Harrison, and that's okay, but these are the numbers that make for a good argument either way you go with the defensive MVP.
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