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PFT’s defensive player of the year

Mathis Getty Images

In his second season as a 3-4 linebacker and his first without Dwight Freeney to soak up the bulk of the attention, Colts linebacker Robert Mathis has a career performance.

The 11th year defender racked up a league-high 19.5 sacks, and that’s good enough to make Mathis the PFT defensive player of the year.

His previous high-water mark for any one season had been 11.5 sacks.

It would mean a lot,” Mathis recently said regarding potential recognition as the defensive player of the year.  “It’s definitely something coming in as a rookie that you couldn’t foresee, just trying to make the team.  But hard work pays off and I got a lot of teammates that I was able to lean on this year and they were able to help get to this spot right now.”

While it won’t be known for 29 days whether Mathis wins the official Associated Press version of the award, he can find some solace in securing the PFT version of the prize.

Other finalists were Rams defensive end Robert Quinn, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, and Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.

Cast your own ballot below, and/or defend your selection in the comments.  Or criticize ours.

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107 Responses to “PFT’s defensive player of the year”
  1. sweetnlow44 says: Jan 3, 2014 11:28 PM

    Earl Thomas is the keystone of the best defense in the league.

  2. thestrategyexpert says: Jan 3, 2014 11:30 PM

    Surprised by the votes since Kuechly had only 2 sacks and 0 FFs. Mathis had like a thousand or so.

  3. shawgillette says: Jan 3, 2014 11:32 PM

    How NaVorro Bowman isn’t at least a finalist, I’ll never understand.

  4. theburfictstorm says: Jan 3, 2014 11:33 PM

    Burfict leads the league in tackles and is voted the team MVP for a division champion and isn’t even on the list?

    Seems legit.

  5. justintuckrule says: Jan 3, 2014 11:33 PM

    I don’t know about dpoy but I know that Roger goodell is the opoy. Everything he does is offensive to the game.

  6. buccobruce40 says: Jan 3, 2014 11:34 PM

    What a joke. No mention of Lavonte David?

  7. riverhorsey says: Jan 3, 2014 11:36 PM

    No way Kuechly beats out Mathis

  8. smcgaels1997 says: Jan 3, 2014 11:38 PM

    Seriously not even a mention of Navarro Bowman? Serious award this is apparently

  9. 64post says: Jan 3, 2014 11:39 PM

    None of the above, Navarro Bowman had a much better year.

  10. ncbengalmike says: Jan 3, 2014 11:39 PM

    Burfict, hands down

  11. panthersftw says: Jan 3, 2014 11:40 PM

    im a panthers fan…..but kuechly should not be winning that vote…

  12. elliottcovert says: Jan 3, 2014 11:43 PM

    This is some nice recognition for Mathis after years of being overshadowed by Dwight Freeney in Indy.

  13. justbust says: Jan 3, 2014 11:43 PM

    The addition of kuechly turned an average 4-3 in a dominate one, they don’t make the playoffs without him. Mathias sole goal is to get to qb idc that freeney is gone, Mathias rushing the passer isn’t making colts d into a unit to b feared like Luke is to Carolina. The nfl isn’t buzzing about Mathias’s high sack total. Bad pick.

  14. spenn80 says: Jan 3, 2014 11:44 PM

    In my opinion, it would be hard to argue if either Robert wins it. With that being said, as a Colts fan I hope it’s our guy.

  15. 4evrnyt says: Jan 3, 2014 11:45 PM

    The only problem is Navarro Bowman is the true recipient.

  16. jkampel20 says: Jan 3, 2014 11:45 PM

    While Mathis is certainly deserving, a Vontaze Burfict honorable mention would be appropriate.

    You PFT guys hate on the Bengals like it’s your job.

  17. whodeyrey says: Jan 3, 2014 11:47 PM

    VONTAZE BURFICT????????????????

  18. billybobyall says: Jan 3, 2014 11:51 PM

    Uh, you forgot the D.P.O.Y.! Navarro Bowman

  19. weinberger83 says: Jan 3, 2014 11:52 PM

    how was Levonte David of TB not a finalist? First the pro bowl now this, what a sham! At least he made 1st team All-Pro.

  20. jayniner says: Jan 3, 2014 11:52 PM

    Navarro Bowman’s a lock.

  21. wkdblc52 says: Jan 3, 2014 11:54 PM

    Earl Thomas is MY defensive player of the year and why not ? He’s the QB of the number 1 defense in the NFL this year ! Does everything, reminds me of the great Ronnie Lott in a great deal of ways

  22. 12thmanseattle says: Jan 3, 2014 11:55 PM

    In all honesty I think a valid case could be made for any of those guys. My votes Sherman but only because at least 4 of his picks changed the outcome of the game. Without those Seattle is fighting for the 6th seed

  23. canadianbucsfan says: Jan 3, 2014 11:55 PM

    You guys honestly didn’t consider Lavonte David, look at his stats compared to Keuchly’s.. He had 6 sacks and 5 interceptions as a 4-3 LB, also while racking up the tackles. I can’t wait for my bucs to be much improved next season and players like this actually getting the media attention they DESERVE ( btw David is an first team All-Pro this season, go search it up on nfl.com )

  24. elmustardo says: Jan 3, 2014 11:57 PM

    Lavonte David

  25. crownofthehelmet says: Jan 3, 2014 11:57 PM

    I see the ref’s anti-Steelers bias has leaked over to PFT. Lawrence Timmons wins this award hands-down.

  26. meatcarroll says: Jan 3, 2014 11:58 PM

    It’s should be one of the Seahawks DBs by a considerable margin. #1 overall defense in yards, #1 in fewest points allowed, #1 in pass defense by far, #1 in INTs. The best player on the best offense is always a virtual lock for MVP or OPotY, why the double standard on defense?

  27. t8ertot says: Jan 4, 2014 12:03 AM

    Vontaze Burfict

  28. chrispin53 says: Jan 4, 2014 12:04 AM

    I forgot to Mention Richard Sherman.

  29. youreincorrect says: Jan 4, 2014 12:05 AM

    Well deserved.

  30. youreincorrect says: Jan 4, 2014 12:06 AM

    Well deserved

  31. ez4me55 says: Jan 4, 2014 12:07 AM

    Why was Vontaze Burfict left out, he only led the league in tackles…. oh yeah he’s with the Bengals… One day they will get the respect of the rest of the league..

  32. tsmercurio says: Jan 4, 2014 12:10 AM

    No doubt that this man has had a phenomenal season and I may be a homer, but..

    How Does Vontaze Burfict not even get an honorable mention. Not only did he lead the Number 3 defense in tackles this season.. but oh yeah, he led the NFL in tackles as well.

    Like I said I don’t expect him to win it, and Mathis deserves it, but really, not even a look-see?

  33. citynative says: Jan 4, 2014 12:14 AM

    Bowman?

  34. hess97 says: Jan 4, 2014 12:17 AM

    Bowman. Niners win eight games and watch the playoffs without him.

  35. allidoiswin55 says: Jan 4, 2014 12:18 AM

    Earl Thomas is The DPOY he
    Is the key cog in Seattles defense a defense ranked number one in nearly all categories .. A secondary with 3 all pros and an emerging player in the outer cb position Maxwell. Earl sets the tone for the entire defense and this defense can be argued as one of the best ever if you consider the rules in today’s nfl greatly helping the offensive players .. The league set a record for highest scoring seasons and the seahawks have had the lowest scoring defense for two straight years along with tops in soo many key categories .

    No one winner but considering theirs two SEA players it should go to one sacks are great but have a lot of factors involved and if it were a DL it should he Quinn bc he plays on a top ranked defense..

  36. dadeyemi says: Jan 4, 2014 12:19 AM

    Mathis has like 20 less pressures than Quinn and others, so I vehemently disagree. DPOY shouldn’t go to the guy with the most sacks

  37. 13datsyuk13 says: Jan 4, 2014 12:19 AM

    Earl Thomas all day. He is in on every play, pass or run. He anticipates plays very much like Palomaulu did a few years back before he got old. His team is also a favorite to go to the Super Bowl. Best of all, he went to Texas.

  38. northbynw27 says: Jan 4, 2014 12:21 AM

    The DPOY should go to the best player on the best defense.

    The best defense is the one which gives up the least points, which is the point of the defensive unit.

    The Seahawks ranked #1 in both yards allowed and points allowed, not to mention takeaways.

    Flip a coin..the winner should be either #25 or #29, and they both play football in Seattle.

  39. pickledgringo says: Jan 4, 2014 12:22 AM

    Not even a mention of Navarro Bowman?

    Your lovefest with Seahawks knows no bounds…

  40. cornebusc says: Jan 4, 2014 12:30 AM

    Quinn. No question.

  41. smartestpackerfan says: Jan 4, 2014 12:39 AM

    What about Clay Matthews? He is always healthy and ready to go! He is also the prettiest girl in Green Bay!

  42. anicra says: Jan 4, 2014 12:51 AM

    Ill go with Richard Sherman. 47.3QB rating against him or Earl Thomas , the heart of the secondary that allows Seattle to run their D.

    Seattle D gave up 14.4PTS/G (#1) and yardage 4378 (#1). Heck the next closest team in yards 4820 , that is 442 yard difference. It is like a game worth of yards that Seattle didnt give up.

  43. boulderbengal says: Jan 4, 2014 1:03 AM

    Vontaze Burfict should at least be in the discussion. I know I’m a homer but he has been key to one of the best defenses this year and led the league in tackles.

  44. bcajun says: Jan 4, 2014 1:03 AM

    No Kenny Vaccaro??!!

  45. chris49erallen says: Jan 4, 2014 1:13 AM

    Ummmm what about bowman from the 49ers

  46. bengalguy says: Jan 4, 2014 1:16 AM

    VONTAZE BURFICT!!!!!!!

  47. discosucs2005 says: Jan 4, 2014 1:17 AM

    Bummed Bowman didn’t make the finalists but I feel like it’s Mathis hands down.

  48. MostlyRight says: Jan 4, 2014 1:29 AM

    Karlos Dansby.

  49. 9er6ince3irth says: Jan 4, 2014 1:31 AM

    Luke Kuechly 1st followed by the QB Nightmare Navorro Bowman …. nough said

  50. MostlyRight says: Jan 4, 2014 1:34 AM

    Is DPOY a sack contest? Karlos Dansby has 71…71!!! more solo tackles than Mathis, 4 more INTs, 1 more fumble recovery, 2 more defensive TDs, and 17 more passes defended. All Mathis has is the sacks.

  51. sjbryce says: Jan 4, 2014 1:39 AM

    How is NaVorro Bowman left off this list??
    145 tackles, 5.0 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 interceptions (one for a TD to clinch a playoff spot), as well as immeasurable leadership. Only 1st team all-pro on a top 5 defense deserves some love…

  52. nflfootballfan says: Jan 4, 2014 1:40 AM

    It’s really sad that just because a guy is on a losing team he doesn’t get the recognition. If you look at the tape and look at PFF you will see JJ Watt had an even better year this year than last. It’s not even close he should win it.

  53. mikewhorio says: Jan 4, 2014 1:42 AM

    Not saying Mathis doesn’t deserve it, but it’s pretty typical (and sad) that the major media outlets value sacks as much as they do.

  54. rezdawg says: Jan 4, 2014 1:51 AM

    Look at pro football focus analysis…JJ Watt had a better year this year than last season and it wasnt even close. Box scores dont tell the whole story.

  55. jakafett says: Jan 4, 2014 1:52 AM

    um, no navarro bowman as a finalist?? he for a while played without both willis and smith. he made big plays in big moments and is super consistent. he is a better version of kuechly, watch the two in pass coverage and you will see what i mean. not to mention he did it for a team who was 12-4, and needed every bit of his big plays to get there. starting to get a little bit of a hint that there is a bit of a anti-niners sentiment on this site.

  56. kazkal says: Jan 4, 2014 1:55 AM

    No burfict really? Hes the next rey lewis without stabbin people

  57. lizzy2142 says: Jan 4, 2014 2:15 AM

    Earl Thomas by far is the MVP in my opinion!

  58. ldawg2112 says: Jan 4, 2014 2:17 AM

    I forgot to add, I say those two things in support of JJ Watt. He was for the second year in a row the single best defensive player in the league and anyone who watched all-22 footage of all of these guys would see that. Hell, check out ProFootballFocus’s coverage of the same award, they say it more eloquently than I can.

  59. spfootballfan says: Jan 4, 2014 2:51 AM

    NaVorro Bowman not even in the discussion? I mean, I understand not putting him in as the DPOY, but not even making him a finalist? Also, where’s Lavonte David and Paul Posluszny, who put up comparable numbers this year?

  60. kayakattack says: Jan 4, 2014 3:00 AM

    PED’s!!!! How does an average DE turn all pro at 32???

  61. mastashonuff says: Jan 4, 2014 3:05 AM

    Wow, not even a mention of Bowman?

  62. sportnorcal says: Jan 4, 2014 3:07 AM

    All worthy candidates, but I would have included Navarro Bowman as one also.

  63. mf7krime says: Jan 4, 2014 3:10 AM

    Robert Mathis is a beast. Well deserved.

  64. alskdh says: Jan 4, 2014 3:43 AM

    That means, Brady = MVP
    We won!

  65. vicd4192 says: Jan 4, 2014 4:01 AM

    Lavonte David

  66. peytonwantsaflag says: Jan 4, 2014 4:13 AM

    so how in the heck do you leave off the leading tackler in the league, Vontaze Burfect?

  67. thundastormz says: Jan 4, 2014 4:22 AM

    Lûuuuuuuuuuuuuke

  68. krycek84 says: Jan 4, 2014 4:41 AM

    Lavonte David.

  69. scottishram says: Jan 4, 2014 4:55 AM

    Robert Quinn had 19 sacks and a league leading 8 forced fumbles. 8. In 16 games. Poor choice PFT.

  70. bucingnasty says: Jan 4, 2014 4:56 AM

    Lavonte David doesn’t even get a vote on the poll?

  71. bamboozle99 says: Jan 4, 2014 5:17 AM

    Luke Kuechly is great, but he is surrounded with talent on that team. Mathis is being modest about the year he has had but I for one couldn’t name you another good player on that Colts D.

  72. dabreesknees says: Jan 4, 2014 5:28 AM

    I’m going with Thomas. Kuechly in close second.

  73. texansfan713 says: Jan 4, 2014 5:37 AM

    Luke deserved it more then Robert Mathis. Watt is more deservering of the honor then Mathis. Kuechly is way better of a player then Mathis. Kuechly and watt have been more productive then Mathis. Wow he has 19.5 sacks, but out of his 58 tackles he has 14 for loss. Watt had 80 tackles and 22 for a loss. Kuechly had 156 tackles and 10 for a loss. Sorry Florio, kuechly deserves defensive player of year. Not a pass rushing specialist.

  74. swansinator says: Jan 4, 2014 5:42 AM

    What about Lavonte David?
    144 tkl, 6 sacks, 5 int’s, 20 tkl for loss, 9 passDef, 2 forced fumbles….WTF

  75. panthercelt says: Jan 4, 2014 6:34 AM

    Can’t Luuuke past 24 tackles and 1 INT in a game

  76. elmerbrownelmerbrown says: Jan 4, 2014 6:52 AM

    Oh,,,,,,McDonalds !!!!!!!!!!!!

  77. bigbenownsthenfl says: Jan 4, 2014 7:06 AM

    Troy Polamalu. Obviously!

  78. marck55 says: Jan 4, 2014 7:09 AM

    Wilkerson should be on this list, there is more to football than just splash stat plays. The man was dominant against the run, drew constant double teams, and recorded double digit sacks.

  79. 4grammarpolice says: Jan 4, 2014 7:18 AM

    They still play defense in the NFL?

  80. jraw67 says: Jan 4, 2014 7:21 AM

    Lavonte David!

  81. redandgoldhitman52 says: Jan 4, 2014 7:45 AM

    not choosing Bowman for DPOY would be equivalent to not choosing P. Manning for MVP. smh

  82. brownsclown says: Jan 4, 2014 8:06 AM

    Surprised it didn’t go to Mike Dumbardi’s latest gem find in Cleveland–‘Bark and Less Vicious’ Mingo. Opps, forgot this is Most Valuable Player not Most Venial Player!

  83. The League's Crusade Against The Steelers Continues says: Jan 4, 2014 8:26 AM

    Where is Polamalu on this list?

  84. xlichamps says: Jan 4, 2014 9:14 AM

    Mathis is an absolute beast, always has been.

  85. pfromvv says: Jan 4, 2014 9:26 AM

    Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, with no option to vote for Navorro Bowman? Earl Thomas has played great this year but should not even be on this list. Bowman should easily replace him on this list

  86. midwaymonster72 says: Jan 4, 2014 9:40 AM

    Brian Urlacher. Last year vs. this year without him. Enough said.

  87. blackrubeye says: Jan 4, 2014 9:51 AM

    I find your lack of Vontaze Burfict severely disturbing. Team MVP on one of the best defenses in the NFL.

  88. pats777 says: Jan 4, 2014 10:14 AM

    Half of Kuechly’s tackles occurred before the ball was thrown. Maybe if he followed the rules, he just might beat Mathis.

  89. wjmoffatt says: Jan 4, 2014 10:32 AM

    There should be no way that Watt is on this list and LaVonte David is not! Heck I’d rather see Eric Berry, Burfict, and even Bowman on the list before Watt this season.

  90. jmason100 says: Jan 4, 2014 10:42 AM

    Top 10 Offense and Top 3 Defense in Cincinnati but yet the Bengals don’t get anyone on the first-team All-Pro lineup and only two on second-team.

    All good, Cincy fans and players are used to being over-looked.

    Vontaze Burfict should be on this list. He only leads the NFL in tackles, is the leader of the #3 defense and has been a difference maker in most games this year.

  91. blehss says: Jan 4, 2014 10:57 AM

    Can somebody please tell me who put up outstanding numbers all the way across the board like lavonte david? Defensive player of the year by far

  92. idpfantasyfootball says: Jan 4, 2014 11:03 AM

    Using our IDP scoring system, Lavonte David led the NFL with 232 points for the season. He is our DPOY.

    Karlos Dansby was a close 2nd with 231.5 and Navarro Bowman came in third with 211.5. These were the only 3 players that scored over 200 points for the season.

    PFT’s choice, Deacon Jones’ award winner Robert Mathis, was 19th in points scored at 159.5…

  93. killitandeatit says: Jan 4, 2014 11:03 AM

    No Navarro Bowman ? You mad Bro ? Oh,I just figured it out. You left him off the list on purpose to generate more hits.Come on man !

  94. savilo831 says: Jan 4, 2014 11:33 AM

    Wow. No mention of bowman is flat out ridiculous!!

  95. bc1906 says: Jan 4, 2014 12:12 PM

    Would you people from TB stop screaming about Lavonte David!!?? If he were that good, the Bucs would be winners….not losers. He doesn’t even sniff Luke or Bowman. (By the way, Bowman should be on this list). Sure David led the league in points…he was on the field more than anyone else too……..

  96. wininer says: Jan 4, 2014 12:16 PM

    It’s sad that Bowman is nowhere on that list.

    Had 27 more solo tackles, 3 more sacks, 2 less ints, 2 more pas def, 1 more TD, and 4 more forced fumbles than Kuechly.

    Easily a more superior season.

  97. upperdecker19 says: Jan 4, 2014 12:32 PM

    Chris Conti?

  98. tjmac95 says: Jan 4, 2014 12:42 PM

    Dansby or JJ Watt, both of these guys were dominate

  99. sharks123 says: Jan 4, 2014 12:57 PM

    I see very little of Ronnie Lott in Earl Thomas. More like Polamalu. Not taking anything away from Thomas either, I’d take him on the 49ers in a second. Lott’s leadership was off the charts. Read Lott’s book. Bowman should at least be mentioned. Not upset if he doesn’t win it since its just opinion. BEAT THE PACKERS!!

  100. lamm0068 says: Jan 4, 2014 1:02 PM

    NaVorro Bowman. NaVorro Bowman. NaVorro Bowman.

  101. winstonjed44 says: Jan 4, 2014 1:22 PM

    Kuechly is a great player, but he’s not the DPOY. He plays behind one the leagues best front fours, with guys like Greg Hardy, Charles Johnson, Star Lotulelei, Kawaan Short etc. Makes his job a lot easier. Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman both play on the best defense in the league, and they have arguably the best secondary. Mathis is only pass rushing threat on the team and by far the best defesnive player, teams gameplan for him and he still makes an impact every week.

  102. bpurd says: Jan 5, 2014 5:04 AM

    Bowman is a good player but whoever says it should be him I’m glad you’ll don’t vote. Kuechly is a media darling (white guy who over achieves). He is not as good as Burfect or David. J.J. Watt and Sherman are the two most superior players at their position. That said Quinn should win the award slightly over Mathis. I know Mathis had more sacks bit Quinn had more QB pressures than he Mathis by far.

  103. htown1035 says: Jan 6, 2014 3:34 PM

    More proof that people only care about sack numbers than anything else. Watt was just as dominant this year as he was last year but just doesn’t have the sack numbers so that puts him out of the race. He’s still the best defensive player in the league and the most disturbing force in the NFL today.

  104. 8to80texansblog says: Jan 6, 2014 5:49 PM

    JJ Watt is on a 2 win team so he won’t win but he’s still the best defensive player in the league and it’s not close…

    If we’re me I’d give it to one of the Seattle guys..

  105. gvrose8192 says: Jan 7, 2014 3:20 AM

    Richard Sherman gets the PED user of the year award. Take away his amphetamines and we’ll see how he does.

    Navarro Bowman should have been on that list at least as a finalist. It’s a travesty and a joke that he’s not.

    Someone said:
    “starting to get a little bit of a hint that there is a bit of a anti-niners sentiment on this site.”

    Well known that Florio hates the Niners… He’s a Hawks guy.

    Seahawks definitely win the PED abusers of the year award on defense though. Congrats!

  106. krautmick says: Jan 7, 2014 3:30 PM

    Navorro Bowman.

  107. bobman2 says: Jan 7, 2014 9:06 PM

    What a pathetic outpouring of non fact-based opinions. All I can say about the above is the word “then” is used about half the time instead of “than” and “dominate” is a verb, as in Team B can dominate Team A, while “dominant” (sounds kind of similar, I know, but trust me, it’s a different word) is an adjective describing Team B above, like Team B is a dominant team.

    That should clean up about one third of the nonsense above.

    Couple other notes: DPOY is a player award, not team, so the quality of the defense (i.e. “best player on best defense” argument) is moot as is “division winner.” And it’s “of the year” as in who had the best year. Otherwise, JJ Watt is probably the best D player year in and out, regardless of his stats (like Manning for MVP–was runner up twice when he should have won, but who the hell wants the same guy three years in a row?). But because voters have to have something to latch on to to defend their vote, stats will have to suffice. Not only stats, but some good stats need to be there. Watt is lacking only this.

    Lastly, to those of you who never heard of Mathis (as opposed to some guy named Matthias who was being railed against above), or are ignorantly crying PEDs, you might want to look back the past six seasons, when he was a pro bowler. He’s not a nobody who crawled out of the woodwork–he has about 110 career sacks, setting team season and all-time records this year. A super bowl ring. 6 pro bowls. A sack crown. the DPOY caps a fine career. 2-3 more seasons of a dozen sacks each would put him in Canton. Start you hating early.

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