Lavonte David for Defensive Player of the Year

Al Messerschmidt

Lavonte David's having a ridiculous season, but will he even be mentioned when it comes to the biggest award of the season?

Lavonte David just had a ridiculous game, with 10 total tackles, two interceptions and a sack against the Buffalo Bill. It was just another week for David, who has been outstanding ever since entering the league and elevated his game to a new level this year. Just in case you haven't voted for the Pro Bowl yet, go do so now. Lavonte David deserves to be on the roster, as does Gerald McCoy, but neither player is among the top vote-getters at their position. This needs to be changed.

David's numbers are ridiculous this year, especially for a 4-3 outside linebacker: 116 combined tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hits, six sacks, five interceptions, nine passes defensed, one forced fumble and a safety.

Football Outsiders places those numbers in rather elite company: Ray Lewis and Derrick Brooks. Those are the only two linebackers to every register 40 or more Defeats, defined by Football Outsiders as tackles for loss (including sacks), turnovers caused, and plays that prevent a third or fourth-down conversion. In other words: impact plays on the stat sheet.

Lavonte David now has 43 of those Defeats, second most in NFL history among linebackers (the overall record went to J.J. Watt last year). David is almost guaranteed to beat Ray Lewis' linebacker record of 45 defeats, although he'll struggle to get to J.J. Watt's 56 for the overall record. It's not impossible, mind you, but it's a long shot. Oh, and both Lewis and Watt won the Defensive Player of the Year award in their 40+ defeat years, while the only reason Derrick Brooks didn't win it in his year was that he put up his numbers in 1999 -- the same season Ray Lewis put up his.

But there's another question here: could Lavonte David be a serious candidate for Defensive Player of the Year with these statistics? If David was playing on a better team and a better defense, he'd certainly be in the conversation. And frankly, the Bucs linebacker should be one of the top contenders right now. It's not like there are many better alternatives. Robert Mathis might get it by being the leading sack artist, while Earl Thomas is the key cog to the league's best defense, but neither seems to be running away with that title.

No, the player putting up the best numbers and making the most impact plays is Lavonte David. For once, we can accurately call an undersized linebacker the second coming of Derrick Brooks. Now if he can just get that Defensive Player of the Year award to go along with it.

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