MVP No. 13 - Defense's unsung hero?

It’s countdown time! A new feature at, we’re going to ascend daily toward who we perceive to be the most important player to Washington’s success, revealing a new name every day. Today we feature a player whose defensive partnership with his linebacking teammate was vital in 2015 and will be even more so this coming season.

There weren't too many positives coming out of 2008 for Washington Football. They had lost every game on their schedule, and their head coach had been fired in the middle of the season. Cynically that could be seen as a big positive, depending on your outlook. 

But if you dug a little deeper you might notice a defensive partnership that, in hindsight, was wasted - especially if you look at their eventual futures as pro players. Back then they were part of an even front, but the partnership of Donald Butler and Mason Foster was still a fun one to watch. Of course the defense as a whole was hard to watch, but offensive ineptitude hanging the D out to dry was as much to blame as anything else they did to themselves. 

But going back to Butler and Foster, oh what could have been if they had been together as a dynamic duo for more than that one forgettable season.  

In some ways the last two seasons, Washington fans have seen how a linebacking partnership can really flourish within a strong defense. In 2014 it was John Timu and Shaq Thompson: in 2015 it was Travis Feeney and Cory Littleton. 

But last year you could tell the pairing of Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria inside was blossoming. They played nine times together in 2015, forming the foundation of a partnership set to anchor the Huskies for this upcoming year. 

Victor is getting all the preseason plaudits, but it's Bierria that has twice the number of starts (18) and has that extra year of 2014 playing a lot more meaningful minutes at a couple of different linebacker positions while Azeem played a lot less behind the incumbent Timu, who started every game that season. 

So while everyone oohs and ahhs when it comes to the big hits inevitably laid out by Victor, remember it was Bierria who helped free Azeem up to lead the team with 95 tackles last season. And Keishawn was second on the team in tackles with 77 of his own. 

There are a ton of burgeoning superstars on Washington's defense, and maybe it's just perception but it seems like Bierria's contributions sometimes get overlooked because he's just that rock-steady presence that allows everyone around him to splash. But his value is not to be underestimated. 

The pairing of Bierria with Victor will certainly be a microcosm of the Huskies' success on defense. They have formed a chemistry on and off the field that has allowed them to function seamlessly on the field.

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