Woodson Picks Off Another Award

Two-time defensive player of the month Charles Woodson is battling Darren Sharper and Jared Allen to be NFL defensive player of the year. Sharper and Allen play for the NFC's top teams, but Woodson leads the league in turnovers.

In 1993, Dom Capers' second year as the Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive coordinator, he turned cornerback Rod Woodson into the NFL's defensive player of the year.

"Well, he sacked the quarterback, he intercepted passes and he made big plays," Capers said recently.

When Capers arrived in Green Bay, he decided to center the defense on the one player who reminded him most of Woodson: Charles Woodson. That decision has been reaping rewards all season, and Woodson reaped another award on Thursday: NFC defensive player of the month.

Woodson, who also won the award for his play in September, intercepted three passes, forced three fumbles, recovered one fumble, had two sacks, broke up eight passes and scored one touchdown in November. He was named NFC defensive player of the week twice last month, when he had three-turnover games against Dallas and Detroit. After both, Capers said Woodson's performance was among the best he'd ever seen by a defensive player.

"He's a very instinctive player," Capers said recently. "He studies tape. He's smart. Over a period of time, quarterbacks know that. You throw the ball close to him, he's got as much of a chance of coming up with it as the receiver."

"I don't think I have ever been around a defensive player that has been as productive as he has been through the first 11 games of the season, and we'll definitely lean on him as we go down the stretch," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said on Thursday. "But he is having a big-time season, without a doubt."

A season that has him among the three front-runners to be named the NFL's defensive player of the year.

With seven interceptions, Woodson trails the league leaders — Buffalo rookie Jairus Byrd and New Orleans veteran Darren Sharper — by one. Sharper, the player of the month for October, gets extra credit with three touchdowns and 13 pass breakups for the undefeated Saints, but he has only a half sack and no forced fumbles or fumble recoveries.

Charles Woodson's on- and off-the-field story is highlighted in the new Packer Report.
Woodson has broken up 11 passes and ranks fifth in the league with four forced fumbles, and he's added two sacks, two touchdowns and a fumble recovery. So, while Sharper and Byrd have more interceptions, Woodson has been involved in a league-high 11 turnovers. That's only two fewer than the Redskins and Cowboys.

The sack leaders are Denver's Elvis Dumervil with 14 and Minnesota's Jared Allen with 12.5. Dumervil has forced three fumbles and recovered one, and his Broncos are 7-4 but slumping. Allen, who has three forced fumbles, two recoveries and an interception, will get a lot of attention as the Vikings keep on winning. However, voters might take note that 7.5 sacks came against Green Bay's backup left tackles.

Allen, Sharper and Woodson are surrounded by strong supporting casts, but the Packers rely on Woodson more than the Saints rely on Sharper and the Vikings rely on Allen. One week, Woodson is shutting down a star receiver like Calvin Johnson. The next, he's blanketing a stud tight end like Jason Witten or Vernon Davis.

"They put Woodson on me and I couldn't get off him," Witten said after the Dallas game.

Not bad for a 33-year-old cornerback who has been practicing only two days a week for the last month or so. As the best defensive player on the NFL's best defense statistically, Woodson could shoot ahead of Allen and Sharper if the Packers keep shutting down opponents and keep winning.

"I think Charles would say the same thing, outside of everything else, it's consistency," Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said during a conference call with Packers beat reporters on Thursday. "Any player the way he started out, or the way I started out, being around the same age, we've known each other for years. Always got consistency, always taking care of your body, always studying and always taking care of the game. If you watch something about him and something about me is, we love the game of football. Bottom line, it comes down to competition. If you would want to cap it on anything, you would have to cap it on just pure consistency of being a true professional, day in and day out, doing your job, knowing what your suppose to do and always trying to get better."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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