The Carolina Panthers' defense has three legitimate candidates for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year this season. Cornerback Josh Norman has been one of the best cornerbacks in the league and won NFC Defensive Player of the Week twice earlier this year and won NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September.
It also seems that every year Luke Kuechly is having the type of year that is worthy of the award and 2015 is no different, even though he missed three games earlier in the year with a concussion. According to Pro Football Focus, Kuechly is first in the NFL in tackles (85) and interceptions (4) since returning from the injury in Week 6.
However, defensive tackle Kawann Short is having an incredible season that is worthy of the award. With one game remaining, Short already has 11 sacks, four batted passes and three forced fumbles. He has accounted for over 25% of the Panthers' total sacks this year (42). He has won both NFC Defensive Player of the Week and NFC Defensive Player of the Month once this season and was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time.
The defensive tackle position is one that doesn't always get the same recognition as linebackers or cornerbacks. The Associated Press has been handing out the award since 1971 and in that time only seven defensive tackles have won the award and none have won it since 1999.
|Name||Year||Tackles||Sacks||Forced Fumbles||Fumble Recovery|
*All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference
It is rare for defensive tackles to have double digit sacks and while three players have done it this year (Short, Geno Atkins and Aaron Donald) only six players since 2007 have had 10 or more in a season.
The part of the game that has been most impressive for Short is that he seems to be getting stronger as the season goes on. Over the past four games he has had five sacks, which leads all defensive tackles and is tied for fouth in the NFL over that span.
It remains to be seen who will win the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award but one thing is clear, Kawann Short has made a strong case for himself with one game left in the regular season.