Justin Smith, Takeo Spikes, Or Patrick Willis For 49ers Defensive Player Of The Year?

Although it was a fairly uninspiring 2010 NFL season for the 49ers, there were still some high points worth acknowledging. I'm not sure how in-depth we'll go in reviewing the 49ers 2010 season, but I definitely think certain players and moments are worth remembering. Last week we took a look at who was most worthy of the 49ers offensive "game ball of the year." Frank Gore took home first with David Baas second, Vernon Davis third, and Other fourth. Other generally represented Mike Iupati in that pol.

This week I thought we'd take a look at some of the strong defensive performances by the 2010 San Francisco 49ers. The team's defense had a nasty habit of bending much too frequently and that bending will likely leave defensive coordinator Greg Manusky looking for a new job in 2010. However, some of his players stepped up with solid seasons and were honored accordingly. Patrick Willis and Justin Smith were both named to the 2011 NFL Pro Bowl, while Takeo Spikes was hosed in not being named to the team. It may be a questionable achievement at this point, but an honor is still an honor.

The 49ers received some valuable contributions on their defense but Smith, Spikes, and Bamm Bamm seemed to be the three guys who made their presence most prominently known and were impact players throughout the season.

Justin Smith: When I started this post, Smith was the guy I felt was most deserving, particularly in light of his strong finish to the season with three sacks against Arizona. The most successful Smith on the roster finished with 70 total tackles which was good for fourth among all NFL defensive linemen. He led the 49ers with 8.5 sacks, which matched his rookie year career high with the Bengals. Justin made the Pro Bowl this year for the second straight season, which is even more amazing considering prior to last year he'd never made the Pro Bowl. He appears to get himself involved in just about every play and even when he doesn't get a sack or a tackle he's either hurrying the QB or forcing a running back to bounce outside or inside where he's then gobbled up.

Takeo Spikes: Even as I was ready to hand the award to Justin Smith, Takeo Spikes kept hanging around in my head. Spikes turned 34 but finished with one of his best seasons in thirteen years as a professional. Spikes finished 2010 with 109 total tackles, three interceptions, and just a phenomenal interception dance. And of course he inspired a Keep Takeo FanPost. I've got a feeling he won't be back in 2011, although the GM/coaching decision will likely impact his decision/choice in the matter. I would love to have seen him get into the playoffs in the red and gold.

Patrick Willis: Bamm Bamm had a down year by his own standards, but still managed to finish in the top ten in total tackles. The flashy plays may not have been as plentiful, but you know you're great when 128 tackles is a poor campaign. While his tackle totals were down, Willis reached a career high with 6 sacks on the season. If it wasn't for Justin Smith's season finale, Willis would have led the team in sacks. Mike Singletary has been a mentor of sorts to Patrick Willis given their shared playing position. It will be interesting to see what 2011 brings for Willis with a new coach.

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