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Patrick Willis wins Defensive Rookie of the Year: And in other shocking news, the sun rises


Courtesy of wjackalope

I've been waiting for this day to debut the latest and greatest graphic from wjackalope & co..  In the least surprising news ever, Patrick Willis was named AP Defensive Rookie of the Year:

"It's confirmation of what you've been doing as an individual," Willis said. "From an individual perspective, it would be good for people that doubted, or didn't know if you could be a No. 1 draft pick, or if you could come into the league and do well because of your size or where you might have played ball at ... and show them that if you put your mind to it, you're capable of anything."

"The good Lord has blessed me with skills that are uncommon, but are just something that I do naturally," he said. "I also know I couldn't do it by myself, without help from my fellow linebackers or that D-line. Knowing that, I just stay humble. Whether it's in the movies or whether it's in real life, you see guys that got bigheaded, and they're in for a rude awakening."

Willis earned 48 of the 50 votes, with Jon Beason of the Panthers receiving the other two.  I'm a little disappointed Willis was not the unanimous pick, but Beason certainly had a solid year, so I won't begrudge him two votes I suppose.

Willis put up numbers that should also have him in the running for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.  He led the NFL with 174 tackles, which is also the highest total since they started recording the statistic in 2001.  He recorded 4 sacks and 2 forced fumbles, while also showing some decent pass coverage skills.  I can recall at least two times where Bamm Bamm deflected passes in the end zone to prevent touchdowns.  If he continues to improve his pass coverage, he could turn into one of the all-time greats in my humble opinion.

What's even more impressive is that unlike Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis was not stopped by any rookie wall.  Rather, he approached the wall and thoroughly destroyed it like any of the opposition.  After putting up 116 yards and 2 touchdowns in Week 13, Peterson had a combined 40 carries for 141 yards and two touchdowns in the final three weeks of the season.  Our boy Bamm-Bamm wrapped up the final three weeks of the season with 38 tackles, 3 sacks, a forced fumble and 2 pass deflections.

So the immediate question is where will he finish up in the Defensive Player of the Year voting?  Bob Sanders appears to be one of the favorites do to his impact on the field, even without the glamour statistics.  One reason for Willis's statistics is all the time he spends on the field.  While there is truth to that, he also has shown the ability to make plays throughout the game and his tackle numbers per defensive player have steadily risen.  While I don't think he'll pull out Defensive Player of the Year, I do think he is very deserving if he does manage to win it.  Nonetheless, even a top 5 finish would be highly respectable for the rookie linebacker.