Last week, we talked about standout NFL rookies who are making their cases to win the annual “Offensive Rookie of the Year” award. But what about those who play on the opposite side of the ball? Well, that’s why we’re back!
As legendary college football coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant, once said, “Defense wins Championships.” As history suggests, he was right. Here are a few players making their cases for winning the “Defensive Rookie of the Year” award for the 2023 season.
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Race After Week 6
Devon Witherspoon: Seattle Seahawks
Not so long ago, the Seattle Seahawks had one of the scariest defensive squads in the entire league, headlined by their secondary known as the “Legion of Boom.” Though Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and company have long moved on, Seattle may have another “legion” in the making, starring Illinois product, Devon Witherspoon.
The fifth overall pick in this past NFL draft broke out in Week 4 against the New York Giants, where he tallied his first career interception and returned it 95 yards for a Seahawks touchdown. With 20 tackles and two sacks to add to his resume, Witherspoon has made a significant impact on the Seahawks defense this season. As he continues to improve his skillset, he could become a premier shutdown cornerback before long.
Jalen Carter: Philadelphia Eagles
The Georgia prospect’s off-the-field issues put him under a huge microscope prior to the 2023 NFL Draft. But after the Philadelphia Eagles selected nose tackle, Jalen Carter, with the ninth overall pick, the next chapter in his career could finally begin. From summer training to now, Carter has taken notes from beloved Eagles linemen, Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox, in how to dominate in the trenches. Having his old Georgia teammate, Jordan Davis, around doesn’t hurt, either.
Needless to say, Carter is off to a phenomenal start to his professional career, cashing in 12 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, and forcing two fumbles already. His ability to disrupt the pocket has offensive coordinators and seasoned offensive linemen around the NFL weary of him. But Carter’s biggest test to date will soon arrive as Philadelphia hosts the 5-1 Miami Dolphins this Sunday night.
Jack Campbell: Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions garnered league-wide attention last season when they went from starting at a dismal 1-6 to ending the campaign at 9-8. But more pieces had to be found for the Lions to build on this newfound momentum for 2023 and get back to playoff contention. One such piece they secured was Iowa linebacker, Jack Campbell (no relation to head coach, Dan Campbell).
The 18th overall pick of 2023 has Pro-Bowl caliber talent, and his 26 total tackles and one sack this season may be only a sample of what’s coming from him. As Detroit prepares to take on the Baltimore Ravens, do not be surprised to see Campbell assuming more roles on defense in the near future. #46 and company are out to show the doubters that Detroit’s 5-1 start to the current outing is no fluke.
Will Anderson Jr.: Houston Texans
It wasn’t enough for the Houston Texans to draft Ohio State quarterback, C.J. Stroud, with the second overall pick in this last NFL draft. Houston immediately traded all the way up to snag the third overall pick and selected Alabama product, Will Anderson Jr. We already talked about how C.J. Stroud is making his mark under the bright lights. But what about Anderson?
Well, his 24 total tackles and one blocked kick for this season show exactly what he’s capable of. In the meantime, Texans fans still have to realize that their team is in a rebuilding phase. Anderson may not have jaw-dropping numbers at the present moment. But as he progresses as an impact player, we could see him lead the Texans in regaining their playoff prowess.
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