T.J. Watt has been the model of growth for an NFL player. He came into the league as one of the best rookies in his class, and has continued to get better and better in each passing year. But for all of the individual accolades, one thing has continued to evade T.J., a Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) trophy. Fourth in voting in 2019, and second in voting in 2020, Watt has come close but hasn't been able to put his stamp on the award, as of yet.
Since 2017, when T.J. entered the NFL, Aaron Donald has won three of four DPOY trophies, Patriots corner Stephon Gilmore claimed the other, so if Watt wants to hoist the most prestigious defensive player award in professional football he can start by out-performing perhaps the best defender seen in a generation.
So how his T.J. Watt going to accomplish this herculean feat? Well, for starters let’s take a look at the past edge rushers to win the award and what they put up in order to sway the voters. When it comes to recent edge rush award winners, one stat stands out — sacks. Nothing gets the voting committee more on a player’s side than a substantial sack total. J.J. Watt, Terrell Suggs, and James Harrison all totaled over 14 sacks in their DPOY seasons (Khalil Mack only needed 11.5). We’ve already seen T.J. tally 15 in a season, but if recent trends have shown us anything is he will need to match the total number of games (17) to sway voters. With how much T.J. has been snubbed the past two seasons, I would go as far to say he needs to topple the 20 sack plateau to truly lead the pack.
T.J. Watt also needs a “DPOY moment” to help his cause. Some big play that truly changes the outcome of a game in the Steelers favor. Be it a pick-6 or a sack fumble touchdown, he needs to get a ball across the goal line. Just one play to lead highlight reels for a couple weeks. If you don't think that matters, what would you say if T.J. Watt had scooped that ball against the Washington Football Team and brought it in for the touchdown? The Steelers would've won the game with Watt being the hero, that is the level of moment voters couldn't scoff at.
We also can't forget Watt has some big shoes to fill when it comes to family ties to the defensive player of the year award. Big brother J.J. Watt is a three time DPOY winner himself (2012, 2014, 2015) and will always be the measuring stick in which T.J. will be measured. The youngest Watt brother doesn't need to surpass J.J. in said trophies, but to have one of his own in his back pocket would certainly help in the legacy conversation.
The Watt brothers are not satisfied with tonight’s results: pic.twitter.com/HczUXKV5Xs— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) February 7, 2021
But what do you think? Will 2021 finally be the year T.J. Watt takes home his first DPOY award? Let us know why or why not down in the comments below.