Longtime NFL insider Peter King caused an uproar in Steelers Nation earlier this week when he revealed that he voted for Cleveland Browns edge rusher Myles Garrett for NFL Defensive Player of the Year over T.J. Watt. He cited Pro Football Focus’ grades for his reasoning, also. King isn’t the only national media member that thinks Garrett should win DPOY, however, as Rich Eisen of the NFL Network is singing the same tune.
Eisen is not on the Associated Press panel like King, but he thinks Garrett is the most deserving for the prestigious honor. Surprisingly, Eisen doesn’t even have Watt as the runner-up, as he has Las Vegas Raiders edge rusher Maxx Crosby ahead of him.
“T.J. Watt, Maxx Crosby, Myles Garrett. It would between Myles Garrett and Maxx Crosby even though I know Watt was superb. Gosh, I would eventually cast my ballot for Garrett,” Eisen said on his show. “No. 1 defense in certain regards this year, he was just a monster. I’ve never seen anybody create a pre-snap penalty because he was motioning.”
Show producer Chris Brockman pushed back and mentioned that Watt had a league-best 19 sacks in 2023. Eisen was well-aware of Watt’s accomplishments but he didn’t revoke his take on Garrett.
“I know. I get it, I get it. That’s the toughest one,” Eisen said.
Garrett excelled in advanced pass-rush metics peddled by Pro Football Focus and others. And it seems that’s what everyone is riding with despite the fact that Watt put up better numbers in pretty much every major statistical category. Watt led the NFL with 19 sacks, compared to Garrett’s 14. Watt maintained a consistent statistical advantage across the board, when compared to his AFC North rival.
Watt had 68 tackles, compared to Garrett’s 42. Watt had 19 tackles for loss compared to Garrett’s 17. Watt had 36 quarterback hits compare to 30 for Garrett. Each had four forced fumbles, but Watt had three recoveries compared to Garrett’s one. Watt also returned one of those fumbles for the only defensive touchdown of the season between the two players, which happened to be the game-sealing play in the Week 2 game between the Steelers and Browns at Acrisure Stadium.
Watt also dropped into coverage far more than Garrett, breaking up eight passes and snagging an interception that he returned inside the 10-yard line to set up a Steelers touchdown. Garrett had three passes defended.
The five finalists for AP Defensive Player of the Year are Watt, Garrett, Crosby, Dallas Cowboys edge rusher Micah Parsons and Cowboys cornerback Daron Bland. Steelers cornerback Joey Porter Jr. is also up for AP Defensive Rookie of the Year along with Houston Texans edge rusher Will Anderson Jr., Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Jalen Carter, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Kobie Turner and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Devon Witherspoon. Eisen thinks Turner should win DROY. Both awards will be presented at the Resorts World Theatre in Las Vegas at the NFL Honors Award ceremony on Feb. 8.