Can someone explain to me why New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner should win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year over Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson?
Gardner is the front runner to win the award in a landslide.
Experts say that both are potential Hall of Fame players, but Gardner has a better chance of making it. I say this is not an award based on the future. It is an award based on today, this season, and this moment.
Besides, we cannot predict the future.
Defensive ends make more of an impact on the day-to-day business of football than cornerbacks. Rush ends make life uncomfortable for quarterbacks, who are the most important players on the field. It’s why teams are more likely to use a top three pick on a rush end than corner.
Hey, Lions fans, how is Jeff Okudah working out?
Here is what the Draft Network said about Aidan Hutchinson.
“Hutchinson has made some of the most impactful contributions to his team of any defensive rookie so far this season. If his stats, including the fact that he has one more interception than fellow DROY front-runner (and cornerback) Sauce Gardner, weren’t enough to show that, his ability to disrupt plays consistently up front and generate chances for his teammates should only further bolster his case.”
Garner, who was picked fourth, is not Okudah. It’s been fun watching him progress from a star at Detroit Martin Luther King High School to a star NFL player. He is a major reason why the Jets defense went from worst to fourth best in the NFL.
We also saw a transformation of the Lions defense that goes under the radar under Hutchinson. Television commentators kept telling us that the Lions were the worst defense in the NFL. But can you honestly say this team was at the bottom of the heap the final eight games of the season?
If you’re asking me to cast a vote, yeah, I would cast a vote (for Hutchinson),” said Lions Coach Dan Campbell. “But, I don’t know all the ins and outs of everybody else. But, for our value, absolutely.”
The Lions stopped the run, outside of the Carolina debacle, and Hutchinson played a major role. Normally, Defensive Rookie of the Year goes to the player who makes the bigger impact near the line of scrimmage. That’s why only three cornerbacks have won the award. They are Charles Woodson (1998), Marcus Peters (2015) and Marshon Lattimore (2017).
Gardner became the first rookie corner to make All Pro in 41 years. So we know he is no slouch. He had 75 total tackles, but only two of them were for lost yardage, totaling five yards.
Hutchinson recorded 52 total tackles, added 9.5 sacks, 53 quarterback pressures, nine tackles for loss and had the same amount of interceptions as Gardner (3). He became the first rookie in NFL history to record nine or more sacks, three interceptions and force two fumbles.
His stats were very similar to former Defensive Rookies of the Year Joey Bosa (41 tackles, 10.5 sacks) and Nick Bosa (47 tackles, 9.0 sacks, 80 QB pressures and two forced fumbles).
Some of this is geographical bias. Gardner plays in New York. Aidan Hutchinson plays for the Lions. It’s interesting that the Lions were one of the hottest teams in the last half of the season and no one wanted to face them in the playoffs, but could not land one player on the Pro Bowl team.
And it looks like the most impactful defensive rookie won’t win Defensive Rookie of the year.
Photo Credit-David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports
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