- Khalil Mack dominated during Monday Night Football, racking up two sacks and two forced fumbles in the win over the Redskins
- Aaron Donald had his first sack of the year in helping the Rams improve to 3-0 with a 20-13 win over Myles Garrett and the Cleveland Browns
- Pair have combined to win the previous three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards
Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald have dominated the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award over the last three years. The Los Angeles Rams tackle has finished on top the previous two seasons, with the Chicago Bears standout linebacker, then with the Oakland Raiders, taking home the gong in 2016.
And while other players have emerged to challenge the duopoly this year – most notably Cleveland’s Myles Garrett – as far as Las Vegas is concerned, Donald and Mack still lead the way in the latest NFL DPOY odds.
Odds to Win NFL Defensive Player of the Year
|Aaron Donald (Rams)||+250|
|Khalil Mack (Bears)||+400|
|Myles Garrett (Browns)||+650|
|JJ Watt (Texans)||+1200|
|Joey Bosa (Chargers)||+1400|
|Von Miller (Broncos)||+1800|
|Luke Kuechly (Panthers)||+2000|
|Demarcus Lawrence (Cowboys)||+2500|
|Cameron Jordan (Saints)||+3300|
|Fletcher Cox (Eagles)||+3300|
|Earl Thomas (Ravens)||+3300|
|Danielle Hunter (Vikings)||+3300|
|Blake Martinez (Packers)||+3300|
*Odds taken on 09/26/19
The Case for Mack
One thing is for certain, under the bright lights of a primetime NFL game, Khalil Mack brings his best to bear.
Case in point was last last Monday, when he absolutely terrorized the Washington Redskins to propel the Chicago Bears to a comfortable 31-15 win at Washington. As the Tweet below shows, during his 17-game Bears career, Mack has sparkled when the collective attention of the NFL world is fixed upon him and his team.
Khalil Mack with another Primetime performance to remember.
Primetime Games: 6 games, 6.0 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, TD
All Other Games: 11 games, 9.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 0 TD pic.twitter.com/QMMN1xnBfc
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 24, 2019
Unfortunately for Mack and the Bears, they only have three more primetime games left on their schedule, starting November 17 when they visit the Rams and Aaron Donald for a Sunday night contest.
Though he was slowed last year with an ankle injury, starting only 13 games, Mack still put up 12.5 sacks – the second-highest total of his career – and a career-best six forced fumbles. That was enough to garner five votes for NFL DPOY, though that still left trailing in the wake of Donald, who received 45.
But if Monday’s display was anything to go by, Mack has found his groove with the NFL season less than a quarter gone. Of the 45 quarterback pressures that Chicago has managed so far, Mack has accounted for 15 of them.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) September 24, 2019
According to ESPN’s new Pass Rush Win Rate, which measures how often pass rushers beat their blocks within 2.5 seconds, Mack leads the way with 36%. Conversely, Donald trails him at 27%.
The Case for Donald
But the Rams defensive tackle didn’t win the last two DPOY awards for nothing.
While much was made of the two-time champ going into last weekend’s game against Cleveland without a sack to his name, one glance back to 2018 shows he didn’t have one going into Week 4 then either.
Of course, he was then only blanked in three more games on his way to putting up a career-best 20.5 sacks.
So last Sunday’s takedown of Baker Mayfield could well get Donald’s 2019 season off and running.
Aaron Donald, good lord pic.twitter.com/7aSj7cxCpF
— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) September 23, 2019
In addition, it’s not like he hasn’t been doing otherworldly defensive things in the interim. His mere presence on the line causes chaos, allowing the likes of newcomer Clay Matthews to get his Rams career off to a flying start with four sacks through three games.
Combined with fellow defensive tackle Dante Fowler, who has two sacks of his own, the Rams have one of the premier pass rushes in the NFL, and a 3-0 record to boot. However, that 1-2-3 punch could quite easily help or hinder Donald’s pursuit for DPOY honors, as his statistical haul might be shared amongst his teammates.
How They Match up Statistically
With no player having captured the NFL DPOY award in three straight seasons, the odds are certainly stacked against Donald.
Donald and Mack entered the league together in 2014 after both were first-round picks that year.
As the table below suggests, there’s not much between them statistically over that time.
Donald vs. Mack 2014-2019
|Player||Games||Solo tackles||Assisted tackles||Sacks||Forced Fumbles||Interceptions|
*Stats from Pro-Football-Reference.com
Through three games this season, Mack holds the edge statistically, with three sacks, three forced fumbles and nine solo tackles, compared to Donald’s one sack and five solo tackles. But as noted, Donald’s 2018 DPOY season didn’t really get going until after Week 4.
The Verdict: Given a return to full health and a prominent role in the Bears’ defensive scheme, there is absolute value in Mack to win a second NFL DPOY award.
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