No player in NFL history has ever had a season like Dick "Night Train" Lane did in his rookie season.
Before Willie Mayes Hayes did it in Major League, legend has it that Lane walked right into the front office of the Los Angeles Rams in 1952 and asked for a tryout. Lane, fresh off of playing football at Fort Ord, an army base in Monterey Bay, California, wanted to try out as a wide receiver. However, Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch was already entrenched at the position, so he tried out at defensive back instead.
The end result? Lane's rookie season became a masterpiece, as he set a still-standing record with 14 interceptions and two pick-sixes in just 12 games played.
It's safe to say that the top candidates for the 2016 Defensive Rookie of the Year aren't coming close to any of Lane's records, but maybe one of them will end up in the Hall of Fame (or at least with a cool nickname). So, who is most deserving of winning defensive rookie of the year? We asked a few of our friends for some answers.
There were five defensive players selected with the first 10 picks of the 2016 NFL Draft. Let's start breaking this down in reverse. Eli Apple, who went 10th to the Giants, found his way into the starting lineup after injuries to the Giants secondary, the same Giants secondary that found Landon Collins turning into Ronnie Lott in terms of hitting and making plays in the backfield. But Apple was inconsistent throughout his rookie campaign while others such as DeForest Buckner held firm. Leonard Floyd's rookie campaign was injury plagued. So now that we've crossed off three names, we're left with two: Joey Bosa and Jalen Ramsey.
Ramsey played all 16 games and improved drastically during the last five weeks of the season, transforming into a legit top-five CB in the league. When Bosa was on the field during his 12 contests, he was a consistent terror. He managed to pick up 10.5 sacks while missing a quarter of the season. It's not the historical equivalent of Odell Beckham Jr.'s rookie campaign in which he missed four games but still caught over 90 passes for 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns. But it's pretty close. Bosa's rookie campaign turned him into a top-five pass rusher according to Pro Football Focus. Analytics matter and for a franchise in need of a little good news, they've at least got the pick of Bosa right.
While Jalen Ramsey and Deion Jones have been great assets for their teams, no other rookie has made a more immediate impact in such a short time than Joey Bosa. The Chargers' first round draft pick missed the first four games of the NFL season due to contract negotiations but had two sacks in his first game against the Raiders (Oakland was the best in the league in sacks allowed with 18 on the season). He’s had three multi-sack games and tallied six sacks in the final five games. Here's a look at Bosa’s numbers against Jevon Kearse’s celebrated 1999 rookie season:
Although it is unfair to compare a player to someone nicknamed “The Freak”, Bosa's play has been impressive. Kearse’s 14.5 sacks is a rookie record*. But Kearse played all 16 games, while Bosa didn’t play until Week 5**. Many people thought that Bosa would be out of “football shape” and have minimal impact as he eased his way onto the field. While Kearse’s total tackles are higher for obvious reasons, Bosa averaged 3.4 combined tackles per game, which would have given him 54 total tackles in 16 games.
Ramsey has been a natural fit for Jacksonville and Jones has helped revamp a struggling Falcons defense. But Bosa is my DROY because he played at a high level after missing all of training camp as well as one full month of regular season football.
Some of you will recognize my fandom to the Jags as a sign of homerism in making this selection. Heck, you might be right. I could be jaded, and my ability to be objective could be skewed beyond belief, rendering me useless in making a fair choice on who is the defensive rookie of the year.
However, how many Jaguars games have you watched this season? Not how many highlights. Not how many times it just so happened the Jaguars were on the Red Zone Channel (not that often). Not how many times you checked your fantasy team for the continued failings of Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson. How many actual games did you watch?
I watched all 16 games, and the Jaguars were a dysfunctional outfit with mediocre coaching and a mixed bag of talent lacking direction. Through all of it, Jalen Ramsey looked like an all-world player. Were there times where he struggled? Sure, but that's what happens to all cornerbacks. Occasionally, they get lit on fire. However, Ramsey never backed down to the likes of Aaron Rodgers, DeAndre Hopkins, TY Hilton and the rest of the best that the Jaguars faced. When Bosa was tired, he got some rest. There was no rest for Ramsey, as his defense was constantly under siege. Yet by the end of the season, teams stopped throwing at #20. That's worthy of the highest form of praise. Respect.
Who did you vote for? Let us know in the comments section and state your case!
For Bosa to have missed as much time as he did and still come in and ball without injury says a lot about him. Ramsey played good on a team that needed him to step up big and he did. I really fell in love with what Deion Jones and Leonard Floyd did on defense this year. Jones was a catalyst to a defense that needed finesse and physical play and he delivered. Floyd reminds me of a young Aldon Smith. I don't think he deserved the award but what I saw from him this year makes me believe he's going to be one to remember for some time.
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