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Day 14: Defensive MVP

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There’s two weeks left, so to pass the time let’s argue about 2017’s future defensive MVP!

Rutgers v Washington
Two of your esteemed candidates, in action in 2016.
Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Guys. There is LITERALLY. Only two more weeks left. Until 2017 kickoff. I’ll give you all a few moments to freak out and digest that before continuing on.

[This line reserved for flipping-out-because-Washington-football-starts-in-two-weeks time.]

Alright, done getting so excited you almost pee yourself but not quite? Perfect. Let’s move on to today’s question: Who will be the Huskies’ 2017 defensive MVP?

Option #1 — ILB Keishawn Bierria

Keishawn is the bomb. He’s impossible not to root for, his Twitter is on point (which is really what we’re judging here) and — oh yeah, he’s also a total badass on the field. He somehow always seems to be involved in fumbles, either forcing them or recovering them. Despite being slightly undersized for an inside linebacker, he’s smart, strong, and tackles really well.

Although he’s not the most flashy player, Bierria is simply a solid pillar of this defense. Along with...

Option #2 — ILB Azeem Victor

Saw this one coming, didn’t you?

Any write-up describing Azeem Victor and why he could/should end up 2017’s defensive MVP seems redundant; there’s nothing I could say that you all don’t know — that’s how much of a name he’s made for himself as possibly the most key player in the Washington defense the last two years.

He’s a leader of the team, he’s in on seemingly every play, he’s probably gonna be a first round draft pick next year. What more could I say?

Option #3 — DL Vita Vea

Earlier in the week I said Vita Vea probably fights bears to keep ahead of the competition. I stand by this assertion.

Vea’s decision to return in 2017 makes the rest of the Washington defense’s job that much easier. Opposing OLs frequently have no choice but to commit multiple linemen to covering him, leaving space open for the edge rush or other interior defensive linemen. Plus he’s sneaky athletic considering that he’s roughly the size of a Himalayan mountain.

Especially given there’ll be a bit of a break-in period with the new faces in the secondary, Vita’s contributions to collapsing the pocket and disrupting opposing passing games will help ease those growing pains.

While there are some concerns around the depth in the interior defensive line, the initial attack of Vita Vea is killer.

Option #4 — DL Greg Gaines

More DL? Yup. Greg Gaines is kind of like what I think would happen if you took a cannon ball but made it human sized and also forced it to wear a helmet and facemask for safety reasons.

Similar to Vea, Gaines’ ability to disrupt the running game and take up blocks will be critical to maintaining or exceeding the level of defensive play Washington saw in 2016. While he typically isn’t the one to get to the quarterback, his gargantuan cannon ball force wreaks havoc on opposing offensive lines and gives way for edge rushers, inside linebackers, or the occasional safety to come in and make the play.

Meanwhile, in the run game, Gaines fills up gaps in the trenches like it’s the easiest job in the world.

Option #5 — S Taylor Rapp

Some say if you saw Taylor Rapp’s high school film and still thought he should only be a three star, you’re a complete idiot. Then last year happened and, in a stacked defensive backfield and as a true freshman, Rapp proved those people right.

While the secondary surrounding him is undergoing an adjustment, Rapp’s presence — along with returning safeties JoJo McIntosh and Zeke Turner — provides some continuity and experience.

He’s one of my personal favorite players to watch; he’s a ball hawk with a knack for showing up when the stakes are high and he hits like he doesn’t want to live. That makes for fun football... Unless you’re a fan of a team playing against Rapp, in which case I imagine that would suck.

In a backfield where most of the faces still have to prove they belong, Taylor Rapp has already done that.

Poll

Who will be the Dawgs’ 2017 defensive MVP?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Keishawn Bierria
    (24 votes)
  • 49%
    Azeem Victor
    (274 votes)
  • 25%
    Vita Vea
    (143 votes)
  • 9%
    Greg Gaines
    (54 votes)
  • 10%
    Taylor Rapp
    (56 votes)
551 votes total Vote Now

The Verdict: Azeem Victor

This one was difficult. For one, picking just Azeem and not the duo of Azeem and Keishawn feels like picking George Weasley without Fred, the blue ice-climber without the pink ice-climber, Spongebob without Patrick, Ivar’s clam chowder without my face, Hall without Oates, Batman without Robin...

Mozart without... Mozart’s friend.

Secondly, our two candidates from the line are really, really good — Vea and Gaines’ success in clogging up the run game debilitates opposing offenses and makes everyone else’s job easier. Plus they don’t really get as much credit because half of their impact is about giving others the opportunity to make a big play.

In the end, though, Azeem Victor feels like the anchor of this defense.

Besides his strength and nose for the play, he’s a leader as a redshirt senior who has been through Sark, the Pete-transition, and last year’s breakout season. I also did a bit of a litmus test for each of these guys and although losing any one of them would be a huge blow, this defense playing 2017 without Victor seemed like it would result in the biggest drop-off.

Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.