Nov 8, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Thomas Davis (58) celebrates with middle linebacker A.J. Klein (56) and free safety Tre Boston (33) after intercepting the ball late in the fourth quarter. The Panthers defeated the Packers 37-29 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Defensive Player of the Year
There really isn’t one player in the league right now that is dominating head and shoulders above everyone else, but several players have been playing significantly better than the rest of the pack in the race for the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award.
Thomas Davis and fellow linebacker Luke Kuechly have teamed up to form one of the NFL’s best linebacking tandem, if not the best in the entire league. Thomas, at age 32, is having arguably his best season as a pro, with 65 tackles, three sacks, five hurries, three interceptions and seven pass defenses. Number 58 seems to jump off the screen in every Panthers game; he’s a vital piece of the team’s defense. Davis can tackle; he’s excellent in coverage and he’s versatile enough to provide the occasional pass rush. While Kuechly may get the attention, Davis’ unheralded play is one of the biggest reasons for the Panthers’ defensive success in 2015.
Hey Verizon, when does T.D. get a commercial?
Comeback Player of the Year
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
Making his way back from a second major knee injury, Palmer has found the Arizona quarterback fountain of youth. His presence has changed the entire Cardinals offense and has elevated the play of his surrounding teammates. Palmer has also shown improved arm strength as well, regaining deep ball accuracy and zip that had been lost for the past several years. He currently leads the NFL with 9.18 yards-per-pass. Teammates like Larry Fitzgerald and Chris Johnson have also benefitted from career resurgences, but Palmer’s elevated play is likely a crucial factor that played into his teammates’ progress.
Palmer is on pace for 40 touchdowns, which would top his career best of 32 all the way back in 2005. His current 20 touchdowns is good for second in the league, and his 110.2 passer rating ranks third behind Tom Brady and Andy Dalton. Palmer also has five 300-yard passing games to this point of the 2015 season.
In the race: Navorro Bowman, Chris Johnson
Check in with Stripehype.com next week for the rookie awards and All-Rookie team.