Past 10 Defensive Players of the Year
Warren Sapp (Tampa Bay)
Before moving to the broadcasting booth and Dancing with the Stars, Warren Sapp was one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL. The 300 pound lineman won the defensive player of the year award in 1999, anchoring a stingy Bucs defense with 12.5 sacks.
Ray Lewis (Baltimore)
Lewis led a defense that set a regular season record for fewest points allowed (165) and fewest rushing yards allowed (970), and recorded four shutouts -- one off the record. The linebacker led the Ravens with 187 tackles, won Super Bowl XXXV MVP honors, earned a unanimous All-Pro selection and was named a Pro Bowl starter.
Michael Strahan (N.Y. Giants)
A powerful pass-rusher, Strahan only recorded 10 sacks twice in his first eight seasons in the NFL before breaking the league's single-season sack record in 2001. For the year, Strahan recorded 22.5 sacks and 73 tackles for the 7-9 Giants.
Derrick Brooks (Tampa Bay)
In leading Tampa to Super Bowl XXXVII, Brooks recorded 117 tackles and five interceptions -- three of which he returned for touchdowns. He also returned a fumble for a score, for an NFL-record four defensive touchdowns by an outside linebacker. For good measure, Brooks added another interception return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl.
Ray Lewis (Baltimore)
Lewis earned his second defensive player of the year award in 2003, making 161 tackles (120 solo), 1.5 sacks and a career-high six interceptions, including one he returned for a score.
Ed Reed (Baltimore)
For the third time in five seasons, the defensive player of the year came from the Ravens. Reed finished with 76 tackles, two sacks and nine interceptions. He also set an NFL record for interception return yards with 358, thanks in large part to a then-record 106-yard return (a record Reed has since broken).
Brian Urlacher (Chicago)
After dropping three of their first four games, the Bears -- led by Brian Urlacher and the league's top defense -- won their next eight contests en route to an 11-5 record. Urlacher anchored the defense with 121 tackles and six sacks.
Jason Taylor (Miami)
Taylor enjoyed the best year of his career in 2006, when he had 13.5 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions, both of which he returned for touchdowns.
Bob Sanders (Indianapolis)
Sanders became just the fourth safety in history to earn defensive player of the year honors when he keyed the vastly-improved Colts defense in 2007. He helped the Colts stop the run, making 96 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two interceptions.
James Harrison (Pittsburgh)
On the league's top defense, Harrison was the top performer. The linebacker had a career-high 16 sacks, setting a team record, and led the NFL with a career-high seven forced fumbles. He also made a career-high 101 tackles.