Why 49ers' Nick Bosa has legitimate shot at Defensive Player of Year


49ers cornerback Richard Sherman has been called many things during his NFL career, but soft-spoken is not on that list.

Sherman tends to say what’s on his mind, and the Stanford graduate tends to back it up with intelligent, reliable information.

After Sunday’s 51-13 blowout win over the Carolina Panthers, Sherman was asked about rookie teammate Nick Bosa, whose dominance was once again on display in a performance that saw the former No. 2 overall draft pick have three sacks and intercepted Panthers QB Kyle Allen in a phenomenal display of athleticism.

“If he just kept the stat line as it is right now, he could win Rookie of the Year, but right now, he should be in line for Defensive MVP,” Sherman told reporters.

That might sound like blasphemy, given that a rookie hasn’t won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award since legendary New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor did it back in 1981.

Taylor dominated as part of what was a top-five scoring defense that season, notching 9.5 sacks (unofficially according to his Hall of Fame page, sacks weren’t officially kept as a stat until the 1982 season) on his way to bringing home both the rookie DPOY and the AP Defensive Player of the Year honors.

But the way Bosa has performed in 2019, he has a chance to join Taylor as the second.

Through his first seven NFL games, Bosa has 16 solo tackles including seven sacks, which is tied for the league-lead among rookies with the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Josh Allen, who was drafted just five picks behind Bosa in April's draft.

Bosa also paces the NFL with 11 tackles for loss, albeit in a tie with Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who is the two-time reigning DPOY in the NFL himself.

NBC Sports' Peter King had this to say about Bosa after Sunday's victory:

I’d argue that Bosa’s been the most impactful edge player to enter the NFL since Julius Peppers in 2002. Since 2000, 18 edge players have been picked in the top five in the past 20 NFL drafts. Bosa’s seven sacks and one interception through seven games is exactly the stat line of Peppers—and only Von Miller (six sacks, no picks) is close. No other player picked in the top five had more than four sacks in his first seven games. Probably only Peppers was asked to do as much as Bosa early, playing all over the field. And Peppers or Miller weren’t the run player Bosa’s shown so far. Bosa is a complete player in a room full of defensive-line stalwarts.

Bosa might find himself getting the double- or triple-team treatment that greets players like Donald each week, as his prestige as a multi-faceted defensive lineman continues to grow. However, San Francisco’s terrifying defensive line doesn’t allow for a lot of picking your spots. A unit featuring five guys who were drafted in the first round isn't featuring much of a weak link.

The Ohio State product likely will end up being by far the most dominant force on a top-five defense come season's end, as the 49ers currently rank second in points allowed and first in yards allowed through eight weeks.

With nine games to go, Bosa also has a chance to catch Jevon Kearse and break the rookie sack record (14), which Kearse set back in 1999. Bosa already is on pace, as he sits just a half-sack behind Mark Anderson for the most through a player’s first seven career games since sacks became official in 1982.

The impact Bosa has made on the 49ers defense also brings back shades of LT's imprint as a rookie in the Big Apple.

Not all of the credit for the 49ers defensive turnaround can be attributed to Bosa’s addition, but there’s no question he’s been a huge part of it.

This is not an article making the argument that Nick Bosa will be the next Lawrence Taylor -- just want to emphatically make that clear. 

LT universally is regarded as one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history, as he brought home DPOY hardware twice more in his illustrious career, as well as an overall NFL MVP and a pair of Super Bowl rings.

All I’m saying is Bosa has made a similar impact in his rookie season, and if he continues to play at this level, he might deserve some looks for DPOY come February, not just Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Between his flag-wave trolling of Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield to his impressive family lineage, Bosa has already captured the nation’s attention. 

[RELATED: Why 49ers feel good about roster despite no deadline deals]

Now's the time for him to truly make himself a household name, as the 49ers prepare for a tough stretch of games to prove that their championship contender status is more than a mirage.

Bosa has another chance to avenge a personal grudge Thursday, as he will line up across from the man who was drafted one spot ahead of him in the draft, Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray.

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