Mid-Season Report: DPOY Candidates

With Week 9 over and done with, the NFL is officially halfway through the 2022 regular season. That means it's time to check in on the progress of various teams and players. Here are three leading candidates to take home Defensive Player of the Year honors should they keep up their incredible years.

Edge Rusher Matt Judon, New England Patriots

Edge rusher Matt Judon gave the New England Patriots all they could hope for and more when he signed with the team in 2021, rewarding the team with a career-high 12.5 sacks in a Pro Bowl season. Apparently, the seventh-year player was just getting started. Judon leads the league this season with 11.5 sacks in nine games and is on pace to set personal bests in tackles for loss and quarterback hits. He's the best player on a Patriots defense that ranks seventh in the league in points allowed.

Edge Rusher Za'Darius Smith, Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings are 7-1 and poised to win their first NFC North title since 2017, and edge rusher Za'Darius Smith deserves his share of the credit. The former Packer leads the league with 13 tackles for loss despite only playing eight games due to his team's Week 7 bye. He also has an impressive 8.5 sacks to his name.

Linebacker Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys

Do-everything linebacker Micah Parsons has been sensational in his second year with the Dallas Cowboys, notching 8.0 sacks across his eight appearances this year. Pass rushing is only one portion of the 2021 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year's genius: he sports an elite 90.9 overall grade from Pro Football Focus so far this season. The Cowboys survived a five-game absence from starting quarterback Dak Prescott and find themselves 6-2 because of the strength of their defense, and they appear on track to be one of the league's elite teams at the end of the year.

Photo Credit: © Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports