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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Harrison Smith is making a case for defensive MVP

By Matthew Coller

There isn’t a good stat to tell us the impact of a safety on his team’s defense. Harrison Smith has three interceptions, 1.5 sacks and 53 tackles. Here’s the disconnect: That stat line could belong to just about any safety in the league, but a deeper dive reveals that Smith’s belongs in the conversation for the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year.

A great place to start is Smith’s versatility. Here’s the distribution of where he’s lined up so far this season (via Pro Football Focus):

Pro Football Focus ranks Smith No. 1 overall among safeties with elite grades against the run and the pass. He’s also created seven successful QB pressures on 20 rushes and only missed one tackle this season.

Each different skill Smith possesses shows up in a different area of the game. His instincts and playmaking ability could be demonstrated by his game-winning interception against the Chicago Bears in Week 5. His explosiveness in picking up 1.5 sacks against Packers QB Brett Hundley the following week. And his strength on a play like the one below.

Few safeties in the NFL are able to set an edge like an outside linebacker. Yet the Rams attempted to block him with a tight end on a Toddy Gurley rush and Smith stuck the tight end in place, giving Gurley nowhere to go.

There are some areas of the game where Smith’s contribution can’t be tracked, even by Pro Football Focus or Football Outsiders etc. That’s his leadership and intelligence.

On the play below, Smith runs over to cornerback Mackensie Alexander while Rams QB Jared Goff is making a change at the line of scrimmage. He points toward the QB, then Alexander immediately blitzes and creates a pressure on Goff.

Of course there will be plenty of competition for the DPOY. Jacksonville’s Calias Campbell is tops in the NFL in sacks on a dominant defense. Jacksonville’s Jalen Ramsey, New Orleans’s Marshon Lattimore, Seattle’s Bobby Wagner, Carolina LB Luke Kuechly, Rams star DT Aaron Donald, San Diego’s edge rusher Joey Bosa and even Vikings DE Everson Griffen all have a great case through 10 games.

But Smith brings a different level of value to his team that was shared by the last safety to win DPOY, Troy Polamalu. Few safeties are as dynamic and cause more havoc for quarterbacks, whose first look at the line of scrimmage is back at the safeties – but Smith often changes that look before the snap.

Whether he wins the award or not could depend on where the Vikings finish in defense stats. Right now they are No. 3 in yards per play and fourth in points allowed.

The post Harrison Smith is making a case for defensive MVP appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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