When it comes to the NFC West rivals Seahawks and 49ers, compliments come few and far in between. However this 4th of July, the rivals on the field came together as friends in real life. Seattle’s Michael Bennett hosted his HOP Training NFL Camp located in Honolulu, Hawaii. The camp will be host to a handful of current NFL players over the course of the next few weeks. Joining Bennett was Browns DT Danny Shelton, and 49ers defenders Arik Armstead, Eli Harold, Ronald Blair III, and of course DeForest Bucker.
“We’re all out here trying to get better and Mike (Bennett) is out here working too.” Buckner stated while working on his game.
“We just got to learn from the great ones and he’s an All-Pro, he’s a Super-Bowl champ, and he’s out here working in the holiday so we gotta be out here too trying to hone our craft.” Buckner explained.
For Buckner, this isn’t his first time working with the charismatic Michael Bennett. He trained alongside Bennett last summer after finishing his rookie year. Bennett was raving about his divisional rival during their training together.
“I think DeForest, I’m lucky to be working with a guy like that. I think DeForest will eventually be a defensive player of the year. I think he has the talent to be able to do that. I keep telling him there’s nobody like him. He’s not normal. His physique, his speed, it’s not normal so when you’re not normal you can do not normal things and winning the defensive MVP is not normal for most people.” Bennett exclaimed.
Buckner hears the high praise from Bennett and can’t help but feel a boost of confidence.
“That’s what gives me a lot of confidence having a guy like him saying that I could be a potential MVP of the league one year, that means a lot. It makes me want to grind harder.”
So I decided to take a look into what a defensive MVP looks like. The award was started by the Associated Press in 1971 and was invented with the intention of awarding the league’s most outstanding defensive player at the end of every season. Two players have won the award three times – Lawrence Taylor and J.J. Watt. Taylor is also the only player to win the award as a rookie. Joe Greene, Mike Singletary, Bruce Smith, Reggie White, and Ray Lewis have all won the award twice.
Linebackers have won the award the most, a total of 16 times. defensive ends have won 13 times, followed by defensive tackles winning 7 times, cornerbacks and safeties round out the group tied at 5 each.
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Going back to 1990, 12 of the 26 award-winning recipients have either been a defensive end or a defensive tackle. With as recent as last year’s winner – defensive end Khalil Mack, and as far back as 1999 with Warren Sapp winning the award then. Side-note – the last player on the 49ers to win the award was defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield in 1997. Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, which fits best in the 49ers new 4-3 defense as a 3-tech, has a pretty good chance from strictly a positional viewpoint.
Per PFF, Buckner started to come into his own towards the end of last season as a pass-rusher. He ended up finishing 25th (of 118 qualified players) best interior pass-rusher. Buckner totaled 943 snaps in 15 games last season, in which he earned an overall grade of 77.6 from PFF. He finished his rookie season with 322 more snaps than any other rookie interior defender! Buckner totaled a whopping 45 total QB pressures and 34 defensive stops during his rookie campaign.
The 49ers signing of Elvis Dumervil will provide Buckner and the other fellow young linemen a veteran presence to model their game after. Buckner has all the tools in his arsenal necessary to become a special-type of player, it’s a matter of all of the corresponding pieces falling into place perfectly in order for that to happen.
Also, with the addition of two explosive first-round picks – Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster, Buckner suddenly isn’t fighting the fight on his own anymore. It is projected Thomas will be able to do the dirty work, which would free up another lineman to get the stats. Why can’t that lineman be Buckner? My money is on the guy succeeding; I’d hate to bet against a man with his type of work ethic.