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Nick Bosa is the Defensive Player of the Year, obviously



© Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The jokes about Nick Bosa being bred in a pass-rushing lab aren’t all that far from the truth.

He and his brother, Joey, grew up sons of an NFL defensive end, John — a member of the 1987 All-Rookie Team whose career was derailed by injuries and remembered regretfully by most Dolphins fans.

But he helped his sons develop into skilled pass rushers by the time they arrived at Ohio State. Joey Bosa was a four-star prospect, Nick was a five star, and with the tutelage of legendary defensive line coach Larry Johnson, both refined their skillset.

When Joey Bosa came out of college as the third overall pick and was named Defensive Rookie of the Year, there were almost unbelievable rumblings.

“His younger brother is better,” those rumblings went.

This isn’t about how Nick Bosa is better than Joey Bosa. It’s about how dominant the older brother was immediately and the seeming outrageousness of the claim that the younger brother could be better.

But he is. He’s better than every defensive player in the NFL this season.

Micah Parsons, the probable No. 2 in the DPOY conversation, is an outrageous pass rusher and has impressive positional flexibility. He has notched 13.0 sacks on the year.

While Parsons had one more pressure (71, 2nd overall) than Bosa (70, 3rd) coming into Saturday, Bosa led the league, by far, with 22 quarterback hits (next-most is Montez Sweat, with 18) before having five against Washington (one, on the extra point try, will not count for statistical purposes).

Parsons has also Demarcus Lawrence rushing with him all year. He is not anchoring the most dominant defense in the NFL. Bosa is.

Bosa’s league-leading 17.5 sacks on the season have driven the 49ers, who came into Sunday with the 41 as a team (6th-most in the league). Samson Ebukam, with 4.5 sacks, is second on the team. That’s a chasmic drop off.

If you do not double team or chip him, it is far likelier that Bosa will pressure your quarterback than not.

On Saturday, he was a wrecking ball. It was just about as dominant a performance as the one against Miami four weeks ago, when he notched 3.0 sacks and forced a fumble.

In his 14 games this season, he’s only failed to secure a sack twice; against Carolina and Tampa.

Carolina was the game he sustained a hamstring injury that kept him out the following week.

And he did secure a sack against Tampa. It just wasn’t called, which is understandable, given how close it was.

Here’s a quick review of Bosa’s performance against the Commanders, after watching the TV copy:

  • He had 27 pass snaps. He won his rep 12 times. He had 10 pressures, five of which were QB hits, and three of which were sacks. The third sack, because it was on a two-point try, won’t count.
  • Of those 27 reps, 14 were one-on-ones and 13 were double teams or chips.
  • That’s a 44.4 percent win rate, a 37 percent pressure rate and a QB hit a little less than once every five snaps. He won almost every rep that wasn’t a double team, and sometimes beat double teams with speed rushes — like on his first sack — before the second man could arrive.
  • In the run game, he also had 27 snaps. He won his rep clearly 12 times and had four run stops. There were six times the run clearly went to his starting position, an indicator that Washington (which ran the ball 33 times) did not prefer to run towards Bosa.
  • That’s a run stop a little more than once every seven snaps and a 44.4 percent win rate.

Sacks can often be an overblown indicator of performance. There are other measures of growing import, like win rate, pressure rate, etc., but none are perfect.

Per Pro Football Focus, Bosa has the third-highest pass rush win rate (24.8 percent) in the league. The issue with win rate and other stats is that it doesn’t account for whether players are double-teamed or not.

Some players have been more effective when double-teamed than Bosa at winning their matchup, but it doesn’t account for the rules of a defense either; sometimes when a player is double teamed, they’re supposed to look to swat the ball or back off in case of a quarterback scramble.

So, we’ve got pressures, sacks, and the eye test. The eye test tells you that when teams do not chip or double team Bosa, he wins just about always.

“I think today secured his defensive MVP,” said George Kittle. “I don’t know how it doesn’t. If you look at what he does every Sunday compared to everyone else around the league whether it’s offense or defense, I don’t know why he’s not in the MVP conversation.”

Bosa was asked about the NFL record of 22.5 sacks in a season, set by Michael Strahan in 2001 and tied by T.J. Watt last year.

Securing five or more sacks over two games seems an unlikely proposition, though it’s not out of the realm of possibility for someone who has 14 multi-sack performances in 55 career games.

He said he’s “eyeing” Aldon Smith’s franchise record of 19.5 in a single year. It’s would be a major surprise, at this point, for him to fall short of at least tying that record.

The man is like a machine, and oddly the funniest person on the team, delivering sarcastic one-liners under his breath.

In practice, you’ll often see him working off to the side, practicing moves on dummies, or, when they’re not available, imaginary offensive linemen.

Joe Staley said on KNBR this year he was pretty sure that he saw Bosa execute a pass-rush move on a hand sanitizer station and recalled that in Bosa’s first season, he heard him muttering his own name under his breath:

Imagine facing the NFL’s sack leader, who’s ruining your day, and you hear him muttering, “Bosa, Bosa, Bosa,” under his breath. Being an offensive lineman in pass protection sounds decidedly unenjoyable.

One can only fathom what will happen in the playoffs, where, in two runs, Bosa has accrued 8.0 sacks, which (since tracked in 1982), Bosa is already tied for 21st-most all-time. He has never played in a playoff game without at least securing a half sack. There’s no reason to believe that would change this time around.

Bosa is clearly the best player on the best defense in football, and while it’s difficult to compare players who play different positions, it’s tough to make an argument that anyone else has been better on defense this year than him.