Myles Garrett has officially crossed a prominent item off his checklist.
Cleveland's edge-rushing monster earned his first Associated Press 2023 Defensive Player of the Year Award on Thursday at 国产探花Honors.
Garrett edged the Pittsburgh Steelers' T.J. Watt, 165-140, in the voting. Garrett earned 23 first-place votes, while Watt had 11.聽
Garrett has spoken of reaching this moment as early as the 2019 season, annually setting it as one of his top goals. It never seemed lofty, but took him seven seasons to finally achieve it -- and it's sure to draw complaints from fans of other teams.
Garrett didn't lead the 国产探花in sacks -- the gold standard of admittedly incomplete statistics used to judge defenders -- tying for seventh place with 14. He recorded just one sack in his final seven games, including the postseason (and a Week 18 spent resting).
But Garrett's 2023 season cannot be properly summarized without noting he spent the back half of the campaign playing through a shoulder injury that initially left Browns fans fearing his season might end prematurely. Garrett managed to soldier through the pain, continuing to occupy plenty of mental real estate on opposing sidelines, drawing extra pass-blocking attention and freeing up his fellow members to wreak havoc as part of the NFL's No. 1 defense. He finished in the top 10 in every notable statistical category: sacks, QB hits (eighth), tackles for loss (tied for seventh), QB pressures (tied for ninth), and forced fumbles (tied for fifth).
The Browns simply do not transform into an elite unit without Garrett. And before he'd suffered the injury, he was an absolute menace, recording at least one sack in eight of his first 10 games and singlehandedly flipping a few games in Cleveland's favor. His strip-sack of Gardner Minshew turned a high-flying shootout in Indianapolis in the Browns' favor, and if folks around the world hadn't been paying attention to his successes prior to that game, they were certainly tuned in after witnessing him leap over a row of linemen to block Matt Gay's 60-yard field goal attempt.
Garrett was a highlight machine, going viral on multiple occasions with clips of his freakish athleticism wowing fans. His pre-snap mimic of a basketball crossover -- which preceded a pressure resulting in a group sack -- seemed to live on through social media algorithms for weeks.
It helped that Cleveland became an elite defense under the direction of AP Assistant Coach of the Year Jim Schwartz, who wasn't afraid to deploy Garrett in a number of locations -- some traditional, others exotic -- and watch him feast. And while his numbers won't stand up against some of the past Defensive Player of the Year winners (we can hear you, T.J. Watt fans), those who watched Garrett power the Browns' top-tier defense know he was deserving.