Bumpus: Seahawks’ Woolen is ‘runaway’ favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year

Dec 9, 2022, 9:15 AM

Seattle Seahawks Tariq Woolen...

Tariq Woolen of the Seattle Seahawks intercepts a pass against the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 4, 2022. (Harry How/Getty Images)

(Harry How/Getty Images)

Tariq Woolen may have been drafted in the fifth round of this April’s NFL Draft, but he’s been one of the best rookies in the NFL this season, emerging as a key contributor for the Seahawks’ defense.

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Woolen was initially seen as a project player but wound up starting every game for the Seahawks and entering the conversation as one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks.

Woolen’s play has certainly been noticed in Seattle, and former Seahawks receiver Michael Bumpus thinks the fifth-round pick is the frontrunner to be the 2022 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

“Runaway. It’s not even close,” Bumpus said during Wednesday’s Bump and Stacy on Seattle Sports 710 AM.

While Bumpus thinks Woolen is the clear favorite to win the award, many media entities think a different cornerback will win the award – New York Jets defender Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, the No. 4 overall pick.

“They keep trying to throw Sauce in there and I’m gonna tell you why it’s not Sauce,” Bumpus said. “Let’s just look at the numbers before anything else. Woolen, six interceptions. Sauce, one. Woolen, one forced fumble. Sauce, zero. Woolen, two fumble recoveries. Sauce, zero. Woolen, one blocked field goal that led to a touchdown. Sauce, zero.”

Where Gardner does have an edge, Bumpus said, is the level of receivers he’s gone up against. But Woolen has faced some star receivers, too.

“He went up against Deebo Samuel, Drake (London) and (Kyle) Pitts (with Atlanta) … (Chris) Olave (of the Saints) – a young guy – (DeAndre) Hopkins, Mike Williams and Davante Adams,” Bumpus said. “So if there’s any edge, it’s going to be who Sauce has played against. But you look at the numbers, this guy is tied for the (NFL) lead in interceptions. One of your job descriptions as a (defensive back) is to prevent the receiver from catching the football. And if you can take it out of the air for an interception, you go ahead and do that … Athletically, technique-wise, can Sauce hang with Woolen? Most definitely. But let’s look at the numbers. Simple as that. Tariq Woolen as of now should be your Defensive Rookie of the Year.”

Stacy Rost, Bumpus’ co-host, brought up 2021 Defensive Player of the Year Trevon Diggs as a reason why Woolen could win the Defensive Rookie of the Year this season.

Diggs led the NFL in interceptions with 11 last year, but often struggled in coverage and allowing big plays.

“He had plenty of questions about coverage. But the picks alone, people were like, ‘Look, if you got that flashy stat and it is out of this world – double digits – we’ve got to give it to you,'” she said. “It’s like sacks. You might really struggle with defending the run, but if you’ve got 20 sacks, man, no one can fight those numbers.”

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