Poll results: Defensive player of the year

The AFC North's top defensive player this year has been Browns middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. Well, that's according to this week's SportsNation poll.

In one of the closest polls for the AFC North blog, Jackson received 35 percent of the 9,528 votes. That edged out Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who pulled in 33 percent. Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons (25 percent) finished third, and Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (7 percent) was a distant last.

Here are some selected comments from the AFC North mailbag:

Christopher from Charlotte, N.C.: While D'Qwell Jackson is a fine defensive player, he is not even the best defender on the Browns. That honor unquestionably goes to Joe Haden. While it would be easy to discount him given his four-game suspension early in the year, the Browns' record in games in which he did and did not play (as well as their defensive statistics across the board in said games) speaks volumes. He completely shuts down one side of the field, enabling the Browns pass rush to pressure the quarterback without dropping additional defenders into coverage. Joe Haden is hands-down the best defensive player in the AFC North.

Joe from Altoona, Pa.: Even though Geno Atkins is having a beast-like year, Lawrence Timmons is the best defensive player in the division. He has finally come into his own at the center of the Steelers' linebacker corps as a former first-round pick. As an inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, he's not only asked to get the gaudy stats that people love, but he is also expected to cover running backs and tight ends. It's no longer James Harrison and the Steelers' linebackers, it's Lawrence Timmons and the Steelers' linebackers.

Michael from West Lafayette, Ind.: There is no doubt that Geno Atkins is the best defensive player in the division. No other player has been as dominant of a force as "Geno Sacks." Just look how much better he has been than anyone else at his position and what he has meant to this Bengals defensive turnaround.

Mark from Fredericksburg, Va.: D'Qwell Jackson is my pick for AFC North Defensive Player of the Year. He is without a doubt, the inspirational leader of the formidable Browns defense. He has led a defense that has kept the Browns in every game this season. The exception was the Giants game, a game in which Jackson left early due to concussion-like symptoms. Coincidence? Now as the young Browns offense comes of age, the defense is being rewarded with wins for their patience. Jackson has led by example, recording stats in virtually ever defensive statistical category. That is why he is my pick for AFC North Defensive Player of the Year.

Dominic from Columbus, Ohio: Lawrence Timmons deserves to be considered for, if not win, the defensive player of the year for the AFC, and possibly the NFL. He is one of the most, if not the most athletic, middle linebackers in the NFL. He anchors and gives stability to an aging Steelers defense. He has been consistent week in and week out even with all of the injuries and shuffling of the defense at other positions. He fills holes and stops the run with the best of them, but can also drop into pass coverage against tight ends, receivers and backs. I am sure we will see on Sunday Timmons covering [Dallas' Jason] Witten, a top-three tight end. How many defensive players are that versatile and do each phase at an elite level?

Luke from Nashville: I agree Timmons is having a great season. But I believe when you look at the Steelers defense, the MVP this year has been Ryan Clark. In Troy Polamalu's absence, he has held that secondary together, along with Ike Taylor, to have the No.1 pass defense in the league without your usual Steelers dominating pass rush. I could not place a vote due to your lack of putting Clark on this list.