Dolphins' Taylor wins Defensive Player of Year

NEW YORK -- Jason Taylor was one hard man to find on the
Miami defense this season. Until, that is, the ball was snapped and
he was making the play.

Taylor's superb all-around performance for the Dolphins earned
him The Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year award,
announced Friday. While Miami finished just 6-10 in 2006, the
dynamic Taylor was having the best season of his nine-year pro

The end who sometimes lines up at linebacker or inside had 62
tackles, 13½ sacks, 14 quarterback hurries, two interceptions --
both returned for TDs -- 11 passes defensed, 10 fumbles forced and
two fumbles recovered. Yes, 10 fumbles forced, making Taylor a
takeaway machine.

"It's just making big plays, feeling like you elevate the guys
around you sometimes, and helping them to play better," Taylor
said of his role. "Being able to take attention away from other
areas and free up things for other people. At the end of the day,
it's just making plays and trying to lead the team by example

"You can sit around and talk about it, but you have to go out
and do it and we all like to be able to get up and go do it."

While dozens of defenders were doing it well this season, Taylor
outdistanced five who received votes, in particular Broncos
cornerback Champ Bailey. Taylor earned 22 votes from a nationwide
panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the NFL, and
Bailey got 16.

It is a measure of how effective Taylor was that he took the
award playing on a losing team. But Miami's defense ranked fourth
in the NFL -- thanks greatly to No. 99, naturally.

"I am playing a more complete game than I have at any point in
my career," Taylor said. "I think the biggest thing that sticks
out is the big plays, the touchdowns that are catching more

"I think I have had some other decent years in this league, but
this is probably my best."

It needed to be for Taylor to beat out Bailey, who tied for the
league lead with 10 interceptions (one touchdown) even though
opponents rarely test him. Bailey also is a stalwart run defender,
something few cornerbacks can claim.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick, whose team faced both the
Dolphins (going 1-1) and the Broncos (a loss), praised Taylor as
the top guy.

"I can't imagine him not being the Defensive Player of the Year
this year," he said. "There's nobody I've seen that has played
anywhere near close to the level that he's at. He ruins a lot of
games offensively for teams."

With the Dolphins in turmoil after coach Nick Saban dumped them
for the Alabama job this week, Taylor's achievement provides at
least momentary relief and pride.

"It's always a flattering point, but this is the ultimate team
game on the planet," Taylor said.

He is the first Dolphins player to win the award since DE Doug
Betters in 1983. Ten years before that, safety Dick Anderson won

San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman, who missed four games for
violating the NFL's steroids policy, got six votes. Last week,
Taylor said he didn't believe any player who served such a
suspension should be considered for league awards.

Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher received four votes, followed
by two Baltimore Ravens with one apiece: LB Ray Lewis and lineman
Trevor Pryce.

Urlacher won the award last year.