Sharks' Sykes named AFL Defensive Player Of The Year

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STOCKTON, Calif. – The Arena Football League announced Tuesday that the League has selected Jacksonville defensive lineman Joe Sykes as the Riddell Defensive Player of the Year for the 2015 AFL season.

The 32-year-old Sykes (6'5", 290) started each of the Sharks' 18 regular-season games and put together what could be the most dominant individual pass rushing season in League history. Sykes finished the season with a League-leading total of 22.5 tackles for loss, and established new single-season AFL records with 18.5 sacks and 10 forced fumbles. Sykes finished the season with 8.5 more tackles for loss, 7.0 more sacks and four more forced fumbles than any other player in the AFL.

Sykes delivered a consistent impact throughout the 2015 season. After he was held without a sack in the season opener, Sykes embarked on an unprecedented streak of 10 consecutive games with at least once sack. Ultimately, Sykes recorded a sack in 14 of the Sharks' 18 regular-season games and notched two sacks in four separate contests. At one point, Sykes forced six fumbles in a seven-game span from Week 3 through Week 9.

Sykes' tendency to remove the ball from opposing quarterbacks' hands was a big reason that the Sharks finished with the second-best turnover margin among all AFL teams during the regular season. Nine of his 10 forced fumbles were either recovered by the Sharks or resulted in a safety.

In addition to his ability to sack the quarterback on a consistent basis, Sykes also impacted the game in other ways. He knocked down six passes over the course of the regular season, and his pressures and hits led to a number of interceptions and turnovers on downs throughout the campaign.

This is the second Defensive Player of the Year award that Sykes has received during his AFL career, as he was given the honor when he was a member of the San Jose SaberCats in 2012. Sykes currently ranks third in AFL history with 53.5 career sacks, and has totaled 120.5 tackles, 65.5 tackles for loss, 19 forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries during his time in the League.

Sykes is currently on Injured Reserve after suffering an injury in the Sharks' playoff opener against the Orlando Predators on August 15.