Ravens Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley relentlessly chased down running backs all year, establishing himself as one of the NFL's most productive defensive players in his debut season.
But Mosley's pursuit of the Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year eluded him Saturday night, when St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald was instead honored. The award was announced during the league's NFL Honors show.
Donald received 25 votes in balloting from a panel of writers and broadcasters, seven more than Mosley. Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack got six votes, and San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker Chris Borland received one.
Mosley led all rookies and Ravens in tackles with 133 and finished seventh overall in the NFL. He also recorded three sacks, two interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Donald had 48 tackles and nine sacks to lead all rookies. He also had 17 tackles for losses.
After an open practice at Navy in August during training camp, Mosley told The Baltimore Sun he had set his ambitions on winning the award, as outside linebackers Terrell Suggs (2003) and Peter Boulware (1997) had with the Ravens.
Mosley played the most defensive snaps (1,080) of any Ravens player this season, including all but 15 of the team's defensive snaps during the regular season.
After being drafted 17th overall in May, the former consensus All-American and Butkus Award winner from Alabama displayed his athleticism and versatility. He was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month in October and December.
"C.J. understands what the linebacker position is about," retired Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis told the Sun earlier this season. "Forget mistakes; the kid just finds the football. He has a great knack. He makes the game simple. He was a ball hawk in college, and he's picking up where he left off."
Although Mosley excelled as a run stopper and blitzer, the 22-year-old acknowledged at the end of the season that his pass coverage still has room for improvement. Mosley was frequently close to making plays on the ball, but he allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 91 of 108 passes thrown in his direction for 767 yards and four touchdowns, for a 100.9 quarterback rating.
"For a rookie, I think I did pretty well," Mosley said. "But I'm a rookie, so I've got a lot to work on and I can only go up from here. So I'm going to take my time off and get my body right for these first few weeks and then just get right back at it, so I can be a better player come next April.
"I think I had a pretty good season. I'm not the one to brag or talk about accomplishments. I just know I can get better. A lot of things I can work on, and it's my first year, so there's a lot to improve."
During his season-ending news conference, Ravens coach John Harbaugh praised Mosley for how he performed as a rookie for a franchise that has set a high standard for linebackers.
"C.J. Mosley is the next young, great linebacker if he chooses to do all the right things and if he gets a little good fortune," Harbaugh said. "He played this year at a high, high level, a Pro Bowl level. [Inside linebackers coach] Don Martindale deserves a lot of credit for that, as does Daryl Smith.
"C.J. deserves the most credit. He's a fine young man. He's a hard worker. He's very talented. He gets football."