This is no longer your dad’s NFL. Defense and running the ball are no longer necessary to win Super Bowls.The NFL has implemented dozens of rule changes over the past 5 years to favor the offense. Teams no longer need a dominant defense to win a Super Bowl. But, you need to be good situationally.
There are 2 things defenses must have to advance in the post-season.
1) Lock down cornerbacks.
2) A pass rush on 3rd and long.
Below we rank the Top 10 Defenses in the NFL:
On the outside looking in…
New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts.
10) New York Jets:
On paper this Jets defense could be an elite unit. Linebacker CJ Mosley could be up for defensive player of the year. Leonard Williams and Quinnen Williams should wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks and running backs. The Jets back 7 could cause a lot of fumbles and interceptions. The biggest questions mark is the new coaching staff with Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Williams hasn’t led a top-10 defense in points allowed since 2010.
Tied at 10) Pittsburgh Steelers:
Over the past 2 seasons the Steelers have led the NFL in sacks with 108. T.J Watt had 13 sacks to lead the team. Devin Bush was selected 10th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Michigan star should add speed and depth at the linebacker position. This is a make or break year for Mike Tomlin and the Steelers. After losing Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown the head coach is on the hot-seat. I expect the Steelers to be very good on defense and if they can cause turnovers they can compete in a division that has the Ravens and Browns on the rise.
9) The Green Bay Packers:
The Packers may have improved their team the most in the off-season. But, like the Jets they have questions marks with a rookie coach in Matt LaFluer. Blake Martinez, the 25-year-old linebacker out of Stanford, had 92 solo tackles and 5 sacks in 2018. Defensive ends Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith could get 17 to 20 sacks between the two of them. Safety Adrian Amos is coming over from the Chicago Bears, he should stabilize the secondary and provide great leadership. Rookie Rashan Gary from Michigan should have an immediate impact in rushing the passer. Rookie Darnell Savage could start right away in the defensive backfield as well. I would not be surprised if this unit is elite by the 2nd half of the season.
8) Dallas Cowboys:
The Dallas Cowboys may have the best linebacker tandem in the NFL. Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith combined for 262 total tackles last season. Dallas signed Demarcus Lawrence to a five-year, $105 million extension. He led the team with 10.5 sacks.The weakness of this team is their inability to cause interceptions. The Cowboys haven’t had more than 10 interceptions in a single season over the last four years. They must improve their ball hawking ability.
7) Denver Broncos:
One of the best moves made this off-season was John Elway firing Vance Joseph and hiring the Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Linebackers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb combined for 26.5 sacks in 2018. They could increase that total to over 30 sacks in 2019. Fangio will make a good defense a great one in Denver. The problem for the Broncos is the play in a division with Derek Carr, Phillip Rivers and Patrick Mahomes.
6) Washington Redskins:
This is my wild card pick for top 10 defenses. The Redskins will have to face a very good offensive lineup in Dallas and Philadelphia, but, Washington has all the makings of a team that can punish opposing players. Montez Sweat, the rookie from Mississippi could have 10 sacks this year just on athletic ability alone.Ryan Kerrigan led the team with 13 sacks last year and this unit could led the NFL in quarterback pressures. Landon Collins signed a 6-year contract. He is about as steady of a safety as there is in the NFL. Josh Norman is no longer and elite defensive back but he is still very good when motivated.
5) Tennessee Titans
The Titans finished last season ranked 3rd for points against and 8th in total yards allowed. Mike Vrabel’s team should be just as good if not better now that they are familiar with his defensive scheme. Tennessee beat Philadelphia,Dallas and New England last year. They should be better offensively which should help the defense to not be gassed at the end of games. This is a team that doesn’t have the best player in the NFL at any position but they rely on the team performing as a unit. Titans could win 10 games this year and that should be enough to make the playoffs.
4) Los Angeles Chargers.
Joey Bosa only played in 7 games last season. If he can stay healthy the Chargers should improve on their 38 sacks in 2018. Derwin James had 105 tackles and their secondary is lead by 2-time pro bowl selection, Casey Hawyard. With Bosa in the lineup, this team should cause fumbles, and interceptions. They are very aggressive to the ball and they should be one of the best defenses that no one talks about in the NFL.
3) Minnesota Vikings:
The Vikings are about as mean and nasty as a defensive unit can be with all the rule changes. They had 50 sacks last year which was tied for 3rd. They have playmakers at almost every position. Danielle Hunter led this unit with 14.5 sacks. The Vikings have good corners, good pass rushers and underrated linebackers. This team should be in the top 10 in almost every defensive category.
#2) Chicago Bears:
The Bears were first in the NFL giving up a stingy 17.7 points per game. Linebacker Khalil Mack could have won defensive player of the year. The Bears also led the NFL with 27 interceptions. This is the unit that looks to cause fumbles and make turnovers happen. Cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Eddie Jackson both made the pro-bowl and should have outstanding seasons in 2019. Losing Fangio as their defensive coordinator will hurt, but this team is stacked on defense.
#1 Jacksonville Jaguars:
Is Jalen Ramsey the best cover corner in the NFL… to quote him, “I don’t know you tell me?”
When Ramsey is on his game no quarterback wants to throw on his side of the field. The Jaguars selected Josh Allen out of Kentucky in the NFL Draft. Allen had 17 sacks last year despite seeing constant double teams in the SEC. Telvin Smith and Miles Jack combined for 241 total tackles. Jack could develop into a top 5 linebacker.Calais Campbell had 10.5 sacks last year. This team could be in the top 5 in almost every defensive category, if they stay healthy. Would anyone be surprised if Allen wins rookie of the year?
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