The 10 best defensive lines in the NFL for 2021
It’s time for the content of the summer offseason! As the season approaches, I’ll be taking a look at the NFL landscape, post by post, over the next few weeks. We’ll talk about the who’s who of the NFL in our own little version of the NFL Network’s “Top 100 Players” they do every year. Next, we talk about the 10 best defensive lines in the NFL for 2021!
Last week we looked at the big roasted pots on the offensive side of the ball. This week we change gears and watch the big guys doing it in defense. Like the offensive line, my rankings are more of a complete unit than an individual talent, with the exception of the Los Angeles Rams… because let’s face it… Aaron Donald is a transcendent talent. Maybe they could put him on the defensive line alone and he would still produce. If you’ve got a guy like that, you’re going to be in the top 10. Otherwise, I’ve looked at teams with a solid defensive lineman rotation, and picked between them.
First, let’s get rid of a few honorable mentions. Like their offensive line, the Arizona Cardinals have quietly assembled a solid collection of veteran talent in Jj watt, Chandler Jones, and Markus Doré. the Cleveland browns won this year Jadeveon clowney draws, and he joins Myles Garrett for what could potentially be a solid pair of defensive bookends. the Bison Tickets and Carolina Panthers both have two of the most promising young defensive lines in the game, and we can’t ignore the investments New England Patriots made in the defensive line this offseason. They were the hardest team to remove from the next top 10 list.
The 10 best defensive lines in the NFL for 2021
10. The Chicago Bears – Get Eddie goldman The return from a withdrawal a season ago is huge for this defensive line, as Goldman has consistently been one of the best defensive defensive tackles in the league over the past few seasons. The Bears have a fierce rusher pass in Khalil mack, and a solid rotation of linebackers that will make it a solid defense. But, without Goldman, the defensive line looks average.
9. New York Jets – No one was breaking down the doors to call the Jets good in 2020, but they quietly have two of PFF’s 14 top-ranked inside defenders on their roster as of Quinnen Williams and Folorunso Fatukasi. Promise factor John Franklin Myers, the addition of a free agent for one of the best unknown pass rushers in the game in Carl Lawson, and the addition of Robert saleh (who trained some really good defensive lines as DC 49ers) to head coach, and you’ve got a real sleep unit for 2021.
8. The giants of New York – The Giants’ defense was one of the big surprises of 2020, and the team held up Leonard Williams this offseason. Him and Dexter Laurent could very well be the best 1-2 punch to DL in the NFL. They will continue to anchor the Giants’ defensive front, but until they can get more of the proven talent around them in the pass rotation, that might not matter.
7. Saints of New Orleans – Cameron Jordan has been one of the best defensive ends in the league for quite some time now, and if Marcus Davenport can stay healthy by his side, the Saints have quite the pair of disruptors on that defensive line. Once David Onyemata coming out of suspension after the first six games of the season, the Saints will also have an intriguing pair inside in him and Shy Tuttle. It has quietly become one of the most complete defensive lines in the league (again… that assumes Davenport can stay healthy).
6. The Los Angeles Rams – That Rams’ defensive line isn’t as deep as it used to be, but look… if you’ve got the best defensive tackle in the game on your team, you’re going to appear on this list. Aaron Donald isn’t just one of the best in the league right now – he’s approaching the elite level of his position in NFL history. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen such a gifted pure athlete down the defensive line. He makes the guys around him better – Leonard Floyd can attest to this.
5. Philadelphia Eagles – As long as Fletcher cox and Brandon graham breathe, that Eagles’ defensive line will be some of the best in the NFL. Cox has long been a mainstay of his position as one of the best run-packed defensive tackles in the game. I don’t know if Graham was ever fully appreciated as a passer. But, those two have helped make the defensive line a steadfast force for the Eagles organization.
4. San Francisco 49ers – This is admittedly more of a projection than it is based on 2020 production – the 49ers were absolutely ravaged by injuries last season. But, if you look at who comes back healthy, there’s no reason to think it won’t come back to one of the most dominant defensive lines in the league. Get Nick bosa and Dee Ford back and healthy next Arik Armstead will be huge, but if the 49ers can make the most of the old first-round draft pick Javon kinlaw, they will be part of the elite.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – For all discussions on Tom brady and the Bucs offense, it’s that defense that has really served as the key to this legendary Tampa Bay playoff run en route to a Super Bowl title a season ago. Ndamukong Suh there is still gasoline in the tank. Vita Vea is finally starting to grow into one of the best defensive tackles in the game, and maybe the best collection of linebackers in the league means this unit isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
2. The Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers seem to just grow rushers on the trees up there in Pittsburgh. TJ Watt became one of the NFL’s first pass rushers, but it’s the beef on the inside that really solidifies the Steelers’ pass rush and allows those rushers to take it out on quarterbacks. Cam Heyward was voted 2nd All-Pro Team a season ago and also won a Pro Bowl nod, as one of the best defensive linemen in the game. Tyson Alualu was the 9th PFF inside defender in 2020, and Stephane Tuitt is not too ugly either. The rushers get the sexy bag numbers, but the big boys in the front run the whole engine.
1. Washington football team – There is so much raw talent along that formidable defensive front in Washington, and yes – that’s exactly the word I would use: formidable. Just look at this front: Jonathan allen (Stud), Daron Payne (Stud), Sweatshirt Ride (Stud), hunt young people (Stud). How do you attack this as an opposing attack? Who are you targeting? You can’t blame anyone! Allen and Payne have become two of the best defensive tackles in the game, but by the time he reaches his peak it’s Young who could really scare the opposing offensive coordinators as the game’s top passer. relentless unity without notable weakness.
OTHER 2021 NFL TOP 10
Stoney Keeley is the editor of the SoBros network and a connoisseur of Dogs Playing Poker on Velvet. He is a strong supporter of the GSD team, #BeBetter and “Minds right, ass tights”. “Big Natural” covers the Titans of Tennessee, Nashville, Yankee Candle and a whole host of nonsense. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley
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