Seattle reigned supreme in 2013 as the best NFL defense. Will anyone unseat them in 2014? Here are the top five projected.
#5 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Lovie Smith has built some of the best defenses in recent memory both as a coordinator in St. Louis and later as head coach in Chicago. Not only did he inherit a strong cast of talent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but a flurry of free agent signings brought in Pro Bowl level help like Alterraun Verner. If Lovie is as good of a coach as he was for the Bears, those young stars like Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David should help Tampa Bay become a dynamic force defensively.
#4 – San Francisco 49ers
Consistency breeds expectations. The San Francisco 49ers have fielded one of the top NFL defenses ever since Jim Harbaugh became head coahc. They have a talented starting lineup with a near infinite well of depth behind them. At the same time, their best player NaVarro Bowman is coming off a bad knee injury and star pass rusher Aldon Smith is facing more off-the-field problems. So that should hold them back some, but the 49ers always seem to compensate.
#3 – Seattle Seahawks
Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman aren’t going anywhere. Michael Bennett is locked up as well. The core of the Seattle Seahawks remains intact and thus so their defense. At the same time, it’s hard to ignore how much they lost in free agency including Walter Thurmond III, Chris Clemons and Red Bryant. Will their celebrated depth help carry the day? For the most part, yes. However, the losses should knock them out of the top spot.
#2 – New Orleans Saints
It was one of the best coaching jobs in NFL history. Consider that the New Orleans Saints were the worst defense in the league arguably ever in 2012. A year later they hired Rob Ryan and jumped up to 4th overall. Fast forward to the off-season and they made a huge additions with three-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd who will join Kenny Vaccaro on the back end. Lastly throw 6’3″ monstrosity Stanley Jean-Baptiste in at corner and suddenly the weaknesses of the Saints defense have disappeared. If things progress as they should this group could be even better this season.
#1 – St. Louis Rams
The early part of the 2013 season was rough for the St. Louis Rams defense, but they soon found their foothold and finished strong. Jeff Fisher and Les Snead have assembled a young, dynamic cast of player with the defensive line being the heart of it. Robert Quinn and Chris Long remain at end, but now are joined by violent interior pass rusher Aaron Donald, potentially giving the Rams the best pass rush in the NFL. Provided their secondary progresses as it can, this team is going to dominate games thanks almost entirely to their pass rush. History has shown that is typically all that’s needed.