Few positions draw more attention across the NFL landscape than the defensive ends. So who ranks the best of the best?
#10 – Ezekiel Ansah – Detroit Lions
Did playing with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley inflate his stats a tad? Hard to say but to get eight sacks as a rookie despite missing two games shows that Ezekiel Ansah should be a force at defensive end for the near and far future. He must improve consistency and stay healthy, which is typical for all young players.
#9 – Cameron Wake – Miami Dolphins
He wasn’t as dominant as his 2012 campaign but Cameron Wake continues to take changes around him in stride. After proving himself in the CFL and then playing outside linebacker for the Miami Dolphins, he made the shift to defensive end and hasn’t slowed down at age 32.
#8 – Chandler Jones – New England Patriots
It was tough to get on board with the New England Patriots defense for most of 2013 but one of their bright spots was Chandler Jones. He was their best player and most consistent pass rusher with 11.5 sacks. Most of them came without Vince Wilfork in the middle, too. That is a testament to his ability.
#7 – Calais Campbell – Arizona Cardinals
Defensive ends in the 3-4 scheme did not used to make their name rushing the passer but that has begun to change. Calais Campbell is one of the prime examples in the NFL. Not only was he a force against the run, his nine sacks in 2013 helped turn the Arizona Cardinals defense into one of the best in football.
#6 – Jared Allen – Chicago Bears
Year after year “the Mullet” keeps doing his job. Jared Allen may do only one thing really well at defensive end, but when it’s sacking the quarterback, nobody will complain. He has five Pro Bowls to his credit and hasn’t had fewer than 10 sacks in a season since 2007.
#5 – Muhammad Wilkerson – New York Jets
The New York Jets fielded one of the best defensive lines in the NFL in 2013. Leading the way was Pro Bowler Muhammad Wilkerson with 10.5 sacks, 63 tackles, and an interception. He hasn’t missed a game in three seasons and is still only 24-years old. If he’s not the best currently, he can be in the near future.
#4 – Cameron Jordan – New Orleans Saints
Turning a bad defense into a good defense usually takes the efforts of more than one man. While that is true for the New Orleans Saints, another truth is their remarkable turnaround from dead last in 2012 to 4th in 2013 was thanks to the presence of Cameron Jordan. His emergence as premier pass rusher is key for the Saints in their Super Bowl contention.
#3 – Greg Hardy – Carolina Panthers
All one need say to understand the value of Greg Hardy to the Carolina Panthers is 26. That is how many sacks the 25 year-old defensive end has over the past two seasons. It has helped the Panthers defense become one of the best in the NFL. “The Kraken” certainly has plenty of good years left and more Pro Bowls to make.
#2 – Robert Quinn – St. Louis Rams
No player in the league is unblockable, but St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn is as close to it as it gets. From a pure pass rush perspective there might not be anybody better. The sheer speed he comes off the snap with and his ability to beat blockers allowed him to pile up 19 sacks and seven forced fumbles in 2013 alone.
#1 – J.J. Watt – Houston Texans
The problem is Quinn just isn’t J.J. Watt. Nicknamed “the Milk Man” by teammates because he always delivers, the Houston Texans superstar not only has more sacks than Quinn over the past two seasons, he also has way more tackles, proving he’s equally good against the run as he is rushing the passer. Throw in his uncanny ability to bat down passes and you have a complete football player.