Offense wins the glory, but in the NFL, defense wins championships. Which team could field the very best unit in 2014?
#5 – New England Patriots
People easily forget how banged up the New England Patriots were on defense in 2013. Their best linebacker Jerod Mayo was out most of the season. Star nose tackle Vince Wilfork tore his Achilles after four games. That isn’t counting the various losses they suffered throughout the year that weren’t season-ending. Now the Pats will get those guys back healthy, but in addition to it all they will have two Pro Bowl corners to join then in Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. With a great coach like Bill Belichick to guide them, this group may surprise a lot in 2014.
#4 – Carolina Panthers
If this were purely ranking front sevens, there is no question the Carolina Panthers would be on top. They have a defensive line headlined by Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson and perhaps the best linebacker in the NFL in Luke Kuechly. Spearheaded by them, Carolina fielded the 2nd best defense in football last season. Unfortunately questions abound regarding their secondary at both corner and safety. Until that gets resolved, the Panthers will have to settle for #4 on this list.
#3 – Kansas City Chiefs
For a time last year there was no better defense in the league than the Kansas City Chiefs thanks to a dynamic pass rush centered around Justin Houston, Tamba Hali and Dontari Poe. Soon though injuries began to eat away at them, that and a rather suspect secondary that allowed 367 yards per game. Hopes are high that better health and some additions made via the draft will better deal with those two problems this NFL season. Bottom line, if their pass rush continues to perform like it can then they will be in the hunt.
#2 – Seattle Seahawks
They were the best defense last year and considered one of the best of the past decade. Much of the success for the Seattle Seahawks came through their secondary but it went beyond that. With stars Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman locked up long-term, they remain clear contenders for the crown of top defense but the reason they fall back a spot is because of the considerable losses they suffered in free agency. Among them included Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, Clinton McDonald, and Walter Thurmond. That is a lot of depth and veteran leadership lost. Time will tell how it affects them.
#1 – New Orleans Saints
Where the Seahawks mostly lost key names, the New Orleans Saints were busy adding more talent. In NFL free agency they may have nabbed the steal of the year when they got three-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd who was widely considered the best overall player available. On top of that they got future Hall of Fame corner Champ Bailey and then added the lengthy 6’3″ corner Stanley Jean-Baptiste in the draft. Their defense, which ranked 4th last year, is deeper and more talented than before. If things progress as they could, New Orleans may field not only the best offense but the best defense in the NFL this season.