We continue to count down the top NFC East players at each position, moving now to arguably the strongest spot in the entire division. We're combining 3-4 outside linebackers and 4-3 defensive ends to show you how we view the best pass-rushers in the league's most popular division.
Ware is the best player in the division and the best-pass rusher in the league, but he still only holds a small edge over some of the stars surging below him on this list.
2. Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants
Pierre-Paul had 16.5 sacks in his second season. He and Trent Cole gain a large edge over Brian Orakpo and Jason Babin as overall players because they're more versatile. Both are superb in run defense. No matter how you look at it, JPP is the brightest young defensive star in this division.
3. Trent Cole, Philadelphia Eagles
Cole simply never has a bad game. He was rated as the league's best defensive end by Pro Football Focus, despite only recording 11 sacks. In fact, the 29-year-old has never had more than 12.5 sacks in a season, but he brings consistent heat like few others.
4. Brian Orakpo, Washington Redskins
In terms of PFF pass-rushing productivity, the soon-to-be 26-year-old Orakpo is right there with Ware, Cole and Pierre-Paul. He also gains points for being younger and thus having more room to grow, but he loses a few for being a bad run defender and a subpar closer.
5. Jason Babin, Philadelphia Eagles
Hard to argue with an 18-sack season, but Babin is fifth on the list because he's a one-dimensional player. I also wonder how good he'd be outside of the wide-nine. Still, the 32-year-old is one of the best at hunting down quarterbacks.
Which New York defensive end will have more sacks in 2012?
6. Justin Tuck, New York Giants
So 2011 wasn't Tuck's year, as he was slowed by injuries from the very beginning. But he did step it up again down the stretch with 3.5 sacks in the playoffs. The 29-year-old has an edge over Osi Umenyiora because he's been slightly healthier and is two years younger.
7. Osi Umenyiora, New York Giants
I'm looking for Osi to have a bounce-back season after struggling with injuries/contract issues last year. He still had nine sacks in nine games in 2011, so it'll be interesting to see how they split snaps among the "Big Three" in New York if all of them stay healthy.
8. Anthony Spencer, Dallas Cowboys
He's always been better at bringing heat than registering sacks. Ideally, a pass-rusher does both, but Spencer is definitely underrated when you consider the amount of pressure he gets. The 28-year-old will be playing for a long-term contract this year, and I'm expecting him to finally hit the double-digit sack mark.
9. Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Redskins
That Kerrigan is ninth on this list after bringing more pressure than all but seven 3-4 outside linebackers last year (per PFF) just shows how many top-tier pass-rushers there are in the NFC East. I fully expect the 24-year-old to climb this list in 2012.
10. Darryl Tapp, Philadelphia Eagles
Tapp didn't get a whole lot of snaps last year, but he was actually very good in limited opportunities. He graded out positively in every phase of the game by PFF and recorded a pass-rushing productivity number that was higher than Julius Peppers and 2011 sack king Jared Allen.
Again, this is a deep group. I wish I had room for Phillip Hunt and Brandon Graham, but the NFC East is jam-packed with quality pass-rushers.