6 NFL Defensive Stars Set to Dominate Week 2

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistSeptember 13, 2012

6 NFL Defensive Stars Set to Dominate Week 2

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    Six defensive players are set dominate Week 2 of the NFL season. Four are premier pass-rushers that face favourable matchups, while the other is returning from a suspension and could be the decisive factor in his team pulling off a mild upset on the road. 

    Another is a veteran defensive tackle, set to play a key role in one of the week's biggest fixtures. Four of the players on this list have yet to register meaningful statistics, while the other two can build on stellar Week 1 performances.

    Here are the six defensive players who will dominate Week 2's matchups.

Tamba Hali, OLB: Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills

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    Tamba Hali is set to return from suspension to face the Buffalo Bills, according to NFL.com. He can be key to a Chiefs road win as a matchup nightmare for the Bills offensive line.

    Buffalo's front five kept the New York Jets pass rush away from Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 1. However, Hali is a dominant edge rusher who can win with speed and power on either side of the formation.

    Missing key players in the secondary was a major problem for the Chiefs against the Atlanta Falcons on opening day, but it was Hali's absence that hurt Romeo Crennel's unit the most.

Chris Long, DE: Washington Redskins at St. Louis Rams

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    Chris Long is an underrated player who has quietly developed into a prolific pass-rusher and a complete defensive end for the St. Louis Rams. He has the potential to wreck the Washington Redskins offense in Week 2.

    Long will be pitted against stand-in right tackle Tyler Polumbus. That should be a favourable matchup for a player who possesses excellent initial quickness, smart hands technique and deceptive brute strength.

    Polumbus did well against the New Orleans Saints last week, but he wasn't up against a pass-rusher as skilled as Long. The end has registered 21.5 sacks in the past two years. If the Rams want a chance to contain rookie Robert Griffin III, they will need Long to dominate.

DeMarcus Ware, OLB: Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks

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    DeMarcus Ware began the season in spectacular fashion, sacking New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning twice on opening night. Ware's speed and movement destroyed Big Blue's blocking schemes.

    The 30-year-old poses an even bigger threat thanks to coordinator Rob Ryan's willingness to move him around. That doesn't involve simply swapping sides and aligning away from the tight end, either. Ware is now allowed to attack through the middle and rush from different gaps.

    He's enjoyed big games against the Seattle Seahawks in the past and should have little trouble doing so again. Left tackle Russell Okung left the field injured against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1.

    NFL.com reports that Okung should play this week, but he won't practice. That means he is unlikely to be ready for the game's most dynamic pass-rusher.

Cullen Jenkins, DT: Baltimore Ravens at Philadelphia Eagles

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    If he's at his best, veteran defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins will present a mismatch to the interior of the Baltimore Ravens offensive line. Steadily, the Ravens have begun to look very weak in the middle of their front five.

    Once a team strength, the group was dominated by Vince Wilfork in last season's AFC Championship Game and allowed Cincinnati Bengals youngster Geno Atkins to register two sacks in Week 1. Jenkins has the strength and quick takeoff to dominate in similar fashion.

    The 31-year-old is still an exceptional inside rusher. Any time the Eagles align him in the three-technique, expect Jenkins to split the gaps and make plays in the backfield. 

Brian Orakpo, OLB: Washington Redskins at St. Louis Rams

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    In his last two games against the St. Louis Rams, Brian Orakpo has registered 11 tackles, 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble. He could have another big day getting after Rams quarterback Sam Bradford in Week 2.

    Orakpo dominated left tackle Rodger Saffold in Week 4 of last season, and has the power and quick footwork to do the same again. Orakpo can be the key player for an improving Washington Redskins defense.

    The potential is there, but he has yet to post the numbers in Washington's 3-4 front that his talent promises. Stopping running back Steven Jackson will be the Redskins' priority, but they will still need Orakpo to dominate in passing situations and force vital turnovers.

Chandler Jones, DE/OLB: Arizona Cardinals at New England Patriots

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    Rookie Chandler Jones enjoyed a very impressive debut last week. He caused major problems for the Tennessee Titans offensive line and can do the same against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2.

    Jones made one of the game's biggest plays in Tennessee when he sacked Titans passer Jake Locker, forcing a fumble, which was scooped up for a touchdown by fellow rookie Dont'a Hightower. The play showed just how accomplished Jones is as a pass-rusher.

    He displayed a speedy takeoff, intelligent hands technique and impressive coordination. In other words, all the things a pass-rusher needs to regularly get to the quarterback.

    The Cardinals are weak at the edges of their offensive line, which will give Jones plenty of opportunities to rush the backfield and disrupt Arizona's offense.