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DE 1: J.J. Watt (6 Votes)
DE 2: Cameron Wake (5 Votes)
DT 1: Geno Atkins (6 Votes)
DT 2: Gerald McCoy (2 Votes)
J.J. Watt just had what may have been the most dominant season ever by a defensive player. His combination of pass-rushing, run defense and ability to swat passes at the line of scrimmage made him an absolute nightmare for opposing offenses to game-plan around.
He led the league with 20.5 sacks and coupled that with 16 passes defensed. Watt also added 81 tackles and four forced fumbles.
What makes Watt's season so incredible isn't simply that he accumulated those statistics. It's that he did it while playing the 5-tech (3-4 defense end) in Houston's defense. Most 3-4 defensive ends are asked to occupy double-teams to allow the linebackers to do the pass-rushing. Watt faced double-teams and still put up those numbers...astonishing.
Cameron Wake was the NFL's most productive 4-3 defensive end, according to Pro Football Focus, and it really wasn't even close. His 53.7 overall rating was 22.1 points ahead of second-place Brandon Graham. Wake enjoyed his best statistical season, notching 15 sacks and forcing three fumbles en route to his second Pro Bowl appearance.
Geno Atkins was overlooked by many on draft day due to being short, but nobody is looking past him now. The 6'1", 300-pound defensive tackle has been an absolute animal since being drafted in the fourth round back in 2010.
Atkins had 12.5 sacks despite doing his pass-rushing from the interior (a very tough task). Pro Football Focus rated him as the best defensive tackle in the NFL by a large margin. His 79.9 rating was more than double the player behind him in second place.
That second-place player is none other than Gerald McCoy, who earned the other spot here on the All-Pro team. At one point, it appeared that McCoy was going to end up being a bust, but the third-year player out of Oklahoma has become one of the best young defensive stars in the NFL.
His statistics may not jump out at you (30 tackles, five sacks), but make no mistake, McCoy is a force inside. He was extremely disruptive as an inside pass-rusher in 2012.
DE: Justin Smith (1)
DT: Vince Wilfork (1), Ndamukong Suh (1), Haloti Ngata (1), Brandon Mebane (1)