Predicting Each Team's Stat Leaders on Defense

Dan Van WieContributor IIIApril 5, 2013

Predicting Each Team's Stat Leaders on Defense

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    Some NFL defenses have made big changes or improvements since they last played together as a unit. Some defenses have actually regressed. So, trying to predict who will emerge as the statistical leaders for all 32 teams in the various defensive categories can be a difficult challenge.

    Despite all the rule changes in the NFL to make the game as safe as possible, football fans love to watch an aggressive defense that has the ability to attack an offense and get off the field as soon as possible.

    Due to defenses creating turnovers, sacking the quarterback, spilling the running back for a loss, hitting a receiver that results in breaking up a pass, crowds will be screaming "Defense, Defense" around NFL stadiums again in 2013.

    Today, we want to look at the current composition of the defenses of all 32 teams and do our level-best to predict who will wind up leading each defense in the following categories for 2013: tackles, tackles for loss, interceptions, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, battered passes, sacks, quarterback hurries and quarterback hits.

    If you're like me, your mind is already starting to race ahead by attempting to predict who will lead your favorite team in each of the above categories.

    For the record, the only players considered to lead a category are the guys currently under contract to an NFL team. So, unless they are signed to a new contract before this goes to publication, you won't be seeing the names of Brian Urlacher, James Harrison, Dwight Freeney, Charles Woodson or John Abraham as winning a category for any team next year in this presentation.

     

    All statistical references to 2012 category winners are courtesy of either ESPN.com or Pro Football Focus (subscription required). OurLads.com was the source for current depth charts on every team.

Arizona Cardinals

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    Arizona Cardinals defense overview: The lack of a strong pass rush from linebackers Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield was a concern in 2012. The secondary will be markedly different in 2013, as safety Adrian Wilson is in New England, safety Kerry Rhodes was cut, cornerback William Gay went to Pittsburgh and cornerback Greg Toler is in Indianapolis.

    Defensive coordinator Ray Horton is out (now in Cleveland), and the Cardinals hired Todd Bowles to take his place. You may recall that Bowles took over for Juan Castillo in Philadelphia last year.

    The overall defense had improved from No. 18 in 2011 to No. 12 last year under Horton. It will be up to Bowles to find a way to mesh all his new players into a unit that can continue to stay in the top half.

    Arizona has signed two free-agent safeties for 2013 in Jonathon Amaya (Miami) and Yeremiah Bell (New York Jets). New additions at corner include Jerraud Powers (Indianapolis) and Antoine Cason (San Diego). Other additions include defensive lineman Frostee Rucker (Cleveland) and linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (Washington).

    No sooner did I wrap up the Arizona predictions then word came down regarding the four-game suspension to linebacker Daryl Washington, as per this Twitter update from Jason LaCanfora. That messed up at least two predictions. Timing is everything.

     

    2012 defense highlights: Cornerback Patrick Peterson was No. 4 last year in the NFL with seven interceptions. Linebacker Daryl Washington led the team with 134 tackles and nine sacks. He was tied for team lead in tackles for loss with Calais Campbell (eight each).

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Daryl Washington (102)                                                                                                

    Tackles For Loss: Calais Campbell (9)                                                                                 

    Interceptions: Patrick Peterson (6)

    Forced Fumbles: Sam Acho (3)

    Fumble Recoveries:  Darnell Dockett (2)

    Sacks: Calais Campbell (9)

    Pass Deflections: Patrick Peterson (21)

    QB Hurries: Darnell Dockett (28)

    QB Hits: Calias Campbell (13)

Atlanta Falcons

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    Atlanta Falcons defense overview: The three major departures on defense from 2012 are defensive end John Abraham (released), Brent Grimes (signed with Miami) and Dunta Robinson (signed with Kansas City). The only major addition to date has been defensive end Osi Umenyiora.

    Mike Nolan continues to lead this defense, which didn't finish in the top 10 in any major categories, except for one key area, which is points allowed. Atlanta finished No. 5 in that category, giving up just 18.7 points per game. That is the bend-but-don't-break style of defense, and it led Atlanta to a 13-3 record, which was the best in the NFC.

    However, critics will point out that it was the Falcons defense that failed to protect leads in the playoff games against San Francisco and Seattle. The Seahawks rallied for 21 points in the fourth quarter against Atlanta, while the defense failed to protect a lead in the fourth quarter against the 49ers.

    Improving the pass rush and play from the linebackers will be goals in 2013 for this unit.

    I'm happy to pass on this Twitter report from Jay Glazer: Atlanta signed linebacker Brian Banks to a contract this week. You might have caught the story of Banks on 60 Minutes, which detailed how he lost 10 years from football due to being sent to prison even though he was innocent of the rape charge against him. Have to root for the guy.

     

    2012 defense highlights: Safety Thomas DeCoud was tied for No. 5 in the NFL last year with six interceptions. Defensive end Abraham led the team with 10 sacks. Abraham was tied for No. 3 in the NFL with six forced fumbles. He will be missed. Linebacker Stephen Nicholas led the team with 97 tackles. Atlanta was one of the few teams in the league that didn't have anybody with at least 100 tackles last year.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Sean Weatherspoon (108)

    Tackles for Loss: Sean Weatherspoon (11)

    Interceptions: Thomas DeCoud and Asante Samuel (tied with five each).

    Forced Fumbles: Akeem Dent (2)

    Fumble Recoveries:William Moore (3)

    Sacks: Osi Umenyiora (8).

    Pass Deflections: Asante Samuel (21).

    QB Hurries: Osi Umenyiora (27)

    QB Hits: Kroy Biermann (10)


Baltimore Ravens

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    Baltimore Ravens defense overview: Perhaps no single unit in the NFL in 2013 will have more different faces than the group of players Baltimore introduces to start in Week 1. From the defense that won Super Bowl XLVII, all of these players have departed the Ravens in 2013: Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Dannell Ellerbe, Bernard Pollard, Cary Williams and Paul Kruger.

    Ozzie Newsome has done whatever he could to restructure the defense, noting that he only had so much room to work with once Joe Flacco signed his big deal. New faces for 2013 are defensive back Michael Huff, defensive tackle Chris Canty, defensive lineman Marcus Spears and defensive end Elvis Dumervil. Newsome did an admirable job to bring in the talent that he did, so all is not lost in Baltimore.

    The Ravens needed to improve the overall defense, as the version they trotted out in the regular season wasn't very impressive. The unit had plunged from No. 3 in 2011 to No. 17 overall in 2012. They rallied in the playoffs, but this group was hit hard by injuries, which impacted their performance.

    Their two leading tacklers, Ellerbe and Pollard, are gone. The Ravens will have to rely on Terrell Suggs, Lardarius Webb, Haloti Ngata and Dumervil to lead them in defending their title in 2013.

     

    2012 defense highlights: As for the returning veterans, linebacker Jameel McClain was their leading tackler last year with 79. His season ended after an injury in Week 14. The leaders in interceptions and pass deflections, Reed and Williams, are also gone, which will make it interesting for the predictions. 

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Jameel McClain (94)

    Tackles for Loss: Terrell Suggs (8)

    Interceptions: Lardarius Webb (4)

    Forced Fumbles: Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil  (5 each)

    Fumble Recoveries: Haloti Ngata (3)

    Sacks: Elvis Dumervil (12)

    Pass Deflections: Lardarius Webb (21)

    QB Hurries:Terrell Suggs (24)

    QB Hits: Elvis Dumervil (11)

Buffalo Bills

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    Buffalo Bills defense overview: The Bills had hoped that the additions of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson would improve the overall defense. Injuries to both players derailed that plan in 2012.

    Defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt was fired, and the Bills hired New York Jets coordinator Mike Pettine to take his place. Rex Ryan hoped Pettine wouldn't go to Buffalo, but that request fell on deaf ears. Maybe listening to Ryan gets old for the coordinators too. 

    Buffalo released a number of veterans, and a few left due to retirement. Gone are George Wilson, Nick Barnett, Chris Kelsay, Terrence McGee and Shawne Merriman. In addition, the Bills haven't re-signed Spencer Johnson, Kyle Moore or Kirk Morrison as of yet.

    The only new faces for 2013 are linebacker Manny Lawson and defensive lineman Alan Branch so far. Buffalo needs to upgrade its linebackers and improve the depth in the secondary, so look for other free agents to come in based on the results of the draft.

     

    2012 defense highlights: Safety Jairus Byrd and defensive tackle Kyle Williams made the Pro Bowl. Byrd led the team with five interceptions, while Williams returned to form in 2012 after being hurt in 2011. Nick Barnett and George Wilson led the team in tackles, but both are now gone. Mario Williams made 10.5 sacks, which ranked him No. 17 in the league. Byrd's five interceptions tied him for No. 7 in the NFL.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Jairus Byrd (108)

    Tackles for Loss: Kyle Williams (8)

    Interceptions: Jairus Byrd (6)

    Forced Fumbles: Jairus Byrd (5)

    Fumble Recoveries: Leodis McKelvin (2)

    Sacks: Mario Williams (14)

    Pass Deflections: Stephon Gilmore (21)

    QB Hurries: Mario Williams (41)

    QB Hits: Mario Williams (10)

Carolina Panthers

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    Carolina Panthers defense overview: The Panthers could use an upgrade at defensive tackle. They need to address that position at the draft. Carolina was No. 10 in overall defense last year, giving up 333.1 yards per game.

    The Panthers focused primarily on their secondary so far in free agency. They have added cornerback D.J. Moore, safety Mike Mitchell, cornerback Drayton Florence and linebacker Chase Blackburn. Carolina re-signed cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, defensive lineman Dwan Edwards and linebacker Jordan Senn.

    Another positive development was that Carolina finished in the top 10 in 2012 in preventing third-down conversions. Stopping drives and forcing opponents to punt the ball back to Cam Newton and Co. is a key for the Panthers becoming a winning team.

     

    2012 defense highlights: Defensive end Charles Johnson was No. 2 in the NFL with seven forced fumbles in 2012. Luke Kuechly led the entire NFL with 164 tackles as a rookie. It is difficult to imagine him topping that number, as offenses will create blocking schemes to target him in 2013.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Luke Kuechly (151)

    Tackles for Loss: Luke Kuechly (13)

    Interceptions: Captain Munnerlyn (4)

    Forced Fumbles: Charles Johnson (5)

    Fumble Recoveries: Luke Kuechly (5)

    Sacks: Charles Johnson (14)

    Pass Deflections: Captain Munnerlyn (12)

    QB Hurries: Charles Johnson (47)

    QB Hits: Greg Hardy (13)

Chicago Bears

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    Chicago Bears defense overview: This is now the beginning of the fourth week of NFL free agency and Brian Urlacher still is without a team for 2013. Either he will swallow his pride and take the Bears' offer, or his price will have to start coming down. It would be very strange not to see him patrolling the middle of the Bears defense in 2013.

    Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and head coach Lovie Smith are gone, and Marc Trestman is now the head coach, with Mel Tucker taking over the defense.

    The Bears will need to upgrade at linebacker for this year. So far in free agency, the Bears have added linebacker D.J. Williams, safety Tom Zbikowski, defensive lineman Turk McBride and linebacker James Anderson. Departures from 2012 include Nick Roach, D.J. Moore, Geno Hayes and Urlacher (for now).

     

    2012 defense highlights: Cornerback Charles Tillman led the NFL with 10 forced fumbles. Cornerback Tim Jennings led the NFL with nine interceptions. Jennings also ranked very high in passes he defended, as his 21 breakups were tied for No. 3 in the league.

    The Bears defense went nuts in 2012, scoring nine touchdowns. They were a huge force early in the season creating turnovers and coming up with eight pick-sixes. Every one of those are huge plays that can abruptly change momentum in games.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners:

    Tackles: Lance Briggs (107)

    Tackles for Loss: Lance Briggs (9)

    Interceptions: Tim Jennings (7)

    Forced Fumbles:Charles Tillman (8)

    Fumble Recoveries:Julius Peppers (3)

    Sacks: Julius Peppers (12.5)

    Pass Deflections:Tim Jennings (16)

    QB Hurries: Julius Peppers (44)

    QB Hits: Julius Peppers (8)

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Cincinnati Bengals defense overview: The Bengals defense has finished in the overall top 10 category for both 2011 and 2012. They have had a top-10 pass defense for the last two years as well. It goes to figure that they are also in the top 10 for points allowed in each of the last two years. That is a tribute to the coaching skills of Marvin Lewis and Mike Zimmer.

    As for changes in 2013, or new faces to talk about, do you need to be reminded that since Mike Brown calls the shots, the Bengals won't go after high-priced free agents? Three defenders have left the team in free agency, however. They are Pat Sims, Dan Skuta and Manny Lawson.

    Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick didn't make as big an impact as a rookie due to injuries, so look for him to get tested in 2013 to see if he has mastered the art of learning how to backpedal.

     

    2012 defense highlights: Defensive tackle Geno Atkins has now been named to the All-Pro and Pro Bowl teams for each of the last two years. He continues to dominate offensive linemen. Undrafted rookie free agent Vontaze Burfict led the Bengals with 127 tackles in 2012. He finished up his rookie year at No.15 in the NFL in that category.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Vontaze Burfict (132)

    Tackles for Loss: Geno Atkins (8)

    Interceptions: Reggie Nelson (4)

    Forced Fumbles: Geno Atkins (5)

    Fumble Recoveries: Carlos Dunlap (4)

    Sacks: Michael Johnson and Geno Atkins (tied at 13)

    Pass Deflections: Dre Kirkpatrick (15)

    QB Hurries: Geno Atkins (44)

    QB Hits: Geno Atkins (14)

Cleveland Browns

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    Cleveland Browns defense overview: The Browns overall defense finished the 2011 season at No. 10 in the NFL. They weren't able to hold that top-10 finish in 2012, as they fell down to No. 23 last year. Cleveland cleaned house in the offseason, as head coach Pat Shurmur and defensive coordinator Dick Jauron were relieved of their duties.

    Rob Chudzinski takes over as head coach, and Ray Horton is now the defensive coordinator. As you can expect with a new regime, they want to make their mark by bringing in some new blood.

    The biggest names the Browns added are defensive lineman Desmond Bryant and linebacker Paul Kruger. In addition, Cleveland added cornerback Chris Owens and linebacker Quentin Groves. Groves worked with Horton last year.

    The Browns will have their pick of some interesting defensive talent with the No. 6 overall pick in the draft (unless they trade down), but you figure it will be somebody that will make an impact on the unit.

     

    2012 defense highlights: Nobody placed in the top 20 of any major defensive category. D'Qwell Jackson led the team with 118 tackles. Jabaal Sheard led Cleveland with seven sacks. Three players were tied for the team lead with three interceptions on the year: Sheldon Brown, Usama Young and Joe Haden. The Browns did finish third for the year in team interceptions in the AFC.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: D'Qwell Jackson (139)

    Tackles for Loss: Phil Taylor (6)

    Interceptions: Buster Skrine (3)

    Forced Fumbles: Jabaal Sheard (4)

    Fumble Recoveries: D'Qwell Jackson (3)

    Sacks: Paul Kruger (11)

    Pass Deflections: Joe Haden (11)

    QB Hurries: Jabaal Sheard (34)

    QB Hits: Paul Kruger (14)

Dallas Cowboys

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    Dallas Cowboys defense overview: Rob Ryan is out and Monte Kiffin is in as the new defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys in 2013. Kiffin will go with a 4-3 scheme that should allow the Cowboys to handle Robert Griffin III better.

    Dallas had a mess to deal with regarding the salary cap, so it really didn't have the wherewithal to be major players in free agency.

    To date, the Cowboys have only added two free agents to the defense in linebacker Justin Durant and safety Will Allen. They have lost more players than they've added. Victor Butler, Kenyon Coleman, Marcus Spears and Dan Connor all departed in free agency. 

    The 2013 defense will require better play from its safeties, along with the adjustments necessary for the personnel who are shifting roles and responsibilities when changing from the 3-4 to the 4-3.

    There could very well be some struggles early in the year, but you expect to see improvements as the year continues.

     

    2012 defense highlights: Dallas finished the year with the No. 19 ranked overall defense. Dallas didn't finish in the top 10 in any major defensive category, so we will see if Kiffin is able to turn the defense around in 2013. DeMarcus Ware led Dallas with 11.5 sacks, and Anthony Spencer was right behind him with 11. Spencer led the team with 95 tackles, and Brandon Carr led the team with three interceptions.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Sean Lee (110)

    Tackles for Loss: Bruce Carter (11)

    Interceptions: Brandon Carr (4)

    Forced Fumbles: Anthony Spencer (5)

    Fumble Recoveries: Morris Claiborne (3)

    Sacks: DeMarcus Ware (13)

    Pass Deflections: Morris Claiborne (12)

    QB Hurries: DeMarcus Ware (38)

    QB Hits: DeMarcus Ware (10)

Denver Broncos

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    Denver Broncos defense overview: As for changes for 2013, the Broncos, of course, have parted ways with Elvis Dumervil. The fax machine mistake is now old news. But despite Dumervil landing in Baltimore, the Broncos have taken their time replacing him.

    John Elway is waiting for some of the price tags on players like Dwight Freeney to start coming down. It's great that Manning tried to recruit Freeney, but unless he is willing to restructure his own deal, there is only so much cap space that Elway can play around with. If the prices don't come down, he can turn to the draft instead.

    The Broncos did sign defensive lineman Terrance Knighton, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and linebacker Stewart Bradley during free agency. Besides Dumervil, Denver also lost D.J. Williams and Tracy Porter in the offseason. 

     

    2012 defense highlights: The Broncos never cracked the top-10 overall defensive rankings in either 2010 or 2011, but that all changed when Jack Del Rio arrived in 2012. Del Rio led the Broncos to the No. 2 ranking in 2012, and they were No. 3 in both run defense and pass defense. Now if the Broncos could only put him in charge of fax machines they would be all set.

    Von Miller was No. 3 in the NFL with 18.5 sacks. Wesley Woodyard led the team with 117 tackles. Chris Harris and Woodyard tied for the team lead with three interceptions apiece.

    Thanks to Miller and Dumervil, the Broncos wound up with 52 sacks in 2012, which tied them with St. Louis for the most in the NFL.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Wesley Woodyard (112)

    Tackles for Loss: Von Miller (15)

    Interceptions: Champ Bailey (3)

    Forced Fumbles: Von Miller (5)

    Fumble Recoveries: Mike Adams (2)

    Sacks: Von Miller (16)

    Pass Deflections: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (15)

    QB Hurries: Von Miller (32)

    QB Hits: Von Miller (20)

Detroit Lions

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    Detroit Lions defense overview: The Lions have been playing better defense than people realize. They were No. 3 in the NFL last year in allowing red-zone scoring opportunities. In addition, the Lions were in the top 10 at preventing conversions on third downs. Those accomplishments are the kind of things that can boost a defense.

    As for the needs coming into the new year, the Lions no longer have Cliff Avril or Kyle Vanden Bosch, so they have some big shoes to fill at defensive end. They did add defensive lineman Jason Jones and safety Glover Quin in free agency so far, but that has been it for major additions to the defense.

    Besides Avril, the Lions also lost lost Sammie Lee Hill, Jason Durant and Drayton Florence in free agency.

     

    2012 defense highlights: Detroit wound up as the No. 13 overall defense in 2012. You won't find any individual Lions defenders ranked in the top-20 of any major categories last year. Even Avril didn't crack the top-20 for sacks. This is a team that could use some more stars on the defensive side of the ball. Hopefully the 2013 draft will provide them with a few.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Stephen Tulloch (114)

    Tackles for Loss: DeAndre Levy (10)

    Interceptions: Chris Houston (4)

    Forced Fumbles: Nick Fairley (3)

    Fumble Recoveries: Stephen Tullock (3)

    Sacks: Ndamukong Suh (7)

    Pass Deflections: Glover Quin (15)

    QB Hurries: Ndamukong Suh (31)

    QB Hits: Ndamukong Suh (18)

Green Bay Packers

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    Green Bay Packers defense overview: The Packers defense was No. 11 overall in the NFL last year, limiting opponents to 336.8 yards per game. Then they ran into the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs and watched helplessly as the 49ers ran roughshod all over them for 579 yards of total offense. They just had no answer for Colin Kaepernick on that day.

    Fast forward to three weeks before the NFL draft, and the Packers really haven't added anyone to the defense to make it better for 2013. General manager Ted Thompson has been saving money to re-sign Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews to long-term deals. I wrote an article this week about Thompson's strategy in free agency. If you want to check it out, you can find the link here.

    The Packers did lose linebacker Erik Walden in free agency, but the way he performed in 2012, that may be a blessing in disguise that he departed.

     

    2012 defense highlights: Rookie Casey Hayward emerged with six interceptions to lead the Packers. He also wound up with 21 pass deflections, which was tied for No. 3 in the league. No safety in the NFL had more tackles last year than Morgan Burnett, who had 123. He wound up tied for No. 17 in that category.

    With 47 sacks as a team in 2012, that was the only category that the Packers defense finished in the top 10 last year. They were ranked No. 4 in that area. Of course, they also gave up 51 sacks, but that will be saved for a different presentation later on.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Desmond Bishop (118)

    Tackles for Loss: A.J. Hawk (7)

    Interceptions: Casey Hayward (5)

    Forced Fumbles: Clay Matthews (3)

    Fumble Recoveries: Morgan Burnett (3)

    Sacks: Clay Matthews (14.5)

    Pass Deflections: Casey Hayward (22)

    QB Hurries: Clay Matthews (35)

    QB Hits: Clay Matthews (18)

Houston Texans

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    Houston Texans defense overview: The Texans have made repeat appearances in the top 10 of NFL overall defenses in the last two seasons. They were in the top 10 in rush defense and points allowed in each of the last two years as well.

    It helps when you have the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in J.J. Watt, who is revolutionizing the way that defensive linemen are playing the game. Watt proved that if you don't have the time to hit or sack the quarterback, pulling up short and leaping to get a paw up to deflect a pass can be even more effective at times than getting a sack.

    As teams watched Watt's level of success, you began to see other lineman mimic what Watt was doing around the league. That is one thing you can be sure of, the NFL is a copy-cat league.

    In 2013, the Texans lost Glover Quin, Alan Ball and Connor Barwin to free agency. The big addition in the offseason for Houston was bringing in safety Ed Reed from the Baltimore Ravens. Reed brings veteran leadership to the secondary and gives the Texans a little more attitude and playoff experience. He will prove to be a key addition to the Texans defense in 2013.

     

    2012 defense highlights: 2012 was all about J.J. Watt. Watt led the NFL with 20.5 sacks and led all defensive lineman with 16 deflected passes. In the top 20 last year in that category, Watt was the only lineman, the rest were defensive backs. Another illustration of what a talent Watt is: he finished second on his team in tackles (with 81), trailing leader Quin by just three (had 84). Finally, he came up with a staggering 23 tackles for a loss.

    Thanks to a story this week by John Brannen of the Houston Chronicle, we just learned that Watt played the entire 2012 season with torn ligaments in his elbow. Just imagine what kind of numbers he would have put up if he was healthy all year.

    Watt was clearly dominating in 2012, and he did that while Brian Cushing was injured for most of the year. With Cushing back in 2013, watch out. There is no telling how high Watt can continue to raise his game, but for now he will be a fun player to watch to see what he attempts to do next.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Brian Cushing (110)

    Tackles for Loss: J.J. Watt  (25)

    Interceptions: Ed Reed (5)

    Forced Fumbles: J.J. Watt  (4)

    Fumble Recoveries: Brooks Reed (3)

    Sacks: J.J. Watt (22)

    Pass Deflections: Kareem Jackson (17)

    QB Hurries: Antonio Smith (33)

    QB Hits: J.J. Watt (26)

Indianapolis Colts

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    Indianapolis Colts defense overview: The Colts defense dropped from No. 25 overall in 2011 to No. 26 in 2012. We have seen other teams finish in the bottom 10 of the league on defense and make the playoffs just like the Colts did last year.

    But Indianapolis wants to improve the talent on defense, and set out to make a splash in free agency this year. So far, the Colts have signed cornerback Greg Toler, defensive lineman Aubrayo Franklin, defensive tack Ricky Jean-Francois, defensive end/outside linebacker Lawrence Sidbury, safety LaRon Landry and outside linebacker Erik Walden.

    The Colts will be saying goodbye to longtime star Dwight Freeney in 2013. Freeney will not be back with the team, and it is only a matter of time before he signs a contract with another club.

    No doubt the Colts made a large number of moves in free agency, but how much of that will become quality is open to debate. At least the Colts are trying to make something happen, which is more than you can say to the fans of other NFL teams who wait patiently for new developments.

     

    2012 defense highlights: Linebacker Jerrell Freeman led the Colts with 145 tackles last year. which was good for No. 5 in the NFL.  Robert Mathis led the Colts with eight sacks, while Freeman led the team with six tackles for loss. Darius Butler led the Colts with four interceptions.

    The defense could use a bit of a nasty streak in 2013. In 2012, nobody forced more than one fumble, nor did anybody recover more than one football. That is a reflection on the passion for the football and on the techniques employed in trying to strip the ball away.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Jerrell Freeman (137)

    Tackles for Loss: Jerrell Freeman (8)

    Interceptions: LaRon Landry and Greg Toler (tied with three each)

    Forced Fumbles: Antoine Bethea (3)

    Fumble Recoveries: Robert Mathis (3)

    Sacks: Robert Mathis (10)

    Pass Deflections: Vontae Davis (9)

    QB Hurries: Robert Mathis (22)

    QB Hits: Erik Walden (10)

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Jacksonville Jaguars defense overview: The Jaguars had the No. 30 defense in the NFL in 2012, giving up 380.5 yards per game. That was quite a huge tumble they took, as the team had been ranked No. 6 just one year earlier. It appears that when Jack Del Rio left town, nobody knew how to play defense any longer. 

    Jacksonville was No. 30 against the run and was tied for No. 29 in points allowed. This is a unit that needs an infusion of new talent. What did they do in free agency in 2013 toward that end? They brought in linebacker Geno Hayes, cornerback Alan Ball, defensive tackle Roy Miller and defensive Sen'Derrick Marks.

    They still have other holes to fill, so once they see what their haul is in the 2013 draft, they can go back into free agency and see who they can plug into their remaining holes.

     

    2012 defense highlights: Not that many highlights to report, as you can imagine. Two Jaguars had more than 130 tackles apiece, Paul Posluszny (139) and Russell Allen (131). Allen led the team with nine tackles for loss, while Derek Cox led the Jaguars with four interceptions.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Paul Posluszny (127)

    Tackles for Loss: Russell Allen (10)

    Interceptions: Paul Posluszny (4)

    Forced Fumbles: Jason Babin (3)

    Fumble Recoveries:  Russell Allen (2)

    Sacks: Jeremy Mincey (5)

    Pass Deflections: Paul Posluszny (8)

    QB Hurries: Jeremy Mincey (25)

    QB Hits: Jason Babin (11)

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Kansas City Chiefs defense overview: The Chiefs had the No. 20 overall defense in 2012. The pass defense was No. 12 and the rush defense was No. 27, so finding some defenders that can stop the run will be a priority in the offseason and draft.

    Bob Sutton is the defensive coordinator for new head coach Andy Reid.

    During free agency, Kansas City has tried to improve the defense with the following additions: defensive lineman Mike DeVito, cornerback Dunta Robinson and cornerback Sean Smith. DeVito will help out the defense against the run, while Robinson and Smith will help boost the secondary. The biggest loss to free agency to date was defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey.

     

    2012 defense highlights: Derrick Johnson led the Chiefs with 125 tackles. Justin Houston led the team with 10 sacks, followed by Tamba Hali with nine.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners:

    Tackles: Derrick Johnson (130)

    Tackles for Loss: Eric Berry (12)

    Interceptions: Brandon Flowers (4)

    Forced Fumbles: Tamba Hali (5)

    Fumble Recoveries: Derrick Johnson (2)

    Sacks: Tamba Hali (11)

    Pass Deflections: Brandon Flowers (15)

    QB Hurries: Justin Houston (30)

    QB Hits: Tamba Hali (9)

Miami Dolphins

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    Miami Dolphins defense overview: The Dolphins defense in 2012 wasn't in the top 10 in overall defense, or in defending against the run or the pass. They were very good in giving up touchdowns in the red zone, and in points allowed. The Dolphins were in the top 10 for points allowed (19.8 average per game) and were No. 1 in the NFL in preventing touchdown conversions in the red zone.

    They also placed in the top 10 in sacks with 42 on the year. So there are some positives to build on.

    When Jeff Ireland went on his spending spree in free agency, he didn't turn his back on the defense. Miami signed linebacker Philip Wheeler, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, cornerback Brent Grimes and defensive lineman Vaughn Martin. It will be interesting to see how well Grimes plays in 2013, due to the torn Achilles tendon he suffered in Week 1 last year.

    The Dolphins did suffer some losses as well in free agency on the defensive side of the ball. Gone are cornerback Sean Smith, linebacker Kevin Burnett, safety Jonathon Amaya and defensive tackle Tony McDaniel. They also released linebacker Karlos Dansby, who led the team with 134 tackles last year. 

     

    2012 defense highlights: Dansby finished No. 11 in tackles in the NFL last year. Cameron Wake was No. 4 in the NFL with 15 sacks.  It is interesting to note that the Dolphins replaced their two leading tacklers in Dansby and Burnett. If Ellerbe isn't able to step up, that would be hard for Ireland to explain away to the fans.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Philip Wheeler (113)

    Tackles for Loss: Paul Soliai (9)

    Interceptions: Reshad Jones (5)

    Forced Fumbles: Koa Misi (4)

    Fumble Recoveries: Philip Wheeler (2)

    Sacks: Cameron Wake (13)

    Pass Deflections: Brent Grimes (15)

    QB Hurries: Cameron Wake (42)

    QB Hits: Cameron Wake (21)

Minnesota Vikings

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    Minnesota Vikings defense overview: The Vikings were an average defense in 2012, finishing the year at No. 16 overall, which is the definition of middle of the pack. They did place in the top 10 in sacks with 44, but that was the only category they excelled in.

    In free agency, the Vikings made moves to bolster the offense, but haven't added a single free agent to the defense yet. They did lose one of their own free agents, linebacker Jasper Brinkley to Arizona.

    One of the more curious moves was releasing defensive back Antoine Winfield, who Pro Football Focus graded out as the No. 1 corner in the NFL in 2012 (subscription required). He will either return to the Vikings or sign with Washington.

     

    2012 defense highlights: Pro Bowl linebacker Chad Greenway had 148 tackles last year, which ranked him No. 3 in the league. Jared Allen had 12 sacks on the year, which was good for No. 8 in the NFL.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Chad Greenway (150)

    Tackles for Loss: Erin Henderson (6)

    Interceptions: Harrison Smith (6)

    Forced Fumbles: Brian Robison (3)

    Fumble Recoveries: Kevin Williams (2)

    Sacks: Jared Allen (17)

    Pass Deflections: Harrison Smith (14)

    QB Hurries: Brian Robison (40)

    QB Hits: Jared Allen (14)

New England Patriots

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    New England Patriots defense overview: The Patriots defense does some things very well. They were No. 9 in rush defense last year in the NFL, which is also where they ranked for points allowed per game (20.7).

    But the pass defense was No. 29 last year, so what has New England done to shore up this area? So far in free agency, they have added just one free agent from another team, safety Adrian Wilson from Arizona. Wilson has been named All-Pro four times in his career and has been named to five Pro Bowl teams. If you are only going to add just one player, you might as well make it a very good one.

    The only other news to pass on is that New England lost safety Patrick Chung in free agency to the Philadelphia Eagles.

    The Patriots added far more talent to their offense than to their defense. Whether or not that comes back to haunt them later, we won't know for sure until early to mid-February.

     

    2012 defense highlights: Jerod Mayo had 147 tackles, which led New England and was No. 4 in the NFL in that category. The Patriots had 20 interceptions in 2012, which marked the third straight year they have led the AFC in that category. For as much abuse as the Patriots secondary receives, that accomplishment is seldom mentioned.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Jerod Mayo (131)

    Tackles for Loss: Dont'a Hightower (7)

    Interceptions: Tavon Wilson (6)

    Forced Fumbles: Rob Ninkovich (5)

    Fumble Recoveries: Vince Wilfork (4)

    Sacks: Chandler Jones (9)

    Pass Deflections: Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington (tied with 13)

    QB Hurries: Chandler Jones (32)

    QB Hits: Chandler Jones (12)

New Orleans Saints

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    New Orleans Saints defense overview: Sean Payton is back, and Rob Ryan is now the new defensive coordinator. Ryan will be running a 3-4 defensive scheme in 2013 and will do his best to remove whatever nightmares the defense still has from playing for Steve Spagnuolo in 2012.

    New Orleans has done what it could in free agency to bring in some new talent to improve the defense. So far the Saints have added linebacker Victor Butler, defensive end Kenyon Coleman and cornerback Keenan Lewis. The Saints had their share of players that moved on in free agency as well. Defensive lineman Turk McBride went to Chicago, and linebacker Jonathan Casillas went to Tampa Bay.

    Ryan brought Butler and Coleman over with him from Dallas, but he wasn't able to convince his old corner Nnamdi Asomugha to join him in New Orleans.

    According to the latest depth chart at OurLads.com, the only new starter from free agency will be Lewis at corner. Coleman and Butler are being deemed as specialists or added for depth purposes.

     

    2012 defense highlights: None. Nothing much to say about a defense that this headline from The Advocate.com sums up: "New Orleans defense allows most yards in NFL history".

    Well, I take that back. Gregg Williams is gone. Spagnuolo is gone. Those are some good highlights. And no more players will be suspended for any games due to Bountygate. That is another good highlight. Let's move on.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Curtis Lofton (130)

    Tackles for Loss: Curtis Lofton (7)

    Interceptions: Patrick Robinson (4)

    Forced Fumbles: Will Smith (3)

    Fumble Recoveries: Jonathan Vilma (3)

    Sacks: Cameron Jordan (11)

    Pass Deflections: Keenan Lewis (24)

    QB Hurries: Cameron Jordan (35)

    QB Hits: Will Smith (10)

New York Giants

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    New York Giants defense overview: When the Giants won Super Bowl XLVI, their overall defense was ranked at No. 27 in the league. Last year, they dropped down even more (No 31, or next-to-last if you prefer), and they failed to even make the playoffs.

    The Giants did manage a top-10 finish in preventing touchdowns when opponents were in the red zone, but that is it for any top-10 category placement. The Giants were No. 28 in pass defense and No. 25 in run defense, and yet they somehow managed to be No. 12 in points allowed by giving up 21.5 points per game. The very definition of "bend but don't break."

    Jason Pierre-Paul saw his sacks total drop from 16.5 to just 6.5 last year. The Giants need him to rebound in 2013.

    In the offseason, the Giants added defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, defensive tackle Mike Patterson, safety Ryan Mundy, cornerback Aaron Ross and linebacker Dan Connor. The depth chart at OurLads.com projects Jenkins and Connor to assume a starting role in 2013. The Giants lost safety Kenny Phillips, defensive lineman Chris Canty, defensive lineman Osi Umenyiora and linebacker Chase Blackburn in free agency.

    One tidbit to pass on: While doing research for this, I discovered that no Giants defender has registered at least 105 tackles in any season from 2007 to present. You have to go back to 2006 when Antonio Pierce had 138 tackles that season. The Giants could use a tackling machine.

    Manti Te'o, anyone?

     

    2012 defense highlights: Safety Stevie Brown was tied for No. 2 in the NFL last year with Richard Sherman, as both came up with eight interceptions. Blackburn led the team with 98 tackles, so it will be up to Connor to fill his shoes.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Antrel Rolle (96)

    Tackles for Loss: Jason Pierre-Paul (9)

    Interceptions: Stevie Brown (6)

    Forced Fumbles: Stevie Brown (3)

    Fumble Recoveries: Linval Joseph (3)

    Sacks: Jason Pierre-Paul (12)

    Pass Deflections: Corey Webster (15)

    QB Hurries: Jason Pierre-Paul (36)

    QB Hits: Justin Tuck (10)

New York Jets

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    New York Jets defense overview: For each of the last three years, the New York Jets have been a top-10 overall defense in the NFL under Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine. But 2013 seems to be the beginning of a different kind of era in Jets football.

    The 2013 season began with GM Mike Tannenbaum getting canned. Pettine left to become the defensive coordinator of AFC East-rival Buffalo Bills. Faced with a massive salary cap management issue, new GM John Idzik had to start releasing starting veteran players left and right.

    When the dust settled (or does the dust ever settle in New York City?), here is where things stand. No longer with the team on defense are: defensive tackle Mike DeVito, linebacker Bart Scott, defensive lineman Sione Pouha, safety Yeremiah Bell, safety Eric Smith, safety LaRon Landry and linebacker Calvin Pace. New defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman will be asked to pick up the pieces and assemble a competitive defense.

    The linebackers and secondary were especially hard hit with departures, so the Jets will need to focus on those positions in the draft and free agency.  So far in the offseason they have added nose tackle Antonio Garay and outside linebacker Antwan Barnes. That was the extent of what they could afford to do for now.


    2012 defense highlights: David Harris led the team with 123 tackles. Quinton Coples led the team with 5.5 sacks, and Antonio Cromartie led with 13 pass breakups. 

    Calling your attention to the blurb on the opening slide, we are only considering the players that are signed to a contract by their team, which means we have to consider Darrelle Revis for these predictions, even though it seems unlikely that he will wind up playing with the Jets in 2013.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: David Harris (117)

    Tackles for Loss: Muhammad Wilkerson (7)

    Interceptions: Darrelle Revis (5)

    Forced Fumbles: Muhammad Wilkerson (4)

    Fumble Recoveries: David Harris (2)

    Sacks: Quinton Coples (9)

    Pass Deflections: Darrelle Revis (19)

    QB Hurries: Muhammad Wilkerson (25)

    QB Hits: Quinton Coples (11)

Oakland Raiders

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    Oakland Raiders defense overview: GM Reggie McKenzie had another year of salary cap purging to try to get the Raiders squared away with cap requirements. It has been ugly at times watching talented veterans leaving one after another, but McKenzie had very little choice with his hands tied behind his back.

    After two consecutive years of dumping expensive veterans, the Raiders should be in a better position in 2013 to start acquiring players and using sound fiscal judgement on their acquisitions.

    Since the defense was ranked No. 18 overall in 2012, you think there might be hope for 2013. But then you see the list of players that have left the team in the offseason, and you know better. Desmond Bryant, Philip Wheeler, Richard Seymour, Michael Huff, Mike Mitchell, Tommy Kelly and Matt Shaughnessy won't be back.

    That creates a huge void for the Raiders to try to fill.

    So far, the team has added linebacker Kevin Burnett, linebacker Kaluka Maiava, defensive tackle Vance Walker, defensive end Jason Hunter, defensive tackle Pat Sims, cornerback Tracy Porter and linebacker Nick Roach in free agency. Hopefully a handful of these players will turn out to be good deals and capable of being key contributors for the 2013 defense. Whether or not they can retain their No. 18 overall ranking remains to be seen.

    According to the current depth chart for the Raiders at OurLads.com, there are currently seven new starters that are designated as first string. That means that it will take a number of games for this collection to gel and learn how to play off of each other. The only returning starters are defensive end Lamarr Houston, safety Tyvon Branch, safety Cory Nelms and cornerback Phillip Adams.

     

    2012 defense highlights: The Raiders didn't have anybody that landed in the top-20 of any major defensive category. Leading tackler Wheeler (109 tackles) is one of the departing veterans.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Kevin Burnett (110)

    Tackles for Loss: Lamarr Houston (10)

    Interceptions: Tyvon Branch (3)

    Forced Fumbles: Lamarr Houston (2)

    Fumble Recoveries:Kevin Burnett (3)

    Sacks: Lamarr Houston (6)

    Pass Deflections: Tracy Porter (12)

    QB Hurries: Lamarr Houston (33)

    QB Hits: Lamarr Houston (15)

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Philadelphia Eagles defense overview: The 2011 "Dream Team" defense has all but disintegrated. Players from that infamous unit are scattering throughout the league, winding up on a number of different rosters. The latest example saw Nnamdi Asomugha signing a one-year deal that would pay him up to $3 million. Much better terms than when the Eagles signed him in free agency. 

    As we inch closer to the 2013 draft, Andy Reid, Juan Castillo and Todd Bowles are gone. This is Chip Kelly's team now, and his defensive coordinator is Billy Davis. Davis will be putting in a 3-4 defense for the upcoming season. Another interesting decision, is that the Eagles decided to rebuild their entire secondary.

    Here are the additions from free agency so far: safety Kenny Phillips, cornerback Bradley Fletcher, safety Patrick Chung, linebacker Jason Phillips, cornerback Cary Williams, outside linebacker Connor Barwin, defensive end Clifton Geathers and nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga. From this collection, Sopoaga, Fletcher, Chung, Barwin, Williams and K. Phillips will start

    Like we just addressed on the Oakland Raiders slide, this is another defense that will require fans to show some degree of patience, as there are more new faces (six) than returning veteran starters (five).

     

    2012 defense highlights: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had 17 pass deflections last year, which was good for No. 7 in the NFL. The Eagles had the No. 9 overall pass defense last year, but that wasn't good enough to keep the unit together for the new year.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners:

    Tackles: DeMeco Ryans  (118)

    Tackles for Loss: DeMeco Ryans (13)

    Interceptions: Cary Williams (5)

    Forced Fumbles: Trent Cole (2)

    Fumble Recoveries: Fletcher Cox (2)

    Sacks: Connor Barwin (9)

    Pass Deflections: Cary Williams (19)

    QB Hurries: Trent Cole (33)

    QB Hits: Connor Barwin (15)

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Pittsburgh Steelers defense overview: Say what you want to about the Steelers getting old and slow, but as long as defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is around, they should be fine. In the last three years, the Steelers' overall defense has finished the season ranked first, first and second. That is called getting the job done no matter how old or slow your players are.

    Of course, in 2013 LeBeau will have to spin his magic without James Harrison, who the Steelers released. Other key players departing include cornerback Keenan Lewis, safety Will Allen and safety Ryan Mundy. 

    The Steelers did bring back cornerback William Gay, who most recently was with Arizona. Gay will provide some depth for the secondary.

    Pittsburgh usually doesn't make much of a splash in free agency, although it did add some players for the offense in the offseason. It will be interesting to see how high the 2013 edition of the Pittsburgh defense will rank. LeBeau will have his work cut out for him.

     

    2012 defense highlights: Larry Foote led the team with 113 tackles. Keenan Lewis defended 23 passes in 2012, which was No. 2 in the league. The Steelers gave up the fewest first downs in the NFL last year, which was the second straight year they accomplished the feat. They were also No. 1 in pass defense, which is another category they won for two straight years.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners:

    Tackles: Lawrence Timmons (111)

    Tackles for Loss:Troy Polamalu (8)

    Interceptions: Troy Polamalu (4)

    Forced Fumbles: Cortez Allen (4)

    Fumble Recoveries: Larry Foote (3)

    Sacks: Jason Worilds (9)

    Pass Deflections: William Gay (15)

    QB Hurries: Brett Keisel (24)

    QB Hits: Lamarr Woodley (10)

San Diego Chargers

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    San Diego Chargers defense overview: As recently as 2010. the San Diego Chargers had the No. 1 overall defense in the NFL. After falling out of the top 10 in 2011, the Chargers bounced back to be the No. 9 overall defense in 2012. Can they stay up in the top 10 in 2013?

    So far in the offseason, San Diego signed cornerback Derek Cox and defensive end Jarius Wynn to join the defense. For now, Cox appears to be one of the starting corners for 2013.

    They are losing more players on defense than they brought in. The Chargers lost defensive lineman Aubrayo Franklin, defensive lineman Antonio Garay, outside linebacker Antwan Barnes, cornerback Antoine Cason and defensive tackle Vaughn Martin. In addition, the Chargers released linebacker Takeo Spikes and safety Atari Bigby. It also appears the Chargers have no interest in bringing back linebacker Shaun Phillips, even though he led the team with 9.5 sacks last year.

    New head coach Mike McCoy decided to retain defensive coordinator John Pagano from Norv Turner's old staff, so at least the defense should have a reasonable amount of continuity from last year's philosophies.

     

    2012 defense highlights: San Diego didn't have any players that placed in the top 20 in any of the major defensive categories.  The team finished No. 6 in the league last year against the run. The Chargers wound up as the No. 5 team in allowing the fewest red-zone opportunities in the NFL.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Eric Weddle (101)

    Tackles for Loss: Donald Butler (7)

    Interceptions: Eric Weddle (5)

    Forced Fumbles: Eric Weddle (3)

    Fumble Recoveries: Donald Butler (2)

    Sacks: Corey Liuget (9)

    Pass Deflections: Eric Weddle (12)

    QB Hurries: Kendall Reyes (25)

    QB Hits: Corey Liuget (8)

San Francisco 49ers

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    San Francisco 49ers defense overview: The San Francisco 49ers finished the 2011 season as the No. 4 overall defense in the league. In 2012, they moved up one notch to No. 3 overall. So, at this rate, can we expect them to be No. 2 in 2013?

    The Baltimore Ravens exposed some weaknesses in the 49ers secondary in Super Bowl XLVII. San Francisco has lost All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency. For now, it appears he will be replaced by Craig Dahl, who San Francisco signed in free agency. Besides Dahl, the 49ers also signed cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and linebacker Dan Skuta.

    Asomugha will add some depth to the secondary, and he is hoping that his career will rebound with the 49ers. Asomugha's game went south ever since he joined Philadelphia, which he tried to attribute to the schemes they ran, per this story from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

    Besides Goldson, the 49ers also lost Ricky Jean-Francois and defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga to free agency.

     

    2012 defense highlights: NaVorro Bowman had 149 tackles in 2012, which was No. 2 in the NFL.

    The 49ers were No. 4 in pass defense, No. 4 in run defense and were No. 2 in allowing points, as they only gave up an average of 17.1 points per game. They were also No. 2 in preventing conversions on third downs and were No. 2 in the league at allowing first downs. They gave up the fewest red-zone attempts in the league last year. This defense is truly a force to be reckoned with.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: NaVorro Bowman (151)

    Tackles for Loss: Justin Smith (10)

    Interceptions: Carlos Rogers (7)

    Forced Fumbles: Patrick Willis (4)

    Fumble Recoveries: Donte Whitner (3)

    Sacks:  Aldon Smith (21)

    Pass Deflections: Tarell Brown (17)

    QB Hurries: Ray McDonald (38)

    QB Hits: Aldon Smith (15)

Seattle Seahawks

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    Seattle Seahawks defense overview: The Seattle Seahawks have marched to the beat of a different drummer and can find some comfort in knowing how good they really are. Most NFL analysts considered Seattle to be crazy with its recent draft classes, but with a little passage of time, the Seahawks had the last laugh.

    They drafted the players that they felt matched their scheme, and they have been proving that they know far more about what works for them than the analysts do.

    Seattle finished the 2012 season with the No. 4 overall defense. The pass defense was No. 6, and the run defense was No. 10. They were No. 1 in the NFL in giving up the fewest points, as teams only averaged 15.3 points per game against them last year. They were right behind San Francisco for giving up the fewest red-zone opportunities and were No. 5 in giving up touchdowns in the red zone.

    During the offseason, the Seahawks put a couple more feathers in their caps by adding defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. These additions will boost the Seahawks pass rush and will set up two great battles when San Francisco and Seattle clash in 2013.

     

    2012 defense highlights: Cornerback Richard Sherman was tied for No. 2 in the NFL with eight interceptions and led the NFL with 24 passes defended. Bobby Wagner was No. 7 in the NFL with 140 tackles. Chris Clemons was tied for No. 9 with 11.5 sacks.

    The Seahawks have a scary defense because they are not only young and athletic, but they are also adding on solid depth, so they can withstand several injuries and keep ticking.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Bobby Wagner (146)

    Tackles for Loss: Michael Bennett (9)

    Interceptions: Richard Sherman (7)

    Forced Fumbles: Chris Clemons (4)

    Fumble Recoveries: Kam Chancellor (3)

    Sacks: Chris Clemons (12)

    Pass Deflections: Richard Sherman (20)

    QB Hurries: Michael Bennett (42)

    QB Hits: Bruce Irvin (15)

St. Louis Rams

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    St. Louis Rams defense overview: The Rams aren't featuring the Fearsome Foursome these days, but did you know that they were tied with Denver for coming up with the most sacks last year at 52? That is generating some serious pressure on the quarterback, which helps out every level of the defense.

    St. Louis had the No. 14 overall defense in 2012. They were No. 15 in pass defense and No. 15 in run defense. The Rams were tied at No. 14 in points allowed, giving up 21.8 points per game in 2012.

    These rankings show that the team made improvement under Jeff Fisher. Fisher must really like the defensive personnel, because he hasn't added a single free agent to the defense yet this offseason. They did lose cornerback Bradley Fletcher to Philadelphia and released safety Quintin Mikell. That is about as quiet as it can get for a NFL team in free agency.

     

    2012 defense highlights: Linebacker James Laurinaitis led the Rams with 142 tackles, which was No. 6 in the NFL. Chris Long led St. Louis with 11.5 sacks, which tied him for No. 9 in that category.  Rookie Janoris Jenkins tied for the NFL lead by returning three interceptions back for touchdowns last year.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles:  James Laurinaitis (146)

    Tackles for Loss: Jo-Lonn Dunbar (9)

    Interceptions: Janoris Jenkins (5)

    Forced Fumbles: Jo-Lonn Dunbar (3)

    Fumble Recoveries:  James Laurinaitis (2)

    Sacks: Chris Long (13)

    Pass Deflections: Janoris Jenkins (17)

    QB Hurries: Chris Long (52)

    QB Hits: Robert Quinn (10)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense overview: Greg Schiano brought some discipline to Tampa Bay in 2012. The defense reflected the intensity of the head coach, as it became the No. 1 run defense in the NFL last year. The pass defense was another story, as it was dead last, giving up 297.4 yards per game through the air. 

    That brought the overall defense ranking down to No. 29. Why bother running the ball when you can pass on them so easily, right?

    The Bucs set out to improve the pass defense. In free agency they signed All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson, who will make an impact on the leaky secondary. In addition, Tampa Bay also signed defensive lineman George Selvie, linebacker Jonathan Casillas and defensive lineman Derek Landri. On the downside, they lost defensive end Michael Bennett, cornerback E.J. Biggers and defensive lineman Roy Miller.

    Ronde Barber still hasn't made an official announcement if he is coming back in 2013, or if he will call it a career. If they were No. 32 in pass defense with him, what will they be without him?

     

    2012 defense highlights: Rookie linebacker Lavonte David was tied for No. 8 in the NFL with 139 tackles. Ronde Barber was tied for No. 11 in the league with four interceptions.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Lavonte David (145)

    Tackles for Loss: Lavonte David (21)

    Interceptions: Dashon Goldson (5)

    Forced Fumbles: Ahmad Black (3)

    Fumble Recoveries: Dashon Goldson (3)

    Sacks: Gerald McCoy (7)

    Pass Deflections: Mark Barron (12)

    QB Hurries: Gerald McCoy (40)

    QB Hits: Gerald McCoy (14)

Tennessee Titans

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    Tennessee Titans defense overview: Tennessee had the No. 27 overall defense in 2012. They were No. 26 in pass defense and No. 24 in run defense. Opponents averaged 29.4 points per game, which was the most points any team gave up last year. Basically, this is a bottom-10 defense that needs to improve quickly, as the rope for Mike Munchak isn't very long. 

    The Titans got to work in free agency by adding saefty George Wilson, defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill, safety Bernard Pollard, linebacker Moise Fokou and defensive lineman Ropati Pitoitua.

    Tennessee defensive coordinator Jerry Gray needs to find a way to bring all these new players in and make it all work. He has his work cut out for him.

     

    2012 defense highlights: The Titans wound up with 39 sacks in 2012, which was good for No. 9 in the league. Jason McCourty wound up with 15 defended passes, which was good for No. 16 in the NFL. Safety Michael Griffin had four interceptions, which tied him for No. 11 in the league.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners

    Tackles: Jordan Babineaux (98)

    Tackles for Loss: Zach Brown (10)

    Interceptions: Jason McCourty (5)

    Forced Fumbles: Colin McCarthy (3)

    Fumble Recoveries: Zach Brown (2)

    Sacks: Derrick Morgan (8)

    Pass Deflections: Jason McCourty (16)

    QB Hurries: Kamerion Wimbley (45)

    QB Hits: Derrick Morgan (20)

Washington Redskins

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    Washington Redskins defense overview: The Washington Redskins defense was ranked No. 28 overall in the NFL in 2012.  They were No. 30 in pass defense and No. 5 in rush defense. The Redskins gave up an average of 24.3 points per game, which was No. 22 in the NFL.

    Due to having limited funds to work with due to the $18 million salary cap hit levied by Commissioner Roger Goodell, the Redskins couldn't do much in free agency to improve the defense. They added two players in CB EJ Biggers and DL Darryl Tapp. Obviously the draft will be where the Redskins will look to add some talent to shore up their secondary.

     

    2012 defense highlights: London Fletcher led the team with 139 tackles. Fletcher was tied for No. 8 in the NFL, while teammate Perry Riley was No. 14 with 129 tackles. DeAngelo Hall defended 14 passes, which tied him for No. 17 in the league. Fletcher came up with five interceptions, which tied him for No. 7 in the league.

    There are plenty of individual highlights, now if they could only put it all together as a team defense.

     

    Prediction for 2013 defensive category winners:

    Tackles: London Fletcher (150)

    Tackles for Loss: Ryan Kerrigan (6)

    Interceptions: DeAngelo Hall (4)

    Forced Fumbles: Josh Wilson (3)

    Fumble Recoveries: Josh Wilson (3)

    Sacks: Ryan Kerrigan (10)

    Pass Deflections: Josh Wilson (15)

    QB Hurries: Ryan Kerrigan (46)

    QB Hits: Ryan Kerrigan (10)

     


    Thanks for checking out the presentation. Follow me on Twitter: @DanVanWie