By Ryan of The Sportmeisters
The front three (or four) of the defensive line are some of the most important players on the defense. Whether it’s their ability to swallow up the offensive line, or their speed to get to the runner trying to turn the corner, or even the pure strength to get to the quarterback and disrupt him, a defensive end has to do it all.
With many teams switching to 3-4 defenses, the end is asked of even more, to act as a hybrid end/linebacker. With that in mind, The Sportmeisters present the perfect NFL DE.
Legs: Jason Taylor, Miami Dolphins
Many people suggested Dwight Freeney for this spot, but Jason Taylor has the meatier spring to his step at this point in their career. He has perfected playing the hybrid end/linebacker position, which has helped him in six seasons with double-digit sacks, and his two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns.
He is a versatile player, able to make the tackle, pressure the quarterback and make the sack, or even drop back into coverage and pick off a pass or two. Now back with the Miami Dolphins and their 3-4, he will still be counted on to start as an end, become a linebacker, and keep using his blazing speed toward the end zone.
Hands: Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings
The hands of a defensive end need to be those of strength, for an end has to be able to grab the quarterback and bring him down to the field quickly. Jared Allen has those hands of strength. He has 30 sacks over the past two seasons, and has had at least 55 tackles each of the past four seasons.
His hands even nabbed him an interception in 2006. Jared Allen has the ability to use his strength from his hands to push his blocker off and make or disrupt the play at hand. It’s those massive mandibles that make us take Jared Allen’s hands in building our perfect DE.
Head: Richard Seymour, New England Patriots
For some defensive ends, it’s their ability to know their role at all times that make them an invaluable asset. Richard Seymour is a perfect example. His numbers may not be gaudy (a career-high of eight sacks in a season), and he may not be the most well-known name of any defensive end, but it is his ability to be a team player that makes him so smart.
Seymour knows his role is to take up one or two linemen, leaving the linebackers alone long enough to make the play. Whether or not it’s the Bill Belichick way of life to make strong defensive ends a vacuum to suck up linemen, Seymour takes his job and his responsibilities seriously enough, as I’m sure the team does. The ability to think and know your role in the scheme is a strong quality in a perfect NFL player.
Body: Mario Williams, Houston Texans
A defensive end needs speed to get to the quarterback, but it also needs to command a presence against offensive linemen that can be twice their size. Mario Williams may not be menacing at 290 pounds, but his 6’6’’ frame allows him to cover a wider field than most of his peers.
As one of the newer generation of football players, Willams allows his height and strength as a factor, rather than using a large field presence. This tall, lanky method has allowed him to pile up 26 sacks over the last two seasons, and he has managed three straight seasons of 45-plus tackles. While he is still young, and has plenty of time to add to his body; the combination of height and strength make Willams’s body a perfect addition to the perfect defensive end.
Intangibles: Julius Peppers, Carolina Panthers
Julius Peppers is a freak of nature, which is why he is such a valuable asset to the Carolina Panthers. He can make the tackle (four seasons of 50-plus), sack the quarterback (five double-digit sack seasons), or even score an interception (four career picks). Most of this is done while battling double teams.
Sure, recently he has been a team headache for demanding a new contract, but he is well worth it. His combination of leadership, size, strength, and speed all make him a dominant player most linemen aren’t used to seeing, let alone block against. He allows double teams, and if he isn’t still making the play, one of the other 10 Panthers are. The ability for Julius Peppers to do it all makes his “X” factor perfect for the defensive end spot.
Size, strength, speed, vision, and the “X” factor. They all have a valuable role in building a defensive end, and Jason Taylor, Jared Allen, Richard Seymour, Mario Williams, and Julius Peppers all take a bit of that when they hit the field Sunday. When those bits are put together, then you have the perfect defensive end.