Continuing my positional rankings for the decade that was, defensive ends are now on the table.
The challenge of ranking this group is the many different styles of defensive ends out there—trying not to miss the underrated guys from the 3-4's of the world and trying not to overrate the specialized pass rushers who don't help in the run game.
The only requirement I made to thin the herd was at least five quality starting seasons—that took out candidates like Osi, Mario Williams, Trent Cole, and Robert Mathis.
I came up with 15 on my list today, with two guys just missing (Leonard Little and Aaron Kampman). I hope you enjoy the show and feel free to leave comments.
I expected "The Freak" to be higher on the list when I started, but the truth is, it's been a long time since he was a dominant force, and his amazing rookie campaign fell in the previous decade.
Kearse was a two-time Pro Bowler this decade and finished with 59.5 sacks, 20 forced fumbles, and 197 tackles in 106 starts.
Ogunleye has started all but nine games in the last nine seasons, a pretty good accomplishment at such a physically demanding position. He has 67 sacks and 299 tackles in his 119 starts; he went to the Pro Bowl in 2003, his last season with the Dolphins.
Vanden Bosch could have been higher on the list if it weren't for his first three seasons being wasted in Arizona. Since coming to Tennessee he has been to two Pro Bowls and ended the decade with 42.5 sacks, 247 tackles, and 14 forced fumbles in his 84 starts.
From 1999-2005 this guy was one of the elite pass rushers in the league, ultimately helping Tampa Bay to their only championship. Rice was a two-time Pro Bowler and was voted first team All-Pro following the 2002 season. He finished the decade with 70 sacks, 215 tackles, and 19 forced fumbles in 87 starts.
Ellis has very quietly been one of the most consistent players of the decade. Stout against the run and a solid pass rusher, Ellis has compiled 68 sacks, 361 tackles, and 12 forced fumbles in 142 starts. He went to the Pro Bowl following his 12.5 sack year in 2003.
Probably the only full-time Buffalo Bill to make a best-of list this decade, if he played somewhere else you would be much more familiar with the guy. Schobel has been to two Pro Bowls and amassed 78 sacks, 337 tackles, 21 forced fumbles, and eight fumble recoveries while starting 128 games for Buffalo this decade.
High energy, high impact—that's what you get anytime Kerney suits up. A two-time Pro Bowler and one-time first team All-Pro, Kerney has produced 80 sacks, 342 tackles, and 19 forced fumbles while starting 141 games for the Falcons and Seahawks.
One of the speed guys, he gets the job done with quickness and agility. Abraham is a three-time Pro Bowler and has 89.5 sacks, 332 tackles, 32 forced fumbles, and 118 games started this decade for the Falcons and Jets.
Underappreciated by fans outside of Pittsburgh, Smith is the perfect example of where hard work can get you. A fourth-round pick in 1999 out of Northern Colorado, Smith has been a leader on one of the best defenses of the decade and a two-time Super Bowl champion.
The only Steeler defensive end to make a Pro Bowl in 30 years, Smith has compiled 44 sacks, 322 tackles, seven forced fumbles, and nine fumble recoveries while starting 142 games this decade.
Some will argue he should be higher, but Allen is the youngest guy on the list and, in some respect, is just getting started. He has had an awesome run the last three years, finishing with at least 14.5 sacks and being named to three straight All-Pro teams.
Allen finished the decade with 72 sacks, 283 tackles and 22 forced fumbles, while starting 87 games for the Chiefs and Vikings.
Seymour is one of the few players who has played capably in both a 3-4 scheme and a 4-3 scheme and also spent one season at DT.
During his career he has helped the Patriots to three Super Bowl championships and been to five Pro-Bowls, three times being named a first team All-Pro. For the decade, Seymour has 43 sacks, 258 tackles, and four forced fumbles.
Strahan in many ways is the rock star if the group, probably being more recognizable now than he was during his playing days. But his accomplishments on the field are what make this guy one of the best to ever play the game.
In 2001 he set the single-season sack record and was named DPOTY. He has helped the Giants get to two Super Bowls and win one, all the while amassing 89 sacks, 390 tackles, 15 forced fumbles, and 12 fumble recoveries for the decade.
Strahan was also a four-time Pro Bowler and was named to two All-Pro teams between 2000 and 2007.
If Kearse hadn't already had the nickname "the freak", chances are Peppers would have ended up with that title. One of the only ends you will ever see in pass coverage multiple times in a game, Peppers is a rare combination of size and athleticism.
He has been a force since his rookie year, compiling 81 sacks, 315 tackles, 30 forced fumbles, and six interceptions all while missing only six of a possible 128 games in his career. Peppers is a five-time Pro Bowler and has been named first team All-Pro twice.
Freeney is the purest of pass rushers and doesn't help a whole lot against the run, but he does what is asked of him very well. Since entering the league in 2002, only our No. 1 guy has more sacks. Freeney has also been an important part of two Super Bowl runs in his career.
For the decade, Freeney has 84 sacks, 222 tackles, and 35 forced fumbles, all the while going to five Pro Bowls and being named to three All-Pro teams.
I wasn't sure picking No. 1 would be so easy when I started this list, but consider that Taylor is No. 1 or tied for No. 1 in all these categories for defensive ends this decade: tackles, sacks, forced fumbles, games started, Pro Bowl appearances and All-Pro honors.
So in the end he is the undisputed No. 1 DE of the decade. His stats for the decade include 111 sacks, 404 tackles, 38 forced fumbles, six Pro Bowls, three All-Pro teams, and he was the 2006 DPOTY.