Magic Number Eights: The Top NFL Defensive Linemen
The defensive line is a very important position in the NFL. They rush the quarterback and stop the run—a very difficult task.
It takes a lot for a team to put together an elite defensive line, only a handful of teams being able to do it.
Baltimore, New England, Pittsburgh, NY Giants, Washington, Chicago, and Minnesota rank among the best defensive lines in the league.
If you look at the top teams in the league, you'll see that they have a dominant defensive line. Without one, teams seem to struggle in the NFL.
It's not about stats with defensive linemen; it's their play on the field that ranks them.
Here are my top eight defensive linemen in the league.
8) Mario Williams, Houston
2009 Statistics: 43 tackles; nine sacks; two forced fumbles.
The former No. 1 overall pick was picked on for being taken over Reggie Bush. However, I think he has shut those critics up, as he has had a heck of a lot better career than Bush.
Williams has found himself struggling at times, although he is still young and has a lot of potential.
At 6'6", 295 pounds, Williams is a beast. In his four-year career, he has put together 39.5 sacks.
7) Darnell Dockett, Arizona
2009 Statistics: 51 tackles; seven sacks; one interception.
Darnell Dockett is one of my favorite players in the NFL.
He's not the best player, nor is he the most consistent. But this guy has got the most aggression and intense play of any player I've ever seen.
He's a monster on the field and very underrated around the NFL.
With Dan Williams coming in as the starting nose tackle, pressure will be taken off Dockett, resulting in better play out of him.
6) Kevin Williams, Minnesota
2009 Statistics: 30 tackles; six sacks; one forced fumble.
As part of the "Williams Wall," the Vikings' defensive line is simply the best in the NFL.
The 6'5", 311-lb. defensive tackle has helped Minnesota improve into what it is today. He has been with Minnesota throughout his whole six-year career.
At age 29, he's still got a lot of football left in him and will continue to keep this team on top.
5) Albert Haynesworth, Washington
2009 Statistics: 37 tackles; four sacks; five passes defended.
Let's take a moment to forget about everything going on with Haynesworth right now. All the trade rumors, lack of work ethic, and drama going on with him.
Haynesworth is the biggest monster in the NFL. He's huge, standing at 6'6", 350 pounds. The defensive tackle is one of the meanest, most feared players in the NFL.
After the worst season of his career during 2009, I expect him to improve greatly from it this upcoming season. He's still young and has a lot of gas in the tank.
He just has a little growing up to do.
4) Haloti Ngata, Baltimore
2009 Statistics: 35 tackles; 1.5 sacks; one forced fumble.
I love me some Haloti Ngata.
There is not one negative thing about this guy. His work ethic, maturity on and off the field, and the skill he possesses are crazy.
He's one of the most athletic defensive linemen in the league, and he's nowhere near a little guy.
Standing at 6'4", 345 pounds, Ngata is the anchor of the Ravens' defensive line.
3) Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis
2009 Statistics: 24 tackles, 13.5 sacks, one forced fumble.
The oft-injured defensive end is without a doubt near the top of this list, although his injuries throughout the years are what keep him at No. 3.
Freeney is a sack machine, sacking the quarterback 13.5 times in just nine starts in 2009.
I like Freeney because he has shown many critics that you don't need to be tall to be a factor on the defensive line.
2) Julius Peppers, Chicago
2009 Statistics: 42 tackles; 10.5 sacks; five forced fumbles; two interceptions.
As a Carolina fan, I had a hard time putting him this high.
Yes, those stats make him look like the top defensive player throughout the league. However, coming from a guy who has watched every game Julius Peppers has played, he is a bit overrated.
His work ethic is terrible, and if it wasn't proven last year when he was franchised, watch a game of his that wasn't televised. He is lazy, and some games make you forget he is on the field.
But when it's a nationally televised game, Peppers is in on every play, and that's where those stats come from.
I will give it to him: When he has the want to play his hardest, he looks like the best defensive player in the NFL. It's getting him to that point that's hard to do.
1) Jared Allen, Minnesota
2009 Statistics: 51 tackles; 14.5 sacks; five forced fumbles; one interception.
Jared Allen is a freak on the football field. I love his work ethic and consistency.
He's gotten back-to-back 14.5-sack seasons with the Vikings, who acquired him in 2008 from Kansas City for their first round pick, two third-rounders, and a sixth rounder.
Although they gave up a lot, Allen was surely worth it.
He's the anchor of the Vikings' defensive line and continues to improve every year.
Next Stop: Linebackers
Come check out my next ranking on "Magic Number Eights," linebackers!