With the regular season quickly approaching, the time to make predictions is now. Today we will be looking at defensive players in the NFC North.
Some positions such as the defensive line are stacked with quality players, while others such as cornerback are a bit thin.
It would be interesting to see what you guys think, so please feel free to submit your own list in the comments section. If there are enough responses a fan’s choice slide will be added.
Two All-Pro defensive ends patrol the edges in the division.
Jarred Allen of the Vikings is in the argument as the best player in the NFL, not just at his position. He is a physical specimen who is also mentally strong. Gone is the mullet but not the heart. He will dominate once again.
The Chicago Bears got what many considered the top free agent available in Julius Peppers. Some question whether Peppers plays hard on every snap, as I do, but the stats don’t lie. Having recorded six double digit sack season in his career, he bounced back from a bad 2007 season by recording 14.5 sacks in 2008.
Kevin Williams is so good he could start on all 32 NFL teams. He has the rare combination of size, strength, speed and agility. Add all that to how he is able to use his hands to get to where he needs to and you have a complete player.
Statistically he did not have his best year in 2009, but it was still good enough to earn him a pro bowl selection.
The player many consider the best in the draft, Ndamukong Suh, fell to the Detroit Lions at number two because the Rams needed a quarterback.
Suh has many of the same qualities that Kevin Williams has but is about 15 pounds lighter. If the preseason so far is any indication the constant double teaming that he has drawn so far will give his fellow lineman and linebackers are lot of opportunities to make plays.
Lance Briggs is what every team dreams about. An all around linebacker who is good against both the run and pass. His physical skill is unquestioned. He overcame the loss of Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker and had a Pro Bowl season in 2009.
Clay Matthews has an outstanding rookie season in 2009. Look for him to be even better in 2010. He recorded 10 sacks as a rookie and I look for that number to be closer to 15 provided he stays healthy. If last year’s experience helps him shed blockers more quickly he has the skill set to be one of the premier linebackers in the NFL.
In his four seasons in the NFL, A.J Hawk has yet to miss a game. He has been the model of consistency with at least 86 tackles in all four seasons. He played through some injuries in 2009 and still performed at a high level. If he is able to stay healthy in 2010 look for him to return to the 100 tackle club
Brian Urlacher missed most of the 2009 season with injury. His absence was felt as the Chicago Bears struggled on defense without him. The Bears dropped to 23rd against the run after having the fifth-best rush defense in 2008,
The addition of Julius Peppers should free him up to have a monster 2010 season.
E.J. Henderson was a consideration here. I think everyone is rooting for this guy and his amazing comeback from a horrific leg injury.
The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year gets the nod as the top cornerback in the division. Although listed as a cornerback, Woodson plays all over the field. Entering his 13th NFL season the 33-year-old is starting to lose some of his speed, but experience and instinct help him overcome whatever physical ability has been lost due to age. One wonders how much longer Charles Woodson can continue to play at a high level, but he has been answering that question with his play on the field since he missed ten games in 2005.
Like Woodson, Antoine Winfield is supposed to be looking at retirement, but the 33-year-old plays the position as if he were 23 years old. Some durability concerns have crept up lately, he has played in just ten games in two out of the last three years; however, he did follow up his last injury plagued season, having played in all 16 games in 2008.
It seems every year Viking fans are looking to replace Winfield with a younger corner, to that group of fans I say: enjoy this great player while you can.
Louis Delmas exploded on the scene as a rookie in 2009. He was able to shine on a defense that features few other top-flight players if any. He is the first rookie in history to score on an interception return, fumble return and record a safety. Only one other player Rod Martin has ever done that rookie or otherwise.
With a much improved defensive line playing in front of him Delmas is set up to have a great sophomore season.
Nick Collins entered the NFL in 2005 and all he has done since is make plays. Many questioned the Packers when they drafted Collins in the second round but he has proved the naysayers wrong and has been voted to the last two Pro Bowl teams.
DE: Ray Edwards
DT: Tommie Harris
OLB: Chad Greenway
ILB: DeAndre Levy
ILB: E.J. Henderson
CB: Charles Tillman
S: Madieu Williams