Deion Sanders & the All-Time Greatest Defender in Every NFC Franchise's History

Eli Nachmany@EliNachmanyCorrespondent IIIMay 12, 2011

Deion Sanders & the All-Time Greatest Defender in Every NFC Franchise's History

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    DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 5: Deion Sanders looks on after being inducted into the 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame class during an announcement at the Super Bowl XLV media center on February 5, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    While the NFL may be able to lock out its present players, there is no way to lock out the game's past.

    Every franchise, young or old, has been defined by a few players along the way—some on offense, some on defense.

    This slideshow will commemorate the best defensive player in each NFC franchise's history, which should spark a good amount of debate.

    Now, find out who the best defender in the history of your favorite franchise is, as well as the best of the 15 others.

Philadelphia Eagles: Reggie White

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    The Minister of Defense gives us a perfect beginning to our countdown of the top defensive players for each franchise.

    White was a sacking machine in Philadelphia, posting unprecedented numbers and leading the NFL in sacks twice.

    No. 92 had an insane 124 sacks in eight years with the Eagles, proving to be an unstoppable force and almost averaging a sack a game.

    While Chuck Bednarik garnered consideration, White's unheralded capabilities makes him a must here.

Washington Redskins: Darrell Green

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    Darrell Green never led the league in interceptions or put up crazy numbers in a season, but he was a consistent and reliable option at cornerback for 20 years as a Redskin.

    Green posted 54 career interceptions, good for 18th all-time, but finds his way on this list because he played quality football for the Redskins for such a long period of time.

    The Texas A&M product was the winner of the NFL's Fastest Man Competition four times and was in the news for running a 4.43 40-yard dash at the age of 50.

    Green's contributions to the game were recognized, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.

New York Giants: Lawrence Taylor

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    He's not just the best defender in Giants history—he may be the best defender of all-time.

    Taylor was a lethal force as a pass-rusher and provided the Giants with an unstoppable weapon after being drafted with the second overall pick.

    About Taylor, John Madden said, "He changed the way defense is played, the way pass-rushing is played, the way linebackers play and the way offenses block linebackers."

Dallas Cowboys: Deion Sanders

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    ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06: NFL Hall of Fame Inductee Deion Sanders looks on during the coin toss prior to Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Primetime was an unbelievable athlete, and it's no surprise he is here as the best defensive player in Cowboys history.

    Sanders' contributions to the Cowboys were great—he played in the return game and on offense.

    Defense, though, was where Sanders made his biggest contributions.

    Sanders established a reputation as a dangerous, lock-down cornerback, and though it looks his numbers dipped as a Cowboy, he simply just wasn't being thrown at anymore.

Green Bay Packers: Ray Nitschke

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    Ray Nitschke wins the top spot as the Packers' greatest all-time defender over Reggie White by a slight margin.

    In this slideshow, we give a player some extra points for being homegrown and staying with the team for a while, and Nitschke represented hard-hitting Lombardi football for a stretch with the Packers.

    Nitschke intercepted 25 passes in his career, gained a reputation as a punishing hitter, and was the MVP of the 1962 NFL Championship Game for Green Bay.

Chicago Bears: Dick Butkus

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    NEW ORLEANS - MAY 19: 2008 Pro Football Hall of Fame member and legendary Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus takes time to sign footballs for fans in the Fox Cable Networks' booth at the The Cable Show in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on May 19
    Skip Bolen/Getty Images

    Not only was Dick Butkus a member of the 1960's All-Decade Team, he was a member of the 1970's All-Decade Team, too.

    Butkus was one of the most feared players in the history of sports and led the Bears in almost every significant category for most of the years he played.

    He had a ridiculous year in 1970 with 216 tackles, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979.

    Butkus also made the NFL's 75th-Anniversary All-Time Team.

Minnesota Vikings: John Randle

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    CANTON, OH - AUGUST 7: John Randle poses with his bust during the 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Field at Fawcett Stadium on August 7, 2010 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    John Randle did pretty well for an undrafted free agent—in fact, he did better than any other Vikings defensive player in history.

    Randle was, according to Brett Favre, "unblockable on artificial turf."

    The defensive tackle led the league in sacks with 15.5 in 1997, and was known for his excessive trash talking on the field.

    The former Viking was recently inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.

Detroit Lions: Dick Lane

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    Dick 'Night Train' Lane is another undrafted free agent who appears on the list.

    Lane originally tried out to be a receiver, but the St. Louis Rams had the foresight to move the talented player to defensive back.

    The corner is fourth on the all-time interceptions list and was part of a star-studded secondary that included Elroy Hirsch and Dick LeBeau.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Derrick Brooks

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    TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 30: Linebackers Cato June #59 and Derrick Brooks #55 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrate an interception against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium on November 30, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Get
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    When it came down to Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, Brooks gets the nod.

    Brooks was a homegrown talent for Tampa Bay, and has Super Bowl champion and Defensive Player of the Year on his career resume.

    The linebacker is considered by some to be the best player in Buccaneer franchise history, and with six All-Pro selections and 11 Pro Bowls, it's hard to argue the numbers.

    Brooks finished with 1,698 tackles for his career—an undoubtedly illustrious one.

New Orleans Saints: Rickey Jackson

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    CANTON, OH - AUGUST 7: Rickey Jackson poses with his bust during the 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Field at Fawcett Stadium on August 7, 2010 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    If you asked a Saints fan who the franchise most identifies with as its all-time best defensive player, Rickey Jackson would be the first name off a lot of tongues.

    Jackson is currently the only Saints player in the Hall of Fame, and it is fitting that he still leads the Saints in all-time sacks with 123.

    The member of the "Dome Patrol", a famed Saints linebacking corps, Jackson holds the record for most seasons as a New Orleans Saint with 13.

Atlanta Falcons: Tommy Nobis

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    The Falcons have not had one true defensive enforcer throughout their history...other than Tommy Nobis.

    Nobis played linebacker for the Falcons, and in his rookie year, recorded an unheard of (still to this day) 294 tackles.

    Atlanta retired Nobis' number, as the linebacker led the Falcons in tackles in nine out of his eleven seasons with the team.

    Unsurprisingly, Nobis is a member of the Falcons Ring of Honor.

Carolina Panthers: Julius Peppers

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 20:  Julius Peppers #90 of the Carolina Panthers against the Minnesota Vikings at Bank of America Stadium on December 20, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Panthers, a relatively young franchise, were lifted up by the astounding play of Julius Peppers from 2002 to 2009.

    In eight years as a Panther, he recorded a total of 81 sacks, averaging over ten sacks per year.

    Peppers was a freakishly athletic, extremely talented rusher off the edge for Carolina, and also recorded a respectable six interceptions as a defensive end for the Panthers.

    The Bears nabbed the dynamic edge rusher in free agency, and have since utilized him well in blitz packages and the like.

St. Louis Rams: Jack Youngblood

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    ANAHEIM, CA - DECEMBER 23:  Defensive end Jack Youngblood #85 of the Los Angeles Rams walk on the field during the 1984 NFC Wild Card playoff game against the New York Giants at Anaheim Stadium on December 23, 1984 in Anaheim, California.   The Giants won
    George Rose/Getty Images

    The accomplishments are innumerable, the legends unthinkable—Jack Youngblood put together a fantastic career as a Ram.

    Youngblood was twice the NFC Defensive Player of the Year, three times the Rams MVP, and his number 85 was retired by the team.

    Youngblood is mostly remembered, however, for playing through the entire 1979 playoffs with a broken leg, when the Rams were the NFC Champions.

    The Ram legend is second on the team's all-time sack list, but holds the all-time team record for the most consecutive starts and most playoff starts.

San Francisco 49ers: Ronnie Lott

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    23 Sep 1990:  Strong safety Ronnie Lott of the San Francisco 49ers stands and relaxes on the sideline while the offense is on the field during the 49ers 19-13 victory over the Atlanta Falcons at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California.   MandatoryCr
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    The 49ers have had a rich history on offense, with players like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Steve Young making it almost impossible to choose just one top player for the 49ers all-time on offense.

    Defensively, however, only one player comes immediately to mind—Ronnie Lott.

    Lott was one of the most feared safeties in the league during his time, and he ranks sixth all-time (tied with another hard-hitting safety, Darren Sharper) with 63 interceptions.

    Lott's number 42 was retired by the 49ers, and in 2000, he was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.

Seattle Seahawks: Cortez Kennedy

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    3 Sep 2000:  Cortez Kennedy #96 of the Seattle Seahawks walks on the field during the game against the Miami Dolphins at the Pro Players Stadium in Miami, Florida. The Dolphins defeated the Seahawks 23-0.Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons  /Allsport
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Cortez Kennedy is another homegrown talent who finds his way onto our list.

    Kennedy never got the recognition he deserved, playing for mediocre teams in Seattle throughout his impressive career.

    The defensive lineman earned Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1992 despite playing for a 2-14 team, to put his plight in perspective.

    He is a member of the Seahawks Ring of Honor, and made eight Pro Bowls in his eleven season with Seattle.

Arizona Cardinals: Aeneas Williams

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    5 Dec 1999: Aeneas Williams #35 of the Arizona Cardinals gets ready on the field during a game the Philadelphia Eagles at the Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Eagles 21-17. Mandatory Credit: Harry How  /Allsport
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Aeneas Williams was not just one of the best Cardinals of all-time—he developed a reputation as one of the best shutdown cornerbacks the NFL had ever seen.

    Williams was a four-time Pro Bowler with the Cardinals, and, like Cortez Kennedy, was a victim of playing for mediocre teams.

    Fortunately for Williams, he was traded to the St. Louis Rams and became an NFC champion.

    During his time with the Cardinals, though, Williams was a lock-down cornerback who frequently was assigned to the opposing team's number one receiver.