We have all heard the statement that defense wins championships. Perhaps it sounds cliché, but in looking at the playoff teams from last year, the defenses were some of most elite in the league. From the Super Bowl champion Packers to the boys in Pittsburgh, there really is no denying how important the defense is in the NFL.
While some teams rely on great team defense, there are some out there that must carry a heavier load than others: the superstar defensive players that don't have the same level of talent around them. It is interesting to see the varying positions that always seem to be good for certain teams. Pittsburgh's linebackers, Minnesota's defensive line and Cincinnati's corners are a few that come to mind.
Some of these were no-brainers, while others were very difficult to decide. These are just my opinions as we head into this season.
The Bills are one of those sneaky teams that actually have a lot of talent on defense. There are some very recognizable names like Paul Posluszny, Leodis McKelvin and Drayton Florence, just to name a few. They have some good young talent at linebacker, but Byrd is probably the most talented of all at Safety.
Both Von Miller and Will Allen are great players in the secondary, but when it comes to the best player on this unit, it has to be the young star at linebacker. Cameron Wake is a name that many people are already talking about and that many will get to know over the course of the next couple of years. They may have one of the most interesting offenses next year, but the defense should be fairly solid.
You have to love Patrick Chung after his remarkable performance last year against the Dolphins. I think that Brandon Meriweather has some talent as well, but I still can't pick either of those guys over Wilfork. Not only is this guy the true definition of huge, but he knows how to play the position better than almost anyone. This defense would be in deep trouble if they didn't have his services.
Obviously the Jets have one of the best defenses in the entire league. It all starts with Revis, so this decision wasn't really all that difficult. They have some other great pieces like Bart Scott and Antonio Cromartie that are also capable of making big plays. It would be hard to imagine the Jets being a playoff team without this extraordinary defense.
This was one of the more difficult choices I had to make, and you probably know why. You have three players on this Baltimore defense that could be the best player on so many other teams. Haloti Ngata is a complete monster on the line, one of the best in the game. Everyone knows the name Ray Lewis and what it means to the game of football. When it comes to making big plays, though, it's hard to go against Ed Reed. He missed six games last season, yet still led the league in interceptions.
The hardest part about this selection was just deciding which corner to go with. The tag team of Hall and Jonathan Joseph is one of the best in the league. These two are capable of shutting down teams and like to air it out. The team may be a train wreck at nearly every other position (especially the offense), but they are rock solid when it comes to their corners.
Some decisions are hard to make because there are so many deserving candidates. Others, like the Browns, are difficult because there really aren't any great individual players on defense. Looking at their projected depth chart for next season, you would have to think that Haden has the most potential of everyone listed, so why not go with the youngster?
Much like their rival Baltimore, this was such a hard decision because of the talent that is just oozing out of this unit. Arguably the best group of linebackers in the league, you really can't go wrong with any position here. The line is rock solid, and the corners are very good. When it comes down to it, though, there really aren't many players that can do what Troy does.
If the Texans keep improving their defense, they will soon be a serious contender. Names like DeMeco Ryans, Bernard Pollard and Amobi Okoye not only sound awesome, but those guys are really great players. Team them up with Mario Williams, and you have a great start to making a legitimate defense. It seems like we say it every year, but this year really looks like the year that the Texans could win the AFC South.
On a national stage, it is easy to see why so many people would list Dwight Freeney here. For those of us here in Indy that really know the team, we realize just how valuable Bethea is to this franchise. Not only is he the only Colt that seems to never get hurt (knock on wood), but he can really do it all at the safety position. Yes, Gary Brackett and Robert Mathis have been great, but Bethea is the one guy you can always count on to make a great play when it matters most.
Tough call to go against Rashean Mathis here, but I think most people will agree that Morrison is the guy here. I believe he is still underrated, even though many people have come to notice his exceptional playmaking abilities. Mathis is capable of making big plays too, but he gives up a lot of big plays himself. Morrison is a guy that is reliable; you always know what you are going to get with him.
I almost went with Jason Babin here, but ultimately, I chose Cortland. While I don't think he is a great corner, I do believe he is better than most people think. This defense has been going through some changes over the last couple of years, and Cortland has been able to hold down his position better than anyone else on the team. The secondary isn't what it used to be, but with him matching up against elite receivers, they should still be okay.
Both DJ Williams and Brian Dawkins are names that most fans should be familiar with. Obviously, everyone knows what Champ is all about and the amazing career he has had. While he is getting near the end of his career, you wouldn't know it by his play on the field. He is still one of the best in the game, and can shut down almost any receiver. When it comes to coverage, he is still easily a top five corner in the league.
They sure know how to find some talent in Kansas City. Not only can they find it on offense, but apparently on defense as well. These guys like Tamba Hali and Eric Berry are quickly becoming great players in this league. When you pair them up with Johnson at linebacker, you really have the making of something great. They have the perfect blue print it seems; expect this defense to be very tough next year.
Normally this spot would go to a great player like Richard Seymour. It might go to him after all, though, if Nnamdi decides to leave via free agency. Obviously, he is the hottest free agent out there this year, and for good reason. I will continue to label him as the best corner in the league, yes, even better than Revis. He has done it longer and without any real help in Oakland. Whatever team he decides to go to, they will be extremely fortunate no matter how much it costs them.
There were three guys that I was really undecided on for San Diego. Ultimately, I chose Cason over Quentin Jammer and Shaun Phillips. I don't exactly feel confident that I chose the right one, but I really feel they are all so even. Most people will probably give Phillips the edge here, and I have no problem with that. The defense needs some work in San Diego, but I don't really know if the addition of Bob Sanders will help them much, even if he is healthy. He is going to have to play with a different style so that he can stay on the field.
Dallas has a great duo at the corner position with Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins. It just so happens that neither of them got the pick here because they have one of the best linebackers in all of football. Ware is one of the most complete players on that side of the ball, and he is very knowledgeable of every situation. While I am still not sold on the Cowboys getting to the Super Bowl this year, they should definitely be much better than last year.
The Giants are one of the most balanced teams in the league when it comes to offense and defense. They have so many weapons on offense, but they also have great talent on defense with guys like Osi Umenyiora, Corey Webster, Antrel Rolle and Justin Tuck. I decided to go with Tuck here, but you could easily make a case for so many of their guys. They may not have one player who is the best in the league at his position, but they are solid all the way across the board.
I think the popular pick here would be Asante Samuel, but he gives up too many big plays for my liking. I'm not saying he isn't a great player; I just don't like his gambling style of play. I also like my corners to be able to tackle the player with the ball. Cole might not be one of the best players at his position, but he is highly underrated in my opinion and is the anchor of this defense.
There are surprisingly a lot of players to choose from in Washington. There are very good players like DeAngelo hall, Phillip Buchanon and Brian Orakpo that know how to make big plays. When it comes to their best player, though, I have to go with the big hitting safety. Landry has come a long way since coming into the league from LSU, and he has learned a lot of things. I just have a feeling this is going to be his best season yet.
Talk about a defense loaded with great players. The Bears have always hung their hat on their defense, so it should come as a surprise that they are one of the most talented in the league. I actually think that Briggs is the best one of this group of guys like Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije. They are very solid up front, but they really have to work on their secondary. If they can somehow get a playmaker or two back there, this defense would be almost impossible to score against.
I like Louis Delmas at safety, and they have some experienced linebackers on this team. It would be insane, though, to put anyone other than Suh in this spot. They made a statement during the draft this year too when they selected Nick Fairley. Having two elite defenders on that defensive line is going to make it tough for Adrian Peterson to go right up the middle. I think it was a great move, but they must add some help behind those two if they want to avoid giving up big plays.
Looking at Green Bay's depth chart, it is like a lunch and dinner buffet. Where do you even start? How about right in the middle with Matthews at linebacker? He had a monster season last year, and really emerged as one of the elite players at his position. If he is so good, then why was it hard to choose him for this spot? Well, just look at the talent around him, with guys like Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Cullen Jenkins and Nick Collins. They won the Super Bowl for a reason, and it wasn't all just Rodgers and Jennings.
I can honestly say this was one of the hardest ones to choose. Yes I chose Pat Williams here, but you really could take anyone from this defensive line. Kevin Williams, Ray Edwards and Jared Allen are some of the best in the game today. Not to mention you have guys like Antoine Winfield in the secondary making plays all over the field. I really wanted to give this one to Winfield, but with four of the best defensive linemen in the NFL, I had to give it to one of them.
I was surprised by the players I found on Atlanta's depth chart. For some reason I thought the choice would be tougher to make, but Abraham was really the only person that I saw that could win this one. Their defense isn't awful by any means, but they are really lacking a defensive super star that most other teams have. They tried to address that in the draft, but it might be a couple of years before we see a star develop.
There is a reason the Panthers had the first pick in the draft, and it wasn't just because of Jimmy Clausen. Their defense was not very good at all last season, and it showed. The good news for Carolina is that they have a truly great linebacker in Beason. Last year, he was probably the most underrated player on defense in the entire league. People are now starting to realize his talent, and they know he will be something special. They have to figure out a way to surround him with other quality guys though.
The Saints have a great secondary with talents like Malcom Jenkins, Tracy Porter and Darren Sharper. They are fairly solid up front, but Vilma is the man that holds everything down in the middle. He has developed into an all-pro caliber player in a relatively short time. While the Saints will be known more for their weapons on offense, you really can't sleep on this defense.
As we move on to Tampa Bay, the linebackers keep coming. The NFC South really has some great young linebackers such as Ruud. The experience and durability of Ronde Barber is worth noting, but he is just about to the end of his career. They have a talented young corner in Aqib Talib, but he has shown that he has some issues off the field. This is a team that could have another great year as their offense continues to come along.
There are big play making safeties, and there are big safeties in general. Wilson is without a doubt both of these. He is one of the hardest working players in the game, and his talent is remarkable. He has a real passion for the game and a desire to get better. When you surround him with great players like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Darnell Dockett and Joey Porter, you will have a winning combination. If they can find themselves a quarterback this year, they could easily win the NFC West.
St. Louis took a big hit when Oshiomogho Atogwe left town for Washington. When you look at what is left on this defense, it isn't pretty. I think James Laurinaitis has a chance to be a good player, but he isn't anywhere close to being great yet. Ultimately, I chose to go with Long here because of the season he had last year. The concentration has been on the offense for the past few years, and they will have to really do some work to this defense if they want to have a chance at making the playoffs in the weak NFC West.
If Justin Smith, Taylor Mays or Nate Clements were your best player on defense, you might settle for that. These guys are all really good players that know how to play their position well. When you have the best defensive player in the NFL, then you really have something to cheer about. There is no doubt in my mind that Willis is the best defensive player in today's game. He has everything you want in a linebacker, and will do anything you ask of him. His work ethic and desire to win are second to none.
Things are coming along nicely in Seattle, especially after last year's dramatic playoff run. Their offense was greatly improved, and their defense was as advertised. They have two great young players who have a lot of potential in Aaron Curry and Earl Thomas. These guys will become great players in the future. They already have a guy like that in Tatupu. He is really the anchor of the defense and is a perfect mentor to both Curry and Thomas.