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SportThe NFL’s 11 best edge defenders

04:56  17 june  2019
04:56  17 june  2019 Source:   touchdownwire.usatoday.com

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Pro Football Focus. Senior analysts Steve Palazzolo and Mike Renner dive into their top 5 edge defender prospects for the 2019 NFL draft. They discuss players like Anthony Nelson as well as Nick Bosa and back up their opinions with PFF stats.

The NFL’s 11 best edge defenders© USA TODAY USA TODAY Of all the positional lists I've done so far, this was by far the most difficult. It speaks to the ridiculous amount of talent among NFL edge-rushers that compiling a Top 11 list is almost more frustrating for who one leaves out than it is enlightening for who's included.

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How do you leave out Trey Flowers, who had 78 total pressures for the Patriots last season, or Michael Bennett, who had the same number for the Eagles, and will replace Flowers on New England's roster. Moreover, how do you leave out Dee Ford, who led all edge-rushers with 82 pressures? Can a list without Chandler Jones and Danielle Hunter be credible?

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These are valuable questions.

The more I analyzed edge-rushers for this piece, the more I realized that the edge defender designation was the important one. The standard for excellence at the position shouldn't just be about the ability to get to the quarterback-it should also be about run defense, and the ability to negate potential big plays no matter the assignment. And that means the ability to tear off from rushing the passer to stop a running back from getting to the second level. It means the ability to drop into credible coverage when necessary. In short, it means the ability to be a complete player.

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In the 2018 NFL season there really is no question who the best player in the game was, and what is remarkable is that he took his game to another His overall grade of 88.6 ranked 11 th among edge defenders in 2018, and his pass-rush grade of 91.0 ranked first. Ford led all edge defenders with 77

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So, here are my top 11 edge defenders coming into the 2019 season-the guys who do it all at the highest levels.

11. Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Redskins

The NFL’s 11 best edge defenders© Getty Getty

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

It seems that Kerrigan isn't name-checked enough as one of the NFL's premier edge defenders, which begs the question, "Why not?" Over the last five seasons, he's never had fewer than 61 total pressures, 10 sacks, and 26 stops. 2018 was another great season for the Purdue alum, as he racked up 61 total pressures, 14 sacks, six quarterback hits, 41 quarterback hurries, 19 tackles, 10 assists, and 28 stops-all the while, providing outstanding run defense when required.

In fact, Kerrigan's ability to stop the run might be his most underrated attribute, and it's the thing that put him on this list. No matter how wide he's aligned pre-snap, Kerrigan has an excellent ability to read the run play, shoot past the gaps to get to the middle, and stop the back from getting anywhere. As a pass-rusher, Kerrigan works with speed and power. He has the leverage when taking angles to push opposing tackles right back into the pocket, and even when he's blocked out of the play, he has the change-of-direction skills and determination to reset and complete the pressure. Kerrigan deserves more mainstream praise than he gets.

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These best football defenders (as they're called everywhere besides the US) are in the ranks of the best athletes in the world, and have earned their spots by Who are the best football defenders of all time? SO MANY QUESTIONS, all which need to be answered in this compilation of the top soccer

10. Demarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys

The NFL’s 11 best edge defenders© File Photo File photo

(Getty Images)

In April, the Cowboys gave Lawrence a new five-year, $105 million contract with $65 million in guarantees that makes a clear statement about his status as the most important person in their defense. Over the years, Lawrence has earned that distinction, and his 2018 season was no exception. In 848 snaps, Lawrence was good for 66 total pressures, 13 sacks, 12 quarterback hits, and 41 quarterback hurries, along with 47 tackles, seven assists, and 49 stops. One of the most complete edge defenders in the league, Lawrence makes an impact in every possible category for his position-everything from edge-rushing to consistent run defense.

At 6'3" and 265 pounds, Lawrence brings more than enough speed to the table, but one thing that stands out on tape is his awareness of when to press blockers, and when to back off and either neutralize them with hand stabs, or work a counter to the other side. He's also perfectly capable of using pure power to hang up the best tackles in the league on his way to the quarterback. And as a run defender, he has the vision and awareness to break off from pressure assignments to negate the big play.

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As the NFL becomes more a passing league , perhaps this undeveloped skill won't be as much of a liability as it would have been even seven years ago. The senior Bulldog is 6-6, 252 pounds, which is more along the lines of a DeMarcus Ware type edge rusher. Sweat collected 11 .5 sacks and a forced

Featuring data-driven rankings and stats for NFL , fantasy football , and the NFL Draft. Anthony was an undersized interior lineman at Navy, but will likely move to the edge in the NFL . He’ s a disruptive player with the fifth- best overall grad among interior defenders .

9. Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers

The NFL’s 11 best edge defenders© File Photo File photo

(Getty Images)

Bosa missed the first nine weeks of the 2018 season with a foot injury, and according to recent reports, he's still dealing with foot soreness-a fact that should make the Chargers nervous. But even with that, he was still a force when he was on the field, amassing 37 total pressures, seven sacks, four quarterback hits, and 26 quarterback hurries. He also had 15 tackles, four assists, and 15 stops, in just 427 snaps. If he's able to play throughout the 2019 season, one should expect a campaign more like his 2017 season, when Bosa racked up 75 pressures, 13 sacks, 11 hits, 51 hurries, and 41 stops.

A star from the time the Chargers took him with the third overall pick in the 2016 draft out of Ohio State, Bosa has every attribute required to be an exceptional edge defender. He comes off the snap with furious speed and energy for a 6'5", 288-pound player, he knows how to keep his pad level down for maximum power and leverage at contact, he turns the edge of the pocket with athleticism and efficiency, and he's got more than enough power to eliminate enemy blockers with a bull rush. Bosa and Melvin Ingram may very well be the NFL's best pass-rushing duo.

8. Yannick Ngakoue, Jacksonville Jaguars

The NFL’s 11 best edge defenders© Getty Getty

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

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Big separation category, as edge defenders primarily win on the outside track in the NFL , and cornering is a critical area of success. He is hardly ever overpowered, playing assignment sound football and consistently making plays behind the line of scrimmage. Allen isn’t as good at the point

There are plenty of good edge defenders in this year’ s draft class. They have gained importance as the game has become more pass oriented. Last year, the Cleveland Browns took a pass rushing defensive end with the No. 1 overall pick.

A third-round pick out of Maryland in 2016, Ngakoue didn't generate a lot of buzz in his draft class, but he's absolutely become one of the premier edge defenders in the NFL over the last three seasons. He dealt with an ankle injury in 2018, but that didn't stop his production-he totaled 64 pressures, with 10 sacks, 24 quarterback hits, and 30 quarterback hurries, along with 14 tackles, five assists, and 21 stops.

Ngakoue works very well in conjunction with Calais Campbell in packages that put Campbell inside the tackle and Ngakoue outside, but it doesn't really matter who's around him. Ngakoue makes life very difficult for enemy blockers with a ridiculously fast first step, and at 6'2" and 246 pounds, he's got more power to push with a bull rush than you might imagine. He's also improved as a run defender in every year of his career-a dynamite inside counter might have something to do with that-and he should continue to become one of the league's most dangerous guys on the outside.

Ngakoue recently held out of OTAs because he wants a second contract, and he's earned that. He'll make $834,269 in his fourth professional season, and he's earned far more than that.

7. Melvin Ingram III, Los Angeles Chargers

The NFL’s 11 best edge defenders© USA TODAY USA TODAY

(Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)

Ingram was great all the way through the 2018 season, but his performance against the Ravens in the wild-card round may have been the most dominant single-game performance any edge defender enjoyed last year. He had two sacks, seven solo tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. It was the best distillation of Ingram's game last season, but the former first-round pick was consistent throughout the season, both as an edge-rusher and as a run-stopper. Wherever he lined up, Ingram was highly effective.

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The hybrid nature of modern NFL defenses requires players to do more than ever, and edge -rushers are no exception. Last season, you could have made the case that Cassius Marsh was the best fourth defensive end in the NFL , as he was a quality player who sat behind Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett

This year’ s draft is noticeably well -stocked with pass rushers and defensive line prospects. Nick Bosa is clearly the king of his class, and Josh Allen is right behind him, but where the rest fall is unclear. With such a talented crop of edge defenders

In 2018, Ingram totaled 70 pressures, with 11 sacks, 10 quarterback hits, and 49 quarterback hurries, adding 33 tackles, 10 assists, and 38 stops. As was the case when he played everywhere from nose tackle to wide end in college, Ingram is a tone-setter wherever he's placed. Those not in the know may credit his production in part to the presence of Joey Bosa, but the tape tells the real story-more often than not, opposing offenses have to focus in Ingram and work their way from there.

6. Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns

The NFL’s 11 best edge defenders© USA TODAY USA TODAY

(Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

The first overall pick in the 2017 draft had a second NFL season that validated that position and established him as one of the best young defensive linemen in the game. With 67 total pressures, 15 sacks, 16 quarterback hits, and 36 quarterback hurries, Garrett has become a key cog in Cleveland's impressive defense, and things could be even better in 2019 with Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson on that line, along with the criminally underrated Larry Ogunjobi. Garrett amped up from 518 to 1,012 snaps last season, and he proved entirely able to handle that workload.

At 6'4" and 272 pounds, Garrett perfectly combines speed, agility, and root strength to create a near-perfect pass-rushing profile. He has a great burst off the snap, and when he sets his hand movements against opposing tackles, he's very tough to deal with. And he's strong enough to not only bull-rush tackles into the pocket, but to do so with one hand, while taking the quarterback down with the other.

Deshaun Watson can testify to that.

5. Von Miller, Denver Broncos

The NFL’s 11 best edge defenders© Associated Press Associated Press

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Since he was selected by the Broncos with the second overall pick In the 2011 draft out of Texas A&M, Miller has been the NFL's premier speed rusher, with 609 pressures, 111 sacks, 111 quarterback hits, and 387 quarterback hurries over eight seasons. 2018 was another banner year for Miller, with 64 total pressures, 16 sacks, 10 quarterback hits, and 38 quarterback hurries. Though run defense isn't his forte per se, Miller has improved in that department over the last few seasons-in 2018, he had 29 total stops.

At age 30, Miller has the same ridiculous turn-and-burn around the pocket, and his inside counter is just about impossible to stop when he gets the tackle looking outside. But he's also wonderful in open space when he has to chase a quarterback down-his closing speed is exceptional, he closes quickly and with excellent technique, and he has more pure power than you'd expect from a 6'3", 250-pound player. If Miller was just a speed guy, his effectiveness would start to wane at this point in his career. It's a testament to his complete skill set that he's just as good as he's ever been.

4. Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints

The NFL’s 11 best edge defenders© USA TODAY USA TODAY

(Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports)

The Saints' defense has improved drastically in the last two seasons, moving from 31 st in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted efficiency metrics in 2016 to eighth in 2017 and 11 th in 2019. But even in the lean years, when the secondary was a mixed bag at best and the linebackers were underperforming, Cameron Jordan was the one guy the team could count on to bring it every week. That hasn't changed in recent seasons-it's just that now, Jordan has enough talent around him to be the epicenter of an above-average defensive unit. 2018 was another stellar season for the four-time Pro Bowler, with 72 total pressures, 13 sacks, nine quarterback hits, 50 quarterback pressures, 39 tackles, eight assists, and 41 stops.

An outstanding technician, Jordan can flummox opposing tackles with rip, swim, and arm-over moves. He also brings a formidable bull-rush, and shuffles through blockers astutely and with excellent quickness to release to the quarterback. A master of angles and leverage, he can run the inside counter just as well as he can take a blocker to the edge of the pocket, disengage, and stun the ballcarrier. He's also a great run defender-one reason he's so high on this list. The Saints recently signed Jordan to a three-year, $52.5 million extension with over $42 million in guarantees, and it's a well-earned bump for one of the best in the business.

3. J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

The NFL’s 11 best edge defenders© USA TODAY USA TODAY

(Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Injuries limited Watt to just 374 total snaps in 2016 and 2017, but he came back in 2018 and had the kind of season we've come to expect from the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Watt led the league with seven forced fumbles, amassed 78 total pressures with 17 sacks, 13 quarterback hits, and 48 quarterback hurries, and added 38 tackles, seven assists, and 51 stops.

Watt leads with absolutely freakish speed around the edge for his 6'5", 288-pound frame-he can bend the edge like a guy 30 pounds lighter, and that doesn't stop hm from moving between the tackles and showing guards around like a 310-pund defensive tackle. Watt can push a tackle into the pocket, he can use his hands to separate, and he can confound with an inside counter. Watt's comeback was one of the most remarkable stories of the 2018 season, and at age 30, he appears to have several quality seasons left If he can stay healthy.

Of course, it helps Watt's case if you "block" him as the Jaguars did on this sack of Blake Bortles:

2. Calais Campbell, Jacksonville Jaguars

The NFL’s 11 best edge defenders© USA TODAY USA TODAY

(Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Edge-rushers tend to fall off in consistency and productivity when they hit their thirties, but Campbell didn't get the memo. He'll be 33 years old when the 2019 season starts, but his two years in Jacksonville (after nine seasons in Arizona) have been as productive as any in his career. In 2018, he was good for 53 total pressures, 11 sacks, 11 quarterback hits, and 31 hurries. Stout against the run as well, he compiled 50 tackles, 12 assists, and 56 stops, which led all edge defenders.

At 6'8" and 300 pounds, Campbell's ability to stay at the top of his profession is even more rare because he doesn't have the typical edge-rusher's frame. He's fast enough to get around the edge to the quarterback, but it's his pure strength, technique, and understanding of timing and tempo off the snap that make him special. The way he (No. 93) throws Texans right tackle Kendall Lamm (No. 74) out of the club on his way to a sack of Deshaun Watson is a perfect example.

Campbell is great off the edge, but he can also create pressure from the three-tech and nose tackle positions. He's especially effective when aligned on the same side as fellow pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue in a package the Jaguars should use more often.

1. Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears

The NFL’s 11 best edge defenders© Associated Press Associated Press

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

In his first season with the Chicago Bears after a trade that somehow netted the Raiders a " Best Transaction" award at the MIT Sloan Analytics Sports Conference, Mack totaled 73 total pressures with 13 sacks, nine quarterback hits, and 51 quarterback hurries. It was par for the course for a player who's been wrecking opposing offensive tackles since he came into the NFL in 2014. Meanwhile, every player who worked the edge for the Raiders in 2018 totaled four sacks, 20 quarterback hits, and 49 quarterback pressures, so maybe that award was a little hasty. Mack also had 31 tackles, four assists, 31 stops, and six forced fumbles.

Mack is the most effective edge-rusher in the NFL because he has a comprehensive grasp of every possible technique required of his position. He uses his ridiculous closing speed to gain on the ballcarrier quickly after slow-rolling blockers at the line of scrimmage. He had the best bull-rush in the league at his position-he's capable of turning tackles back with the strength of a top-level defensive tackle. He can burn a blocker with the "dip-and-rip" at any time, and his hand moves allow him to blow past blockers before they even know what's happening. With optimal power, speed, athleticism, and technique, Mack is by far the best edge defender in the league, and that could continue for a good long time.

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