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NFL's 10 most dominant defenses for 2014(Rams not included)

Discussion in 'RAMS - NFL TALK' started by Prime Time, Jul 13, 2014.

  1. Prime Time RODerator

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    This is just annoying. Admittedly I'm a major homer but come on...The Rams aren't even on this list. What? The Texans will have a better defense than the Rams this season because they have both Watt and Clowney? Way to mail it in Vinnie.

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    Stingy and nasty: NFL's 10 most dominant defenses for 2014

    Vinnie Iyer @vinnieiyer

    If you watched the Super Bowl, you were reminded that defense wins championships. The old bromide remains unchanged. But wait, keeping opponents off the field and off the scoreboard is just part of the equation to qualify for Sporting News' list of 2014's most dominant.

    Here's the growing element for defenses: physically overwhelming an opponent to the point the frustration and pain.

    As usual, because of coaching, personnel and scheme changes, there's about to be a bit of a shakeup in the second half of the top 10. As expected, however, the top seven is loaded with the returning best, starting with the reigning champions.

    1. Seattle Seahawks

    2013 stats: No. 1 in scoring defense (14.4 points per game), No. 1 in total defense (273.6 yards per game)

    Unlike many Super Bowl champs (see Baltimore), their defense didn't get gutted. Yes, they lost notable linemen Red Bryant and Chris Clemons to Seattle East, also known as the Jacksonville Jaguars. But they splurged to take care of end Michael Bennett, safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman.

    The Seahawks might not have last season's ridiculous depth, but they're loaded and have no real holes — no other team can boast the harmony with its up-front pressure and daunting secondary play.

    They're the ideal defense stacked for a passing league — just ask Peyton Manning. Why? They can rush the quarterback from everywhere and cover anywhere. Sherman doesn't need to tell us they're No. 1 in every which way. The world knows.

    2. Carolina Panthers

    2013 stats: No. 2 in scoring defense (15.1 points per game), No. 2 in total defense (301.3 yards per game)

    The Panthers have a bit of an off-field concern with defensive end Greg Hardy, who is scheduled to face misdemeanor charges this week on domestic violence charges. They lost gritty pieces of their secondary when Captain Munneryln and Mike Mitchell left as free agents.

    But assuming Hardy gets to play, their front seven easily is the best in the league, anchored by rangy, playmaking linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis.

    Taking a page from the Giants' blueprint, they decided to add more pop in their pass rush by drafting Kony Ealy. Remember, they had a league-best 60 sacks last season. Their ends are deeper, and young tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short will remain linchpins against the run. In Kuechly, they have the league's premier one-man wrecking crew.

    3. New Orleans Saints

    2013 stats: No. 4 in scoring defense (19.0 points per game), No. 4 in total defense (305.7 yards per game)

    Rob Ryan isn't just a pretty face with a fine mane. He can coach too, especially when he has the horses to drive his relentless 3-4 attack. In one season Ryan turned around a unit with a spotty history. His reward: premier ball-hawking free safety Jairus Byrd. Add Byrd to Keenan Lewis, Rafael Bush, Champ Bailey and stud second-year strong safety Kenny Vaccaro, and the Saints are a few notches shy of the Seahawks.

    The man to watch is rising star Cameron Jordan, who joined outside linebacker Junior Gallette as dozen-sack men last season. Jordan is gaining on J.J. Watt as an elite 3-4 end.

    4. San Francisco 49ers

    2013 stats: No. 3 in scoring defense (17.0 points per game), No. 5 in total defense (316.9 yards per game)

    Outside linebacker Aldon Smith likely will be suspended, but it appears his punishment won't be lengthy. Still, it will be a bit before we see the game's best linebacker corps in action, because inside man NaVorro Bowman is targeting a midseason return from his knee injury. Until then, the Niners have good depth to aid Patrick Willis and Ahmad Brooks.

    Old reliable Justin Smith keeps plugging away in their three-man front, but we're most intrigued by their reshuffled secondary. Expect safeties Eric Reid and Antoine Bethea to click like Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner once did. The Niners should feel good about Tramaine Brock taking over as their top cornerback, and the depth behind him included rookie first-round nickel back Jimmie Ward.

    5. Denver Broncos

    2013 stats: No. 22 in scoring defense (24.9 points per game), No. 19 in total defense (356.0 yards per game)

    Last season's numbers were somewhat decent. Remember, the Broncos dealt with a mess of injuries and opponents piled garbage-time points trying to catch up in blowouts. Those stats are about to improve because of three top-level veteran pickups: right end DeMarcus Ware, safety T.J. Ward and cornerback Aqib Talib.

    Ware will get a hand in everything while boosting the pass rush. And there's a bonus: He is the good influence on trouble young stud linebacker Von Miller.

    Ward and Talib will make plenty of plays, and the secondary rounds out well with rookie first-round pick Bradley Roby and the healthy return of Chris Harris Jr. Pass rushers and defenders will have opportunities to make plays because the offense can and will let them work with leads.

    6. New England Patriots

    2013 stats: No. 10 in scoring defense (21.1 points per game), No. 26 in total defense (373.1 yards per game)

    File them under "trying to match the Seahawks secondary" as well. The Pats got their shutdown upgrade by replacing Aqib Talib with Darrelle Revis, and they have big hopes that Brandon Browner can shake off troubles and be a nice-sized No. 2. Safeties Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon have similar potential.

    The front seven is packed with familiar veterans, but the spotlight is on two young pass rushers, end Chandler Jones and outside linebacker Jamie Collins. They can combine for monster individual sack seasons, as their upfield skill sets are ideal for Bill Belichick's scheme.

    With Revis locking down, Jones and Collins will often have the time to be in quarterbacks' faces.

    7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    2013 stats: No. 20 in scoring defense (24.3 points per game), No. 17 in total defense (348.0 yards per game)

    Lovie Smith and Leslie Frazier are throwbacks to the Tampa 2 days of Tony Dungy; now we'll see if they can produce similar results. They don't have a Warren Sapp-style anchor, but tackle Gerald McCoy is coming off a stellar season. There's no Derrick Brooks, but weakside linebacker Lavonte David is an active playmaker in his own right.

    Those big-impact defenders got company from free-agent additions end Michael Johnson and cornerback Alterraun Verner. Smith should be able to lean a front-four pass rush, and the corner combination of Verner and Johnthan Banks should thrive in zone coverage behind it.

    The most important development to watch is Smith's influence on Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron, a safety duo that's just scratched its surface.

    8. Arizona Cardinals

    2013 stats: No. 7 in scoring defense (20.3 points per game), No. 6 in total defense (317.4 yards per game)

    The Cardinals saw a big hole created in the middle of the defense with inside linebackers Karlos Dansby and Darryl Washington out of the picture. Dansby left for Cleveland, and Washington faces suspension for his latest substance-abuse violation.

    Sturdy behemoths Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett return to power the defensive line, and ageless John Abraham provides pass-rush punch at outside linebacker. The Big Red hope young Kevin Minter can help fill the middle void.

    It just means the secondary is their clear-cut strength. Patrick Peterson is a budding shutdown superstar, and the Cardinals had the luxury of letting Antonio Cromartie become a No. 2. It all will round it out is when dazzling free-lancing free safety Tyrann Mathieu returns from injury and rookie first-round strong safety Deone Bucannon settles as big hitter.

    9. Houston Texans

    2013 stats: No. 24 in scoring defense (26.8 points per game), No. 7 in total defense (317.6 yards per game)

    Better health and one incredible addition — first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney — set this team up for a huge surge under Romeo Crennel, a defensive coordinator who knows how to get the best out of all his personnel.

    Crennel puts players in position to succeed, not that it's hard to help end J.J. Watt. This season, he just gets to have Clowney and Brian Cushing join in on the front seven's havoc-wreaking fun.

    The secondary held up better than you would think last season, and there remains good talent in cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson. The player to watch is D.J. Swearinger, their version of the slobber-knocking safety every team craves.

    10. New York Jets

    2013 stats: No. 19 in scoring defense (24.2 points per game), No. 11 in total defense (344.9 yards per game)

    They sneak in here over sliders Kansas City and Cincinnati because they have the best front three of any 3-4 team. We also are projecting a little better secondary play. Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison were the reasons the Jets were extremely difficult to run against last season.

    There's a lot of settling to be done with the cornerbacks, but we love what hard-hitting strong safety Calvin Pryor will bring to the back end. Pryor, a first-round pick, be an extra rangy linebacker that Rex Ryan will use to the max. He can also make plays in coverage and be the standout leader of a young unit.
     
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