3-4 Outside Linebackers
5. Tamba Hali
Tamba Hali is a freak at 6'3 275 pounds, perfect defensive end size and playing standing up as a part time linebacker. I love Hali because he's a complete football player. Well to be fair all 5 of the guys on this list are. Hali is actually better against the run than he is as a pass rusher and he's a pretty solid pass rusher obviously coming off a season with 12 sacks. He's one of the most physical players in the league and if you wanna run the ball you better run it away from his side. And that doesn't even always work as I've seen him come from his side and make tackles at the line of scrimmage or near it on the other tackle side. As a pass rusher doesn't posses a whole lot of flashy moves but can get by tackles and time with really good acceleration, pad level, and great hands. Also he has a pretty good bull rush and can easily over power some of the weaker tackles in the game.
4. Lamar Woodley
The Steelers defense was 1st again this year and this guy when he was healthy had alot to do with it. As far as sacks this season go he only had 9 but he only played in 10 games. There's no telling how many he could have racked up if he played 16. Woodley plays the run very well and rushes the passer very well but also covers well for a LB making him really versatile and allows him to play multiple positions for a defense that likes to confuse and give you multiple looks. You can put him in his normal 2 point stance at the line of scrimmage, in a 3 point stance, or in the middle of the defense like a conventional LB. And he can be effective from all 3 spots.
3 . Terrell Suggs
This guy is probably the most like a true DE of anyone on the list. He's fairly average in coverage and doesn't get to do much of it anyway He has 2 main jobs rush the passer and play the run and he does both at the highest level. For years the Ravens defense has been near or at the top of the league and Suggs is always right there as one of the key reasons why. This season He really played in what was the best season of his career. But not just because of the numbers but because when Ray Lewis went down he took his game to another level and was the main guy on the defensive unit as they were able to hold the fort and still be a reliable defense even without Ray. Suggs is one of the best pass rushers in the game. He gets after the QB with more of a finesse style trying to use his moves and quickness more so than over power blockers but can utilize the bull rush some as well. He has great acceleration and pursuit and a high motor and he just gets after it all game weather it's in the running backs hand or the QB's hand he's going all out to get there.
2. James Harrison
I absolutely love James Harrison's game. He's now known all across the league as a dirty player and I don't care one bit I love it. The nastiness, toughness, and intensity he brings on the field every game makes him the player he is and is why he's probably become one of the most feared players in the league. The numbers were down this year because like his teammate Woodley he too was hurt and missed 5 games. Harrison is a triple threat LB like Woodley as well. If you go back to that Super Bowl they played Arizona the play he picked off Warner in the endzone really will tell you all you need to know about his coverage ability and his instincts. Not only is he extremely physical and touch but he also has a high football IQ. He's also one of the strongest guys at this position as it's just so hard for O-lineman to block him with his combination of strength, quick feet, and how well he uses his hands. As a pass rusher there are guys out there that are better, I'd even put his teammate Woodley over him as a pass rusher but as an overall defensive football player there aren't to many players at any defensive position better than this guy. Not only do you have to admire his skills but the leadership and other intangibles he brings.
1. Demarcus Ware
At number 1 is Demarcus Ware. When you think about the prototype for this position you think of Ware. He's 6'4 260 pounds, long, and has all the physical tools. He's fast, He's quick, Has maybe the fastest 1st step of any pass rusher in the league, he can jump, and he's in great shape. My only knock on Ware would be that he doesn't quite have the highest motor or just that killer instinct attitude to get after it all times which probably comes from being so much more talented than everyone. Ware plays the run about as well as any OLB minus Harrison. He's one of the fastest if not the fastest player at his position and I don't think it's close that he has the best acceleration. Also has great pursuit to the ball as he's one of the best in the league and running down backs when they run the ball away from his side. As a pass rusher Ware is simply phenomenal as he can get to the QB just about every way possible. He can go around you with the swim or spin move or even just by running past you. Also he's good at setting tackles up for counter moves once they get used to him doing one thing alot like Dwight Freeney will do. And if that doesn't work he can also put his head down and have success with the bull rush. The man has 99.5 sacks in just 7 seasons which speaks to both his consistency and high level of play throughout his entire career even as a younger player. He's one of the top 5 defensive players in the NFL.
4-3 Defensive Ends
5. Jason Babin
Babin has been somewhat of a journeyman throughout his career having played for 5 different teams in 9 seasons. Until 2 years ago with the Titans he had never even had a season where he recorded double digit sacks. So like most I considered it kind of fluky and the Titans most likely did to because they didn't resign him probably in fear of him being a 1 year wonder. Turns out that wasn't the case at all as he turned around this past season and had a even better year finishing 3rd in the NFL with 18 sacks. Babin is just one of those late bloomer players that kept working hard and plugging away his whole career and finally broke through. Very few players work as hard as Babin does on the field which is how he gets alot of his sacks. He's not the most athletic and not the strongest so his ability to dominate like this speaks to his work eithic on and off the field and his ability to just play the game. In every sport there are those guys that just know how to play and he's one of those guys. I watched plenty of Eagles games this year and teams just couldn't contain him. His high motor combined with some crafty moves make have turned him into one of the leagues best DE's.
4. Osi Umenyiora
Some might disagree with this but I don't think you can deny it. 1st of all the man averaged 1 sack per game played as he had 9 sacks in 9 games. Only the elite DE's do that. Also when he came back from injury the entire Giants defense looked different. You could make the argument that Osi was one of the main factors that sparked the Giants onto their super bowl run. Osi doesn't have elite strength and power but he's one of the quickest DE's in the league. Also not the run defender that some of the other players on this list are but his pass rushing skills are top notch and he has such great quickness and acceleration he's really a handful for Tackles to deal with.
3. Jason Pierre-Paul
Last year my 1 and 2 were Allen and Peppers and I flirted with making a case for this guy but not yet. He still has just a little bit more growing to do as a overall player. Pierre Paul was UN. BLOCK. ABLE. And he was unblockable most importantly in that moments that mattered most. I felt like he earned the defensive player of the year award. He singled handedly disrupted the Cowboys offense the 2nd time they player He's a 1 man army and a force of nature. He's 6'5 280 and it's very possible he's the fastest at this position. I mean he can fly. Quickness, speed, acceleration he has it all. Plus power, brute strength, and a mean streak to go with it all. The scary thing about Paul is he's in his 2nd season and he's only 23 years old. He only started 12 games this year and racked up 16.5 sacks. For the most part the kid is still raw and needs to learn the game a little more. Just wait until he really learns everything about the position and how to really play using more than his athletic ability. I thought about it tho and I just couldn't put him over Peppers quite yet. One of the top 3 pass rushers right now but he's still not the complete player Peppers is yet.
2. Julius Peppers
I never pay to much attention to the numbers when it comes to Peppers all you really gotta do is watch the games when it comes to this guy. Peppers is one of those rare triple threat guys that actually plays end with their hand on the ground full time. Peppers can def cover for a guy that's 6'7 290. The fact that he's that big and moves the way he does makes him a real problem for offenses. Not only can he do a little in coverage (although it's mostly zone coverage) he's also one of the best at tipping balls at the line of scrimmage. When he can't get to the QB he doesn't just give up on the play he stays ready and alert and if a pass is made towards his side he tries to jump up and knock it down. He's got 54 pass deflections for his career and he plays on the D-Line. He's probably the best 4'3 end run stopper in the league although a argument can be made for Pierre Paul as well. Numbers and stats don't really tell who the best run stoppers are you just have to watch. Stopping the run for D-lineman is all about gap responsibility, good leverage, holding up at the point of attack, and penetration. If you watch Peppers very rarely are you ever going to see him getting pushed backwards on a run play which makes it really hard to run off tackle to his side. He's been one of the most dominant and complete defensive lineman in the league for years.
1. Jared Allen
The best DE in the NFL is Jared Allen. And I'm not just putting him here because he led the league with 22 sacks because I had him #1 last year with only 11 sacks. Jared Allen just is the perfect player. He's more quick and agile than he is fast as there are plenty of ends that could beat Allen in a foot race. But Allen has great acceleration and fires off the ball like not to many others can and ultimately when it comes to rushing the QB that's more important than just speed. He's such a fundamentally sound player at end. Has great gap discipline and plays with great leverages and uses his hands really well alot like Peppers. I give him the edge over Peppers because he's a better pass rusher. Allen can rush the passer effectively with both power and finesse moves and is good at recognizing draw and screen plays as he has fantastic play recognition. Allen has been playing at a very high level for a long time now I wonder how much longer he can keep doing it. He just went over 100 sacks for his career this season with 105 in 8 seasons that's highly impressive. I would take Jared Allen over Demarcus Ware that's how good he is to me.