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Ranking the AFC West: Defensive ends

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After the tremendous division talent we saw at defensive tackle, we see find the AFC West is just a talented all across the defensive line.

1. Broncos - Derek Wolfe, Vance Walker

It’s a bit strange even to me to be putting the Broncos defensive ends atop the division considering their biggest free agent loss was Malik Jackson. They definitely aren’t nearly as talented at the position with Vance Walker there as they were with Jackson, but with Derek Wolfe on the other side, they still beat out their division competition. Wolfe is one of the best interior defensive ends in the league. After missing the first four games, he came on like gangbusters late last season. His first sack of the season came in week 10, and in all but one of the final seven games he had a sack. That streak continued throughout the playoffs, adding 2.5 sacks en route to the Super Bowl – a total of seven-straight games in which he has had a sack. The one question will be if he will be able to do it again without Jackson on the opposite side, taking pressure off of him.

2. Chiefs - Allen Bailey, Jaye Howard

Allen Bailey is in his prime and playing like it. He put up 5.0 sacks as the fulltime starter in 2014 and then 4.5 sacks in 12 appearances last season. The former third round pick has worked his way up to this point, seeing his snaps and starts rise each of his five seasons in Kansas City. Howard is an underrated defensive end talent who would have had a good market as a free agent, but opted to stay on with the Chiefs on a very friendly 2-year deal. He had a career year in 2015, so it stands to reason he would want to sign a short term deal to prove that he is worthy of a blockbuster long term deal.

3. Raiders - Mario Edwards Jr, Denico Autry

As those who watch the Raiders more than other teams, we know just how talented Edwards is. Though we have gotten a fairly small sample of it last season, being that he didn’t take over as the starter fulltime until week 6 when Justin Tuck was lost to injury and then Edwards was also lost to a neck injury in week 14. He showed during that time he’s fully capable of being one of the better defensive ends in this division and perhaps the league as a whole. Autry is an under-the-radar player who came on late last season. The former undrafted free agent in 14 appearances and 8 starts had 3.0 sacks and several balls batted at the line both on defense and special teams. He gets consistently overlooked in evaluations of the Raiders defensive line, but I expect that will change next offseason.

4. Chargers - Corey Liuget, Joey Bosa

Liuget has consistently put up very respectable numbers in five NFL seasons. Though last year was his worst since his rookie season. He had just 3.0 sacks and 34 combined tackles (28 solo). He will be joined by third overall pick Joey Bosa. Well, if Bosa ever decides to sign his rookie contract, he will. Most expect he will have signed by camp, but it’s not a guarantee that it will happen. Luckily he’s a pure pass rusher which means he wouldn’t need a lot of time to get up to speed should he enter camp late. This duo could potentially be very good. But it seems you could say that about all four DE duos mentioned here.

Also see AFC West rankings for:

Quarterback
Running back
Wide receivers
Tight end
Offensive tackles
Offensive guards
Center
Defensive tackles