The best NFL defenses usually have the best players, however, there are schematic differences that can boost teams into the top. This article takes a look at the best defenses in the NFL counting down from 15, the first in a three part series.
San Francisco was a top 10 defense last season, boasting a fierce pass rush from all angles, a secondary with great zone coverage, and the best coverage linebacker in football in Fred Warner.
Their new defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans is taking over for Robert Saleh, but as a player Ryans was known for his leadership and cerebral football mind, this unit shouldn’t see much of a drop off and still continue to be one of the best in the NFL.
Best Stat: Allowed a 1st down on 32% of pass attempts, 4th in the NFL in 2020.
Best Player: LB Fred Warner
Thread on Fred Warner being the best coverage linebacker the current game has to offer and also being an overall stud at his position. pic.twitter.com/dTMnSSQuCU— Johnny Kinsley (@Brickwallblitz) February 22, 2021
14. Denver Broncos
The Broncos have been banged up in recent years, however, this unit has the potential to be deadly with the combination of personnel (Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Justin Simmons, and Bryce Callahan) to go with a great defensive mind in Head Coach Vic Fangio.
Even with a host of injuries the Broncos defense continued to be the strength of this team in 2020. With their pass rushers and nickel corner back in healthy, this unit will likely just continue to improve under Fangio’s tutelage.
Best Stat: Allowed a 1st down on 31.9% of all plays, 6th best mark in the NFL in 2020.
Best Player: EDGE Von Miller
The Saints defense coached by former Raiders head coach Dennis Allen is stacked front to back with exceptional players. Their secondary in particular is a unit that has the ability to match up with most aerial attacks and makes it tough for opposing teams to get much room.
Their front six however is the most unheralded group on this team. Led by Demario Davis and Cameron Jordan, the unit is equally effective stopping the run and rushing the passer. Penalties however are this team’s achilles heel: allowing over 15% of their 1st downs due to a flag. If not for that issue, this is a top 10 defense.
Best Stat: Allowed a 1st down on 21.7% of rushing attempts, 3rd in the NFL in 2020.
Best Player: LB Demario Davis
Really liked this overload blitz from the Saints defense on Monday night (+ the creative use of Davenport as a 'creeper')— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) September 13, 2019
This put Tunsil is a tough spot w/the slide going away. RB needed to maintain better depth. Drifted upfield & feet stopped, can't block w/arms & no base. pic.twitter.com/Bgn6oly9s2
The Chargers weren’t a top 12 defense in 2020, but much of their middling defensive production came as a result of injuries. Derwin James and Drue Tranquill missed much of the year and both played vital roles in Gus Bradley’s defense: Strong safety and weakside linebacker. Add in the games missed by top three defensive end in the NFL Joey Bosa, and this unit simply was too banged up.
However under a new coaching staff, Brandon Staley takes over the reins and after orchestrating the best defense in the NFL in 2020 as the Rams defensive coordinator, he will likely do some devastating damage with Bosa and James to work with. Only problem is the star players penchant for getting injured.
Best Stat: Allowed 6.5 Yards per pass attempt in 2020, 11th best mark in the NFL.
Best Player: DE Joey Bosa
11. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore, much like the Saints are a blitz heavy team with great man coverage on the back end. However their secondary is more consistent and their blitz schemes baffle protections each weak. Baltimore’s scheme helps edge players get paid on the open market each year, but despite losing players like; Terrell Suggs, Zadarius Smith, and Elvis Dumervil, the defense rarely skips a beat.
The front 7 has some unproven yet very talented players assuming leading roles but defensive coordinator Wink Martindale will put those guys in a position to succeed like he has done each year since being promoted from linebackers coach in 2018.
Best Stat: Allowed .297 points per offensive play in 2020, best mark in the NFL.
Best Player: DB Marlon Humphrey
The #Ravens defense has the second-highest blitz rate in the NFL this season. DC Don Martindale runs some crazy man-pressures that could give the #Patriots problems. Who is rushing/dropping? Passing off stunts. With tight man coverage. pic.twitter.com/SlfSxd8waS— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) November 12, 2020