Our top 15 NFL defense series continues:
10. Buffalo Bills
The Bills have very good players at every level of the defense. The defensive line features Ed Oliver (11th in the NFL among interior defensive linemen in pressures in 2020), Mario Addision, and young players AJ Epenesa and Carlos Basham round them out up front. Their linebackers are studs; Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano are well known for their chemistry, run stopping, and all around solid play.
But it’s their secondary that stirs the pot for this team. Tre’Davious White is a top 10 cornerback in the NFL, his ability to play every coverage is a boon for the defense. Meanwhile safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer quarterback this team and along with impressive communication skills can make a great number of plays and adjustments in the back end. The Bills defense really complements this team with its ability to defend the pass. Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier can open up his call sheet with excellent defenders in the secondary.
Best Stat: 22 passes defensed in 2020, best in the NFL.
Best Player: CB Tre’Davious White
This is the team defense the Bills have been missing. They have all their bases covered. Run blitz which creates pressure, Edmunds on edge to keep Wilson in the pocket and a beautiful rotation by the DBs to take away the Yankee concept. It's a thing of beauty. pic.twitter.com/Wc9rU0NFx6— Cover 1 (@Cover1) November 10, 2020
9. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts play the truest form of bend don’t break football in the NFL. Their primary coverage is Cover 2 and they led the NFL in passes attempted against that coverage with 105. They also led the NFL in passes attempted with 4 rushers with 465. The Colts defense is a slow burn and they opt for discipline and making the opposition play mistake-free football for four quarters.
Most offenses can’t remain patient enough to sustain long drives against them however and 14.3% of offensive drives ended in turnovers in 2020 (3rd best mark in the NFL). The Colts have dominant defenders in the front 6 with DeForest Buckner leading the pass rush and Darius Leonard as the signal caller in the middle. Nickel Cornerback Kenny Moore is also one of the best at his position in the NFL; remember that sick interception against Carr?
Best Stat: 266 return yards off interceptions in 2020, Best in the NFL.
Best Player: LB Darius Leonard
8. Seattle Seahawks
The Hawks have had some hiccups on the defensive side of the ball since the Legion of Boom days, however they have stayed true to their Cover 3 roots, using the coverage in a league leading 257 pass attempts in 2020.
Former Raiders coach Ken Norton Jr calls the plays for the defense and has opted however for a more pressure oriented scheme, sending 5 or more rushers on 204 pass attempts, fifth most in the NFL in 2020. Much of this has been out of necessity, the Seahawks lack a dominant pass rusher and the addition of star safety Jamal Adams called for more blitzes, something the defensive back does as good or better than any DB in the NFL.
Best Stat: Allowed .33 points per play in 2020, 5th best mark in the NFL
Best Player: LB Bobby Wagner
7. New York Giants
The Giants fielded nary an impactful edge rusher in 2020, yet still managed to finish 6th in QB knockdowns in 2020. They did this only sending 4 or less rushers on 479 pass attempts, tied for 2nd most in the NFL. How did they pull this off? Well having a dominant interior rusher in Leonard Williams doesn’t hurt. But they are also at the forefront using what is called a “simulated pressure” by blitzing a second or third level defender and dropping a traditional pass rusher.
This looks like a blitz, feels like a blitz, but ultimately there are only 4 rushers and the defense is allowed to play their base coverage package while speeding up the quarterback’s process. Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham deserves a ton of credit for turning a young and probably lower in the talent department defense into a tough matchup for opposing offenses each week. The secondary is criminally unheralded with players like James Bradberry, Logan Ryan, and Jabrill Peppers each making great plays every week.
Best Stat: Gave up 23 first downs due to penalty, 5th lowest in the NFL in 2020
Best Player: DL Leonard Williams
6. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have an exhilarating scheme to watch on tape. Calling for one of the heaviest doses of blitzes in the NFL in recent years, they bring the game to the opposing offense and force errors like no other team in football. Head Coach Brian Flores brought in a game-plan specific, matchup style of defense that changes each week; meaning offenses have little clue what exactly to expect when facing off against this defense.
The Phin’s strength lies in their versatility on defense. Players like Xavien Howard, Jerome Baker, Eric Rowe, and Emmanuel Ogbah allow the scheme to be creative and each can wear multiple hats on gameday. The team created almost 2 turnovers a game as a result of their very confusing packages that emphasize blitzing and non-traditional coverages on the back-end.
Best Stat: 15.6% of offensive plays resulted in a turnover, best mark in the NFL in 2020.
Best Player: CB Xavien Howard