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Ranking AFC West DTs: Bilal Nichols, Jerry Tillery have some catching up to do

It’s a weak group as a whole

Las Vegas Raiders v Denver Broncos
Bilal Nichols
Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

We’ve taken a look at a few different position groups during our AFC West rankings and most of them have been pretty strong so far. However, the defensive tackles are a different story and the Las Vegas Raiders are part of the problem as Bilal Nichols and Jerry Tillery are currently slated as their two starters and are rather uninspiring.

Outside of Chris Jones from the Kansas City Chiefs, the conference’s defensive tackles are rather lackluster as the Top 5 players at the position are listed below.

1) Chris Jones

There is no argument here as Jones is one of the best defensive tackles in the entire league. During the regular season last year, he tied for the highest PFF grade (92.0) at the position and had the most pressures with 77, 14 more than Dexter Lawrence in second place. For reference, the difference between Lawrence and Cam Heyward, who finished third, was only five. Jones has always been a better pass-rusher than a run defender, but he did earn the seventh-best PFF run defense grade (78.0) in 2022 and that mark led all AFC West defensive tackles.

2) Zach Allen

The Denver Broncos brought in Zach Allen during free agency to replace Dre’mont Jones as Allen is coming off a career year with the Arizona Cardinals. In 2022, he set personal bests for sacks, TFL and pressures with 5.5, 10 and 35, respectively. The latter was good enough for a Top 20 finish among NFL DTs, and he’s also recorded 51 defensive stops over the last two seasons combined. Denver made the four-year pro a rich man in the offseason, inking him to a three-year, $45.75 million contract.

3) D.J. Jones

We’ll stay in the Mile High City for the next defensive tackle on the list, D.J. Jones. Jones set a career-high with 30 pressures a year ago which was good enough to tie for the fourth-most at the position in the division. That’s even more impressive considering he spent a little more than 40 percent of his snaps as a nose tackle and everyone ahead of him was more of a 3-technique. The former sixth-round pick has always been more known for his run defense though, and he racked up 18 defensive stops against the run in 2022—tied for fourth—at a 9.1 percent clip which was second-best in the AFC West (minimum 150 run defense snaps).

4) Sebastian Joseph-Day

Sebastian Joseph-Day has never been much of a pass-rusher, but he has carved out a career as a solid run defender and was one of the best AFC West defensive tackles in that department last season. He finished with 28 run stops which were tied for the eighth-most league-wide and led the division by seven stops. Joseph-Day also had the lowest average depth of tackle among AFC West DTs (minimum 150 run defense snaps) at 1.6 yards, meaning he made serval impact plays in the ground game.

5) Bilal Nichols

While Bilal Nichols was a frustrating player for Raider fans last year, he did finish tied for fourth in the division with 30 pressures and logged the fourth-highest win rate as a rusher at 9.8 percent. He’s been known for getting after the quarterback throughout his career with 93 combined pressures over the last three campaigns. Also, he has a three-year streak going of at least 30 pressures that he’ll look to keep alive in 2023. It’s just a matter of if Nichols can improve on an ugly 48.9 PFF run defense grade and hit home more as a rusher after logging just 1.5 sacks a year ago.