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Thorn tanks the Top 40 D-lineman


Larz

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https://open.substack.com/pub/trenchwarfare/p/ranking-the-top-40-defensive-linemen-4ef?r=2n0sxd&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=email

 

Ranking the top 40 defensive linemen entering the 2023 season (25 edge/15 interior) 

Using years of film study, numbers and discussions with several Pro Bowl & All-Pro offensive linemen to rank the game's best defensive linemen

Each year I put together scouting profiles and video libraries breaking down the top 10 or so edge and interior pass-rushers in the NFL for the annual OL Masterminds event. The goal is to provide a snapshot of how each player has success, what moves they are using, from what alignment and then show what that looks like with film cut-ups.

As I’m studying every game of the season focused primarily on the offensive line, I take notes on what I see from their opponents across the line of scrimmage and have cataloged my findings over the last seven or so years. This all works together to maintain a knowledge-base on which players are the best, knowing how they win (pass-rush plan, run-defense, etc.) and tracking development in their game along the way.

This list is aimed at expanding the top 10 at each position (edge/interior) to dive deeper into my notes and share a more detailed look at the landscape of defensive linemen in the NFL as we enter the 2023 season.

I am a big fan of using ‘tiers’ to separate good from great (or elite from very good, good and solid) while the actual rankings within the tiers are more subjective based on what flavor or style the evaluator prefers.

To learn more about my grading scale and how I arrive at these conclusions, check out my recent article where I ranked the top 15 OL at each position (top 75) entering the season here.

Since the impact on the passing game and quarterback is paramount for the defensive side of the ball, I am weighing their skill-set rushing the passer over defending the run.

Side note: As you work your way through these rankings, you’ll notice that there are more top-tier rushers than offensive linemen. This has pretty much been the case since I started studying and chronicling the trenches in 2014. There is just more talent along the defensive than offensive line on a yearly basis. There are a few reasons for this that stem from the early stages of playing the game. Defensive linemen accumulate stats, rely more on raw physical talent and obtain much more notoriety than offensive linemen. This is inherently understood at the youth and high school levels and it carries over to higher levels. There’s also a stigma behind playing offensive line. It is often seen as a ‘last resort’ type of position that carries a negative connotation of the player not being athletic enough to make it at other more glamorous positions. It’s also deeply misunderstood by most fans and observers of the game, even those playing other positions.

 

Lawson checks in at above average 


 

 

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16. Carl Lawson - After posting the sixth-most pressures in the NFL (64) with an excellent 15.4 pressure percentage in his first season with 10+ starts in 2020 for the Bengals, Lawson earned a three-year, $45M contract with the Jets in free agency.

He suffered a torn Achilles in a scrimmage against the Packers in his first off-season with the team, missing the entire 2021 season. Lawson returned last year to start a career-high 17 games, finishing with seven sacks, 49 pressures and a 11.9 pressure percentage. Cumulatively, these numbers weren’t as impressive as 2020, but consider his return from a torn Achilles when those stats are broken down by week.

Over the first nine games of last season, Lawson posted a 10.4 pressure percentage before really getting his legs underneath him and hitting his stride over the second half of the year, notching a 15.0 pressure percentage. That was more in line with his impact from 2020.

Lawson’s vintage combination of devastating leverage and power using his signature inside stab and lift technique was on full display in the Jets first game after their bye week when Lawson really got cooking last year.

Lawson is a rolling ball of butcher knives as a rusher, with a compact, stacked frame at 6’2”, 265 pounds and elite-level power. With his burst back to full strength, he is in line for a career-best season as a key cog on one of the league’s elite pass-rush units.

 

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Quinnen Williams - Williams wasn’t quite on Jones’ level last season, but he was close. The former third overall pick put all of the flashes from his first three seasons together for a superstar-level fourth year. Williams nearly doubled his career high in sacks (seven to 12) and QB hits (15 to 26) producing 13 more pressures (39 to 52) than his previous best number. His ratio of high-quality, sound wins was also very high as he finished second in sack score behind Jones and in front of Jones in pressure quality ratio.

At just 25-years old on a loaded defensive line, Williams is on the frontend of his prime and in the perfect situation to cement his 2022 level of play as his new baseline of production for the foreseeable future. 

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The thing to take away is that every players on these lists has been in the nfl for four or more seasons.  Some are getting close to double figures. The two jet players are neophytes in comparison and then there are others like Johnson and Macdonald who have yet to make a mark.

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9 minutes ago, Raideraholic said:

Tyree Wilson and MAXX Crosby will be number 1 and two on that list.   MAXX Crosby just give him DPOY this year.

I finally decided why you ate the way you are. You state what you believe are facts the same way you talk smack, not sure you know the difference. I for one hope you never do. 

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56 minutes ago, The Crusher said:

I finally decided why you ate the way you are. You state what you believe are facts the same way you talk smack, not sure you know the difference. I for one hope you never do. 

Ehh. It’s more likely the lead paint.

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7 hours ago, Larz said:

Quinnen Williams - Williams wasn’t quite on Jones’ level last season, but he was close. The former third overall pick put all of the flashes from his first three seasons together for a superstar-level fourth year. Williams nearly doubled his career high in sacks (seven to 12) and QB hits (15 to 26) producing 13 more pressures (39 to 52) than his previous best number. His ratio of high-quality, sound wins was also very high as he finished second in sack score behind Jones and in front of Jones in pressure quality ratio.

At just 25-years old on a loaded defensive line, Williams is on the frontend of his prime and in the perfect situation to cement his 2022 level of play as his new baseline of production for the foreseeable future. 

Double team him. We dare you.

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