Regular season NFL football is just around the corner. Let Football Takes guide you with our Top 10 Defenses in the NFL heading into the season.
You can say all you want about Tom Brady and him leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Super Bowl last season, but let us not forget how impactful that Tampa Bay defense was in that championship run.
In the Super Bowl alone, they tormented the Kansas City Chiefs offense. They held the top offense in the league to 9 points on their way to a 31-9 triumphant win of the Lombardi Trophy.
In that game, Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes had no time to process the Buccaneers’ defense. And while he only got sacked three, according to ESPN Stats & Info, Mahomes was pressured on 29 of his 56 dropbacks. Despite being pressured on over half of those dropbacks, the Bucs only blitzed 11% of the time, on six snaps.
This is a long way to say that defense wins championships, and that moniker holds true in virtually every sport to this day.
Many teams saw the impact that a fast and powerful defense can have like the one the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have built, which has led them to try to recreate their own through the draft and free agency this past offseason.
Now that we are a few weeks into camp, and we are approaching our first official week of preseason football, let’s take a look at the best defenses in the NFL.
Top 10 Defenses in the NFL | 2021
#1: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The preview highlighted why this defensive unit led by amazing defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is so good.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers tore through the playoffs, tormenting opposing quarterbacks to a 59.7% completion percentage, tallying 10 sacks, and holding QBs to a 6-7 TD-INT ratio.
What is even scarier is that the Buccaneers were not only able to maintain the whole defensive core by resigning every impact player from that defense from last season, they added another piece in the draft with edge rusher Joe Tyron.
Their young secondary of Antoine Winfield Jr., Sean Murphy-Bunting, and Carlton Davis is near the top in the league and they are still only a few years into their pro careers.
Mix that with one of the best front sevens in all of football that includes speedy MLB Devin White, quick edge rusher Shaquil Barrett, and savvy veterans like Ndamukong Suh, Lavonte David and Jason Pierre-Paul, this defense is absolutely loaded.
#2: Washington Football Team
This defense that the Washington Football Team has built over the past few years through the draft and key free agency signings is amazingly young and talented.
The defensive line is arguably the best in the league featuring 2020 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young, and three other first-round draft picks in Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, and Daron Payne. Oh yeah, don’t forget they also have Matt Ioannidis to throw in there along with Tim Settle.
Sweat and Young both tallied over 40 total QB pressures, and that was with both of them suffering a few injuries throughout the season.
And then there is the secondary that was considered the weak part of the lineup, but after signing William Jackson III to team up with Kendall Fuller, break out player Kamren Curl, and hybrid safety Landon Collins, this secondary could elevate this defense to the top come October.
While there were also some concerns about the middle of their defense at linebacker, they addressed them with their first-round pick of Jamin Davis out of Kentucky. His speed and versatility may push this defense over the top.
#3: Los Angeles Rams
While the Rams did lose two pivotal players in John Johnson II and Troy Hill in the secondary, this team still features most likely the two best defensive players in the league, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. Aaron Donald will consistently put pressure on opposing QBs and RBs which has led him to win multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards.
For Jalen Ramsey, he has also been equally as consistent wherever he plays, whether it was Jacksonville where he started his career, or now in LA. Ramsey is a shut-down corner who can take the other team’s best receiver out of the picture.
The team did lose defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to the Chargers, but having these two dominant forces, as well as a young set of pieces, powers this defense into the top 3.
#4: Pittsburgh Steelers
There was a reason that the Steelers went undefeated for their first 11 games of the season before falling to the #2 defense on this list, the Washington Football Team.
That reason was the defense.
Like the WFT, they boast an extremely strong defensive line with superstars such as T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward, but they even added to it in free agency with the pick-up of Melvin Ingram from the Chargers.
However, the secondary has some question marks, aside from star young safety, Mikah Fitzpatrick. If he is able to galvanize the troops in the secondary and they back up the strong play of the defensive line, the Steelers will be contenders in any game this season.
#5: Baltimore Ravens
Unlike most of the teams on this list, this team is led by their secondary on the defensive end. And it makes sense why as the secondary contains the best trio of cornerbacks in the league with Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and Jimmy Smith.
The reason for them falling behind is their lackluster front seven, and more specifically the defensive line.
They did add Justin Houston which is a perfect fit for this team, but other upgrades may be needed for the team as they are easily the most aggressive blitzing team in the NFL.
#6: San Francisco 49ers
People may forget that the 49ers were in the Super Bowl just two years ago, and the main reason why was because of this menacing defense.
The return of Nick Bosa from his ACL injury will be a huge boost for this defense that missed his ability to pressure the QB. They also re-upped Fred Warner this offseason, arguably the best off-ball linebacker in the league.
The team did lose defensive coordinator Robert Salah this offseason as he leaves to take over the head coach job for the Jets, but this defense will still prove to be very impactful.
#7: Cleveland Browns
While the Browns have a strong offense, this defense is absolutely one to watch during this upcoming season. This unit has strong young players but they fell short last season when it counted.
For that reason, the Browns went into free agency and the NFL Draft with one mindset only, address the defensive woes.
They signed Troy Hill and John Johnson III from the Rams and picked up now veteran pass rusher, and former #1 overall pick Jadaveon Clowney to play alongside possibly the best edge rusher in the league, Myles Garrett.
Not to mention, they also picked up CB Greg Newsome II in the draft, and then were able to get their hands on possibly the steal of the draft in Round 2 with LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
This defense is poised to make huge improvements.
#8 Denver Broncos
This placing for the Denver Broncos may seem a bit peculiar for those who are unaware of what is being built in Denver.
They added three huge pieces in the secondary with Pro Bowler Kyle Fuller, solid starter Ronald Darby, and possibly the best corner in the draft, Patrick Surtain. All of them will join stud safety Justin Simmons and Bryce Callahan in what is now a loaded secondary.
Their defensive line also features the pass rushing duo of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. I expect big things out of this defense led by the genius mind of Vic Fangio.
#9: New England Patriots
This ranking is all dependent on the situation with Stephon Gilmore. If he remains on the team, they are absolutely at top 10 defense in the NFL, maybe even top 5. But if he doesn’t, there are bound to be some issues in the secondary.
They picked up Davon Godchaux and Matthew Judon in free agency to bolster that front seven, and they will be getting Donta Hightower back after he opted out of last season due to the pandemic.
Any team coached by Bill Belichick is bound to work hard and make some noise on the defensive end, this one will be no different.
#10: New York Giants
Closing out the rankings will be the New York Football Giants.
Entering the offseason, they knew they needed to get their hands on another cornerback in the secondary to go along with James Bradberry, Jabrill Peppers, and Logan Ryan. They filled that hole with the signing of speedster Adoree Jackson.
They also had a hole to fill at the edger rusher position after losing some key pieces on the line, which is why they went out and drafted Azeez Ojulari in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
This defense is hungry to prove themselves and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and head coach Joe Judge are surely going to whip them into shape for a competitive 2021 season.