Quarterback is the most crucial position in a franchise. That’s a fact. That universal truth means two things; first, invest everything you can into protecting them and making them a star and second, invest everything else into disrupting your opponents – a.k.a. the defensive line.
This calendar year has proved this to be true once again. In the Super Bowl, the Los Angeles Rams were able to get to Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow with an imposing and aggressive defensive line, helping them win the battle of the trenches and ultimately, the game.
Then in the NFL Draft, there were 15 defensive linemen (edge, defensive end or defensive tackle) taken before the first quarterback was selected. We will look at what teams have built the best D-line units going into next season.
The Bills have been building this unit since they took Ed Oliver ninth overall back in 2019. In their subsequent two drafts, they used their second-round picks to add AJ Epenesa, Boogie Basham and Greg Rousseau, and so far, Oliver and Rousseau have been home runs. With the addition of DaQuan Jones and Shaq Lawson’s return, Buffalo has one of the best units in the league. Ed Oliver has been the star and has quickly become one of the best tackles in the game, and Rousseau showed superstar potential throughout his rookie season. With solid depth behind their starters like Epenesa, Jordan Phillips and Boogie Basham, the Bills have the talent to dominate the line of scrimmage in their four-down front for entire games.
The Titans’ line showed that they were amongst the best in the league in their dominant performance in last year’s divisional round against the Bengals. They racked up 9.0 sacks in their historic performance, and their 2019 first-round pick, Jefferey Simmons, had three by himself. Simmons and Harold Landry are homegrown products, and they lead the way for their unit alongside Denico Autry, who was added during the 2021 free agency period. With young nose tackles Teair Tart, Naquan Jones and Haskell Garrett, along with veteran edge rusher Bud Dupree rounding out their unit, Tennessee looks to start their bid for repeating as divisional champions upfront.
Green Bay Packers
Though a lot of the attention has been paid to the offensive side of the ball in Green Bay, their defensive line has been quietly building into one of the scariest in the league. After having a dominant unit last year, they added Devonte Wyatt and Kingsley Enagbare in the draft and former Pro Bowler Jarran Reed in free agency. All of those newcomers will be welcomed by Preston Smith, Kenny Clark, and Rashan Gary, who are all coming off of stellar seasons. Add in Dean Lowry coming off a career year, and the Packers have all the right pieces to dominate any NFC team’s offensive line.
San Francisco 49ers, Washington Commanders and Los Angeles Rams