My Top 5 NFL Defenses for 2020
Updated: Aug 24, 2020
The Ravens defense managed to get even stronger in the offseason with the addition of 5-time Pro Bowler and game changer Calais Campbell along with Derek Wolfe and linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison in the draft. Drafting Patrick Queen 28th overall was an absolute steal in the draft, Queen is a great in coverage and will join an underrated linebacker core consisting of Pernell McPhee, Jake Ryan and L.J. Fort with the added depth of Malik Harrison. The Ravens have a ferocious defense line filled with pass rushing and run stuffing monsters such as Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, Matthew Judon and Derek Wolfe as well as depth pieces such as Tyus Bowser and rookie Justin Madubuike. However, their defensive line isn’t the best part of the Ravens defense, their secondary is the best in the NFL. Both Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters are top 10 corners in the league and Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young provide great depth as the 3rd option at corner whilst Earl Thomas patrols the field at safety.
Going into the offseason the Ravens linebacker core was the only cause for concern but with the additions at linebacker the Ravens truly have no weakness on defense in my opinion. L.J. Fort has been a good starter the past two seasons. When last seen in 2018 Jake Ryan had a good year for Green Bay but has struggled with injuries the past 2 years. McPhee is a good veteran and the addition of Queen gives them a promising coverage linebacker.
The 49ers defense is destructive and they showed it all threw the 2019 regular season, play-offs and Super Bowl, up until late in the 4th quarter they had held the explosive Chiefs offense to 10 points. What makes the 49ers defense so formidable is the consistency at all three levels of defense. Their defensive line is not to be messed with. Dee Ford opposite Nick Bosa on the edges with the versatile Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas who can play on the edge or interior as well as first-round rookie Javon Kinlaw at defensive tackle. San Francisco also has two number one inside linebackers in Kwon Alexander and Fred Warner who together with the defensive line create the best front seven in football, of which is perfectly complemented by their lockdown secondary led by Richard Sherman, Jimmie Ward and Jarquiski Tarttt. Ultimatley, the 49ers bring relentless pressure from their front seven forcing quarterbacks to get rid of the ball fast but their secondary and linebackers cover incredibly well making them incredibly difficult to score on.
San Francsico’s defense only has one weakness, their secondary depth. In the past both starting safeties, Tartt and Ward have struggled with injury which could leave their secondary very depleted as they lack depth at the position.
Chicago has had historical defenses over the years and past two seasons the Bears refound their historical mould on defense. Ranking 1st in points allowed in 2018 with 17.7 and 4th in 2019 with 18.6. Similar to the 49ers the Bears have an elite defensive line and front seven. Akiem Hicks is one of the top interior lineman in the league but missed 11 games in 2019, his return will give the Bears a boost in both the run game and pass-rush. Additionally, signing Robert Quinn will have a huge impact on the Bears defense in my view. While Quinn is not an elite edge rusher he does not have to be. The Bears simply needed a rusher that demanded the opposing team guard him. As throughout 2019 Khalil Mack was double teamed over and over as Chicago did not have any real other threat which showed as Mack had his worse statistical season of his career, but with Robert Quinn opposite Mack who totalled 11.5 sacks in 2019 and Akiem Hick in the interior who himself demands at times a double team I believe both Mack and the Bears defense will reach new heights in 2020. Additionally, inside linebacker Roquan Smith has another season under his belt and alongside Danny Trethathan they form a good linebacker core able to both cover and tackle. Although the Bears saw their total turnovers fall from 47 to 24 in 2019, I expect it to fall into a happy medium around 35 in 2020 due to the addition of Quinn and getting Hicks back. However, it is very difficult to predict total turnovers year to year.
The only weakness on the Bears defense is their secondary. Apart from safety Eddie Jackson and corner Kyle Fuller the Bears lack talent and depth. While Jaylon Johnson may have a great rookie season opposite Fuller neither cornerbacks Artie Burns or Buster Skrine have shown any real promise in their careers so far and veteran safety Tashaun Gipson fills a need but had a poor 2019 in Houston and is aging. However, probably the biggest factor determining the Bears defensive success is out of the defence’s hands. Can Trubisky and the offense limit turnovers, have long possessions and give their defense good field position or will it be similar to the story of the Trubisky era so far in Chicago.
The Bills have quietly become one of the elite defences in the NFL. The absence of a superstar is likely why they are not the one of the first names that come to mind, but over the past two seasons they have played incredible team defense ranking 3rd in 2019 and 2nd in 2018 in yards allowed per game. When you look at the Bills defense they have no weak spot, they have two great linebackers in Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano who can cover incredibly well, with Edmunds being good against the run also. They have two good safeties in Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer as well as an elite lockdown corner in Tre’Davious White. Further, on their defensive line Ed Oliver is entering his 2nd year and looks to be a potential breakout star in 2020, surrounding Oliver on the defensive line is a lot of depth. Setting the edge Buffalo have Jerry Hughes and Trent Murphy starting and rookie AJ Epenesa and Mario Addison to rotate. Ultimately, the Bills have depth and talent all over their defense as well as a great defensive minded head coach in Sean McDermott and a schedule that sees them play against the Jets and Dolphins twice as well as young quarterbacks like Drew Lock, Justin Herbert and Kyler Murray.
The only potential knock on the Bills defense is the lack of depth opposite White at corner. I like Levi Wallace as a number two but neither Taron Johnson nor Josh Norman had a great year in 2019, if they can both return to their 2018 form the Bills will have a great secondary. Similar to the Bears if the Bills offense can bring their total turnovers down from 35 and extend their drives the Bills defense will play better and the team will win more games.
The Chargers defense struggled with injuries throughout the 2019 season as well as their quarterback consistently turning the ball over on offense. All three of the Chargers starting Safeties Derwin James, Nasir Adderley and Adrian Phillips faced season ending injuries, but they still finished 6th in yards per game and 5th in passing yards per game. With the addition of Chris Harris Jr at cornerback creating an elite cornerback tandem with Casey Hayward Jr and Desmond King, and both James and Adderley retuning from injury fully healthy I expect the Chargers pass defense to take another step up in 2020. With that secondary who are you going to throw at? Not only is their secondary elite but they bring constant pressure off the edge with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. The Chargers also upgraded their run defence with the signing of Linval Joseph at defensive tackle who is a defensive mauler at the point of attack. So, with a fully healthy defence I expect the Chargers to be great in 2020.
Run defense is the only aspect of the Chargers defense that could be a weakness. They finished 18th in run defense in 2019 and although Linval Joseph will be a huge help at stopping the run, they will need both 2019 first round pick Jerry Tillery and Justin Jones to step up. The Chargers will also be hoping Drue Tranquill can step up in his second year at linebacker as well as 2020 first round pick Kenneth Murray.
Honourable mentions with summary of why they didn't make the top 5
Losing Javon Hargrave will have a bigger impact in my opinion than most believe. He leaves a hole at nose tackle that the steelers haven’t filled. Additionally, I expect the Steelers to still be great but regress slightly from 2019 due to fact they had 55 turnovers in 2019 which they are very unlikely to replicate in 2020.
While the addition of Malcolm Jenkins will certainly have an effect of the Saints secondary, I don’t think he will transform them from the 20th best passing defense to a top 10. Which without I don’t think they can be a top 5 defense regardless of their elite run defense.
The Patriots have a depleted defensive line and despite their great linebackers and defensive backs I think we could see a decline in their ability to stop the run and bring pressure allowing receivers more time to get open. They will undoubtably have a good statistical year given their schedule but against the good teams I think they will struggle more in 2020.
Denver have had a great defense for years and I can’t see that changing in 2020. However, although they got better with the addition of A.J. Bouye and Jurrel Casey. I don’t think Casey alone will be able to solve their issue against the run that had them ranked 16th in 2019.
The Buccaneers had a quietly good defense in the second half of the season in 2019 which grew to great in the final few games. They allowed the fewest yards in the league on the ground in 2019. However, they still have an obvious hole in their defense at safety. Also, I expect Shaquill Barrett to regress in sacks after his breakout year in 2019 and JPP struggled with injuries in 2019, his ability to stay healthy has a huge effect on this defense.
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