We looked at the top cornerbacks in the NFL last week and now we turn our attention to the line of scrimmage. These are the guys who have been making life the most difficult for opposing quarterbacks so far this season.
When Garrett claimed he was only allowed to use two pass-rushing moves by last season by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, we had a hunch he’d be in for a monster season. With those two moves in 2018, Garrett racked up 67 pressures and an 86.2 pass-rushing grade. Now, he’s over halfway there already, with 36 pressures and a 91.3 pass-rushing grade on the year.
After a bit of a slow start, Donald is once again making his way toward the top. He’s earned pass-rushing grades over 90.0 in three of his last four games. After racking up over 100 pressures last year, he’s a bit behind pace with 39 this season.
Has the younger Watt overtaken the elder? The PFF grades say so. T.J. has racked up 22 pressures over the past three weeks and now has a 91.1 pass-rushing grade on the season. He’s looked like a changed man ever since week 11 last season, as he earned a 90.1 pass-rushing grade the last seven weeks of 2018.
No one in the NFL has a higher win-rate as a pass-rusher this season than the elder Bosa’s 25.8%. After an injury-plagued 2018 that saw him rack up only 37 pressures, Bosa has already surpassed that total and looks back to his best. He’s on pace for 78 pressures on the year, which would surpass his career-high of 75 set back in 2017.
No surprise to see Cox right behind Donald for Nos. 1 and 2 among interior players. He’s got a pass-rushing grade over 90.0 for the third season in a row. The sacks may not be there, but his 38 pressures still rank third among defensive tackles.
Watt was on pace for over 100 pressures on the year before his season was cut short. He had three separate games with at least 11 pressures in his eight outings (11 vs. Chargers, 12 vs. Falcons, 12 vs. Colts). There have only been three other instances of players getting 11 pressures all season, and no one has multiple.
Another year and another elite grade from Mack. He’s already racked up 40 pressures on the season despite drawing the attention of every single offense he faces. When let loose in the Bears' three wins over Denver, Washington and Minnesota, he racked up 24 pressures.
Bosa is doing things as a rookie that we’ve not seen from a first-year player in quite some time. Since we started grading in 2006, only Aldon Smith earned a higher pass-rushing grade than Bosa’s current 89.1. Bosa is on pace to break Smith’s rookie record of 64 total pressures, as well.
Jones' name often gets lost in conversations about the top pass-rushers in the NFL, but you have to respect his durability and consistency. Since the start of 2015, Jones has the most sacks in the NFL (64) and the second most pass-rushing snaps (2,395).
Jones has missed some time with injury already this year, but he’s looked the same player when on the field as the guy who racked up 16 sacks last season. He’s registered at least three pressures in all six games he’s played this season.
Campbell is back rushing from the interior the majority of the time and looks as effective as ever. His 45 pressures are the most of any interior defender in the NFL. He’s already nearly surpassed his total from 2018 (53).
It’s great to see Griffen back to form after off-field issues sidelined him for a good portion of 2018. He’s had outings with 11 (Green Bay), 9 (Philadelphia), and 8 (Detroit) pressures already this season after never having more than six in a game last year.
After only registering three pressures in the Steelers' first three games this season, Heyward has had at least three in every single game since. From Week 4 on, Heyward has the fourth most pressures of any interior defender (23).
Jarrett is certainly living up to his new deal. He’s been a bit more impactful as a run defender, but he has still held his own as a pass-rusher. His 81.8 pass-rushing grade would be the second-highest figure of his career.
With eight sacks on the season, Smith is already one shy of his career-high. He’s also on pace for a career-high in pressures despite already dropping into coverage 91 times on the season. He never dropped into coverage more than 72 times in a given year during his time with the Redskins.
Back to back Packers as the Smith ‘brothers’ have transformed one of the worst pass-rushes in the NFL. Smith has been racking up pressures for the Packers, and his 45 of them thus far ranks fifth in the NFL. His emergence over the last two years has been something to behold, as Smith is on pace for more pressures this season than he had his first three years in the NFL.
Just when he was getting criticized for a down year after signing his big extension, Lawrence went out and had a day in a win over the Eagles. He torched Lane Johnson for an 85.7 pass-rushing grade in that one.
Hunter is currently leading the league with 54 total pressures on the season. His pocket-pushing style has been massively effective for the Vikings defense, as he’s now over 50 pressures in each of his last four years.
One of the most impactful free-agent signings so far this season, Houston is picking up where he left off last season. With already 33 pressures on the year, Houston has four-plus pressures in all but two of the Colts games this year.
Who could have seen this coming? Dupree had a career-high pass-rushing grade of 61.0 coming into this season — and that was just last year. Six of his eight games so far this season though have earned pass-rushing grades of 65.0-plus, and he’s racked up 14 pressures in his last three games.
Barrett started off the season like a house on fire. And while opposing offenses have started to figure him out to a degree, he’s still on pace for a career-high in pressures. He had 43 in 2017 and is already at 34 this season.
Van Noy had always been utilized as a true 3-4 outside linebacker in the Patriots defense that dropped into coverage more than they rushed the passer prior to this season. That’s all changed in 2019, though, as he’s rushed the passer 224 times already and dropped into coverage on only 50 snaps. Van Noy is rewarding the Patriots with a career year, as he already has 33 pressures on the season.
After averaging over 900 snaps a season his first three years in the league, Buckner is finally getting a breather at times along the 49ers' defensive line, and he’s seen his efficiency jump from last season. He’s on pace for only 696 snaps this year yet nearly 50 pressures.
Clark hasn’t quite been able to replicate the dominance we saw from him as a pass-rusher last season when he earned an 88.8 pass-rushing grade, but we’re not going to argue over top-25 play. He’s done it all with an absurd workload, too. Clark has played the most snaps of any defensive tackle in the NFL, as he’s on pace for 871 this season.
While the rest of the Browns' roster hasn’t lived up to the hype, the Browns' pass-rush has. Vernon has had at least three pressures in all but one game so far this season.