NFL News & Analysis

Top five offensive and defensive duos ahead of the 2022 NFL season

Kansas City, MO, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) dances with Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (28) and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (85) after scoring a touchdown in the AFC championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022, at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. Mandatory Credit: Albert Cesare-USA TODAY Sports

Talent, consistency and compatibility are vital to any NFL duo’s success. While they don't necessarily have to play the same position, they perform at an elite level on either offense or defense to buoy one another.

Below are the five of the top offensive and defensive duos in the league entering the 2022 season, driven by PFF Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and PFF stats. Teams with newly created offseason pairings will be considered, as well.


WR Ja’Marr Chase and WR Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals

Chase and Higgins excelled during the Bengals’ Super Bowl run as primary pass-catching targets for franchise quarterback Joe Burrow. The two young stars dominated on the field with top-10 WAR figures and quality PFF grades.

Player WAR Offensive Grade Receiving Grade
Ja’Marr Chase 0.49  85.3 86.1
Tee Higgins 0.40 83.4 82.8

Chase and Higgins finished this past season with the second- and third-highest offensive grades on the team, and both flourished as big-play receiving threats. Each had average target depths that surpassed 12.0 yards, and they are expected to continue on that trend as vertical weapons for years to come.

WR Deebo Samuel and TE George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers

Samuel and Kittle form this list's first irregular positional duo, but they each control the middle of the field at an elite level. Samuel registered a 99.0 medium receiving depth grade this past season, while Kittle possessed an otherworldly 99.9 mark that same campaign. They each posted top-10 2021 WAR figures at their positions and will look to duplicate their 90.0-plus offensive grades from a year ago with new starting quarterback Trey Lance

WR Davante Adams and TE Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders

Injuries marred Waller's 2021 season en route to his lowest offensive grade in four years (69.7). When he's healthy, Waller is one of the league's most talented receiving weapons, boasting the third-best tight end WAR figure since 2019 (1.19). Meanwhile, new teammate Davante Adams owns the top WAR mark among wide receivers since 2017 (2.73) and seems destined to continue his greatness alongside quarterback Derek Carr, who he played with at Fresno State. Expect Adams and Waller to emerge as one of the premier WR/TE duos this upcoming season.

WR Mike Evans and WR Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Godwin and Evans have done annual damage as a receiving duo, and 2021 was no different. The two finished last season with top-20 WAR figures and caught a combined 22 of their 31 contested targets. Whenever Godwin returns from his ACL tear, he and Evans will look to continue their career ascent with Tom Brady returning under center. 

WR Justin Jefferson and WR Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings

Jefferson's elite impact during his young NFL career has been undeniable.  He's garnered the Vikings' best offensive grade his first two seasons while possessing the third-highest 2021 WAR figure among receivers (1.16). Thielen missed four games last year while finishing with his lowest receiving grade since 2015, but he is only two years removed from an 87.9 receiving grade. If the two wideouts can achieve excellence at the same time, their offensive impact can elevate the Vikings to playoff contention.


EDGE T.J. Watt and DI Cam Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers

Watt has been a locomotive off the edge the past few years, further cementing himself as a premier defensive player. However, Watt and Heyward's dominance along Pittsburgh’s defensive front goes slightly unnoticed. 

Player WAR Defensive Grade Pass-Rushing Grade
T.J. Watt 0.41 89.6 90.6
Cam Heyward 0.40 90.8 83.8

Watt finished with a top-five 2021 WAR mark for edge rushers, while Heyward trailed only Aaron Donald for the best interior defensive linemen WAR figure. The two feed off one another en route to tons of quarterback pressure — including a combined 34 sacks, 24 hits and 70 hurries in 2021.

EDGE Maxx Crosby and EDGE Chandler Jones, Las Vegas Raiders

Last year was the ultimate breakout campaign for Crosby. He led the league in total pressures (108), hurries (77) and hits (20) during 2021 on his way to the PFF edge rusher WAR title. His newest partner in crime will be Chandler Jones, who put together the second-highest pass-rushing grade of his career last year (87.7). The duo should continue the Raiders' pass-rushing renaissance under new head coach Josh McDaniels.

S Micah Hyde and S Jordan Poyer, Buffalo Bills

Hyde and Poyer are among the most underrated safety duos in the NFL. The two's WAR totals each ranked top 15 in 2021, and they both posted 86.0-plus coverage grades last season. With another year in Leslie Frazier’s defense, expect more great things from this talented secondary pairing. 

EDGE Khalil Mack and EDGE Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers

Bosa had a top-five edge defender WAR in 2021, accompanied by a 90.3 pass-rushing grade. There’s no denying his quarterback-hunting prowess when he’s healthy. The same can be said for Khalil Mack, who since 2016 has been the edge-rushing WAR king (2.93). If he can return to his 2020 form when he posted a 92.5 grade, the sky is the limit for this duo. 

CB Marcus Peters and CB Marlon Humphrey, Baltimore Ravens

Peters missed all of last year with a torn ACL but owns the sixth-best cornerback WAR figure since 2017. Slot cornerback Marlon Humphrey has the fifth-best WAR average during that time span and is looking to bounce back after a down year of playing out of position. A new defensive coordinator and an infusion of younger and fresher secondary talent can bring the best out of this cornerback duo heading into 2022.


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