Today we’re getting into the fun rankings. It’s the best pass-rushing units in the NFL. When it comes to defensive linemen who can affect the passing game, we like to say that you can never have too many. The teams at the top of this list personify that while some at the bottom are still looking for anyone who fits that bill.
32. Oakland Raiders
Are we surprised? They had the worst pass-rush we’ve ever graded last season, and all they added was the 35th and 72nd ranked players on our draft board to it.
31. Miami Dolphins
Things were already rough for Miami then they shipped Robert Quinn to Dallas. It will truly be a make or break year for former first-rounder Charles Harris, who regressed with only 20 pressures in year two.
30. New York Giants
Getting rid of Olivier Vernon isn’t going to do the Giants’ pass-rush any favors. The rest of the edge group in New York last season outside of Vernon totaled all of 64 pressures.
29. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks at least addressed the loss of Frank Clark over the course of the offseason, but there is no telling how well it will turn out in 2019. L.J. Collier is no sure thing to hit the ground running while Ziggy Ansah hasn’t played 500 snaps in a season since 2015.
Pretty much everything went wrong for the 2018 Cardinals. One thing that needs to go right this year though is to get Chandler Jones back to his best. His 42 pressures last season paled in comparison to the 142 he had over his first two seasons in Arizona.
Trey Flowers was the Patriots’ pass-rush for much of last season, and while the addition of Michael Bennett mitigates that to some degree, it’s not a one-for-one replacement. Bennett’s not topped a pass-rushing grade over 75.0 since 2015.
Things should get considerably better up-front in Tampa Bay, but unfortunately that was the same thing we were saying at this time last year. It’s rare to have a nose tackle anchor a pass-rush, but that could be the case with the Bucs this year. Vita Vea racked up a ridiculous 19 pressures over the last six games last season and looked like a changed player.
25. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens have to replace both their starting edges from a season ago – over 1,400 snaps worth of play. They’ve addressed it in recent drafts with Day 2 picks in Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams, and now Jaylon Ferguson. So far though, neither Bowser nor Williams has shown much to get excited about.
24. Atlanta Falcons
Vic Beasley’s 2016 is one of the all-time aberrations in NFL history. He’s not only not been able to replicate that success since, but he has legitimately been a liability rushing the passer. He had all of 11 pressures over the second half of last season.
23. Tennessee Titans
Harold Landry is the one to watch for the Titans’ defensive front this season. We were high on him coming out as the 12th overall player on our draft board. He showed some flashes early on last season but totaled only 34 pressures for the year.
The Justin Houston signing was quietly one of our favorite this offseason. At only 30 years of age, Houston likely has a lot left in the tank. And he showed as much last season, earning an 89.1 pass-rushing grade.
21. Detroit Lions
Trey Flowers will be worth every penny to the Lions if he takes their edge rush out of the basement this season. He’s averaged 62 pressures a season for the last two years in nearly an identical scheme. The Lions would be happy with anything close to that.
The Panthers added a lot to their defensive line this offseason, but it won’t put them over the hump unless Kawann Short recaptures his Pro-Bowl form we saw from him before last season. He racked up only 34 pressures in 2018 after averaging 56 per in the three seasons prior.
The Steelers have the ability to vastly outperform this ranking if what we saw from T.J. Watt last season is a sign of things to come. Over the last seven games of last season, he earned a 90.1 pass-rushing grade.
While losing Preston Smith will certainly sting, it can easily be replaced by any number of the three first-rounders taking a leap forward in 2019. No one on the Redskins front, though, earned a pass-rushing grade higher than 71.0 last season.
17. New York Jets
The Jets’ pass-rush will have a different construction from pretty much anyone else’s in the NFL this season. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Leonard Williams, Quinnen Williams and Henry Anderson can all move up and down the line of scrimmage while still affecting the quarterback. The versatility of the front will be fun to watch.
16. Dallas Cowboys
The breakout of Demarcus Lawrence has done a nice job of covering up the fact that Taco Charlton has been a complete non-factor since being selected in the first round in 2017. He’s racked up all of 38 pressures over his first two seasons.
Between Dee Ford and Justin Houston, the Chiefs have to replace a whopping 126 total pressures from a season ago. The good news is that Chris Jones only appears to be improving as his career goes on with his pass-rushing grades skyrocketing from 76.3 as a rookie, to 83.1 in 2017, to 91.5 last season.
The loss of Sheldon Richardson leaves a sizable hole in the middle of the Vikings’ defense. They’ll need a big bounce-back year from Everson Griffen to get back to form. The edge defender posted the lowest pass-rushing grade of his career while dealing with off-field issues.
13. Buffalo Bills
Jerry Hughes is often the forgotten man when we talk about the top pass-rushers in the NFL. He’s averaged nearly 59 pressures a season since coming to the Bills in 2013.
We are excited to see what the Bengals’ pass-rush looks like with Carl Lawson back healthy. He looked on his way to outperforming an outstanding rookie campaign before tearing his ACL. Through seven weeks, he had already totaled 25 pressures.
With how much money the Packers doled out this offseason, things better get better in Green Bay. The wildcard is Za’Darius Smith, whose 60 pressures last season were a huge outlier compared to the rest of his career. He never had more than 40 in a season before his breakout 2018 campaign.
10. Chicago Bears
This Bears’ pass-rush could look a whole lot different if the light switch ever turned on for former top-10 pick Leonard Floyd. He only managed 36 pressures last season despite rushing the passer the 30th-most snaps of any edge defender in the league.
This is purely what Aaron Donald brings to the table. Put three guys off the street next to Donald, and you’ve still got a top-10 pass-rush. That’s just how frequently and quickly he wins.
This is the biggest mover from a season ago. DeForest Buckner led the team with a measly 73.0 pass-rushing grade last season. Nick Bosa and Dee Ford will be changing that in 2019. Ford’s league-leading 78 pressures doubled the 49ers’ top edge defender last season.
I don’t think the people of America appreciate the consistency Von Miller has shown over the course of his career. The man has earned an elite 90.0-plus grade in all eight seasons of his career. He has averaged 71 pressures a season and that’s with an injury-shortened season in the mix. Only three edge defenders collected that many in 2018.
The Saints should be able to send out four across this season without a single weak link. The wildcard will be what last year’s first-rounder Marcus Davenport does for an encore after notching only 28 pressures as a rookie.
This group desperately needs Whitney Mercilus to get back to his best. Mercilus had a decidedly down 2018 season after returning from a pec injury that cut his 2017 season short. He racked up only 42 pressures. Not even 29 years old yet, there’s hope Mercilus can return to form that saw him rack up 122 pressures in 2015 and 2016.
The Ingram-Bosa combo didn’t figure to be falling out of the top-10 anytime soon, but now that they’ve added Jerry Tillery to the mix, it could take them to the next level. Tillery earned the highest pass-rushing grade on stunts among interior defenders in college football.
Yet another defensive line that wasn’t comfortable to rest on their laurels this offseason. The Jags added PFF’s highest-graded college edge rusher last season to a group that finished with the sixth-highest team pass-rushing grade in the NFL last year.
Death. Taxes. And the Eagles’ pass-rush. What defensive lineman wouldn’t want to come to Philadelphia and have every single pocket for them collapsed by Fletcher Cox?If Aaron Donald didn’t exist, we’d be talking about Cox in a similar air. Cox’s 95 pressures last season were the most by any defensive tackle not named Donald we’ve ever charted.