News & Analysis

Week 3 NFL defensive line rankings

After three weeks of offensive line rankings, we've decided to flip to the other side of the ball to rank all 32 NFL defensive lines through Week 3 of the 2018-19 regular season. Of course, with just a three-game sample size, the strength of the offensive line each defensive line faced still heavily influences the overall rank of the team's defensive line, so keep that in mind.

[Editor’s note: The ranks listed below are based on an aggregate score for each team's top-five defensive linemen in terms of snap count total that takes into account the 2017 season and the three weeks of 2018-19 regular season. For rookies, this grade below is their overall PFF season grade, to date.]

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3:  1st

The Eagles’ defensive line has managed to tie Mack and the Bears’ unit in pass-rush productivity (14.2) through Week 3. Veterans Chris Long and Fletcher Cox lead the way with pass-rush productivity ratings of 11.7 and 8.4, respectively. Philadelphia’s leading edge tandem, Long and Michael Bennett, is tied for first among top edge tandems in the NFL in total pressures (27).

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 2nd

The Jaguars’ defensive line ranks sixth in average depth of tackle (1.57) against the run with veteran edge defender Calais Campbell leading the way at four total tackles for no gain or a loss. Defending run and pass plays, Jacksonville’s defensive line leads all units in total tackles for a loss or no gain (14). Campbell also leads the team in pass-rush productivity (7.4), ranking 22nd among qualifiers.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 3rd

Gut-wrenching roughing the passer penalties have plagued Packers’ Clay Matthews in three consecutive weeks, but he hasn’t done much even when he isn’t being penalized. He has just three total pressures across 70 pass-rush snaps this season, and his 2.1 pass-rush productivity ranks tied for 85th in the NFL. Fortunately for Matthews, Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark have been bright spots for Green Bay. Daniels ranks third in pass-rush productivity (9.4), and Clark leads all defensive interiors in total run stops (10). The Packers’ 30 run stops as a defensive line lead the NFL.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 4th

The Rams’ defensive interiors, Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald, are easily the best defensive tackle tandem in the NFL. The duo has recorded 30 total pressures between them, tops among every team’s top-two pass-rushing defensive tackles through Week 3. Los Angeles’ lack of an edge presence, however, keeps the unit from the top spot in the league, as second-year Eastern Michigan product Samson Ebukam leads the team’s edge defenders in total pressures with just six.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 5th

Vikings fourth-year edge defender Danielle Hunter leads the unit in pass-rush productivity at 7.7, which currently ranks tied for 17th. Fellow edge defender Everson Griffen has also turned in a respectable 6.9 pass-rush productivity through Week 3, while newly signed defensive interior Sheldon Richardson is off to an even hotter start with 13 total pressures and an 8.2 pass-rush productivity rating. In run defense, Minnesota’s defensive line, anchored by Linval Joseph’s seven run stops, is tied for fourth in the NFL in total run stops (27).

Defensive line ranking, Week 3: 6th

Trading for Khalil Mack this offseason has turned the Bears’ defensive line into a juggernaut. Mack ranks second among qualifying edge defenders in pass-rush productivity (13.6) through Week 3, while Chicago’s defensive line as a whole is tied for first in pass-rush productivity at 14.2. Veteran defensive interior Akiem Hicks gets lost in the shuffle with Mack stealing the limelight, but he too is off to an outstanding start, as he currently ranks ninth among qualifiers in pass-rush productivity (8.3).

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 7TH

Saints edge defender Cameron Jordan has kept the team’s defense afloat almost single-handedly, as he leads the team in total pressures (10) and run stops (six). Veterans Alex Okafor and Sheldon Rankins have also positively contributed to the team’s run defense, earning 9.1 and 8.3 run-stop percentages through Week 3. However, ranking tied for 21st in combined pressure percentage (8.1), the Saints’ defensive still has a long way to go before becoming a feared unit in the NFL.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 8TH

Texans star edge defender Jadeveon Clowney missed Week 2 with back and elbow injuries, and even when he has taken the field, he has left little to no impact as a pass-rusher. Clowney has just one total pressure across 70 pass-rush snaps this season. As such, J.J. Watt has had to do a majority of the heavy lifting to keep Houston’s defensive line afloat, and he’s delivered, posting the seventh-ranked pass-rush productivity (9.2) among qualifying edge defenders. Watt also ranks fourth in average depth of tackle (-0.5) and tied for first in stops (eight) in run defense, carrying Houston’s defensive line to 29 run stops (T-No. 1) through Week 3.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 9th

Led by defensive interiors Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson, New York’s defensive line is tied for eighth in total run stops (25) and ranks fifth in average depth of tackle (1.55) on run plays. Rookie edge defender Lorenzo Carter, a third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, has also stood out, as he ranks tied for 10th among qualifiers in pass-rush productivity (8.9) with first-round pick Bradley Chubb.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 10TH

Star defensive interior Jurrell Casey is off to a strong start to the season, as he ranks seventh among qualifiers in pass-rush productivity (8.6) and 23rd in run-stop percentage (8.9). Rookie edge defender Harold Landry has also played well, as he ranks 13th in pass-rush productivity (8.1) with seven total pressures across 43 pass-rush snaps. However, outside of Casey and Landry, the Titans’ defensive line lacks talent, as no other member of the unit has earned a pass-rush productivity above 5.2 (Brian Orakpo).

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 11th

Bud Dupree, T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward have all recorded double-digit pressures this season, leading the defensive line to its eighth-ranked pressure percentage (9.8) on the season. Watt, however, has earned just a 52.6 overall grade this season due in large part to a rough outing against the Buccaneers on Monday Night Football. Watt allowed 57 yards in coverage and missed two tackles against the Bucs, driving his tackling grade (28.6) and coverage grade (28.5) into the dirt.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 12th

The Broncos’ defensive line goes as star edge defender Von Miller goes and after logging just one total pressure against Baltimore in Week 3, Denver’s front four ranks 10th in the NFL. Miller has still earned a 7.5 pass-rush productivity so far this season, but the figure pales in comparison to what he’s capable of. Rookie Bradley Chubb leads the team in pass-rush productivity at 7.8, ranking ninth among the league’s qualifiers at the position.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 13th

Baltimore edge defenders Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith both currently rank inside the top-15 in pass-rush productivity at 15.6 and 20.8, respectively. The team’s defensive line, largely because of Suggs’ and Smith’s efforts, ranks third in pass-rush productivity (13.4). A lack of pass-rush from their interior defensive linemen keeps the Ravens from finishing higher on this list, as second-year defensive interior Chris Wormley leads the group with just six total pressures on the season.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 14th

Bengals veteran defensive interior Geno Atkins is playing like a man possessed after signing his lucrative contract extension prior to the start of the regular season. The nine-year, 30-year-old veteran leads all NFL defensive interiors in total pressures (19) and ranks second in pass-rush productivity (10.4). Second-year edge defender Carl Lawson has also delivered on high expectations through Week 3, ranking tied for 14th in pass-rush productivity (7.8) and tied for seventh in total pressures (13).

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 15th

Chiefs edge defenders Justin Houston and Dee Ford lead the team in overall grades on the defensive side of the ball, earing 74.8 and 74.4 marks, respectively. The duo has recorded 27 pressures between the two of them, while defensive interior Chris Jones has also contributed with 10 of his own. As a unit, Kansas City’s defensive line ranks 14th in pressure percentage.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 16TH

Cleveland’s defensive line has only accrued 30 total pressures and a pass-rush productivity of 8.9, ranking 28th and 26th, respectively. Edge defenders Genard Avery and Myles Garrett, however, have earned 75.0 and 74.6 pass-rush grades, respectively, through Week 3. Also, defensive interior Larry Ogunjobi is off to a career-year pace with 11 total pressures and a 71.1 pass-rush grade in three games. The trio has a bright future ahead in terms of pass-rush ability, while their current play in run defense is unparalleled. The Browns’ defensive line, led by Garrett, Avery and Ogunjobi, leads all units in average depth of tackle (0.39) in run defense.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 17th

Star defensive interior Kawann Short is still getting the job done for the Panthers’ defense, as he leads the defense in overall grade (84.5), pass-rush grade (74.2) and total pressures (10). However, Short alone can’t carry Carolina’s defensive line atop this list, especially when edge defenders Bryan Cox Jr. (38.3) and Wes Horton (42.3) have turned in abysmal overall grades through Week 3.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 18TH

While former ‘Bama standouts Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne have obvious star power, third-year Temple product Matt Ioannidis, a fifth-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, has been quite the surprise on passing downs. Ioannidis leads all defensive interiors with at least 40 pass-rush snaps in pressure percentage (23.1) and pass-rush productivity (14.4) through Week 3.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 19th

Detroit’s defensive line has undoubtedly struggled to create pressure on the quarterback, as the unit ranks 28th in pressure percentage (6.9) through Week 3. Edge defender Ezekiel Ansah has played just 19 total snaps due to injury, and the team’s remaining edge defenders, Romeo Okwara and Devon Kennard, have failed to fill his shoes with just nine pressures between the two of them. Third-year defensive interior A’Shawn Robinson has been a bright spot with his 84.1 overall grade and 84.5 run-defense grade, but he’ll need some help from his teammates and a healthy Ansah to lead a formidable defensive front.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 20TH

Dallas’ Daniel Ross and Demarcus Lawrence have earned 84.2 and 76.3 overall grades to lead the team’s defensive line, but Ross’ expertise is limited to run defense and Lawrence is the only Cowboy getting to the quarterback with any consistency. Lawrence has more than double the amount of pressures (17) than the rest of the team’s edge defenders combined (eight). Specifically, rookie Dorance Armstrong’s 46.7 overall grade across 65 defensive snaps has taken a lot away from the talented Ross and Lawrence.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 21st

Tampa Bay’s defensive line, led by Gerald McCoy and Jason Pierre-Paul, is tied for 10th in pressure percentage (9.7) through Week 3. Pierre-Paul and McCoy have recorded 23 total pressures between the two of them, while newly signed veteran Vinny Curry is close behind with 10 total pressures across 108 pass-rush snaps. The Bucs’ defense, however, has underwhelmed in run defense, recording a league-low nine run stops as a unit through Week 3.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 22nd

NFL journeyman Benson Mayowa, who is onto his fourth team in six years with the Cardinals, leads the team in total pressures (11) through three games, while the team’s normally outstanding edge defender, Chandler Jones, has just six across his 99 pass-rush snaps. Defensive interior Robert Nkemdiche’s struggles against the run (55.0 run-defense grade) have also played a part in the team’s poor showing along the defensive line.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 23rd

Newly signed veterans Denico Autry and Margus Hunt have recorded the two highest overall grades along the Colts’ defensive line at 82.0 and 80.2, respectively, while edge defender Jabaal Sheard leads the unit with 12 total pressures. However, rookie Kemoko Turay and Al Woods, who have both played 100-plus defensive snaps this season, stand out as glaring weaknesses with sub-50.0 overall grades. The unit ranks tied for 21st in pressure percentage (8.1) and has only 10 run stops (31st) in three games.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 24th

While rookie signal-caller Josh Allen drew in a majority of the praise for the Bills’ upset win over the Vikings in Week 3, there’s an argument for the team’s defensive line being the leading reason why Buffalo shocked the world. Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins was under pressure on 32-of-60 dropbacks (53.3) in the contest, and the Buffalo defense recorded 40 total pressures – evidence that more than one player recorded a pressure on multiple plays. Three weeks into the season, Buffalo’s defensive line ranks fifth in pass-rush productivity thanks to their favorable matchup against the Vikings’ struggling offensive line. Buffalo will need to prove they can have such an effect consistently to prove sustainable as a top-end defensive front. 

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 25TH

Patriots star edge defender Trey Flowers missed the team’s Week 3 affair with the Lions, but when he’s healthy, he’s one of the best at the position. Flowers has recorded a whopping nine total pressures on just 35 pass-rush snaps this season, earning a 16.7 pass-rush productivity that leads all edge defenders with at least 30 pass-rush snaps. New England will need him to return to drive their ranking up in the coming weeks. 

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 26TH

Four-year veteran edge defender Henry Anderson has battled injuries since entering the league as a third-round pick in 2015, which played a part in his trade from the Colts to the Jets. However, now healthy, Anderson is proving well-worth the investment. He ranks tied for 10th among qualifiers in pass-rush productivity (8.2), as he’s recorded nine total pressures (five hurries, two hits, two sacks) across 67 pass-rush snaps. The same can’t be said for the rest of the Jets’ defensive line, as the team’s top edge tandem (Jordan Jenkins and Brandon Copeland) has just 14 total pressures, and Leonard Williams has earned just a 3.6 pass-rush productivity on the season.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 27th

Atlanta’s defensive line has recorded just 32 total pressures (27th) and a pressure percentage of 6.0 (30th), as former first-round picks Vic Beasley and Takkarist McKinley have dramatically underwhelmed to start the season. Beasley and McKinley have combined for 11 total pressures across 159 pass-rush snaps, while defensive interior Grady Jarrett, the true star of the team’s defensive line, leads the unit with 13 total pressures across his 116 pass-rush snaps. Making matters worse, the Falcons’ defensive line has tackled the ball carrier at or behind the line of scrimmage on run plays just three times this season, which ranks tied for 30th in the league.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 28TH

The loss of Mack has dropped the defensive line to 32nd in combined pressure percentage (5.3) and pass-rush productivity (6.1) through Week 3. None of the team’s edge defenders have earned a pass-rush productivity above 6.0 in the team’s first three games, as rookie Arden Key leads the way at just 5.5 across 55 pass-rush snaps. Newly signed veterans Clinton McDonald and Frostee Rucker, however, have earned 74.7 and 73.7 overall grades, respectively, which has swung the unit’s collective grade upward.  

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 29TH

San Francisco’s young defensive front is finally starting to pay dividends, as the team’s youthful trio of defensive linemen, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Soloman Thomas, have combined for 32 total pressures in three games. Armstead also leads the group with an impressive 80.0 run-defense grade. However, Armstead and Thomas have still earned low overall grades due to poor tackling, as two have missed a combined six tackles in three games and earned sub-30.0 tackling grades because of their misses.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 30th

Losing edge defender William Hayes is going to cost the Dolphins’ defensive line dearly. Hayes’ 67.9 pass-rush grade across 47 pass-rush snaps led all Miami defenders through Week 3, but a torn ACL will keep him from building on the grade and force more pressure onto veteran Cameron Wake to carry the load. Wake and Robert Quinn, who has earned a defense-high 82.0 overall grade this season, lead the team with 10 and seven total pressures, respectively.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 31st

With star edge defender Joey Bosa sidelined, the Bolts’ defensive line has suffered dramatically. Melvin Ingram III leads the team in total pressures with 11, but he’s literally doing it all by himself, as rookie safety Derwin James ranks second in pressures (six), and no Chargers defensive interior has more than three on the season.

DEFENSIVE LINE RANKING, WEEK 3: 32nd

Seattle’s defensive front ranks just 26th in pressure percentage (7.4) and 28th in tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage against the run (four). Edge defender Frank Clark is head and shoulders above the rest of the defensive line from both a run-defense and pass-rush standpoint, as he leads the group in total pressures (11) and run-defense grade (70.6). Third-year defensive interior Jarran Reed has had somewhat of a positive impact with his seven run stops, but his lack of a presence as a pass-rusher is detrimental to the unit’s collective ability.

Cris Collinsworth

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