With so many injury concerns at defensive end, depth on the edge is more important than ever. Not to be outsold though, interior depth is just as important in a division which sees so many goalline and short yardage plays.
There are some depth pieces who will be thrust into starting roles, this much is inevitable.
So which team has the depth to really stay relevant if one of their starters go down?
We’re naming a backup from the inside and edge of the defensive line for this one.
4. Vernon Butler and Daeshon Hall, Carolina Panthers
Vernon Butler was one of my favorite guys in the draft one year ago, and the Panthers will be looking to see what kind of improvements they see in year two.
As it does with so many, the injury bug bit this one a little, so getting him to put a full season under his belt will go a long way.
Rookie Daeshon Hall played opposite Myles Garrett at Texas A&M, and honestly, with the attention paid to the other side of the line, I’d expect better production from Hall.
Still, he’s not without potential himself, but it’s going to be a year or two before the team can really rely on him.
The cupboards are a bit bare in Carolina for depth as they have some solid young names who have yet to prove they’ll become contributing members of the franchise for the long-term.
3. Tyeler Davison and Darryl Tapp, New Orleans Saints
When you consider the Saints’ starting unit isn’t exactly blowing folks off the line, it’s no surprise to be a bit underwhelmed with their depth as well.
Tyeler Davison got some good experience last year starting 15-games for New Orleans, but his statistical production doesn’t show a player who took full advantage of his opportunity.
Still, experience leads to growth, and having a guy who’s been there before if you need him is always a strength.
On the edge, Darryl Tapp is a veteran presence who is entering his 12th season as a professional football player.
This will be his second season with the team, and having a veteran to call upon is comforting on the surface, as long as you don’t have to lean on him for real.
2. Courtney Upshaw and Takkarist McKinley, Atlanta Falcons
Courtney Upshaw is young enough and experienced enough in his five NFL seasons that the Falcons could certainly do worse if they need to plug him into the starting lineup.
Perhaps he didn’t bring as much to the team as most had hoped when they brought him over from the Baltimore Ravens, but you’re not expecting a bunch of explosive plays when your second-stringers start to get starting snaps.
Takkarist McKinley might be my favorite player in this listing beyond a certain former Buckeye, and seeing the amount of passing this kid brings to a stage in a suit, he should be for Falcons fans too.
This young man certainly has a chance at becoming a starter, but for now, he’s going to help boost Atlanta’s defensive line depth in a very real way.
1. Clinton McDonald and Noah Spence, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs have an eight-year veteran pulling back-up duties and he’s started 12 or more games five times in those seasons.
Clinton McDonald doesn’t shake opposing interior linemen to their corps, but he’s no slouch.
In fact, last season, as a starter for the Bucs he had 3.5 sacks playing alongside McCoy for 12-games.
Noah Spence played in all 16 games as a rookie despite battling a shoulder injury which he is now recovering from surgery to repair.
Starting three games in his first season, Spence made some splash plays on his way to 5.5 sacks in his initial campaign.
There’s a lot of buzz around the 23-year old entering his second season, and fans of the franchise should expect to see him playing as a stand-up edge rusher more this year too.
So the Bucs take the crown as having the best depth in the NFC South defensive line battle.
Wars are fought in the trenches as they say, but today’s NFL is played with bombs more than it is with bulldozers.
Getting early penetration up front means fast play and hard hits, it also means injuries are going to happen and younger or unproven names will be called upon.
This may be a foregone conclusion, but let’s get to the final rankings.