The defensive ends shook out to be a remarkably difficult group to put in order. All four of the teams seem to have relatively even strengths and weaknesses, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them all perform at a high-level next season.
With that said, let’s cut to the chase.
Thanks in large part to the dominance of Cameron Jordan, the Saints finish as the top group of defensive ends in the division. Jordan is playing at a truly elite level and seems to be getting better as he ages. The Buccaneers have unfortunately gotten the full brunt of Jordan’s savagery on the field. If Okafor can recover aptly from Achilles surgery and Davenport acclimates quickly enough to the league, 2018 will be very kind to the Saints – long term I don’t see any way that this trio isn’t among the best in the league.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Your Tampa Bay Buccaneers come in at number two, but the little pirate on my shoulder was shouting for number one. We haven’t yet seen this remade Buccaneer line play together to make a certain judgment on how well they’ll do this year, but it’s safe to say they’ll at least be pretty good.
Pierre-Paul remains a force in all facets of the position and will instantly boost the confidence of every player around him – his potential impact really can’t be overstated. With Curry and Spence in tow, expect a giant uptick in sacks next season (they can’t really go anywhere but up, can they?).
Third in the division are the Carolina Panthers and their future Hall of Famer Julius Peppers. The longtime vet is still contributing sacks for the Panthers and I see no reason why that would change this season barring injury. Horton, Addison and Haynes provide a solid rotation that I expect to be quite effective in 2018.
Lastly, we have the Atlanta Falcons, who may or may not disagree with this ranking. Vic Beasley and Tak Mckinley are an exciting young duo who should be able to play well off of one another for years to come, but we didn’t see enough of it last season. Beasley will need to recapture his form from two seasons ago and find the same consistency he had then. Mckinley appears headed for at worst a solid NFL career. Unfortunately, the Falcons don’t have much working behind their young duo, which is why they’re finishing last.
That’s a wrap on the defensive ends! Agree or disagree with where the Buccaneers landed? Were you surprised to see New Orleans take the crown? Sound off in the comments and be sure to check back next week for our final edition of the rankings – defensive tackles!