Just a generation ago, the defense in the NFL was characterized by beating the offensive man to the line, aggressive coverage’s and simple pattern read concepts. Great defenses are always about talent, but even more today, they are about schemes.
In the NFL of today, defenses make complete positional rotations, while playing nickel or dime close to 50% of the time, trying to counter offenses that are looking to stretch the field with plays and schemes not seen before.
Therefore, head coaches and defensive coordinators have had to come up with new defense schemes and find the best players to fill those positions.
Five of the best of today’s defenses follows
The Seattle Seahawks were the top ranked defense in points allowed last season in the NFL and fourth in yards allowed. The Seahawks defense is young and aggressive with a great secondary and speed on the defensive line. The Seahawks will use 3-4 schemes, while sometimes lining up in 5-2 schemes. The secondary duo of Richard Sherman and Brendan Browner, formerly of the CFL, is the best in the league. There are some nagging injuries to the defensive line, but this defense is still the league’s best.
San Francisco had carried the torch of having the league’s best defense before Seattle’s rise. The 49ers defense is still in the top two overall with as much talent on the line as any other NFL team. The right side features Justin Smith and Aldon Smith. Last season Aldon Smith recorded 19.5 sacks in only his second season, but did not have many after Justin Smith was hurt. The only question mark on the defense is the secondary. Dashon Goldson the team’s safety last season is now in Tampa Bay and a rookie will be his replacement.
What might come as a surprise to some is the defense of the Green Bay Packers. The defense has great talent on the front line and added to that when they drafted Datone Jones. Add Jones to a front seven that includes Clay Matthews, Nick Perry and B.J. Raji and opponents will have a tough time running the ball and be pressured all game when throwing it. The secondary is strong with Casey Hayward returning from his rookie season that included six interceptions.
The Houston Texans with J.J. Watt are one of the NFL’s top defenses. He led the NFL with 20.5 sacks last season, which is an incredible amount for someone who is constantly double-teamed. Brian Cushman, who missed 11 games last season returns and his presence, will relieve some pressure from Watt. The secondary is strong with Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph returning and the addition of Ed Reed.
No list of top defenses would be complete without the Chicago Bears. Brian Urlacher has retired, but Jon Bostic is a talented replacement. However, with a new head coach and defensive coordinator, the defense might look different, but its talented secondary led by Charles Tillman will give opposing quarterbacks a nightmare. Julius Peppers remains the top player up front, but will have help from Henry Melton and Corey Wootton.