As defensive linemen, it would be redundant to say these players are neglected, as the position itself is already overlooked. However, defensive linemen are the most selfless, and often the toughest players on the field. Imagine there was no defensive line, no offensive line, and no quarterback clock; that version of football would be nearly impossible for defenses to stop, and quite frankly, a little boring. Defensive linemen provide much needed pressure on the quarterback, yet most are not recognised for their contributions because their stat lines are not as recognizable as offensive players or even corners and safeties. They do the dirty work every play, going head-to-head with some of the biggest human beings on the planet. Most pass rushers that fans know by name are people like Von Miller, Khalil Mack, and Aaron Donald, because they get a lot of sacks, force fumbles, and have won awards. But in all honesty, most people can’t even name the entire defensive line on their favorite team. This is because of the lack of appreciation for the position. However, the two pass rushers that I have highlighted have been especially undervalued although they had great careers.
Edge Rusher: Jack Youngblood
This Rams legend has one of the most lucrative stat lines of any defensive end, along with the coolest name in NFL history… by far. Youngblood played fourteen outstanding seasons for the Los Angeles Rams from 1971-1984, gaining a reputation in the process, as one of the grittiest, most terrifying defenders in all of football. His heart and persistence were unmatched, evidenced as he played through the entire 1979 playoffs with a fractured left fibula, however it was all for not, resulting in a devastating loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XIV. However, Youngblood’s career was cemented in greatness only after John Turney, a member of the Pro Football Researchers association, calculated the career sacks of players before the statistic was tracked regularly. Turley’s research put Youngblood’s career on notice, helping him to his Hall of Fame induction in 2001.
Many times, fans judge the greats off of statistics, but some stats were not created until later eras of football, making it impossible to be objective. The sack statistic was not recorded until 1982, so players before then did not have that statistic. Turley’s research is not technically official because they were not calculated as the games were played. He, and he alone, went through game film of every pre-sack era game to record every sack. Unofficially, Youngblood ranks fifth in all-time sacks with 151.5, averaging of over ten sacks per season. His presence on the defense was undeniably influential, as he played his way to seven Pro-Bowl and five First-Team All-Pro seasons. Officially, Youngblood only has 24 sacks because his last three seasons were from 1982-2984, however he has 127.5 more that many people don’t know about.
Youngblood is undervalued because people do not know how large his contributions were. The unofficial stats do not surface on any official NFL site. Only newspaper articles and other news outlets reveal Turley’s truths about the early pass rushers. Also, Youngblood played in an extremely physical and dangerous time of football for defensive linemen. Helmets were not as protective as they are now, and the rules against helmet-to-helmet contact were not yet in place. Yet, in his long career, he only missed seven games, all in his 1982 season. Youngblood was an athletic freak, and his career should be noted more diligently based on his unofficial stat line. He should be considered a top-10 edge-rusher of all time.
Defensive Tackle: La’Roi Glover
La’Roi Glover was silently one of the best pass-rushing defensive tackles in late ‘90s and early ‘00s. He spent his thirteen-year NFL career with four different teams: The Raiders, Saints, Cowboys, and Rams. In his time playing, he put up consistently good numbers, his best seasons coming with the Saints and Cowboys. Glover stood at 6’2”, and weighed a whopping 285 Ibs. He used his mass to his advantage against big o-linemen.
Glover was consistent in his prime, being selected to six consecutive Pro Bowls from 2000-2006, and one First-Team All-Pro in 2000. In that season, he recorded a league-leading 17 sacks, which is an astonishingly high number for a defensive tackle. To give reference, Warren Sapp, who is widely considered to be the best defensive tackle of Glover’s era, never had more than 16.5. Also Aaron Donald, former defensive player of the year and by far the most talented tackle this generation has seen, has never had more than 11 sacks in a season. Overall, Glover had 83.5 sacks; he put up good numbers in other seasons as well, but none matched his break-out 2000 campaign.
Along with sacks, Glover was extremely good at forcing fumbles. He forced career 16 fumbles and returned eight. He also put up 432 tackles, 119 assists, and 2 interceptions in his overlooked career. Glover was no doubt outshone by Sapp and the edge rushers of his time, but his contributions were similar, albeit a bit inferior to Sapp’s. If their contributions were somewhat close in value, then why is Sapp held in such higher regard than Glover? It’s because of Sapp’s persona. He was on TV, he was funny, and he was famous. People like players with big personalities like Sapp, and because of this, his play was highlighted more than Glover’s. Nonetheless, Sapp’s 96.5 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, 435 tackles, and 136 assists in 12 seasons are almost identical to Glover’s. Keep in mind, Glover only played in 2 games his rookie year while Sapp played in all 16, so their career games played are very similar as well. Looking at these statistics, yes, Warren Sapp was a better statistical player by a hair. But, Glover was right up there with him, and he deserves to be recognized as such. Glover is a top-15 defensive tackle and deserves the respect of one.