The 2020 NFL Season will feature numerous defensive lines oozing with potential. Truly dominant defensive line units need to be able to rush the passer, obviously. But the ability to stop the run seems to be a forgotten art. For these rankings, I have taken both into account. (3-4 pass rush linebackers have been taken into account).
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Key Players: Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh, and Vita Vea
Things are looking up for the Buccaneers, as they recently acquired Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski to lead their offense. A common theme throughout this list is that good offenses can raise the level of a defense, and that includes the line. The Buccaneers have the pieces in place to have a dominant defensive line.
Shaq Barrett led the league in sacks last season, Jason Pierre-Paul is a solid veteran pass rusher, and Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea form a nearly impenetrable interior. Barrett should once again have incredible sack numbers while Vea and Suh handle the run inside. JPP is always a reliable edge, even if he is missing part of a hand. If Brady and Gronk live up to expectations, this defense will go to an entirely new level. But even if the offense stutters, this defensive line has the talent to be dangerous either way.
4. Baltimore Ravens
Key Players: Calais Campbell, Matthew Judon, Derek Wolfe, and Brandon Williams
The Ravens always seem to field a fierce defensive line, and the 2020 season should be no different. Mainstays Matthew Judon and Brandon Williams are joined by new arrivals in Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe. The Ravens had a top defense last year, and their defensive line only improved since then. There is no reason to believe that the rest of the unit should regress, so the line is set up nicely for a tremendous season.
The additions of a top pass rusher such as Calais Campbell and a solid defensive end in Derek Wolfe should prove to be huge impacts. But it cannot be overstated how much a great offense can assist a defense. The Ravens have one of the best offenses in the league, which should keep the defense fresh, and opposing offenses always feeling a sense of urgency. Similar to the Broncos, a great defensive line can be pushed over the top with the help of a stellar offense.
3. Denver Broncos
Key Players: Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Jurrell Casey, and Shelby Harris
In a group headlined by Von Miller, people sometimes forget that there are quality players all over this defensive front. Bradley Chubb is one of the top young pass rushers in the league. Jurrell Casey and Shelby Harris are also great pieces in between Miller and Chubb. Their defensive numbers took a hit, mainly because Chubb suffered an injury and missed 12 games.
A healthy Chubb paired with a future Hall of Famer and two great interior guys can take this league by storm. They will also almost certainly be assisted by a high powered offense brewing on this Broncos squad. This is a defensive front I would certainly watch out for.
2. Washington Redskins
Key Players: Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, and Ryan Kerrigan
The Redskins were obviously not a good team last year, as they ended up earning the number 2 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. There is a silver lining however, they were able to select the consensus top pass rusher in the draft. Chase Young has even been called a future Hall of Famer by some. Whether or not you believe the hype, it is hard to deny how scary the Redskins line could be if all five (yes five) of their first-round defensive linemen play to their potential.
Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, and Ryan Kerrigan are those first rounders. Kerrigan is already a proven commodity while Payne, Allen, and Sweat all continue to develop into solid and sometimes flashy linemen. Young is the only question mark solely because he is a rookie. By the end of the season, this defensive line could be the best in the league.
1. San Francisco 49ers
Key Players: Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Arik Armstead, and Javon Kinlaw
The 49ers are coming off of a tremendous season that culminated in a Super Bowl appearance. A large part of their success was the play of their defense, namely the defensive line. They accumulated 48 sacks while Nick Bosa made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Arik Armstead and Dee Ford also contributed heavily to those sack numbers. They ranked number 1 in pass defense and number 2 in total defense. You can’t achieve that without a stellar defensive line.
While they did lose DeForest Buckner, they replaced him with one of the top defensive linemen in the 2020 NFL Draft, Javon Kinlaw. There is absolutely no reason to believe that this line should regress. In fact, they should be even better than last season with the continued development of Nick Bosa, a healthy Dee Ford, and a promising rookie in Kinlaw.