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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Ranking every NFL team’s pass-rushing duo entering the 2020 season

Ranking every NFL team’s pass-rushing duo entering the 2020 season

The league's best sack artists
Publish Date: 09/04/2020
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster

Few plays cause momentum swings quite like a timely sack. Edge rushers are some of the most valued players in the NFL because of their versatility and propensity to produce highlight-reel plays. Having multiple sack artists is the key to building a dominant defense, but most teams lack two qualified players.

This article ranks every team’s top pass-rushing duo based on talent and production. The rankings aren’t solely based on the 2019 season, so players who suffered injuries can still earn high selections. These rankings could change before the 2020 season if Jadeveon Clowney signs with a new team.

Each duo is accompanied by the stat line they combined for last year, including pressures, quarterback hits, and sacks. These numbers come from Pro Football Reference and may differ from totals produced by other sites.

32. Chase Winovich & Deatrich Wise Jr., New England Patriots

2019 stats: 33 pressures, 20 quarterback hits, and 7.5 sacks

Dont’a Hightower played a significant role in the pass rush last season, but the former Pro Bowler opted-out of the 2020 season. That leaves two young players at the core of New England’s pass rush. Wise might not even start this season, seeing as he only played 23% of New England’s defensive snaps last year.

31. Jordan Jenkins & Quinnen Williams, New York Jets

2019 stats: 27 pressures, 19 quarterback hits, and 10.5 sacks

Jenkins set a career-high with eight sacks last year, but Williams severely underwhelmed. The third overall pick lacked the disruptive ability he flashed in college and only played a limited role in the pass rush.

30. Derrick Brown & Brian Burns, Carolina Panthers

2019 stats: 23 pressures, 16 quarterback hits, and 7.5 sacks

Brown doesn’t have any stats from last year because he’s a rookie. However, some analysts claim he’s the best defensive tackle prospect since Ndamukong Suh. If that’s true, Brown and Burns could jump up this list during the season.

29. Trey Flowers & Romeo Okwara, Detroit Lions

2019 stats: 50 pressures, 31 quarterback hits, and 8.5 sacks

Flowers is the only player returning to Detroit who thrived as a sack artist last season. Okwara didn’t even start most games, and the Lions could play Romeo’s younger brother, Julian, as a starter instead. Detroit also signed Jamie Collins in the offseason. Collins set a career-high with seven sacks last year, but that production doesn’t seem replicable.

28. Josh Allen & Dawuane Smoot, Jacksonville Jaguars

2019 stats: 48 pressures, 30 quarterback hits, 16.5 sacks

Allen looks like a perennial Pro Bowler, but he lacks a running mate. Jacksonville traded away Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue this offseason, leaving Allen as the team’s only elite pass-rushing threat. The Jaguars don’t seem interested in competing this season.

27. Maxx Crosby & Clelin Ferrell, Las Vegas Raiders

2019 stats: 46 pressures, 22 quarterback hits, and 14.5 sacks

The Raiders hoped Ferrell would become the team’s leader along the defensive line. Instead, Crosby, a third-round pick, dominated during his rookie season. While Ferrell clawed his way to 4.5 sacks, Crosby amassed ten. Expect Ferrell to take a big step forward this year and become a more productive player.

26. Mario Addison & Ed Oliver, Buffalo Bills

2019 stats: 34 pressures, 22 quarterback hits, and 14.5 sacks

Outside of Addison and Oliver, the Bills also have veteran Jerry Hughes. Age has sapped some of Hughes’ explosiveness, so he’s not among Buffalo’s duo. Addison has 39 sacks over the past four seasons, while Oliver is one of the most talented players from last year’s draft.

25. Shaq Lawson & Kyle Van Noy, Miami Dolphins

2019 stats: 52 pressures, 33 quarterback hits, and 13 sacks

The Dolphins formed a new pass-rushing duo in free agency, signing Lawson and Van Noy. While Van Noy isn’t primarily a pass-rusher, he filled the role several times last season. Lawson is a traditional defensive end while Van Noy picks and chooses his spots.

24. Bruce Irvin & Jarran Reed, Seattle Seahawks

2019 stats: 36 pressures, 24 quarterback hits, and 10.5 sacks

Irvin set a career-high with 8.5 sacks last year. Meanwhile, Reed served a six-game suspension and never got going. Seattle’s duo only ranks this high because Reed posted borderline Pro Bowl numbers in 2018. If he gets back to that level of play, this ranking is warranted.

23. Markus Golden & Leonard Williams, New York Giants

2019 stats: 67 pressures, 43 quarterback hits, and 10.5 sacks

Golden had a breakout year in 2019, but teams weren’t jumping at the chance to sign him in free agency. The former second-round pick amassed 44 pressures, 27 quarterback hits, and ten sacks. Meanwhile, Williams set career-lows with half a sack and 16 quarterback hits.

22. Vic Beasley & Harold Landry, Tennessee Titans

2019 stats: 50 pressures, 26 quarterback hits, and 17 sacks

Beasley and Landry aren’t star pass-rushers, but they’re both consistent producers who should stick around in the NFL for a long time. However, Beasley didn’t report when Tennessee expected him to at the start of training camp, and the Clemson product’s conditioning is a concern.

21. Geno Atkins & Carlos Dunlap, Cincinnati Bengals

2019 stats: 52 pressures, 31 quarterback hits, 13.5 sacks

Age seems to be taking a toll on Atkins. The future Hall of Fame defensive tackle made his eighth Pro Bowl last season despite playing below his usual standards. Even at 31, Dunlap remains a beacon of consistency. Keep an eye on Sam Hubbard this year. The Ohio St. product produced 8.5 sacks and 76 tackles in 2019.

20. Matthew Ioannidis & Ryan Kerrigan, The Washington Football

2019 stats: 60 pressures, 30 quarterback hits, 14 sacks

Kerrigan appears on this list out of respect for his past accomplishments, but the former Pro Bowler began showing his age last season. Ioannidis continues flying under the radar. If Jonathan Allen, Montez Sweat, or Chase Young experience a breakout campaign this season, Washington could have one of the NFL’s best defensive lines.

19. Dante Fowler & Grady Jarrett, Atlanta Falcons

2019 stats: 61 pressures, 32 quarterback hits, and 19 sacks

Jarrett doesn’t excel as a pass-rusher like Aaron Donald or Chris Jones, but he’s still capable of getting to the quarterback. After struggling in Jacksonville, Fowler excelled with the Rams last year. Assuming he remains consistent in 2020, the Falcons should see their pass rush experience a revival.

18. DeForest Buckner & Justin Houston, Indianapolis Colts

2019 stats: 48 pressures, 32 quarterback hits, and 18.5 sacks

After losing several seasons to injuries and struggling with scheme changes in Kansas City, Houston found a home in Indianapolis. Last year, the former All-Pro recorded more than ten for the first time since 2014. The Colts made a splash move by trading for Buckner during the offseason.

17. Myles Garrett & Olivier Vernon, Cleveland Browns

2019 stats: 46 pressures, 29 quarterback hits, and 13.5 sacks

If he can avoid beating people with helmets and delivering late blows, Garrett could compete for the Defensive Player of the Year award. He’s a generational talent who has all of the tools to become the NFL’s best sack artist. Meanwhile, Vernon is trying to bounce back from a forgettable season.

16. Chandler Jones & Jordan Phillips, Arizona Cardinals

2019 stats: 60 pressures, 42 quarterback hits, and 28.5 sacks

The Cardinals signed Phillips this offseason. The defensive tackle produced 9.5 sacks for the Bills last year, making him a decent running mate for Jones. Arizona also added Devon Kennard, who produced seven sacks in each of the past two seasons. As for Jones, he’s averaging 14.5 sacks per season over the past five years.

15. Fletcher Cox & Brandon Graham, Philadelphia Eagles

2019 stats: 51 pressures, 27 quarterback hits, and 12 sacks

This duo usually has better numbers. Cox entered 2019 after undergoing surgery in the offseason, and he didn’t live up to his incredible performance in 2018. Graham remains a consistent force for the Eagles, but he’s not a star player. Keep an eye on fourth-year defensive end Derek Barnett this season.

14. Aaron Donald & Leonard Floyd, Los Angeles Rams

2019 stats: 81 pressures, 36 quarterback hits, and 15.5 sacks

If not for Donald, the Rams wouldn’t be on the top 25 for this list. Out of this duo’s totals, Donald accounts for 55 pressures, 24 quarterback hits, and 12.5 sacks. Floyd flunked out of Chicago after he didn’t develop into a reliable starter. Los Angeles jumpstarted Fowler’s career. Maybe it can do the same for Floyd.

13. Calais Campbell & Matt Judon, Baltimore Ravens

2019 stats: 64 pressures, 58 quarterback hits, and 16 sacks

The Ravens got Campbell from Jacksonville for a bag of chips. A member of the 2010s All-Decade Team, Campbell produced 31.5 sacks during his three years in Jacksonville. Judon returns for his fifth season with the Ravens after leading the team with 9.5 sacks in 2019.

12. Everson Griffen & DeMarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys

2019 stats: 64 pressures, 40 quarterback hits, and 13 sacks

Griffen was a massive addition for Dallas because the Cowboys needed someone to create opportunities for Lawrence, who struggled throughout 2019. The Cowboys also signed Aldon Smith. The 30-year-old could be a shell of his former self, but Smith produced 33.5 sacks during the first two years of his career.

11. Shaquil Barrett & Jason Pierre-Paul, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2019 stats: 75 pressures, 53 quarterback hits, and 28 sacks

After spending the first part of his career in obscurity, Barrett captured the sack crown last season. However, analysts wonder if the 27-year-old can match his breakout campaign in 2020. Pierre-Paul is no longer a superstar, but he still produced 29.5 sacks over the past three years.

10. Whitney Mercilus & J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

2019 stats: 49 pressures, 37 quarterback hits, and 11.5 sacks

While Mercilus is a productive player who stepped up in Watt’s absence, he isn’t an elite pass-rusher. The 30-year-old hasn’t come close to matching his career-high 12 sacks from 2015. Meanwhile, Watt is still one of the NFL’s best defensive ends. Unfortunately, he can’t stay on the field. In eight games last season, Watt amassed 21 quarterback hits.

9. Joey Bosa & Melvin Ingram, Los Angeles Chargers

2019 stats: 77 pressures, 43 quarterback hits, and 18.5 sacks

The older Bosa is one of two or three young defensive ends that should dominate the NFL for another decade. He’s an exceptional player who needs to stay healthy and continue building his game. While Ingram is a reliable complementary piece, he isn’t a true superstar and pales in comparison to Bosa. Ingram belongs in the same category as Mercilus.

8. Marcus Davenport & Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints

2019 stats: 75 pressures, 41 quarterback hits, and 21.5 sacks

Jordan is battling his way into the Hall of Fame conversation. A member of the 2010s All-Decade Team, Jordan posted a career-high 15.5 sacks last season. The Saints duo would easily be in the top five if not for Davenport’s slow development.

7. Frank Clark & Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs

2019 stats: 54 pressures, 34 quarterback hits, and 17 sacks

Neither Clark nor Jones had their best seasons last year. Both battled injuries and didn’t match the career numbers they posted in 2018. However, if they both get back to that level of play, Kansas City could have one of the top-five pass-rushing duos in the NFL.

6. Arik Armstead & Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers

2019 stats: 80 pressures, 43 quarterback hits, and 19 sacks

Bosa is already one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL. He could make a case for being the league’s best defensive end, but Armstead pulls this duo down a few spots. While the 6-7 defensive end recorded ten sacks last year, he wasn’t an elite pass-rusher and hasn’t shown the ability to perform at a high level across multiple seasons. Dee Ford remains waiting in the wings.

5. Danielle Hunter & Yannick Ngakoue, Minnesota Vikings

2019 stats: 63 pressures, 37 quarterback hits, and 22.5 sacks

A few weeks ago, it looked like Ifeadi Odenigbo would start alongside Hunter. However, the Vikings kept Odenigbo as a rotational player by trading for Ngakoue. The former Pro Bowler looked disinterested at points during his time with the Jaguars. If Minnesota gets Ngakoue engaged, he and Hunter could become the league’s best pass-rushing duo.

4. Khalil Mack & Robert Quinn, Chicago Bears

2019 stats: 80 pressures, 27 quarterback hits, and 20 sacks

Mack lacked a running mate last season, but the Bears signed Quinn in free agency. Quinn produced more than ten sacks last season for the first time since 2014. Meanwhile, Mack had his first sub-ten-sack season since 2014. However, working alongside Quinn should create more opportunities for Mack.

3. Bradley Chubb & Von Miller, Denver Broncos

2019 stats: 47 pressures, 26 quarterback hits, and nine sacks

Miller struggled last season, but he played three quarters of the year without his partner in crime. Chubb missed 12 games with a torn ACL, which left Miller facing routine double teams. However, both pass-rushers are back and better than ever. Look for Chubb to top his 12-sack rookie campaign and for Miller to record his eighth ten-sack season.

2. Cameron Heyward & T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers

2019 stats: 92 pressures, 59 quarterback hits, and 23.5 sacks

While Bud Dupree posted a ten-sack season, Heyward is a more impactful pass-rusher. The All-Pro defensive tackle combined with Pittsburgh’s rising superstar to produce the most pressures and second-most quarterback hits among any duo on this list. If Watt stays healthy, he should play a role in the Defensive Player of the Year race.

1. Preston Smith & Za’Darius Smith, Green Bay Packers

2019 stats: 84 pressures, 60 quarterback hits, and 25.5 sacks

The Packers signed both Smiths last offseason and got more than they ever expected. The stars dominated offensive lines, combining for the most quarterback hits, second-most pressures, and third-most sacks among any duo on this list. Despite their incredible totals, the Smiths remain one of the NFL’s most overlooked pairings.

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