While the offensive side of the ball gets more than its fair share of recognition throughout the NFL, don't sleep on the immense depth of talent on defense, particularly along the defensive line. There's a great blend of skill, youth, and future Hall of Famers scattered around the league in the interior and off the edge of the defensive line, arguably making this a golden era for both positions.
Below, we're going to highlight some of the very best edge defenders and interior linemen in the league as we rocket toward the start of the 2023 regular season.
10. Jaelan Phillips, Dolphins
I might be a year too early putting Phillips inside the top 10, but I believe he'll be in the thick of this discussion by the time the 2023 season is over. The former first-round pick enjoyed a semi-breakout sophomore season in 2022. While his sack totals dipped from 8.5 to seven, he was a much more consistent force along Miami's defensive line as he was top 10 at his position in total pressures and against the run, according to Pro Football Focus. He has the size (6-foot-5, 266 pounds) and ability to be one of the bright young pieces for the Dolphins defense going forward.
9. Brian Burns, Panthers
Because the Panthers haven't been particularly competitive throughout his tenure, Burns has flown a bit under the radar, despite posting back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons entering 2023. He's coming off the best statistical year of his career, setting new highs in sacks (12.5), tackles (63), and quarterback hits (22) in 16 games played during the regular season. With Carolina seemingly turning the corner after trading up to select Bryce Young No. 1 overall, that should help put Burns -- who'll be sporting No. 0 this season -- on more of a national stage to showcase that he's one of the best edge defenders the league has to offer.
8. Haason Reddick, Eagles
Reddick was one of the key additions the Eagles made last offseason that helped propel them to a Super Bowl appearance. In his first season with Philly, he earned second-team All-Pro honors after setting a new career high with 16 sacks and led the league with five forced fumbles. While he wasn't particularly great against the run, it was his ability to get after the quarterback that has him inside this top 10. Reddick was part of a dominant Eagles defensive line that led the NFL in sacks by a considerable margin. That shouldn't slow down as the unit gears up for a repeat performance in 2023.
7. Matt Judon, Patriots
One of the few bright spots for New England last year was the play from Judon. He set a new career high with 15.5 sacks and has been solid against the run as well. Upon arrival in Foxborough, he's quickly evolved into the leader of Bill Belichick's defense and has 28 sacks since joining the Patriots before the 2021 season. He's also been named to the Pro Bowl in each of his last four seasons. While his numbers have seen an uptick since joining New England, Belichick credited Judon's talent earlier this offseason, saying that the star pass rusher "would help any team."
6. Von Miller, Bills
Injuries cut Miller's first season with the Bills short, but he was well on his way to a fantastic year. In 11 games before tearing his ACL, the 34-year-old had eight sacks and his 45 total pressures were tied for eight-most among edge defenders, according to PFF. He was also inside the top 10 at stopping the run. Miller has routinely found himself inside the top 10 of these types of lists and while the injury does put a dent in his stature just a bit, we'll lean on his prior history as one of the all-time greats and believe that he'll bounce back nicely to help out Buffalo in 2023.
5. Maxx Crosby, Raiders
Crosby has been a bit underrated in my estimation, but he's one of the very best at his position in the NFL today. He's a well-rounded edge defender who has the ability to stop the run, ranking third among qualified players, per PFF. However, it's his ability to attack the quarterback that has thrust him inside the top five. Crosby had 12.5 sacks last season and a league-leading 22 tackles for a loss. His 81 pressures also ranked third at his position. What makes his performance last season even more impressive was his durability. As PFF notes, Crosby was the lone defensive lineman to play over 1,000 defensive snaps. For him to log that much playing time and be as big of a force as he was, it's not surprising to see him make the Pro Bowl in each of the last two seasons and also earn a second-team All-Pro nod (2021) over that stretch as well.
Injuries made Watt's 2022 season pretty clunky and essentially eliminated any chance at possibly repeating as the Defensive Player of the Year. He tore his pec in Week 1 and then underwent arthroscopic knee surgery during his time on injured reserve. He was limited to just 10 games and posted 5.5 sacks to go along with 31 pressures. When healthy, however, he's right in the discussion for the best pass rusher in the entire NFL and is routinely in the running for DPOY.
3. Micah Parsons, Cowboys
It won't be surprising if Parsons ascends to No. 1 on this list by this time next year. The 24-year-old is a generational talent who has earned first-team All-Pro honors in each of his first two seasons in the league after being taken No. 12 overall by Dallas in 2021 out of Penn State. While Parsons can play off the edge and as an off-ball linebacker, he moved primarily as an edge defender in 2022. His 90 total pressures were tied for the most in the league and his 19.27% pressure rate was the best among eligible pass rushers last season, per PFF. He's recorded at least 13 sacks in each of his first two seasons and is likely just scratching the surface of his potential.
2. Myles Garrett, Browns
Garrett is a physical freak and worthy of consideration to be No. 1 on this list. He is one of the most dominant players off the edge in the NFL today and can completely take over a game at will. In 16 games played last year, he had 16 sacks and led the league with a 25.6% pass-rush win rate, according to PFF. He's been a consistent Pro Bowl and All-Pro presence over the last few seasons and you can make the case that he'll be even more impactful in 2023 after the Browns were able to acquire fellow pass rusher Za'Darius Smith to pair alongside him. With defenses now needing to also account for Smith, Garrett could be in for a career year, which is borderline unfathomable to picture.
1. Nick Bosa, 49ers
We're honestly splitting hairs as we get to the top of this list and we give Bosa the nod over Parsons and Garrett because he is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, after all. As you'd expect, Bosa was dominant in 2022 rushing the passer, leading the league with 18.5 sacks, and was tied with Parsons for the most total pressures. What adds to how impressive Bosa was in 2022 was that PFF graded him as a top-five run defender and didn't miss a single tackle against the run. Since Bosa has come into the league as the No. 2 pick of the 49ers in 2019, he's been arguably the best edge rusher in the league and is still only 25 years old.
10. D.J. Reader, Bengals
The stats don't tell the story with Reader, who is one of the better all-around defensive tackles in the NFL and a key cog in Cincinnati's defense. He was limited to 10 games last season and his absence was noticeable for the Bengals. Reader is among the best run defenders at the position and while he didn't record a sack in 2022 he is a solid pass rusher, particularly at collapsing the pocket. According to PFF, he had 32 pressures last season.
9. Christian Wilkins, Dolphins
The arrow is pointing up for Wilkins. After a breakout season in 2021, the former first-round pick followed that up with arguably an even better campaign in 2022. He's better as a run-stopper and has ranked inside the top four at his position in each of the last two seasons, according to PFF. That said, he was able to post 3.5 sacks and break up six passes last season to go along with a career-high 98 tackles.
He also has two touchdown receptions in his career and anytime we can highlight a big-man touchdown, we will.
Washington has invested heavily in its defensive line over the past few years, so it shouldn't be too much of a surprise to see one land inside this top 10. After inking a $72 million extension with the club in 2021, Allen has only elevated his game and has reached the Pro Bowl in each of the past two seasons. He's piled up 16.5 sacks over the last two years, including 7.5 in 2022 to go along with 47 total pressures. If he were to improve his run-stopping ability, he could climb even higher.
7. Jeffery Simmons, Titans
Simmons has posted back-to-back years where he's reached the Pro Bowl and been named second-team All-Pro, and for good reason. The Titans star has taken a leap over the last two seasons, totaling 16 sacks and 108 tackles, while anchoring Tennessee's defense. The scary part about Simmons is that it still doesn't feel like everything has fully come together either, meaning there's potentially still another level the former first-round pick can go to, especially if he can stay healthy. The Titans seem to believe that's the case too as they just inked him to a four-year, $94 million extension this offseason.
6. Cameron Heyward, Steelers
Even at 34 years old, Heyward is still among the very best to do it at his position. The Steelers mainstay had another double-digit sack season in 2022, taking the quarterback down 10.5 times, while adding 74 tackles, and four pass breakups. He's reached the Pro Bowl in each of his last six seasons and was named to an All-Pro team four times over that stretch. Heyward is aging like fine wine and remains a top defensive tackle heading into this season.
5. DeForest Buckner, Colts
Buckner is a physical specimen, standing 6-foot-7 and weighing 295 pounds. Since joining the Colts in 2020, he's been a menace to opposing offenses. In 17 games played for Indy last year, he totaled eight sacks, a career-high 74 tackles, and PFF clocked him with 56 total pressures on 519 pass-rushing snaps. The Colts haven't been pushing for contention throughout Buckner's tenure, but if Anthony Richardson can prove to be the franchise's savior under center, that could result in the defensive tackle reinserting himself on the national stage over the next few seasons.
4. Dexter Lawrence, Giants
Lawrence had himself a phenomenal breakout season in 2022, which led him to become one of the Giants' win over the Vikings on Super Wild Card Weekend where he had a team-high four quarterback hits. Including playoffs, PFF had Lawrence accounting for 70 pressures on 577 pass-rushing snaps. And he's still only 25 years old.this offseason as New York inked him to a $90 million contract extension. The arrival of defensive coordinator Wink Martindale seemed to do wonders for Lawrence as he notched career highs across the board with 7.5 sacks, 68 tackles, 28 quarterback hits and three pass breakups. All that helped him earn second-team All-Pro honors in 2022. Lawrence also was dominant in the
3. Quinnen Williams, Jets
Williams was in the same draft class as Lawrence and has arguably put together a better career to this point, but he's still waiting on his contract extension from the Jets. He put together a first-team All-Pro season in 2022 where he logged a career-high 12 sacks and 28 quarterback hits. He's just as good against the run as he is at pushing the pile and rushing the passer and should be able to anchor the middle of New York's defense for the foreseeable future if the Jets can lock him up long term. Similar to Lawrence, Williams is just scratching the surface of his potential given how young he is.
2. Chris Jones, Chiefs
Jones may soon enough find himself one spot higher on the list as he is rivaling Aaron Donald for the title of the NFL's best interior lineman. He helped Kansas City to another Super Bowl championship in 2022 and had 97 total pressure (career high) throughout the year, including playoffs. He also led all interior linemen with 15.5 sacks in the regular season, which helped him to his first first-team All-Pro nomination and fourth consecutive Pro Bowl nod. While Patrick Mahomes may be the face of the offense and overall Chiefs franchise, it's Jones who is the backbone of this championship-caliber defense.
1. Aaron Donald, Rams
Donald continues to hold the title as the NFL's top interior lineman until further notice, even if the 2022 season was cut short due to injury. The four-time Defensive Player of the Year was limited to 11 games last year and had just five sacks. While it's fair to wonder if we're on the verge of Donald's decline as he enters his age-32 season, he did have 40 pressures on the 396 pass-rushing snaps he did play in last year, which is still a dominant clip. We'll lean on the side of a possible bounce-back year for the future Hall of Famer where he'll remind us all why he should -- and does -- remain atop this list.