Fletcher Cox

Ranking the NFL’s 10 best defensive lines heading into the 2022 regular season

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As the quarterback position becomes more important by the day, the necessity to make the quarterback’s life miserable increases as well. So, we’re going to break down the best defensive lines in 2022.

Best defensive lines 2022

While there are not any units coming to close the likes of the Steel Curtain or the Purple People Eaters, there are still some ferocious groups to torture opposing offenses in the upcoming season.

Today in my preseason position rankings, we will go over the top defensive lines in 2022.

10. Raiders

The Las Vegas Raiders will be lining up two first-rate defensive ends across from one another in the upcoming season. Offensive tackles will have their hands full dealing with Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones.

Crosby was tied for fourth with 30 quarterback hits last season, along with eight sacks. At the same time, Jones racked up his sixth double-digit sack year in the previous seven seasons. The issue with the Raiders’ defensive line is an underwhelming defensive tackle group and poor run defense.


9. Packers

There was significant improvement along the Green Bay Packers defensive front in 2021 under new defensive coordinator, Joe Barry. Kenny Clark has always been a force in the center, but now he’s finally getting reinforcements.

Dean Lowry had a career year in 2021, and the Packers drafted Georgia Bulldog standout, Devonte Wyatt.

Along with free agent signing Jarran Reed, that’s a lot of weight and athleticism Green Bay can park along their d-line. That’ll shore up the run defense and allow Rashan Gary and Preston Smith even more freedom to pin their ears and get after the quarterback.

8. Bills

In 2021, the Buffalo Bills sat atop Pro Football Reference’s Pressure Percentage, which combines hurries, sacks, and knockdowns. They lost defensive stalwart Jerry Hughes but replaced him with All-Pro pass rusher Von Miller, who experienced something of a renaissance in last season’s playoffs.

It’s hard to tell if the Bills’ unparalleled success against the pass should be more attributed to the secondary or defensive line. Regardless, they will be a headache for offensive coordinators and quarterbacks alike as we roll into 2022.


7. Commanders

The Washington Commanders are an upside pick. Chase Young, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, and Montez Sweat should have been better last season.

Very few defensive lines have as much talent as these guys, and to say they were disappointing is an understatement. A season after ranking fourth in Sack Percentage, they dropped all the to 18th. It was a real let down for a team we were hoping could torment quarterbacks without needing to blitz.

I expect the Commanders to be near the top of NFL defensive line rankings in 2022.

6. Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers added a bunch of pieces in the offseason, boosting their defensive line rankings going into 2022. Joey Bosa remains a force off the edge, and now he’ll be joined by Khalil Mack and Sebastian Joseph-Day.

I’m not convinced Mack’s best days are behind him. He was injured in 2021, but in 2020 he ranked as the best pass rusher in the entire league according to PFF’s Pass Rush grade. Even a small step back in production should keep him near the top of the league. Joseph-Day is a massive body in the middle who should help shore up the Chargers’ lousy rush defense.

5. Saints

Marcus Davenport, David Onyemata, and Cameron Jordan man a defensive unit that’s been underrated for years. All three players ranked among the top ten at their positions according to PFF in 2021, and there’s no reason to think their disruption won’t continue.

As a unit, the New Orleans Saints were eighth in sacks and fifth in quarterback hits. The defense also ranked first in yards per attempt on the ground, proving they’re one of the few units that excel in all facets of the game. That makes them one of the best defensive lines in the NFL.

4. Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are meaty up front. Akiem Hicks and Vita Vea make life hell for interior linemen as their massive frames are nearly impossible to push out of the way.

As a result, the Buccaneers racked up 47 sacks and were behind only the Bills in Pressure Percentage. The amount of attention Vea and Hicks require will allow Shaquil Barrett to continue wreaking havoc in the opponent’s backfields.

Barrett doesn’t get mentioned alongside the league’s elite pass rushers in the national media, but he’s tallied 37.5 sacks over the past three seasons and is nothing short of a menace.

3. Eagles

There is no shortage of names along the Philadelphia Eagles defensive line. Long-term line members Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Derek Barnett, and Josh Sweat will be joined by athletic marvel Jordan Davis in 2022.

No team in the NFL is deeper than the Eagles up front, and this is true on both sides of the ball. It’s a Philadelphia tradition to build their teams inside out, and it makes them tough to deal with in the trenches. A porous secondary and new system lowered their sack totals in 2021, but there is no reason to think this unit won’t be back among the best defensive lines in 2022.

As a side note, we may be seeing the return of the NFC Beast. The Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, and Commanders already have strong defensive units – if the New York Giants’ young core can pan out, we might finally witness fun football out east for the first time in a while.

2. Rams

I wanted to have the Los Angeles Rams lower. They lost Von Miller, and Aaron Donald is the only other name that jumps off the page. But Donald is the best defensive player in the league. It’s not even close.

Reggie White and Warren Sapp are the only defensive tackles in history who could take over a game like Donald can. Donald’s stellar play ended the Cincinnati Bengals Super Bowl hopes. He makes everybody alongside him better.

It doesn’t matter if Leonard Floyd and A’Shawn Robinson aren’t household names, the Rams still racked up 50 sacks. Darnold alone would probably be one of the best d-lines in the NFL.

1. Steelers

T.J. Watt would probably have something to say about who’s the best defensive player in the league. Watt tied Michael Strahan‘s sack record, and the Pittsburgh Steelers led the league with 55 sacks.

The Bengals’ talented defensive end Larry Ogunjobi joins Watt and Cameron Heyward in a group that murders offensive lines.

Watt and Heyward remain the gold standard at their positions. The Steelers were top ten in pressure percentage, number two in sack percentage, and number one in total sacks.

There’s no reason to believe these guys won’t remain the best defensive line in 2022.

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