Ranking all 32 NFL defenses from worst to best

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With the NFL draft and the major part of free agency in the rearview mirror, rosters around the league are taking shape. In a four-part series, theScore's football editors rank all 32 teams by their total talent at quarterback, pass-catcher, running back, and defense. Depth charts are projections of teams' post-training camp rosters.

We close our series with team defenses.

Position Group Rankings

32. Carolina Panthers

Kawann Short Shaq Thompson Donte Jackson
Brian Burns Tahir Whitehead Tre Boston
Derrick Brown Jermaine Carter Juston Burris
Stephen Weatherly Andre Smith Jeremy Chinn
Marquis Haynes Jordan Kunaszyk Corn Elder
Yetur Gross-Matos Troy Pride Jr.
Christian Miller T.J. Green

New head coach Matt Rhule certainly has his work cut out for him. While Carolina still fields young talent in the front seven with Burns and Thompson, its secondary may be the weakest in the league. Burris and Chinn will compete opposite Boston at safety, while Elder and Pride are likely to battle for a starting cornerback spot across Jackson. Not exactly an ideal list of players to match up against NFC South quarterbacks. The Panthers require instant impact from rookies Brown and Gross-Matos to compensate for their pass defense.

31. Detroit Lions

Trey Flowers Jamie Collins Desmond Trufant
Da'Shawn Hand Christian Jones Jeff Okudah
Danny Shelton Jarrad Davis Duron Harmon
Romeo Okwara Jahlani Tavai Justin Coleman
Nick Williams Reggie Ragland Tracy Walker
John Atkins Amani Oruwariye
Julian Okwara Jayron Kearse

Matt Patricia may need his offense to carry the Lions in a make-or-break campaign. Detroit ranked second to last (in a tie) with 28 sacks a year ago and don't figure to improve much in 2020, while replacing Darius Slay with Trufant represents a significant downgrade at cornerback. The addition of Collins will surely aid the linebacking corps, but Davis and Tavai have yet to offer much in the middle. No. 3 overall pick Okudah could provide a much-needed boost to the unit, and the secondary depth is worth noting. We just don't see any star power.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars

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Josh Allen Myles Jack D.J. Hayden
Abry Jones Joe Schobert CJ Henderson
Taven Bryan Quincy Williams Ronnie Harrison
K'Lavon Chaisson Leon Jacobs Jarrod Wilson
Dawuane Smoot Shaquille Quarterman Rashaan Melvin
Rodney Gunter Tre Herndon
Yannick Ngakoue Andrew Wingard

Long gone are the days of an elite Jaguars stop unit. Luckily, a pair of young edge rushers in Allen and Chaisson give the franchise hope for 2020 and beyond. Doug Marrone will hope first-round rookie Henderson can fill the void left by Jalen Ramsey, though Jacksonville's pass defense still figures to rank near the bottom of the league. There's talent and depth at linebacker with the addition of Schobert, but the group is still lackluster as a whole. Ngakoue's inevitable exit makes things even worse.

29. Houston Texans

J.J. Watt Zach Cunningham Bradley Roby
Whitney Mercilus Benardrick McKinney Justin Reid
Brennan Scarlett Dylan Cole Gareon Conley
Charles Omenihu Peter Kalambayi Eric Murray
Ross Blacklock Tyrell Adams Lonnie Johnson Jr.
Angelo Blackson Vernon Hargreaves
Jacob Martin Michael Thomas

With all the talk of Bill O'Brien's moves on offense, it's easy to overlook that Houston failed to improve a defensive unit that ranked 28th a season ago. Watt's presence will always make life easier for the other 10 players on the field, but the Texans employ a surprisingly low number of impact players aside from he and Mercilus. Cunningham and McKinney are fine linebackers, while Roby and Conley are inconsistent starters at cornerback. The loss of D.J. Reader and suspect coverage could lead to issues in Houston.

28. New York Giants

Leonard Williams Blake Martinez James Bradberry
Dalvin Tomlinson David Mayo Jabrill Peppers
Dexter Lawrence Ryan Connelly DeAndre Baker
Kyler Fackrell Devante Downs Xavier McKinney
Lorenzo Carter T.J. Brunson Grant Haley
Oshane Ximines Julian Love
B.J. Hill Corey Ballentine

The Giants could work their way up this list if a handful of young players take the next step. While there isn't a star pass-rusher in the front seven, Carter, Fackrell, and Ximenes offer some potential on the edge. Martinez and Bradberry were big-money free-agent additions who'll help boost New York's pass and run defense. However, behind the new duo, the Giants don't have much to get excited about. New head coach Joe Judge must rely on Baker to improve on an inconsistent first campaign and second-round rookie McKinney to play a key role at safety. Despite featuring a handful of former early draft picks, the G-Men field an unspectacular unit overall.

27. Las Vegas Raiders

Maxx Crosby Cory Littleton Trayvon Mullen
Maurice Hurst Nick Kwiatkoski Damarious Randall
Clelin Ferrell Nicholas Morrow Johnathan Abram
Carl Nassib Marquel Lee Lamarcus Joyner
Maliek Collins Kyle Wilber Damon Arnette
P.J. Hall Jeff Heath
Arden Key Nevin Lawson

Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden addressed their stop unit early and often this offseason in an attempt to improve across all three levels. Littleton and Kwiatkoski are excellent additions to the Raiders' coverage and run defense, respectively, while Randall and Arnette will likely play major roles in 2020. Don't forget about Abram, a first-round pick a year ago who's returning from shoulder surgery. Vegas lacks star-caliber edge rushers and is hoping Ferrell enjoys a breakout sophomore campaign. There's young talent aplenty, but the Raiders lack elite players at key positions to be ranked higher.

26. Arizona Cardinals

Chandler Jones Isaiah Simmons Patrick Peterson
Jordan Phillips Jordan Hicks Budda Baker
Devon Kennard De'Vondre Campbell Byron Murphy
Corey Peters Haason Reddick Jalen Thompson
Zach Allen Tanner Vallejo Robert Alford
Jonathan Bullard Deionte Thompson
Michael Dogbe Chris Jones

In order to keep pace with Kliff Kingsbury's high-octane offense, general manager Steve Keim attempted to address multiple positions on defense. Phillips and Kennard - who combined for 16.5 sacks in 2019 - provide much-needed pass-rush options outside of Jones, while Simmons can impact multiple positions as a versatile rookie. Arizona improved a unit that ranked last a year ago, but its secondary is still a major question mark moving forward. The Cardinals will need significant improvements from Murphy and Baker in coverage.

25. Atlanta Falcons

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Grady Jarrett Deion Jones Keanu Neal
Dante Fowler Jr. Foye Oluokun Ricardo Allen
Takkarist McKinley Mykal Walker A.J. Terrell
Tyeler Davison LaRoy Reynolds Isaiah Oliver
Marlon Davidson Edmond Robinson Kendall Sheffield
Allen Bailey Damontae Kazee
John Cominsky Blidi Wreh-Wilson

A unit that predicates itself on speed and athleticism, Atlanta's defense has declined after a few successful seasons. This was mostly due to its secondary, which figures to struggle again in 2020 without a true No. 1 cornerback. Head coach Dan Quinn will hope Terrell - the team's first-round pick this year - can fill that role as a rookie, but that may be wishful thinking. The Falcons' front four will still wreak havoc with Jarrett and Fowler, though it may not be enough to compensate for other weak spots. At least Jones figures to continue his elite coverage play at linebacker.

24. Washington Redskins

Ryan Kerrigan Thomas Davis Landon Collins
Chase Young Cole Holcomb Kendall Fuller
Jonathan Allen Jon Bostic Ronald Darby
Matt Ioannidis Shaun Dion Hamilton Sean Davis
Montez Sweat Reuben Foster Jimmy Moreland
Daron Payne Fabian Moreau
Ryan Anderson Deshazor Everett

Ron Rivera inherited one of the deepest defensive lines in football when he was hired by the Redskins, and second overall pick Young will make the unit even more lethal paired with 2019 first-rounder Sweat. Though former high draft picks Allen, Anderson, and Payne have yet to find consistency, improvements may come under Rivera. However, Washington has legitimate issues elsewhere. Foster is expected to miss most, if not all, of the upcoming campaign, and a 37-year-old Davis isn't his ideal replacement. Meanwhile, Fuller, Darby, and Davis are key secondary additions but the defensive backfield remains extremely burnable.

23. Los Angeles Rams

Aaron Donald Kenny Young Jalen Ramsey
Leonard Floyd Micah Kiser John Johnson
Michael Brockers Troy Reeder Troy Hill
Terrell Lewis Travin Howard Taylor Rapp
Samson Ebukam Clay Johnston Darious Williams
A'Shawn Robinson Terrell Burgess
Sebastian Joseph-Day David Long

Donald and Ramsey are truly elite players at key positions, but the Rams field very few playmakers beyond the talented duo. There were simply too many losses for L.A. to recover from this offseason - Littleton, Eric Weddle, Nickell Robey-Coleman, and Clay Matthews were key contributors in 2019. Floyd and Brockers are proven starters in the front seven, though the team's pass coverage figures to struggle as quarterbacks avoid targeting Ramsey. If neither Hill, Williams, or Long emerge as a strong No. 2 corner, trouble may be on its way.

22. Miami Dolphins

Kyle Van Noy Raekwon McMillan Byron Jones
Shaq Lawson Jerome Baker Xavien Howard
Christian Wilkins Elandon Roberts Eric Rowe
Davon Godchaux Kamu Grugier-Hill Bobby McCain
Emmanuel Ogbah Vince Biegel Noah Igbinoghene
Raekwon Davis Adrian Colbert
Avery Moss Nik Needham

Few teams transformed their stop unit this offseason more than the Dolphins. It's a good thing, considering Miami ranked last in points allowed last year. Newcomers Jones and Igbinoghene round out an intriguing and talented trio of starting cornerbacks - the key to Brian Flores' scheme. Van Noy, Lawson, and Ogbah enter to jolt a lacking pass rush along with 2019 first-rounder Wilkins, while McMillan and Baker head a stout linebacking corps. Led by new faces at key positions and depth at all three levels, the Dolphins' defense can improve considerably in 2020.

21. Cincinnati Bengals

Geno Atkins Germaine Pratt William Jackson III
Carlos Dunlap Jordan Evans Trae Waynes
D.J. Reader Logan Wilson Mackenzie Alexander
Sam Hubbard Josh Bynes Vonn Bell
Carl Lawson Akeem Davis-Gaither Jessie Bates
Ryan Glasgow Shawn Williams
Andrew Brown LeShaun Sims

For the first time in what feels like forever, Cincinnati aggressively pursued free agents in order to improve its roster. The Bengals completely overhauled their secondary by adding Waynes, Alexander, and Bell, who will upgrade a 21st-ranked pass defense. Reader rounds out a very deep front four adept at rushing the quarterback and stopping the run. Though there are major question marks at linebacker - rookie third-rounder Wilson must step up in the middle - Cincinnati's defense could be sneaky good in 2020 and rank inside the top half of the league if everything clicks.

20. Kansas City Chiefs

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Chris Jones Anthony Hitchens Tyrann Mathieu
Frank Clark Damien Wilson Bashaud Breeland
Alex Okafor Dorian O'Daniel Charvarius Ward
Derrick Nnadi Willie Gay Jr. Juan Thornhill
Tanoh Kpassagnon Ben Niemann Daniel Sorensen
Khalen Saunders Rashad Fenton
Mike Pennel Antonio Hamilton

Kansas City's offense gets most of the spotlight, and rightly so. However, its defense pitched in, too, ranking eighth against the pass and seventh in points allowed last year. Jones and Clark are stud pass-rushers, while Okafor, Nnadi, and Kpassagnon round out a stout front line. Meanwhile, despite Mathieu being the only superstar in the Chiefs' secondary, the group is feisty and gets the job done in coverage. Linebacker is certainly a weak spot, but Kansas City often fields nickel and dime packages with speedy defensive backs playing near the line of scrimmage.

19. New York Jets

Quinnen Williams C.J. Mosley Jamal Adams
Jordan Jenkins Avery Williamson Marcus Maye
Henry Anderson Blake Cashman Pierre Desir
Steve McLendon Patrick Onwuasor Brian Poole
Tarell Basham James Burgess Blessuan Austin
Harvey Langi Arthur Maulet
Nathan Shepherd Ashtyn Davis

Led by Gregg Williams, the Jets got the most out of an average group on paper to rank seventh in total defense last season. The front seven still lacks a top-tier pass-rusher, but Anderson, McLendon, and Williams form a stout interior trio. If the former third overall pick Williams breaks out as a sophomore, the front seven will be even more successful. New York is set at linebacker and safety, provided Adams isn't dealt this summer, though we aren't sure cornerbacks Desir and Poole are enough to lock down opponents' top receivers.

18. Seattle Seahawks

Poona Ford Bobby Wagner Quinton Dunbar
Bruce Irvin K.J. Wright Quandre Diggs
Jarran Reed Jordyn Brooks Shaquill Griffin
L.J. Collier Shaquem Griffin Tre Flowers
Rasheem Green Cody Barton Bradly McDougald
Darrell Taylor Marquise Blair
Benson Mayowa Ugo Amadi

Even if the Seahawks bring back Jadeveon Clowney, their pass rush will be one of the league's weakest. Without Clowney, the group looks bad enough to bring down the team's playoff hopes. Seattle will therefore rely heavily on a linebacking corps that has both great depth and an elite player in Wagner. The secondary isn't the Legion of Boom, but with the addition of Dunbar for pennies on the dollar, Pete Carroll now has four above-average starters to work with. However, a hole at slot corner and the head coach's reluctance to adapt to modern coverage packages could hold back the unit.

17. Indianapolis Colts

DeForest Buckner Darius Leonard Malik Hooker
Justin Houston Bobby Okereke Xavier Rhodes
Kemoko Turay Anthony Walker Kenny Moore
Denico Autry Matthew Adams Rock Ya-Sin
Grover Stewart E.J. Speed T.J. Carrie
Ben Banogu Khari Willis
Sheldon Day Julian Blackmon

The Colts boast an intimidating front that could be capable of carrying the entire unit after acquiring All-Pro Buckner. Meanwhile, Leonard, one of the league's most instinctive defensive playmakers, heads a linebacker group that's young and very athletic. The main reason why Indy isn't closer to the top 10 is the secondary, which has some intriguing pieces but a lot of question marks. If Rhodes can't rediscover his Pro Bowl form and Ya-Sin fails to make a sophomore leap, the Colts could be torched by the AFC's top passing attacks.

16. Cleveland Browns

Myles Garrett Mack Wilson Denzel Ward
Olivier Vernon B.J. Goodson Greedy Williams
Sheldon Richardson Sione Takitaki Karl Joseph
Larry Ogunjobi Jacob Phillips Grant Delpit
Andrew Billings Tae Davis Kevin Johnson
Adrian Clayborn Andrew Sendejo
Chad Thomas Terrance Mitchell

For all the criticism of Baker Mayfield, Freddie Kitchens, and the disappointing offense as a whole, Cleveland's defense equally failed to make the jump many expected in 2019. But for those willing to take another leap of faith in the Browns, there's a lot to be excited about. While Garrett will need to rehabilitate his image following his suspension, he's arguably the best edge rusher in the NFL. Cleveland's linebackers could be its Achilles heel due to a lack of experience and athleticism, but a talented and versatile secondary led by third-year corner Denzel Ward could more than make up for the weakness.

15. Tennessee Titans

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Harold Landry Jayon Brown Kevin Byard
Jeffery Simmons Rashaan Evans Adoree' Jackson
DaQuan Jones David Long Jr. Malcolm Butler
Kamalei Correa Nick Dzubnar Johnathan Joseph
Vic Beasley Nigel Harris Kenny Vaccaro
Jack Crawford Kristian Fulton
Reggie Gilbert Amani Hooker

The loss of Jurrell Casey, who was traded to the Broncos, will hurt the defensive line, though Simmons looked like a stud as a rookie and could fill the perennial Pro Bowler's shoes in time. Landry racked up nine sacks as a sophomore. Tennessee will hope he's ready to lead the pass rush, as free-agent signing Beasley is younger than Cameron Wake but not necessarily an upgrade. Meanwhile, the secondary and linebacker group are both intriguing mixes of youth and experience. Jackson is by far the best cornerback with Logan Ryan not returning, so the Titans need either Butler to regain his Pro Bowl form or the rookie Fulton to step up.

14. Dallas Cowboys

Demarcus Lawrence Leighton Vander Esch Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Dontari Poe Jaylon Smith Chidobe Awuzie
Gerald McCoy Sean Lee Xavier Woods
Tyrone Crawford Joe Thomas Jourdan Lewis
Aldon Smith Justin March Anthony Brown
Antwaun Woods Trevon Diggs
Dorance Armstrong Daryl Worley

Dallas' defense took a step back in 2019, and one of the major reasons why was regression by the linebacker group that starred the year prior. Smith was often exposed in coverage, while Vander Esch never looked right before a neck injury forced him to miss the last seven games. With a lot of new pieces to integrate into the front seven and secondary, the Cowboys need the duo and pass-rusher Lawrence - who had just five sacks - to bounce back. If they do, and some of the low-risk, high-reward signings like Aldon Smith hit, Dallas should again have a top-10 unit.

13. Philadelphia Eagles

Fletcher Cox Nathan Gerry Darius Slay
Brandon Graham T.J. Edwards Rodney McLeod
Javon Hargrave Jatavis Brown Nickell Robey-Coleman
Derek Barnett Davion Taylor Avonte Maddox
Malik Jackson Duke Riley Jalen Mills
Josh Sweat Sidney Jones
Genard Avery Will Parks

Armed with what is likely the league's premier defensive line, the Eagles are primed to take a step forward in 2020. We think Hargrave will go down as one of the offseason's best signings, as the powerful interior rusher pairs extremely well with Cox, Graham, and Barnett. However, the additions of Slay and Robey-Coleman could prove to be even more vital. The Eagles have long lacked a shutdown corner and now have one to help their front four wreak havoc. On the flip side, Malcolm Jenkins' departure along with a concerning group of linebackers could ultimately hold Jim Schwartz's unit back.

12. Minnesota Vikings

Danielle Hunter Eric Kendricks Harrison Smith
Michael Pierce Anthony Barr Anthony Harris
Ifeadi Odenigbo Eric Wilson Mike Hughes
Shamar Stephen Ben Gedeon Jeff Gladney
Jaleel Johnson Troy Dye Holton Hill
Eddie Yarbrough Cameron Dantzler
Anthony Zettel Kris Boyd

After years of consistently stellar play under the guidance of head coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings' defense - especially the secondary - began to show signs of decline last season. This led Minnesota to part ways with three longtime starters at cornerback, leaving the unit vastly inexperienced and heavily reliant on its star safety duo. Similarly, Hunter will be tasked with carrying the pass rush after the loss of Everson Griffen. Perhaps the best linebacker group in the league should be the glue that keeps the defense humming.

11. Green Bay Packers

Za'Darius Smith Christian Kirksey Jaire Alexander
Kenny Clark Oren Burks Adrian Amos
Preston Smith Ty Summers Darnell Savage Jr.
Dean Lowry Kamal Martin Kevin King
Tyler Lancaster Curtis Bolton Chandon Sullivan
Rashan Gary Josh Jackson
Montravius Adams Will Redmond

The arrival of the Smiths reinvigorated the Packers' pass rush last season, with Za'Darius emerging as a dominant player (13.5 sacks). However, while there was improvement across the entire defense, Green Bay struggled to maintain the success it had early in the campaign. A lack of depth behind the Smiths and nose tackle Clark was a major factor, and it wasn't improved upon enough this offseason. A strong secondary led by Alexander and Amos will need to compensate for a linebacker group that's only proven starter is the oft-injured Kirksey.

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Shaq Barrett Lavonte David Carlton Davis
Jason Pierre-Paul Devin White Justin Evans
Ndamukong Suh Kevin Minter Sean Murphy-Bunting
Vita Vea Jack Cichy Jamel Dean
William Gholston Kendell Beckwith Antoine Winfield Jr.
Rakeem Nunez-Roches Mike Edwards
Anthony Nelson M.J. Stewart

Due to issues in coverage, a common misconception is that the Bucs' defense was average at best last season. But Tampa Bay actually went from 32nd in Football Outsiders' DVOA in 2018 all the way to up to fifth, and owned the top-ranked rush defense. The Bucs kept their entire front line together, so it's likely that teams will again struggle to run against them. At linebacker, Davis is nearly unrivaled in coverage, while White is hopefully set for a sophomore leap. Though the secondary remains inexperienced, Davis and Dean should fare far better with improved safety support in the form of rookie Winfield.

9. Chicago Bears

Khalil Mack Roquan Smith Eddie Jackson
Akiem Hicks Danny Trevathan Kyle Fuller
Robert Quinn Joel Iyiegbuniwe Tashaun Gipson
Eddie Goldman Josh Woods Buster Skrine
Bilal Nichols Devante Bond Artie Burns
Barkevious Mingo Jaylon Johnson
Roy Robertson-Harris Deon Bush

In 2018, the Bears boasted the best defense in the NFL. After replacing Vic Fangio with Chuck Pagano, the unit wasn't able to maintain that level but it was still a top-10 group, due in large part to Mack. The star pass-rusher did miss the presence of Hicks, who missed 11 games last season after racking up 7.5 sacks the year before. The monster lineman's return and the addition of Quinn should give Chicago another year of dominant line play. In the secondary, Jackson and Fuller need to rediscover their nose for the football to get the pass defense back on top after both saw their interception totals significantly decline.

8. Denver Broncos

Von Miller Alexander Johnson Justin Simmons
Bradley Chubb Todd Davis A.J. Bouye
Jurrell Casey Josey Jewell Kareem Jackson
Shelby Harris Joseph Jones Bryce Callahan
Mike Purcell Justin Strnad Isaac Yiadom
Dre'Mont Jones Duke Dawson
Malik Reed Michael Ojemudia

Unsurprisingly, Fangio's arrival sparked a defensive turnaround in Denver. Under Fangio, the Broncos ranked 12th in yards allowed per game after placing 22nd the year prior. With the return of Chubb - who notched 12 sacks as a rookie in 2018 - from injury and the additions of Casey and Bouye, the unit figures to improve drastically. And we can't forget about Miller, who still played high-level football despite his lowest sack total since 2013 - he's poised for a bounce-back campaign. Meanwhile, Johnson is an under-the-radar star at linebacker and Simmons is one of the game's top cover safeties. If Callahan and Jackson can stay healthy in the secondary, the sky's the limit.

7. New England Patriots

Lawrence Guy Dont'a Hightower Stephon Gilmore
Chase Winovich Ja'Whaun Bentley Devin McCourty
John Simon Brandon King Jason McCourty
Josh Uche Brandon Copeland Jonathan Jones
Adam Butler Terez Hall Patrick Chung
Deatrich Wise Jr. Kyle Dugger
Anfernee Jennings JC Jackson

The Patriots were easily the league's top defense last season, and while they still figure to produce at a high level in 2020, a slight regression should be expected. Collins, Van Noy, Shelton, and Harmon depart, but most of an elite secondary remains intact. Gilmore leads the coverage unit as arguably the NFL's premier cornerback, with the McCourty twins, Chung, and Jones rounding out a stellar group. Hightower can still play at a high level leading New England's front seven. However, the pass rush projects to be a weak spot. Youngsters Winovich, Uche, and Jennings figure to see plenty of time, though the squad as a whole might not be able to generate enough pressure for its secondary to thrive. Despite these concerns, we'd be foolish to count out a Bill Belichick-led squad.

6. Los Angeles Chargers

Joey Bosa Denzel Perryman Derwin James
Melvin Ingram Kenneth Murray Chris Harris Jr.
Linval Joseph Uchenna Nwosu Casey Hayward
Jerry Tillery Drue Tranquill Desmond King
Justin Jones Nick Vigil Rayshawn Jenkins
Isaac Rochell Kyzir White Nasir Adderley
Emeke Egbule Michael Davis

Good luck trying to throw on the Chargers. The secondary is stacked with talent, from all-world safety James to slot master Harris. If James can regain his elite playmaking skills from his rookie season after an injury-plagued 2019, L.A. might end up with the No. 1 pass defense. A big part of that potential is also the Chargers' intimidating pass-rushing duo of Bosa and Ingram, who will now play alongside a space-eater in free-agent addition Joseph. The key to the Chargers' success in 2020 could come down to how quickly Murray, who the team traded back into the first round for, can acclimatize to the NFL

5. Buffalo Bills

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Jerry Hughes Tremaine Edmunds Tre'Davious White
Ed Oliver Matt Milano Micah Hyde
Mario Addison A.J Klein Jordan Poyer
Trent Murphy Vosean Joseph Josh Norman
Star Lotulelei Tyler Matakevich Taron Johnson
A.J. Epenesa Levi Wallace
Quinton Jefferson E.J. Gaines

Buffalo quickly established a top-tier defense when Sean McDermott took over as head coach in 2017. Under McDermott, the Bills ranked second and third in yards allowed over the last two seasons and figure to place among the NFL's elite again in 2020. White, Hyde, and Poyer lead an excellent secondary that can make plays on the ball. Edmunds and Milano are ascending linebackers, while Oliver could be in for a breakout sophomore campaign. In need of a boost on the edge, Buffalo added Epenesa in the second round and Addison - who's amazingly recorded at least nine sacks in four straight years - in free agency. This unit just seems to click despite not fielding a perennial All-Pro.

4. New Orleans Saints

Cameron Jordan Demario Davis Marshon Lattimore
Marcus Davenport Kiko Alonso Marcus Williams
Sheldon Rankins Alex Anzalone Janoris Jenkins
David Onyemata Zack Baun Malcolm Jenkins
Malcom Brown Craig Robertson Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
Trey Hendrickson P.J. Williams
Margus Hunt Patrick Robinson

We're not sure there's a team more equipped to match up against elite passing attacks than the Saints. Reuniting with Malcolm Jenkins was a savvy move by Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton to pair with Williams and Gardner-Johnson at safety, who both thrive in coverage. Lattimore is among football's top young corners while Davis was an under-the-radar All-Pro last season. Jordan and Davenport combined for 21.5 sacks, with the latter set to take another step forward in 2020. The interior line is solid, if unspectacular, but New Orleans' secondary is simply too deep and skilled not to rank the entire unit inside the top five.

3. San Francisco 49ers

Nick Bosa Kwon Alexander Richard Sherman
Arik Armstead Fred Warner Jimmie Ward
Dee Ford Dre Greenlaw Emmanuel Moseley
Javon Kinlaw Joe Walker Jaquiski Tartt
D.J. Jones Azeez Al-Shaair K'Waun Williams
Solomon Thomas Ahkello Witherspoon
Ronald Blair Tarvarius Moore

Robert Saleh's group enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2019, propelling the Niners to the Super Bowl. Most of a star-studded line remains intact, though Kinlaw may not be able to replicate Buckner's production early in his NFL career. At linebacker, Alexander, Warner, and Greenlaw form a versatile and athletic trio capable of matching up with most offensive weapons in the second level. The 49ers also return every starter from the top-ranked pass defense, but it remains to be seen whether Sherman's level of play and Ward's health can hold up for another season. Still, it's hard not to love a unit with Bosa, Ford, and Armstead leading its pass rush.

2. Baltimore Ravens

Calais Campbell Patrick Queen Earl Thomas
Matt Judon L.J. Fort Marlon Humphrey
Derek Wolfe Malik Harrison Marcus Peters
Brandon Williams Jake Ryan Jimmy Smith
Jaylon Ferguson Chris Board Chuck Clark
Tyus Bowser Tavon Young
Justin Madubuike Anthony Levine

Baltimore's defense may be as productive as its offense this year, which is a scary thought. Campbell and Wolfe were significant additions that cost very little - kudos to general manager Eric DeCosta - and should thrive in "Wink" Martindale's scheme. The Ravens' secondary is what sets them apart from most clubs. Humphrey, Peters, Smith, and Young are as skilled as top-four cornerbacks can get, while Thomas will continue to roam the middle of the field and make plays at safety. Linebacker was a weakness heading into the draft, but Queen may be a candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year with his instincts and the talent surrounding him.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

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T.J. Watt Devin Bush Minkah Fitzpatrick
Cameron Heyward Vince Williams Joe Haden
Bud Dupree Ulysees Gilbert Steven Nelson
Stephon Tuitt Robert Spillane Terrell Edmunds
Chris Wormley Christian Kuntz Mike Hilton
Tyson Alualu Cameron Sutton
Ola Adeniyi Justin Layne

Pittsburgh's put forth its best effort to replicate the legendary Steel Curtain from the 1970s, and it may not be far off. There's talent everywhere in this unit. Watt and Dupree form arguably the top edge-rusher duo in the NFL, combining for 26 sacks and 12 forced fumbles a year ago. Heyward and Tuitt are equally lethal on the interior, while Bush and Williams make plays all over the field at linebacker. Acquiring Fitzpatrick from the Dolphins was a major turning point for an opportunistic secondary that received solid play from Haden, Nelson, and Hilton. The Steelers' unrivaled ability to create big plays and turnovers was the catalyst for ranking their defense No. 1 heading into the 2020 campaign.

Ranking all 32 NFL defenses from worst to best
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