NFL games are won and lost in the trenches. We’ve seen prolific offenses be completely shut down because the opposing defensive line was stealing their lunch money left and right. A strong defensive line is crucial to a strong defense. Just take the Philadelphia Eagles last year. They had several strong units on that team but their defensive line was unmatched. It took a last-second effort for the Chiefs to win it all.
There are so many great defensive linemen in the NFL but a few stand above. These five studs up front are expected to wreak havoc and disrupt offenses each and every week.
NFL Defensive Linemen Set to Dominate in 2023
Ever since breaking into the league in 2014, Aaron Donald has been one of the top defensive talents in all of football. In his nine years, Donald has racked up Defensive Rookie of the Year, nine Pro Bowls, seven All-Pros, and three Defensive Player of the Year awards. As an interior defender, it’s rare for a player to lead the league in sacks as Donald did in 2018. In total, he’s recorded 103 sacks.
Donald is suiting up for the Los Angeles Rams and despite taking a step back in 2022, he’s one of, if not the top defensive line talents in the NFL. There were legitimate concerns that Donald would hang it up prior to and even after the 2022 season. As such, he’s back for more. The question does remain if Donald will stay with the Rams through the year as he could be traded to recoup the Rams recent flippant attitude surrounding picks. They sold out to win it all in 2021, and it hurt in 2022 as they were decimated with injuries.
No matter what happens, Donald, when healthy, is the top defensive lineman in the NFL and is going to warrant double and triple-teams all year. Only the best betting guide would have him atop the Defensive Player of the Year odds.
Coming off the edge in that ridiculous San Francisco 49ers defense is last year’s Defensive Player of the Year, Nick Bosa. In just four years, Bosa has shown his elite pass-rushing abilities. Like Donald, Bosa won Defensive Rookie of the Year and he’s coming off of his best year yet.
Bosa led the league with 18.5 sacks last year and 21 TFLs in 2021. His efforts earned him All-Pro honors last year to go with this third Pro Bowl selection. He even earned a few MVP votes.
Bosa is the type of player that offenses have to specifically game plan for. He has a lethal mixture of power and finesse moves hones from his time at Ohio State and has the ability to completely take over.
Speaking of players who can completely take over a game, T.J. Watt is the latest in a long line of Pittsburgh Steelers defenders atop the league. Recency bias would think that he has surpassed his brother J.J. Watt to this point.
In six seasons, Watt has racked up 77.5 sacks en route to three All-Pros, five Pro Bowls, and the 2021 Defensive Player of the Year. He led the NFL in sacks and tackles for loss in both 2020 and 2021 and likely would have again in 2022 had it not been for an injury.
Watt is able to disrupt each and every play and has been known to make ridiculously athletic plays on the regular. He kicked off the 2022 season with an insane interception of Joe Burrow in Week 1. Once he’s back to being fully healthy, Watt will be back as one of, if not the top EDGE in the NFL.
There’s an entire sect of fans online who constantly debate Watt vs Myles Garrett. Each side has its merit, of course, but there’s no denying that Garrett has revolutionized the Cleveland Browns defensive line to his point.
Aside from the *ahem* bonk he gave Mason Rudolph in 2019, Garrett has been every bit of a superstar player the Browns have needed. He’s amassed 74.5 sacks in his 81 games played and earned First-Team All-Pro twice and Second-Team twice. Additionally, he’s racked up four Pro Bowl nods.
He hasn’t taken home a Defensive Player of the Year honor just yet but he’s certainly capable of doing so. This year, Garrett is set to take a step forward and lead the new-and-improved Browns defense to new heights.
Last and most certainly not least, Chris Jones of the Kansas City Chiefs. Jones is the proud owner of the Burrow nameplate from their matchup in the 2021 regular season and has been one of the major reasons the Chiefs continue to dominate the league.
The two-time Super Bowl champion is coming off of his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl season and first First-Team All-Pro in 2022 and set career bests in sacks and tackles. If there is anyone who can dethrone Donald as the top interior defensive lineman, it’s Jones.