Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Best defensive linemen ever

My little impromptu survey of the best ever continues with the best defensive linemen of all time. This is a hard task so I’ll split it up to DE and DT and name the best at each spot.

DE-Since sacks weren’t kept as an official statistic until ’82 it’s hard to say who was the best pass rusher ever but a compelling argument can be made for…

Reggie White was elected to a record 13 straight Pro Bowls, was Defensive Player of the Year twice, and was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team. His 198 sacks are second all time and his ferocious play on the field belie a gentle and dignified off-the-field demeanor. This deeply religious man was even better off the field as he was a mentor to inner-city youth and an ordained preacher at Inner City Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. White played in two Super Bowls and set a record with three sacks in SB XXXI when the Packers crushed the Patriots. ESPN’s Tom Jackson called White the greatest defender he’s ever seen. White died January 2, 2005 at the age of 43. The “Minister of Defense” will be sorely missed.

At 6’2” and 272 pounds Deacon Jones was the most feared and dominant defensive player of his time. The term and statistic “sack” was literally invented by Jones. Though unofficial, it’s been estimated that Deacon had 174 sacks during his fourteen year career. That equates to nearly one sack per game. Jones was an eight time Pro Bowl participant, including seven straight starts. He was all NFL six straight times and was Defensive Player of the Year twice. Jones teamed with fellow Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen to form one of the most devastating D-line combos ever seen. Jones & Olsen were half of the legendary “Fearsome Foursome” that was arguably the best defensive line unit in league history. Not bad for a 13th round draft pick who barely made the Rams roster as a rookie.

Bruce Smith owns the career sack record and was the first overall pick by Buffalo in the ’85 draft. He’s the only player in NFL history with more than 200 sacks. Smith has 575 career tackles and 45 forced fumbles. Smith played in four Super Bowls and 11 straight Pro Bowls. He also sacked 75 different quarterbacks throughout his career and owns the records for most seasons with double-digit sacks and playoff sacks.

The verdict-Because of his career sack total and status as perhaps the best defensive player ever Reggie White is the best DE ever. Though I like Deacon Jones better as a player I can’t ignore the fact that many former NFL players and coaches regard White with such high esteem. Deacon was great but Reggie was just a skosh better.

DT-This one’s even tougher to call.

The 6’4” 275 pound “Mean” Joe Greene possessed uncanny quickness for his size. The number one overall pick in 1969 by Pittsburg anchored what many feel was the best defense ever. Greene played in ten Pro Bowls and was all NFL five times. He also owns four Super Bowl rings and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice.

Alan Page played in 236 straight games and was part of the infamous “Purple People Eaters” defensive line of the Minnesota Vikings that played in four Super Bowls. Page was NFL MVP in ’71, was Defensive POY three times, and was named to ten straight Pro Bowls. He blocked 28 kicks, recovered 23 fumbles, and unofficially recorded 173 sacks. Page was All NFL nine times, six first team and three second team, and was appointed to the Minnesota State Supreme Court.

Randy White had over 1,100 career tackles and an unofficial 111 sacks. White missed one game in 14 seasons and was named All Pro and to the Pro Bowl nine straight times. As a member of the Dallas Cowboys White played in three Super Bowls and was the game’s co-MVP in SB XII when they beat the Broncos 27-10.

The verdict-the name says it all, “Mean” Joe.

Honorable mention for DE and DT-Leroy Selmon, Merlin Olsen, Howie Long, Carl Eller, Bob Lilly.