Ranking the NFL’s top 10 pass rushers

Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston is without a doubt among the best of the best pass rushers in the National Football League.
Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

Brad Gagnon

We switch to defense, continuing our offseason rankings series with a look at the top 10 rushing defensive linemen and outside linebackers in the NFL…

1. J.J. Watt, Houston Texans — Watt isn’t a pure pass rusher and doesn’t line up as one, but that’s what makes this so amazing. Despite the fact he rushed as a 3-4 end, only one player in football had more pressures and sacks than the defensive player of the year did in 2014.

2. Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs — You really can’t put a guy any lower than this when he’s coming off a season in which he led the NFL with 22 sacks, falling just short of Michael Strahan’s single-season record.

3. Mario Williams, Buffalo Bills — He’s on top of his game with a ton of support in Buffalo, where the first-team All-Pro is coming off a career year. And considering he has 38 sacks the last three seasons, that’s saying a lot.

4. Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams — A slow start limited the defensive end to “only” 10.5 sacks last season, but Quinn had 19 as an All-Pro in 2013 and still created more pressure than anyone else in football that year.

5. Elvis Dumervil, Baltimore Ravens — He doesn’t do much else, but as a situational pass rusher Dumervil is tough to beat. The guy finished third in the league with 17 sacks, marking the second time he’s reached that plateau in the last five years.

6. Von Miller, Denver Broncos — When Miller is healthy and on track, there might not be a better rusher in the game. That was the case more often than not in 2012 and 2014, and the three-time Pro Bowler had a combined 32.5 sacks those two seasons.

7. Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins — Another double-digit-sack season for Wake, who ranked fourth among all 4-3 defensive ends in terms of pass-rushing productivity at Pro Football Focus.

8. Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Redskins — With 72 quarterback pressures (only Houston had more at the 3-4 outside linebacker position) and 13.5 sacks, Kerrigan was a massive Pro Bowl snub.

9. Connor Barwin, Philadelphia Eagles — A single double-digit-sack season (14.5, ranking fourth in football) and a Pro Bowl berth is enough to get the veteran on the list.

10. Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers — Phenomenal that Matthews was able to muster 11 sacks and 48 pressures despite playing a hybrid linebacker role and taking on other responsibilities on defense.

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