These Edge Rush Duos Give QBs Nightmares

Football | 9/11/20

One of the most famous sayings by NFL analysts is that “defense wins championships.” On the defense, few positions make as big of an impact at the defensive line. Games are often won in the trenches. If the defensive line, including edge rushers, can blow past an offensive line, it doesn’t matter who the opposing team’s QB is. From the fear that Nick Bosa and Dee Ford create to the chaos orchestrated by T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree, these are the best edge rush duos in the NFL!

Cameron Jordan And Marcus Davenport – Saints

new orleans saints edge rushers
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints are a team known for their offensive firepower, which has allowed the edge duo of Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport to slide under the radar. Jordan has had three straight 12 plus sack seasons and Davenport is no slouch either.

Now entering his third season, could we see Davenport break the 10 sack barrier? If he and Jordan can create that kind of havoc then the Saints will be a Super Bowl favorite for sure!

Nick Bosa And Dee Ford – 49ers

49ers edge rushers
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

As a rookie edge rusher for the San Francisco 49ers, Nick Bosa recorded nine sacks and looked like a veteran. A huge human with quick hands, it’s nearly impossible to stop him even without the help of Dee Ford.

Ford, when healthy (which has been an issue), is one of the fastest edge rushers in the NFL, making him a special talent and perfect match for the bulldozing Bosa. If Ford can stay healthy and Bosa can prove he wasn’t just a rookie sensation, the 49ers defense could be historically good.

Robert Quinn And Khalil Mack – Bears

mack and quinn chicago bears
Stacy Revere/Getty Images and Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Stacy Revere/Getty Images and Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Khalil Mack admittedly didn’t have his best year in Chicago in 2019. As a former Defensive Player of the Year, the team was expecting a little more than 8.5 sacks. Robert Quinn was brought in during the offseason to take some pressure off Mack after recording 11.5 sacks in Dallas.

If Mack returns to his former form in 2020 and Quinn continues to play at a high level, the Bears should find themselves back in the playoffs. When your edge rushers are this talented, it doesn’t really matter if your starting QB is Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles. Your offense isn’t winning your games for you.

Myles Garrett And Olivier Vernon – Browns

garrett vernon edge rushers
Rich Schultz/Getty Images and Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Rich Schultz/Getty Images and Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Myles Garrett signed a huge contract extension with the Cleveland Browns in the offseason. At 24-years-old, he has 20 sack potential, and in 2020 he’s being paired with veteran pass rusher Olivier Vernon.

After leaving Miami, Vernon underwhelmed as a pass rusher in New York. As a complimentary piece to Garrett in Cleveland, though, he should flourish and potentially even reach double-digit sacks. This tandem is going to be fun to watch.

Za’Darius Smith And Preston Smith – Packers

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Quinn Harris/Getty Images
Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith are one of the more underrated edge-rushing tandems in the NFL. In their first year together, the pair combined for 25.5 sacks. Entering their second year together, they can only get better.

And as long as Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback of the Packers, they should continue to fly under the radar. Everyone loves to focus on the quarterback, while these two just love knocking him on the ground.

Von Miller And Bradley Chubb – Broncos

chubb miller broncos
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Von Miller is likely going to end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame after he retires. One of the best edge defenders in the NFL, in 2019 the Denver Broncos paired him up with Bradley Chubb to create something truly special.

Unfortunately, 2020 will not be the year these two really get to show the league what they’re capable of. Miller suffered an Achilles injury during a practice session prior to week one and underwent season-ending surgery.

T.J. Watt And Bud Dupree – Steelers

watt dupree steelers
Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

T.J. Watt was never supposed to be as good a player as he has become. The younger brother of J.J. Watt, T.J. jumped out of the shadows in 2019 and proved he could one day win the Defensive Player of the Year Award, too.

Rushing the edge alongside Bud Dupree doesn’t hurt, either. Dupree had 11.5 sacks in 2019 and became one of the unquestioned leaders of the Pittsburgh defense. We expect that upward trend to continue in 2020.

Joey Bosa And Melvin Ingram – Chargers

bosa ingram chargers
Eric Lutzens/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Eric Lutzens/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Only once in four seasons has Chargers’ edge rusher Joey Bosa recorded less than 10 sacks, and that was because he was hurt. Bosa has been so explosive for Los Angeles that the team rewarded him with a hefty contract in the offseason.

On the other side of the edge, stalwart veteran Melvin Ingram sets the tone. Since entering the league in 2012, Ingram has been the definition of consistency. In 2019 he recorded seven sacks.

Chandler Jones And Devon Kennard – Cardinals

kennard jones
Christian Petersen/Getty Images and Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Christian Petersen/Getty Images and Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Traded to the Cardinals from the Patriots in 2016, Chandler Jones has been every ounce the player Arizona was looking for. He’s never recorded less than 11 sacks with the team and bulldozed his way to 19 in 2019.

On the other side of the edge is Devon Kennard. Kennard signed with Arizona in the offseason and is expected to help take some pressure off of Jones to carry the defense.

J.J. Watt And Whitney Mercilus – Texans

jj watt and whitney mercilus
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Bob Levey/Getty Images

At one point in time, the combination of J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus would have been considered the best edge-rushing duo in the NFL. In 2020, the duo is still quite scary, but no longer terrifying.

Watt, now his 30s, still has all the talent he did in 2012 when he recorded 20.5 sacks. The only problem is his inability to stay healthy. Whitney Mercilus had a bit of a rebound season last year, managing 7.5 sacks, and could reach double-digit numbers with a healthy Watt alongside him.

Dante Fowler Jr. And Takkarist McKinley – Falcons

mckinley fowler falcons
Joe Robbins/Getty Images and Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images
Joe Robbins/Getty Images and Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images

Dante Fowler Jr. will suit up for Atlanta for the first time in 2020 and should make an instant impact. With the Rams in 2019, he recorded 11.5 sacks and was vital in the team’s late-season surge that almost pushed them into the playoffs.

Tak McKinley had a disappointing year in 2019, only recording 3.5 sacks when he was supposed to a leader on the defense. He has declared 2020 a boom or bust year, and we expect him to boom.

Chase Young And Montez Sweat – Washington Football Team

sweat young washington
Christian Petersen/Getty Images and Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Christian Petersen/Getty Images and Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Washington Football Team has an unproven but exciting set of edge rushers in Chase Young and Montez Sweat. Drafted in back-to-back years, the two are set up to be the backbone of the team’s defense for years.

As a rookie in 2019, Sweat recorded seven sacks off the edge. As a second-year player, those numbers should go up. Chase Young, who was a stud in college, will hope to have a rookie impact like Nick Bosa did in San Francisco.

Harold Landry And Jadeveon Clowney – Titans

clowney landry
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images and Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images and Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The Tennessee Titans pulled out all the stops when they convinced Jadeveon Clowney to sign with them just before the start of the season. Now paired with Harold Landry, it’s clear the Titans have one of the best edge-rushing duos in the NFL.

The unfortunate loser in the Clowney signing is Vic Beasley, who now gets to play second fiddle after a career as a starting-caliber player in the NFL.

Maxx Crosby And Clelin Ferrell – Raiders

clelin ferrell and maxx crosby
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders Raiders drafted Clelin Ferrell in 2019 to be their pass rusher of the future, but it was the later round gem named Maxx Crosby who truly surprised. Crosby set offensive lines ablaze in his first season, finishing the year with 10 sacks.

Ferrell’s debut season paled in comparison, and he took the offseason to bulk up and study the playbook. Will he make the jump in his second season the Raiders are expecting him to?

Shaquil Barrett And Jason Pierre Paul – Bucs

GettyImages-1190268230
Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Shaquil Barrett broke out big time as an edge rusher in 2019 and has fans excited about what he could bring to the team in 2020. Jason Pierre-Paul is a longtime NFL veteran who shows little signs of slowing down now that he is in his 30s.

Over the last two seasons, Pierre-Paul has recorded 21 sacks. Barrett got to the quarterback 19.5 times last season. The only concern is that he only had 3.5 sacks in 2018. Was his breakout the real deal?

Brandon Graham And Derek Barnett – Eagles

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Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Legends don’t die easily in Philadelphia, and even if Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett aren’t the players they used to be, the mark has already been made. Graham, 32-years-old in 2020, recorded 8.5 sacks in 2019, while Barnett got 6.5.

Barnett, of course, has the luxury of youth. He’s only 24-years-old and has shown progress every season under the tutelage of his veteran mentor. We expect Barnett to reach double-digit sack in 2020 for the first time in his career.

Carlos Dunlap And Sam Hubbard – Bengals

hubbard dunlap bengals
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

If the Bengals plan to contend in 2020, a lot of their success will hinge on edge rush duo Carlos Dunlap and Sam Hubbard. One is an aging veteran and the other is being labeled a “breakout candidate” by the media.

Dunlap has recorded 81.5 sacks in his career, nine of which came in 2019. Hubbard has 14.5 sacks in his two year career and will look to reach double digits in a single season for the first time in 2020.

Matt Judon And Pernell McPhee – Ravens

mcphee judon ravens
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images and Scott Taetsch/Getty Images
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images and Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Ravens have long been a team known for their defensive talents. Even with an MVP winning, game-changing QB under center, their defense gets a lot of credit for success. And that success starts on the edge with Matt Judon and Pernell McPhee.

Judon recorded 9.5 sacks in 2019, which was more than he managed the year before. McPhee missed most of last season with an injury and can be considered a boom or bust player entering 2020.

Danielle Hunter And Yannick Ngakoue – Vikings

hunter ngakoue
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images and Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images and Scott Halleran/Getty Images

This list wouldn’t be complete without the fearsome edge-rushing duo of the Minnesota Vikings. Danielle Hunter is a transcendent player who will only benefit from the addition of Yannick Ngakoue in the offseason.

Young, hungry, and looking to prove last season’s success wasn’t a mistake, Hunter and Ngakoue will make dropbacks as miserable as possible for opposing QBs. The Vikings’ defense could be historically good if both players live up to their lofty expectations.

Frank Clark And Alex Okafor – Chiefs

frank clark alex okafor chiefs
David Eulitt/Getty Images and Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
David Eulitt/Getty Images and Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

While the Kansas City Chiefs may not have won the Super Bowl on the strength of the defense, the 2019 unit was much improved over 2018. That improvement was no doubt thanks to the improved edge rush duo of Frank Clark and Alex Okafor.

Clark had eight sacks in his first season in Kansas City while Okafor had five. Most importantly, they helped clear the lanes for defensive star Chris Jones to bullrush his way into the backfield.