So we've reached the "end" of the NFC West position rankings. Most recently, we discussed the outside linebacker position, which I had going in favor of the San Francisco 49ers. Of course, there's been discussion about the fact that every team in the division uses their outside linebackers differently, and that's a good point.
Today, we're going to look at the defensive line to wrap up the position rankings. But in the near future, I do plan on ranking pass rush, front seven, run stopping, pass blocking, run blocking, overall rushing attack, and special teams coverage units.
If you have any ideas for other things like that to rank, please let me know. I want to stick with getting the positions ranked, so that's what we're going to do here, but I admit the defensive line rankings may be a little misleading. That said, let's get to it.
1. Seattle Seahawks with Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Brandon Mebane, Bruce Irvin, Red Bryant, Chris Clemons
I have a lot of caveats when it comes to the Seattle Seahawks defensive line. For one, Cliff Avril was pretty unremarkable last season and I personally don't think he'll work out. Bruce Irvin still has a lot to prove as well, and Chris Clemons is coming off an ACL injury.
That doom and gloom aside, I think the Michael Bennett signing was a GREAT signing ... he'll perform better than Avril. Mebane is declining, but he's always been a solid player and has solid years left. Clemons, if he can get healthy and back to form, is a destructive player. Seattle's pass-rush front of Avil, Bennett, Irvin and Clemons when healthy could possibly be the biggest test to San Francisco's offensive line in the NFL.
2. San Francisco 49ers with Justin Smith, Glenn Dorsey, Ray McDonald, Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial, Ian Williams
Here's where San Francisco's line gets confusing. At times, we can rightly place Aldon Smith as a defensive end. The same goes for Ahmad Brooks ... if that were the case, San Francisco would definitely be in first. We just have to see how the 49ers plan to use Glenn Dorsey this season. We have to see what actually is Vic Fangio's "base front."
That said, Justin Smith and Ray McDonald are two of the best defensive ends in the league. San Francisco gets the spot for those two, though Smith doesn't have much time left. Dorsey is looking for a fresh start, and Cornellius Carradine is a rookie. There's a lot of potential in Carradine and Dial, but for now, it's just potential. I have intentionally left out the other guys, like Lawrence Okoye.
3. St. Louis Rams with Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers, Kengall Langford,
Chris Long is one of the absolute best at his position, even if he's unbearable. He's come into his own in recent years and should keep the St. Louis defensive line playing up to snuff. Robert Quinn is quite a bit less solid at this point. Unfortunately, the Rams have almost no run defense to speak of, and that hurts them.
Kendall Langford is a guy I'm high on. I think his signing was seriously underrated last season, and think he'll continue to impress. He seems to be the only defensive lineman in St. Louis who can tackle a running back. Brockers still has work to do but he played well as a rookie. The biggest issue on the line is Quinn. He's just not very good and the Rams may have to replace him sooner rather than later.
4. Arizona Cardinals with Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Matt Shaughnessy, Frostee Rucker
Arizona often plays guys like Sam Acho on their defensive line, though he hasn't been all-that good thus far. Darnell Dockett is one of the best, but he had an extremely poor 2012 season. If he can get healthy, the Cardinals will be in business, though.
Dan Williams is a lot better than he's given credit for. He's great against the run, as we saw last season, and deserves some recognition. Calais Campbell is the star of the line, and he makes things with the Rams awfully close. I think the signing of Matt Shaughnessy will turn out to be a good one, if he is healthy and they actually get him on the field.