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tiggerpolice 06-24-2005 08:17 AM

2005 player ratings: Defensive linemen
2005 player ratings: Defensive linemen
By Howard Balzer, Sports Weekly
Pressure. Generating it purely with a defensive front is more crucial than ever in this era of E-Z Pass lanes opened by last year's rules restricting defensive backs. Defensive line marks the starting line for our 2005 NFL player ratings, developed by The Sports Xchange for Sports Weekly. The Sports Xchange based the ratings on a 100-point scale, incorporating more than 40 categories to grade each player, including importance to the team. Few positions are more important than defensive tackle and end. The swirling chaos that blockers and quarterbacks must decipher starts up front.

Carolina's Julius Peppers is Sports Weekly's top-rated defensive lineman. Minnesota's Kevin Williams was second and New England's Richard Seymour third.
By Tom DiPace, Sports Weekly

New England's budding dynasty of three Super Bowl titles in four years has been built as much on the inside/outside flexibility of three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Richard Seymour and the run-stuffing ability of its defensive tackles as arguably the NFL's best linebacking corps.

Carolina's run to Super Bowl XXXVIII was driven largely by arguably the league's fiercest front four, and a lack of bulk up front last season blunted two-time defensive player of the year Ray Lewis, the MVP of the Ravens' Super Bowl XXXV victory.

In the NFL, defense still wins championships. And good defense starts on the line.



It was a tough call for the top spot between Carolina's Julius Peppers and Indianapolis' Dwight Freeney, but the all-around ability of Peppers gives him a slight edge. Any team would gladly take either of them. Both exhibit extraordinary athleticism in generating a pass rush, and each is a complete player. Freeney has been playing on the fast track of the RCA Dome, so it will be intriguing to see if there is any effect now that the playing surface has been changed to FieldTurf.

John Abraham of the New York Jets was having a monster 2004 until a knee injury prematurely ended his season. Of some concern is that the team hasn't had the opportunity to check on him during the offseason; he has stayed away after being tagged as the franchise player. He certainly deserves elite status, but Abraham will be watched closely once he finally signs and reports.

Arizona's Bertrand Berry has become one of the most stirring success stories in the league. He couldn't find a spot for several years, but he has proved his worth for two consecutive seasons with Denver and Arizona. Having Chike Okeafor on the other side this season should only make him better.

A notch below

Atlanta's Patrick Kerney might not be a household name, but he should be. Kerney flourished once the Falcons returned to a 4-3 defense, registering 13 sacks last season. He is versatile in whatever he does, and he sets an emotional tone for the defensive unit.

It was difficult to decide where to place Philadelphia's Jevon Kearse and Miami's Jason Taylor. Kearse returned from injury last season, his first in Philadelphia, and had just 7½ sacks. However, his mere presence can change how an offensive line handles its blocking schemes. This season will determine if he is deserving of this placement.

In a poor overall season for the Dolphins in 2004, Taylor had 9½ sacks and wasn't himself. Now, his role is apparently in question as new coach Nick Saban toys with the idea of implementing the 3-4 defense. How will Taylor actually be used? We might not know until the Sept. 11 season opener against Denver.

Rock solid

This is the perfect description of Pittsburgh's Aaron Smith. Ends in a 3-4 defense are really glorified tackles, and they rarely put up high sack numbers. Smith gets down and dirty on every play, and he still found time to record eight sacks in 2004.

Shaun Ellis of the Jets is consistent in every phase. His presence lessened the negative impact of Abraham's injury, and he was able to lead the team with 11 sacks compared with Abraham's 9½.

Darren Howard of New Orleans is another outstanding perimeter player with the ability to quickly reach the quarterback. He had 11 sacks in 2004 and was valuable enough to have the Saints place their franchise tag on him this year.

He probably will never have huge sack totals, but Chike Okeafor is a high-motor player offensive linemen abhor. He should help the Cardinals' defense continue to improve. Greg Ellis of Dallas is another "rock-solid" player, but where he will play and how often is in question with the Cowboys likely moving to a 3-4 defense.

On the rise

Perhaps the Saints' Charles Grant benefits from having Howard on the other side, but that alone doesn't guarantee success. He had 10½ sacks last season, and he could get more as he figures out just how good he can be.

James Hall, who are you? They know in Detroit, as do the Lions' opponents. Hall, who had 11½ sacks last season, has only scratched the surface after entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2000.

Expectations will be high for Kansas City's Jared Allen after his surprising 2004 rookie season. Reggie Hayward left Denver for Jacksonville, and he has the tools to be an elite player. He just has to show he can do it on a consistent basis. The Jaguars' concerns resulted in a contract structure that protects them if his up-and-down ways continue.

Robert Mathis of the Colts is a situational pass rusher, and he is helped by having Freeney on the other side. But he still had to get the job done, and Mathis did with 10½ sacks last season. If he becomes a complete player, he will vault up this list.

On the rebound

Numerous issues in 2004, mostly injury, kept this group from performing to capability. We'll see how many make it all the way back.

The New York Giants' Michael Strahan (torn chest muscle), Denver's Trevor Pryce (back), Seattle's Grant Wistrom (knee) and Chicago's Adewale Ogunleye (ankle) all had seasons to forget. Strahan, 33, also has age working against him.

Green Bay's Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila failed to excel once teams learned how to handle him. Leonard Little of St. Louis was on his way to being an elite player, but he played last season with a court trial for drunken driving hanging over his head. He was acquitted and should be much more focused in 2005.

Setting Sun

Tampa Bay's Simeon Rice might not believe it, but his career is going in the wrong direction. Perhaps he will prove critics wrong. Same with Houston's Gary Walker, who has been beaten down by injuries.



Minnesota's Kevin Williams vaulted to the top quickly with work ethic and ability. He had 11½ sacks last season, and to think the Vikings were criticized for passing on two picks in the 2003 draft and still getting him No. 9 overall. He is only slightly ahead of New England's Richard Seymour, who does so much but is also among a deep group of Patriots linemen. Seymour plays both tackle and end in the team's always-changing defense.

Jacksonville's Marcus Stroud is an imposing load in the middle of the Jaguars' line, and he was tough against the run despite a sprained knee the second half of last season.

A notch below

The Jaguars hit the mother lode in 2001 and 2002 with their first-round picks. John Henderson was the ninth overall choice in 2002, and he is just a hair below teammate Stroud, who was the 13th selection in 2001. Many teams have missed on defensive tackles in the first round, but not Jacksonville.

La'Roi Glover might not be rated this high for long. He is stout in the middle, but he'll be 31 in July and his role in Dallas' new defense is uncertain. He might be an end in the 3-4.

Detroit's Shaun Rogers has to stay healthy to continue his ascent. But that's not a given. It was an injury that originally led to him falling to the second round.

Rock solid

Most defensive linemen are rocks; the question is how solid. This designation is the most popular landing spot for some of the league's top inside men.

The Falcons were a different team last year when Rod Coleman missed games because of injury. He is disruptive in the middle and creates opportunities for the other linemen. He still had 11½ sacks in 13 games.

San Diego's Jamal Williams is the consummate middle man, playing nose tackle in the 3-4 defense. It's a role he relishes and one the team appreciates after recently signing him to a lucrative contract extension. No one really knows what Buffalo's Sam Adams weighs (he's listed at 335 pounds), but it really doesn't matter. He turned 32 on April 28, but that also matters little. He is an immovable force in the middle.

Tennessee's Albert Haynesworth has grown up and become a consistent force on the inside of the Titans' line. He has to stay healthy and continue to lift his game with the departures the last two years of Jevon Kearse and Kevin Carter.

Carter, now with Miami, is expected to have a varied role in the Dolphins' defense. He started his career as a Rams defensive end and had 17 sacks in the team's 1999 Super Bowl year. He likely will be an end when the Dolphins are in a 3-4, and inside when they go to four linemen.

Philadelphia's Corey Simon, who has vast talent, stayed away from offseason workouts as the team's unsigned franchise player.

Cowboys coach Bill Parcells went to familiar territory when he signed Jason Ferguson, who played for him with the Jets. Whether in the 3-4 or 4-3, Ferguson should be solid.

On the rise

Befitting their status as 2004 first-round picks, Chicago's Tommie Harris and New England's Vince Wilfork are on the rise. Both played well as rookies, and that should continue. Darnell Dockett of the Cardinals was a pleasant surprise as a rookie in 2004. The club liked his potential, drafting him in the third round, but didn't expect him to have such an impact so quickly. He contributed 31/2 sacks.

DeWayne Robertson was virtually off the radar as a rookie in 2003, making many question the price the Jets paid to move up and select him with the fourth overall choice in the first round. But he began paying dividends last season with the spotlight turned off, and he should keep moving up the list. Kelly Gregg began his career with Cincinnati in 1999, but he found his niche in Baltimore at nose tackle when the Ravens switched to the 3-4 defense. The question now, as the team goes back to the 4-3, is whether he will remain effective and continue rising.

There were those who questioned the price Washington paid to sign Cornelius Griffin as a free agent last year. But Griffin was outstanding in Gregg Williams' defense.

On the rebound

Casey Hampton of the Steelers missed 10 games last season with a knee injury, but he should re-establish himself on the nose of the 3-4 defense. Carolina's Kris Jenkins went from elite to the sideline with a shoulder injury in 2004, and had trouble dealing with his inactivity. He will have to be in shape to regain his top-rated status.

With Warren Sapp gone to Oakland, Tampa Bay's Anthony McFarland was supposed to become the man. But he missed the last eight games with a torn triceps, and he hadn't played well after switching spots before that.

Setting Sun

How much does Warren Sapp have left? He still talks a good game, but his real game isn't what it once was. Bryant Young could play a lot of end in the 49ers' 3-4 defense. Will that signal the end of the line or rejuvenate his career? Stay tuned. Carolina's Brentson Buckner was never elite, but always solid. He will try his best to stay that way.

Contributing: Jim Corbett

Defensive ends
Rk. Player Team Ht. Wt. Age Spd. Str. Aware. Agil. Accel. Tkl. Tough Imp. Overall
1 Julius Peppers Panthers 6-6 283 25 79 79 86 89 87 78 89 85 94.30
2 Dwight Freeney Colts 6-1 268 27 81 73 87 89 90 75 87 88 92.90
3 John Abraham Jets 6-4 256 28 78 77 84 87 88 79 85 87 92.25
4 Bertrand Berry Cardinals 6-3 275 30 77 76 86 84 88 78 90 85 91.50
5 Patrick Kerney Falcons 6-5 273 28 76 79 89 78 86 80 92 83 90.80
6 Jevon Kearse Eagles 6-4 265 29 82 74 84 89 88 78 83 83 90.60
7 Jason Taylor Dolphins 6-6 260 31 79 72 90 86 87 75 89 82 90.50
8 Michael Strahan Giants 6-5 275 33 74 86 94 72 82 79 88 84 89.80
9 Simeon Rice Buccaneers 6-5 268 31 78 75 92 85 87 73 85 83 89.20
10 Aaron Smith Steelers 6-5 298 29 72 88 92 70 77 87 88 82 89.00
11 Shaun Ellis Jets 6-5 285 28 77 85 86 73 83 79 89 82 88.50
12 Leonard Little Rams 6-3 260 30 79 79 81 84 88 76 82 84 88.10
13 Darren Howard Saints 6-3 275 26 73 84 83 82 85 76 88 81 87.20
14 Charles Grant Saints 6-3 290 27 68 86 82 82 83 78 90 81 86.75

15 James Hall Lions 6-2 280 28 74 83 80 77 86 80 86 82 86.50
16 Greg Ellis Cowboys 6-6 277 30 72 83 85 75 82 80 86 82 86.00
17 Chike Okeafor Cardinals 6-4 265 29 77 74 85 82 84 77 82 81 84.80
18 Gary Walker Texans 6-2 305 32 56 91 90 67 74 85 92 83 84.10
19 Grant Wistrom Seahawks 6-4 272 29 72 81 88 73 77 74 91 80 83.70
20 Jared Allen Chiefs 6-6 265 23 77 73 77 83 84 76 84 78 83.50
21 Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila Packers 6-4 252 27 78 70 83 83 85 72 80 80 83.15
22 Reggie Hayward Jaguars 6-5 270 26 73 75 80 80 83 74 82 83 83.10
23 Trevor Pryce Broncos 6-5 295 30 60 86 91 67 73 85 90 77 83.05
24 Robert Mathis Colts 6-2 235 24 80 65 77 88 88 73 81 74 82.80
25 Adewale Ogunleye Bears 6-4 260 28 76 76 78 78 80 72 83 78 82.50

Defensive tackles
Rk. Player Team Ht. Wt. Age Spd. Str. Aware. Agil. Accel. Tkl. Tough. Imp. Overall
1 Kevin Williams Vikings 6-5 304 25 69 86 86 78 86 83 92 89 93.40
2 Richard Seymour Patriots 6-6 310 25 64 91 93 76 87 84 88 85 93.30
3 Marcus Stroud Jaguars 6-6 312 27 60 92 87 69 74 86 95 89 91.45
4 La'Roi Glover Cowboys 6-2 285 31 66 88 93 68 76 80 96 83 89.60
5 John Henderson Jaguars 6-7 328 26 62 92 86 64 72 87 93 87 89.55
6 Kris Jenkins Panthers 6-4 335 26 55 93 85 64 80 82 93 87 89.15
7 Shaun Rogers Lions 6-4 345 26 56 96 85 63 73 85 93 87 89.10
8 Rod Coleman Falcons 6-2 285 28 68 85 83 70 85 76 85 85 88.80
9 Jamal Williams Chargers 6-3 305 29 58 95 83 65 73 79 94 88 88.70
10 Sam Adams Bills 6-4 335 32 48 95 93 58 65 85 95 86 87.40
11 Casey Hampton Steelers 6-1 325 28 53 92 91 65 68 82 91 81 87.35
12 Corey Simon Eagles 6-2 293 28 63 88 84 70 78 75 84 80 87.30
13 Bryant Young 49ers 6-3 291 33 62 88 94 60 65 78 88 84 85.50
14 Albert Haynesworth Titans 6-6 320 24 62 90 73 68 73 83 83 86 85.30
15 Jason Ferguson Cowboys 6-3 305 30 54 93 85 59 66 84 89 85 85.10
16 Kevin Carter Dolphins 6-5 290 31 64 85 87 67 70 74 85 82 84.60
17 Warren Sapp Raiders 6-2 300 32 63 87 90 62 69 75 89 78 84.40
18 Tommie Harris Bears 6-2 300 21 67 89 76 65 68 75 88 81 83.40
19 Kelly Gregg Ravens 6-0 310 28 50 89 85 61 63 82 93 79 83.35
20 Anthony McFarland Buccaneers 6-0 300 27 56 90 80 58 68 75 86 83 82.40
21 Brentson Buckner Panthers 6-2 310 33 53 90 88 57 59 80 87 81 82.35
22 Cornelius Griffin Redskins 6-3 300 28 58 87 75 65 68 78 85 77 82.30
23 Darnell Dockett Cardinals 6-4 301 24 65 83 74 66 72 72 84 76 82.20
24 Vince Wilfork Patriots 6-1 344 23 54 93 74 60 68 77 89 75 82.10
25 Dewayne Robertson Jets 6-1 317 23 57 90 71 64 67 76 86 77 81.90
About these ratings
The Sports Xchange, which pioneered NFL player evaluations used in top-selling video games, produced these ratings for Sports Weekly. They are based on a 100-point scale, incorporating more than 40 categories. Each week, categories are sequenced in order of importance for that position and only the categories most appropriate to each position are listed.
In addition to the listed categories, several other categories are considered, such as "injury avoidance." Categories (such as strength, speed, agility) are weighted differently at each position so the impact of the grade is appropriate to the position. These weighted grades are part of an underlying formula that determines the overall grade.

Listed ages are as of Sept. 8, date of this season's first game. The Sports Xchange's player ratings team includes Frank Cooney, Derek Harper, Howard Balzer and Brian Hitterman.

Category legend
Speed: This relates directly to a player's time in the 40-yard dash with consideration for "effective playing speed."
Strength: Success while engaged with another player during blocking, running or tackling.

Awareness: Overall ability to recognize what is going on around him and react.

Agility: Combination of quickness and ability to change directions without losing speed.

Acceleration: How long he needs to reach top speed.

Tackling: Consistency in making sure tackles, with consideration of ability to make solo tackles.

Toughness: A player's ability to come back from injury, plus overall physicality.

Importance: Overall importance to his team. Factors include the position itself and the player's impact or role within the team's system.

WhoDat 06-24-2005 10:08 AM

RE: 2005 player ratings: Defensive linemen
Man - just imagine what our line would look like right now if La'Roi Glover were still here. Grant, Glover, Young, and Howard with Smith and Green the first in the respective rotations. That's scary. We'd be undersized in the middle, but Young and Glover are both mean and never ever stop. The pressure we could put on opposing teams would be unreal.

JKool 06-24-2005 10:30 AM

RE: 2005 player ratings: Defensive linemen
Grant is playing better than Howard right now - and I believe will continue to do so. He's more durable, has more WAY more tackles, and has only 1/2 sack less. The only knock against Grant that I can see is that he hasn't posted the big numbers more than once (but, it seems to me, that is due to the fact he is only in his 3rd season...). Also, if the speculation was that Grant was helped by Howard, well Howard was out six games, you know who was helping Grant then? Will Smith a rookie!

Either way, Grant, he is the man.

nola_swammi 06-24-2005 05:17 PM

RE: 2005 player ratings: Defensive linemen
just think if Loomis would've picked Kevin Williams instead of sorry Sully

TheDeuce 06-25-2005 03:40 AM

RE: 2005 player ratings: Defensive linemen
Agreed JKool. Grant's motor always seemed to be running at maximum output last season and he was just flat out scary. I really really really like Charles Grant and I think that he should get more respect not only in New Orleans, but around the league as well.

Just for a little perspective of how good this guy really is......
Charles Grant had 80 tackles last season, that's more than Dwight Freeney and Simeon Rice put together (It was also the MOST FOR ANY DEFENSIVE LINEMAN IN THE NFL). He also had 10.5 sacks, only .5 less than J Peppers (11.0) and 1.5 less than Rice (12.0). He also had 3 forced fumbles and an interception. WHAT A STUD.

ssmitty 06-25-2005 04:43 AM

not to take away from grant because he is coming on as is smith, howard is the one that makes qb's squirm............
he is also double teamed alot.............
i don't see him slowing down bar injury...
in fact, i look for him to have a pro bowl yr.........
he's still the one that gives 100 plus % every down, something i have not seen from the other ends yet.......
but, we'll see, won't we? smitty

TheDeuce 06-25-2005 03:09 PM

Well if Grant hasn't been giving 100% every play like you say Howard has been, then I am ecstatic to see how many tackles he'll rack up when he does. 80 tackles and he's only putting in 80%???? Maybe he'll get 100 tackles if he goes 100% every play.

jnormand 06-25-2005 04:44 PM

Grant is doing well. I don't think Grant is better than Howard or Howard is better than Grant. They both have different ways of getting to the QB. Thats like comparing Joe Montana to Steve Young. Both were great QB's, but they had different styles that worked for each of them. Grant seems to get to the ball more and had 10 1/2 sacks, but Howard was injured a lot last season and still racked up 11 sacks. There is no arguing that with Howard, Grant and Smith, the Saints have one of the best DE rotations in the league. I think both of them have a good chance to go to the Pro Bowl this year.

FireVenturi 06-26-2005 07:17 PM

no clue why grant isn't in the top 8????????

WhoDat 06-27-2005 10:33 AM

He plays for the Saints, that's why. Small market, bad team. If the Saints go to the playoffs this season, I bet this time next year you'll see a lot more Saints in the top 10 in those rankings.

BigBull45 06-27-2005 10:55 AM

After the Saints playoff appearance in 2000, how many Saints went to the Pro Bowl? I believe it was 6. Horn, Glover,Johnson, Fields, Mitchell, and Roaf.

LordOfEntropy 06-27-2005 01:37 PM

Agreed -- Grant is a beast, plain and simple. I love to watch that kid play. I've said before he's my favorite player on the team.

WhoDat 06-27-2005 02:35 PM

Judging by your avatar LOE, I don't think you two are playing for the same side. LOL :)

LordOfEntropy 06-27-2005 03:54 PM

Oh, come now Who - I can hear your little Who-Heart go pitter-patter, Dr. Seuss style, each time you look at this glorious unshaven mug.

My only fear is that I won't live up to the high expectations at the Black & Gold game. I don't want to break yours and JoeSam's fragile hearts.....

WhoDat 06-27-2005 08:03 PM

My little Who-Heart goes three sizes every time I see that figure LOE.

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