Breakout Player Recap: Defensive Linemen

Over the past few years, breakouts from defensive lineman have become very common. Whether it is on the national stage or playing at a Pro Bowl level under the radar every week, this is starting to become a trend as teams are always looking to upgrade here when the draft comes along. My preseason thoughts on these players could be found here.

B.J. Raji, Packers: Raji became one of the defensive stars of the Packers postseason run most notably recording a game sealing interception return for a touchdown against the Bears to send the team to the Super Bowl. However, he was a constant disruptive force for opposing offensive lines throughout the season recording 6.5 sacks on the season.

Even though he wouldn’t have been able to play anyways, Raji was a Pro Bowl snub but things are only looking up for him. He is only entering his third year and should receive plenty of accolades over the next few years as one of the anchors of the Packers defense.

Hit or miss: Hit

Terrance Knighton, Jaguars: Knighton is still one of the best players that nobody knows about. The man known as “Pot Roast” had a strong follow up to his rookie season recording four sacks and playing very well against the run. He even recorded an interception and should have had a fumble recovery touchdown as well.

While Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley are the first to come up when discussing young defensive tackle tandems, Knighton and last year’s number one pick Tyson Alualu shouldn’t be far behind.  The tandem has the potential to match the Marcus Stroud/John Henderson duo of the past decade. If he continues to produce, it is only a matter of time before Knighton receives the accolades of a Stroud or Henderson.

Hit or miss: Hit

Calais Campbell, Cardinals: Campbell didn’t have the season that many thought he would, but it was a productive one none the less. He had a career high 60 tackles and also recorded six sacks. However, Campbell did finish the year strong recording three of those sacks in his last five games. It is possible that is a sign of things to come so Campbell could once again be a trendy prediction to take his game to the next level.

Hit or miss: Push

Charles Johnson, Panthers: Last year was Johnson’s first as a full time starter and it was worth the wait. For the year he recorded 62 tackles and most notably 11.5 sacks. Johnson’s reward is that he should be getting paid in a big way. The Panthers are probably going to make him a priority when free agency starts and if they don’t strike a deal, someone will certainly be in the market for a pass rusher entering his prime that is a double digit sack guy.

Hit or miss: Hit

Jacob Ford, Titans: Considering how productive Ford has been in limited doses, 2010 was an odd year statistically. He started a career high five games this season but notched his lowest sack total as a pro recording three. However, he did set a career high in tackles with 42. Ford is still an effective player and could be in line for a big pay day in free agency.

Hit or miss: Miss

Tyson Jackson, Chiefs: Most draft experts felt Jackson was a reach at number three in the 2009 draft and hasn’t done much to prove them wrong so far. This year he only started three games and while he was never viewed as a great pass rusher recorded his first career sack. However, a general consensus of late formed that he showed improvement late in the season. While his numbers will never say he was worth a top three pick, he could still become a very valuable player.

Hit or miss: Miss

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