Last year defensive linemen such as Jason Pierre-Paul and Chris Long took their games to the next level. Now is a great time to be a pass rusher in the NFL. With teams passing more than ever it gives defenders more chances to record sacks which will also lead to big pay days down the road as nobody can have enough pass rushers. Here are some young players with a chance to take their game to the next level this upcoming season.
Marcell Dareus, Bills: Dareus was very productive in his rookie season recording 43 tackles and 5.5 sacks. This was while he was playing as a defensive end in a 3-4 defense where it’s mainly the outside linebackers who compile the sacks. Now with the Bills moving to a 4-3, Dareus moves to his natural position at defensive tackle and gets to team up with one of the league’s best in Kyle Williams. The Bills also spent big money on Mario Williams this offseason so the defensive line should be a strong suit this year. With two Pro Bowl caliber players lined up next to him, Dareus has the ability to showcase his elite talent both against the run and getting to the quarterback.
Adrian Clayborn, Buccaneers: Clayborn slipped a little in the 2011 draft and he’s already starting to make teams regret it. Starting all 16 games Clayborn recorded 42 tackles and 7.5 sacks. In that span he showed a relentless motor which will be in his favor playing against tired offensive linemen in the Florida heat. The Buccaneers have a lot of young talent on defense and if Clayborn continues to build off his rookie season he should be one of the key pieces.
Pernell McPhee, Ravens: As a rookie, McPhee didn’t start a game for the Ravens but opposing offenses certainly knew who he was. On the year he recorded 23 tackles but also notched six sacks. With Terrell Suggs most likely out for the season, McPhee is one of many pass rushers who are going to need to step up for the Ravens in 2012.
Robert Quinn, Rams: Quinn started to show what he was capable of in 2011 recording five sacks in his rookie campaign. At 6’4 264 he has good size but also has excellent speed off the edge. The highlight of his rookie season was a four game stretch in which he recorded a sack in each game. Opposite a Pro Bowl caliber end in Chris Long, Quinn should face plenty of single coverage and a double digit sack season is a very realistic possibility.