Defensive linemen breakouts have also become quite common. The increased amount of pass attempts a game means that there will be more opportunities to sack the quarterback. Of course, defensive linemen can also single handedly change a game with the way they play the run. This is how the defensive linemen I thought would breakout last season fared. What I wrote about them before last season can be found here.
Marcell Dareus, Bills: Dareus built on a strong finish his rookie year to have a solid sophomore campaign. For the year he had 39 tackles to go along with 5.5 sacks. Dareus also had an impressive six pass deflections. One thing that’s been written is that he is looking to get lighter this season so he can be an every down player. If Dareus does get lighter and continues to improve against the run, the potential that was there as a prospect at Alabama will be on full display.
Hit or miss: Push
Adrian Clayborn, Buccaneers: Looking to build on a rookie season where he notched 7.5 sacks, Clayborn’s season ended shortly after it began. He tore his ACL in the third game of the year but should be able to play at full strength this season. Clayborn’s quickness and motor is what really separates him from others so it will be interesting to watch how he recovers.
Hit or miss: Push
Pernell McPhee, Ravens: McPhee had recorded an impressive six sacks without starting a game in 2011. With Terrell Suggs coming off a torn Achilles, it looked like McPhee would have the chance to build on those numbers. Despite starting in six games in 2012, McPhee only recorded 1.5 sacks as he battled through various injuries. The Ravens now look to have him contribute as a rush linebacker when he was originally a hand-in-the dirt rusher. Considering he stands 6’3 280 pounds, it should be an interesting situation to monitor.
Hit or miss: Miss
Robert Quinn, Rams: In his first full year as a starter, Quinn put it all together and looks to be a force for years to come. Standing at 6’4 264 pounds with freakish speed, he recorded 10.5 sacks which included a three sack game against the Cardinals in week five. With pass rushers such as J.J. Watt, Aldon Smith and Von Miller all coming from his draft class, Quinn is going to go under the radar. Opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators won’t be sleeping on him as a pass rush consisting of Quinn and Chris Long should be dynamic for years to come.
Hit or miss: Hit