Position Rankings (OTA Edition) Defensive End

  The defensive end position in the 3-4 is comparable to the defensive tackle position in the 4-3.  The main focus for these techniques are gap responsibility and occupying blockers.  Defensive ends in the 3-4 lineup on the tackle and are responsible for the B and C gaps (those in between the guard and tackle, and outside of the tackle as well).  The jobs in which these men partake are thankless and extremely difficult.  They are looked upon to take on the biggest lineman (tackles), sometimes being double teamed by the interior lineman, down-blocked by a tight end, or even chipped by a fullback leading the hole.  Similar to an offensive lineman the stats for this position do not show up in the box score, but rather brought up in the film room on Monday.  One of the best 3-4 defensive ends of all time, Richard Seymour, puts the position into perspective, “it’s not designed for you to make the plays.  It’s designed for the linebackers. That’s why it’s the 3-4. You’ve really got to do a good job to get yourself into it, but you’re creating for other people.”

 1) Miami Dolphins-  This was probably the toughest inetrnal debate I have had since starting these rankings.  There are a couple of reasons why I give the # 1 spot to Miami.  The defensive end position is extremly tough to play.  You need a multitude of guys to rotate in and out in order to be effecive.  I see this Dolphins team having a lot of talent and youth at this position.  If Randy Starks wasn’t taking on nose tackle duties in the abscence of Jason Ferguson I would feel more comfortable with this ranking.  However that being said, when Ferguson returns Starks is the best defensive end in this division.  He is great against the run and in a position where sacks are at a minimum, Starks gets to the passer.  Taking the place of Randy Starks at right end is first round draft pick Jared Odrick.  This mamoth has the size and strength, but more importantly the athleticism to be a two gap player in the 3-4 scheme.  He has an incredible wingspan at 36 inches, and at the point of attack he will be able to hold up against the strong tackles in this division.  The  Left end spot will be occupied by returning starter Kendall Langford.  Langford is a bit of an unknown coming out of Hampton College.  Langford however was a big fish playing in a small pond, he was first-team All-American  his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons.   He has perfect size for the position and is strong against the run.  Langford should continue to improve in this his third season at the position.  Behind Langford is Phillip Merling.  Merling is a bit of a disappointment to the coaching staff who drafted him with the first pick of the second round in 2008.  Merling had first rounder written all over him coming out of Clemson and was expected to start until the emergence of the aformentioned Langford.  Merling has still come up with some big plays for the Dolphins, none bigger than his interception returned for a TD against the Jets to clinch the division in 2008.  The coaching staff remains behind Merling and says that if he were more consistent he would be a starter.  Merling however was arrested just two days ago on a domestic violence charge.  With four potential startes at the position I see Miami having a slight edge in this division.  

 2) New England Patriots- I have the Patriots again slightly ahead in this position for a couple of reasons.  First, the actual scheme they run is flawless and fits the 3-4 to a T ( shout-out to B B).  The ends in the scheme take up blockers and allow the backers behind them to make plays.  Ty Warren is a big reason for this rankings as well.  He had been overshadowed by Richard Seymour for years along the defensive front.  However Warren has been a mainstay along the Patriots line and has been the proto-typical end for this team for years.  He is very strong against the run and in my opinion made a few linebackers from those championship teams.  You can’t tell me that the Mike Vrabels of the world don’t owe Warren a few steak dinners, a hug, or at least a cuddle.  The opposite end seems to be a rotation between Mike Wright, possibly Gerard Warren and Ron Brace?  The fact of the matter is that New England posseses a few former first round draft choices to rotate in to either position.  If they move Wilfork to the end position and bring in a Gerard Warren or Ron Brace, it makes the line that much stronger.  Damione Lewis was also a first round draft pick as well and he could fill in anywhere along the line.  There is also a contingency of young players that could contribute in a big way. Whose to say Bill Bellilchik won’t find a diamond in the rough in Brandon Deaderick, Myron Pryor, or Kyle Love.  There are alot of movable pieces on that roster which makes them dangerous, couple that with Bill’s brain, and you could have yet another solid defensive line. 

 3) New York Jets- I know, I know, they had the number one rushing defense last year.  They also had a stronger defensive line.  The departure of Marques Douglas at the right end position has brought the ranking of this defense down.  Douglas remains an unrestricted free agent and to this point is still available.  However I don’t think the team wants to keep getting older at the defensive line with Shaun Ellis on the left end and Kris Jenkins in the middle.  Shaun Ellis is a very solid left end and is in no way a reflection of this ranking.  However the combination of age and lack of depth has dropped this team.  There has been talk of trying out first round bust Vernon Gholston at the right end slot, but he hasn’t been productive in two years at the position he was drafted for, so why should he project stronger at a new position.  On the current roster the Jets are looking at Mike Devito, Rodrique Wright, and Ropati Pitoitua to replace Douglas, and quite frankly there is not enough body of work on either guy to determine if they can do so.  I do not doubt Rex Ryan’s defensive brain at all, but you can’t tell me if Ellis, at the age of 32, goes down, this defensive line will be as strong as last season. Then again, if Douglas comes back to the Jets, they may jump up in the rankings as well.

 4) Buffalo Bills-  The Bills are amidst a transition in their defensive  scheme and this brings questions as to how the players leftover from last year will transition to the 3-4.  Marcus Stroud likely will start at the right end position and his experience in the 4-3 tackle position should make a somewhat seamless transition to the 3-4 end.  At 6’6″ 310, Stroud possesses great size and strength to help occupy blockers and cause disruption in the running game.  The opposite end spot in my opinion will be most likely filled by Baltimore Ravens import Dwan Edwards.  Edwards comes from the 3-4 system in Baltimore where he played the end position.  He’s familiar with the scheme and should get at least the first crack at the starting job.  On his heels will be 3rd round draft pick this season, Alex Carrington.  Carrington is coming from Arkansas St. and tallied nearly 20 sacks in his last two seasons.  He is a very athletic lineman who, if he doesn’t start, should see some third down opportunities right away.  Rotating in (fighting for jobs) will be Spencer Johnson, Rashaad Duncan, John McCargo, and Will Croner.    It will be interesting to see how Buffalo makes the transition from the 4-3, and how the new coaching staff will manage its players.  They have a fresh start with the new defense, it’s just a matter of what they do with the personnel they have from here on.

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