In part two of this series, we’ll look at the best defensive players in the NFC South to compile this All-NFC South Team Defense. Part one included the offense and was riddled with stars across the board, so let’s see if the defense can keep the trend going!
- Marshon Lattimore (NO)
- Carlton Davis (TB)
- Sean Murphy-Bunting (TB)
- Jaycee Horn (CAR)
The top of the list starts off with one of the greatest players in the league at his position, Marshon Lattimore. The Pro Bowler was one of the only consistent pieces in the New Orleans secondary in the previous season. However, the Saints recently signed cornerback Brian Poole (formerly of the NY Jets) to bring in help and hopefully balance out that secondary. Both of Tampa Bay’s CBs make the list after being key pieces to a top-five team in the league defensively. The Tampa secondary isn’t filled with big-name starters, and the Todd Bowles defense is set up so that there isn’t too much pressure solely on these CBs’ shoulders. Perhaps the most exciting CB in the division, Jaycee Horn will have to guard the likes of Mike Evans, Michael Thomas, and Calvin Ridley… twice a season at that! If he is up to the challenge, Horn will have the opportunity to quickly ascend to the top of the defensive back rankings and be a superstar with the Panthers.
- Jeremy Chinn (CAR)
- Antoine Winfield Jr. (TB)
The safeties in the NFC South are a tough group, with a mix of aggressiveness and speed. Antoine Winfield Jr. took a huge step last season as a rookie, making him one of the best safeties in the division. Winfield Jr. was a second-round pick for Tampa and he has embraced his starting role, doing more than his part in their run to the Super Bowl. However, Chinn is an up-and-coming star who switched from cornerback in college and is making waves at the safety position. He’ll be a player to watch this season, as his versatility allows him to play up in the box during the run game or play the deep ball on passing downs. The plan last year was to not set Chinn in a defined role, as per Kevin Patra of NFL.com. Carolina DC Phil Snow plans on utilizing him in a jack-of-all-trades role, even if he will be primarily playing safety going forward. Veteran New Orleans safety Malcolm Jenkins is trending upward this season as well and just barely misses out on this list.
- Jordan Whitehead (TB)
- Marcus Williams (NO)
The free safety market in the league has grown more over the years due to these defensive backs being more flexible and athletic than in the past. Remember what happened back in 2018? Some of the best free-agent safeties either remained unsigned for a long time or had to accept a one-year, “prove-it” deal. Whitehead is coming off of surgery for his torn labrum from February but was highly productive last season for the Buccaneers. Can he return to form this season and remain one of the best to do it in the division? Now, I should say that Tampa Bay doesn’t have the traditional roles of free safety and strong safety, as their players are interchangeable and need to be versatile. Whitehead was one of the players who needed to learn to adjust properly to this system, and it’s safe to say that he passed with flying colors based on the past year’s performance. Marcus Williams, on the other hand, didn’t have his best season last year statistically but has generally been one of the better safeties in the division since he arrived back in 2017. Williams will have work to do this season for the Saints to be a dominant force and replicate last season’s success.
- ILB Devin White (TB)
- ILB Deion Jones (ATL)
- OLB Demario Davis (NO)
- OLB Shaq Barrett (TB)
The linebackers in this group are impressive, to say the least, and we have third-year man Devin White leading up the middle linebackers. White caused mayhem for opponents in his second season (totaling nine sacks and 15 TFLs), thus making him arguably the best linebacker in not only the division but the entire league! Atlanta’s Deion Jones may not be the most physical guy but he was all over the field in 2020, with an interception (including a pick-six), forced fumbles, and many sacks and TFLs.
Demario Davis has been the Saints go-to guy when it comes to tackling, and he had the second-most tackles combined (119) in his career last season. With the loss of ILB Alex Anzalone, Davis will have to step up big time in the New Orleans defense. Shaq Barrett, of the Bucs, has been nothing but dominant since coming to Tampa in the 2018 offseason. In the last two seasons, Barrett has combined for 27.5 sacks, which is the second-most in that time span. Lavonte David is the third-best linebacker on the Bucs but, in reality, he would be a star on another team, which is why he barely misses out on the list here. I’m not sure how long Tampa will keep all of these guys together but, as long as they do, they will remain a serious contender in the league.
- DE Brian Burns (CAR)
- DE Cameron Jordan (NO)
- DT Vita Vea (TB)
- DT Grady Jarrett (ATL)
The Panthers’ own Brian Burns has received a lot of attention heading into the season, largely due to his performance last year, in which he more than doubled his tackle total. Burns has the opportunity to strengthen his resume and be known as one of the next young superstars of the league. Cameron Jordan has been one of the most underrated players at the defensive end position for quite a while now. After making the Pro Bowl in his last four seasons, Jordan continues to put up league-high stats despite the Saints’ overall lack of performance on the defensive side of the ball.
The IDL (inside defensive lineman) guys may not be as well known as some of the other positions, but everyone will soon know of Vita Vea. The DT for Tampa may not have flashy numbers but what he brings to the run game support more than makes up for it. Vea only played in seven games last year (regular and postseason) while dealing with a leg injury, but is trending towards a breakout year in the 2021 season. Falcons DT Grady Jarrett had another solid season in 2020, and his consistency is appreciated by a defense that hasn’t had any major presence since 2017.
Thanks for tuning into this two-part All-NFC South Team series! Be on the lookout for my take on the Madden 22 rankings this week!
Edited By: Rupayan “Abs” Samanta.