Our ranking of the NFL’s top 10 pass-rushing duos entering the season:
1. Pittsburgh — T.J. Watt/Stephon Tuitt: Watt led the NFL with 15 sacks last year, has missed only two games in four seasons and has 49 1/2 sacks in 62 games. He is a dominant player. Tuitt, 28, had a breakout 2020 (11 sacks; previous career high was 6 1/2 in ’15) and feasts on single match-ups because teams pay so much attention to Watt.
2. Tampa Bay — Shaq Barrett/Jason Pierre-Paul: For good measure, we should add blitzing linebacker Devin White to this list. Barrett, the former Broncos undrafted free agent, had eight sacks last year and Pierre-Paul had 9 1/2.
3. L.A. Rams — Aaron Donald/Leonard Floyd: Donald is the NFL’s best defensive player. Period. He has four consecutive years of at least 11 sacks and is a one-man wrecking crew when going against centers and guards. Floyd, a first-round pick by Chicago, was the main beneficiary of teams trying to block Donald. Floyd had a career-best 10 1/2 sacks last year.
4. Broncos — Von Miller/Bradley Chubb: The only time they played a full season together, Miller had 14 1/2 sacks and Chubb 12 in 2018. Chubb was limited to four games in ’19 (ACL) and Miller missed all of ’20 (ankle surgery). Matching their ’18 form is a big ask, but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t combine for at least 20 sacks.
5. Washington — Chase Young/Montez Sweat: It only seems like Washington has 42 quality defensive linemen. Jon Allen is a force on early downs and Young and Sweat are already a disrupting pass-rush duo. Sweat had nine sacks last year and Young had 7 1/2 as a rookie. The up-front talent allows Washington to rush four and drop seven into coverage.
6. Kansas City — Frank Clark/Chris Jones: Clark has 14 sacks in 29 games for the Chiefs over two years since his trade from Seattle. It feels like he should be more productive. Jones is the NFL’s best interior pass rusher not named Aaron Donald. Jones, only 27, had 15 1/2 sacks in ’18, but his total has dipped to nine in ’19 and 7 1/2 last year.
7. Carolina — Haason Reddick/Brian Burns: An interesting decision by Arizona to let Reddick depart in free agency after he posted a team-high 12 1/2 sacks. He joins the Panthers’ defense, where he will line up opposite Burns, who had nine sacks last year.
8. Green Bay — Za’Darius Smith/Preston Smith: Big Z has been an astute free-agent addition by a Packers organization that normally focuses on signing their in-house players. Since joining from the Ravens, he has had seasons of 13 1/2 and 12 1/2 sacks. The Packers need a bounce-back season from Preston Smith, who had 12 sacks for them in ’19, but only four last year.
9. Arizona — J.J. Watt/Chandler Jones: The Cardinals are banking on Watt, released by Houston in the offseason, to a) stay healthy and b) semi-approach his previous form like 16 sacks in 2018. Similarly, they are betting that Jones, limited to five games last year, returns to his durable self and makes it seven double-digit sack seasons.
10. Chicago — Khalil Mack/Robert Quinn: The Bears swung for the fences after the 2018 preseason, trading two first-round picks to Las Vegas for Mack. The return so far? No playoff wins in two appearances and diminished production (12 1/2 sacks to 8 1/2 to nine).
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