The Top 5 Pass Rushers In The NFL

In today’s NFL, having a top notch quarterback and applying pressure to your opponent’s signal caller are the two main focuses for teams across the league. Here at BOLTHYPE we have already covered the best guys under center as of 2011, but the guys trying to get after those quarterbacks have been ignored until now. It used to be that only down lineman on defense generated the majority of pressure, but with many teams switching to 3-4 alignments and hybrid schemes, blitzers can come in many different shapes and sizes these days.

This list is not devoted to any position in particular, but only focused on the top five players in today’s NFL when it comes to getting the quarterback on the ground. Without further ado, here are the top five pass rushers in the NFL according to BOLTHYPE.

1. Demarcus Ware

A dynamic pass rusher by nature, Ware has excelled in the Dallas Cowboys’ 3-4 configuration and is even skilled enough to drop into coverage in some packages. His primary skill is unquestionably his ability to get to the quarterback off the edge and apply plenty of pressure on opposing signal callers. Ware led the league in sacks during the 2010 season with 15.5 giving him his fifth consecutive double-digit sack season dating back to 2006. At just 28 years of age, Ware is just now entering his prime in NFL age and could see plenty of productive seasons ahead in his comfort zone with the Dallas defense.

2. James Harrison

An undrafted free agent who bounced around from practice squad to practice squad is always a nice story, but for Harrison, he has turned his journey into a fairytale of sorts. His fame on a national level came to light on the brightest stage of all when he intercepted a pass in Super Bowl XLIII that may have changed the course of history and returned it for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals. At only 6’0” 242lbs., Harrison is by no means an imposing physical specimen, but his drive to get to the quarterback and take him to the turf is second to none. In the Steelers’ 3-4 defensive alignment, Harrison should have at least a few more highly productive seasons left in him.

3. Clay Matthews

Part of the youth movement in the NFL on defense, Matthews is perhaps known best for his golden locks that flow out of the back of his helmet, but that hair strikes fear into the hearts of opposing quarterbacks. Since arriving in the league in 2009 Matthews has wreaked havoc on the opposition with a 10.0 sack output during his rookie campaign backed up by a 13.5 sack year in 2010. Another of the 3-4 outside linebackers, Matthews found the perfect scheme to work in with the Green Bay Packers and Dom Capers who utilizes him to the utmost of his potential. Given his work rate thus far, it wouldn’t be a shock to see a healthy Matthews continue his assault on the quarterbacks of the league for the better part of the next decade.

4. Jared Allen

A quiet year for Allen in 2010 yielded just 11.0 sacks and left him virtually unmentioned by many when it came to the best pass rushers in the league, but don’t be too quick to forget about him. Allen is still on the right side of 30 at just 29 years of age and has been a sacks machine since arriving in the league in 2004 out of tiny Idaho State. His joking demeanor and fun-loving personality make him seem like a lovable character, but opposing quarterbacks know the amount of pain that he can inflict at any given moment. The Minnesota Vikings’ defense as a whole regressed in 2010, but the 2011 season could see a resurgence of that unit for the guys in purple and Allen will be at the forefront of any such renaissance.

5. Tamba Hali

Drafted in 2006 out of Penn State, many were quick to call Hali an underwhelming player after his first five years in the league. A move from defensive end to outside linebacker in 2009 when the Kansas City Chiefs switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense wasn’t without growing pains, but the 2010 season saw all of that struggle finally be worthwhile. Hali was second in the NFL with 14.5 sacks last year and became a force for the Chiefs off of the edge taking down opposing QB’s. The Chargers felt his wrath quite personally as Philip Rivers was the victim of 1.5 of Hali’s takedowns during the two meetings between the Bolts and Chiefs this past year. At 27 years old, Hali has several good years in front of him and seems to have found a natural home at outside linebacker in the 3-4 setup.

The game of football is always progressing and constant change is what makes the game so exciting with its fresh faces and new look on-field tactics. The 3-4 alignment is what is in vogue for the time being and the majority of the big sacks numbers around the league have been produced by teams employing that scheme. Don’t get too comfortable with that current climate because in a copycat league, it only takes one team to start a new trend that will leave the current craze in the dust.

June 17, 2011

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