The top 5 EDGE rushers in the NFL

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July 27th, 2020

While the spotlight is often focused on the quarterback in the NFL, the guy who can stop the passer is equally as important.

For that reason, the top edge rushers pull in some of the largest salaries in the league, with Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett currently the highest-paid defensive player in history, at $25 million per year.  

Garrett only played 10 games in 2019 because of suspension, but in those 10 games, he stuffed opposing QBs, along with the stat sheet. The young star is one of the best at his position, but he doesn't quite rank No. 1, based on the numbers. 

With an emphasis on sacks, tackles for loss, quarterback hurries, and forced fumbles, let’s break down the top five edge rushers in the NFL heading into the 2020 season. 

Nick Bosa, DE

The younger Bosa is just getting started, and the future couldn’t be brighter for the 2019 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Last season, Bosa recorded 16 tackles for loss, 24 hurries, forced one fumble, and recovered two as a part of the San Francisco 49ers’ top-ranked passing defense. He also tallied nine sacks in the regular season, including three against Kyle Allen and the Panthers in Week 7 and two against Baker Mayfield and the Browns in Week 4.

In the playoffs, Bosa stepped up huge on the biggest stage. He sacked Kirk Cousins twice in the divisional round, sacked Aaron Rodgers in the Niners’ win against the Packers, and brought down Patrick Mahomes for a sack in the Super Bowl.

With much of San Francisco’s defense returning in 2020, Bosa’s production should only go up from here. His brother, Joey, registered 11 1/2 sacks, 18 tackles for loss, and 25 hurries in 2019, but Nick’s performance in the postseason and long-term potential push him slightly past Joey.   

Myles Garrett, DE

The Browns defensive end accumulated nine sacks through the first six games of 2019, which put him on pace to break Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record (22 1/2).

By Week 11, Garrett sat at 10 sacks, before he earned an indefinite suspension for his scuffle with Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph.

Through 10 games, Garrett finished with 11 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and 10 QB hurries. He recorded a pressure on 17.1% of dropbacks, the highest percentage by a player since the 2016 season.

The 2017 No. 1 overall draft pick has quickly made a name for himself as a ferocious defender in the league, which is why the Browns signed him to a five-year, $125 million extension July 15.

Before his suspension, Garrett had been in the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year and will surely be in the running this season, if he can stay on the field for all 16 games.

Chandler Jones, DE

At 29, Jones enjoyed the best season of his eight-year career. The veteran defensive end scored 19 sacks (second most in the NFL) in 2019 and tied for the league lead in forced fumbles (eight).

Since he joined the Cardinals in 2016, Jones has piled up 60 sacks, 67 tackles for loss, 17 forced fumbles, and made the Pro Bowl twice (he earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2015 with the Patriots).

Jones has finished with double-digit sacks in every season but his rookie year (2012) and 2014, which was shortened because of injury.

Heading into 2020, Jones is sitting on 96 sacks, four more than the all-time sack leader, Bruce Smith, had after his eighth season in the league.

T.J. Watt, LB

The younger brother of J.J. Watt has rapidly emerged as a star in Pittsburgh. In 2018, he burst onto the scene in his second season, with 13 sacks, six forced fumbles, and 12 tackles for loss.

Last season, T.J. notched 14 1/2 sacks and tied Jones for the league lead in forced fumbles. He also added two interceptions, four fumble recoveries, 55 tackles, and 23 QB hurries.  

While J.J. is one of the most famous defenders in the league, the 31-year-old has been plagued by injuries and has missed 32 of 64 games since 2016.

T.J. is the future of his football-oriented family. He owned the second-highest pass rush win rate (28%) in 2019 and led the Steelers in sacks, tackles for loss, forced fumbles, and fumble recoveries. Lined up with Cameron Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick, Watt makes the Pittsburgh defense one of the scariest in today's NFL.

Khalil Mack, LB

Before Garrett raked in his record extension, Mack owned the top contract among edge rushers. In 2018, the Bears signed the former Defensive Player of the Year to a six-year, $141 million deal, with $90 million guaranteed.

In just his second year in the league, Mack achieved a career-best 15 sacks and 23 tackles for loss. Last season, his production dipped some, as he missed the double-digit sack mark (8 1/2 in 2019) for only the second time since his rookie season.

Mack still managed to force five fumbles, racked up eight tackles for loss, and 30 QB hurries, despite being consistently double- and triple-teamed. His numbers from 2019 don’t tell the entire story, because offenses drastically changed their approach to keep Mack from reaching the quarterback.

Mack also played much of the season without defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. With Hicks back in 2020, it should divert opposing offenses' focus, which will allow Mack to once again display his incredible dominance on defense.

Since his rookie season in 2014, Mack has registered 61 1/2 sacks, 20 forced fumbles, and 86 tackles for loss. With Cowboys linebacker Robert Quinn joining the Bears in the offseason, as well, get ready for another special season from Mack and Chicago's defense.

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