Heading into the 2021 season, the NFL features some incredibly talented defensive units.
During Thursday’s episode of Get Up on ESPN, former NFL linebacker and current analyst Sam Acho released his list of the top-five defenses in the league right now.
The list goes as follows:
- 1. Baltimore Ravens
- 2. Pittsburgh Steelers
- 3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- 4. Washington Football Team
- 5. Los Angeles Chargers
The top five defenses in the NFL, according to @TheSamAcho:
1. Baltimore Ravens
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4. Washington Football Team
5. Los Angeles Chargers
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) August 5, 2021
Coming in at No. 1 for Acho are the Baltimore Ravens. In 2020, the Ravens finished the year with a No. 7 defensive ranking after allowing 329.8 yards per game. The front line will once again be led by six-time Pro-Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell, alongside recently re-signed DE partner Derek Wolfe. The secondary will be headlined by All-Pro cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey.
The Pittsburgh Steelers finished the 2020 season with a No. 3 ranking (305.8 ypg), but Acho has them in at No. 2 ahead of their 2021 campaign. Despite losing starting linebacker Bud Dupree and starting corners Mike Hilton/Steven Nelson earlier this offseason, Acho believes the Steelers’ new-look unit will improve this coming year. Returning two-time All-Pro corner Minkah Fitzpatrick and three-time Pro Bowl veteran Joe Haden, the Pittsburgh secondary should still be in good shape. The Steelers were also able to add three-time Pro Bowl defense end Melvin Ingram in free agency.
At No. 3, Acho has the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — the team he retired from in 2019. The Bucs have a completely reloaded roster on both sides of the ball, including all 11 defensive starters from last year’s Super Bowl victory. Jason Pierre-Paul, Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh will once again lead an elite pass rush backed by star linebackers Devin White, Lavonte David and Shaquil Barrett.
The Washington Football Team come in at No. 4. Led by 2020 Rookie of the Year Chase Young, the WFT defense should be solid yet again after notching the No. 2 ranked defense this past season (304.6 ypg). In addition to the return of former All-Pro safety Landon Collins, Washington also added four-year Bengals starter William Jackson III at corner and No. 19 overall draft pick Jamin Davis at linebacker.
The Los Angeles Chargers weren’t one of the NFL’s elite defenses in 2020, allowing a No. 10 ranked 343.4 yards per game. But, Acho believes they deserve to crack this year’s top-five. One of the league’s best young edge rushers, Joey Bosa, should be ready for a full return after battling through several injury issues this past season. All-Pro safety Derwin James is also set to return in 2021 after suffering a season-ending knee injury just five games into 2020.
One notable omission from this list is the Los Angeles Rams. Allowing an NFL-low 281.9 ypg in 2020, the Rams were widely considered the top defense in the league last year. Returning reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and superstar cornerback Jalen Ramsey, you’d think Acho would at least have LA cracking the top-five.
What other teams would you like to see on this list?