Sport: Five NFL defenses that could surprise this season

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When it matters most in the NFL playoffs or the Super Bowl, a great defense steps up to deliver the plays needed for a win. Everyone knows the best defenses in the NFL each year, but the 2020 NFL season could provide a few surprise units.

a close up of Aaron Donald playing a game of baseball: Aaron Donald has been the league's best defensive player for a while. © Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports Aaron Donald has been the league's best defensive player for a while.

The ability to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks is always crucial. Whether a defense can collapse the pocket or the interior defensive line can cause havoc on the inside, getting a passer out of his comfort zone is key. Of course, a great secondary can also do the trick by blanketing receivers and giving a quarterback no options.

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We looked at five offenses that could surprise this year. Now let’s dive into five NFL defenses that could surprise during the season.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins came into the offseason flush with money to spend and that’s just what they did. Seeking to build a defense that head coach Brian Flores can be proud of, Miami strengthened its secondary, bolstered its front seven and came away with a vastly improved defensive unit.

Passing against this defense is going to be difficult. Byron Jones and Xavien Howard are two shutdown corners who will blanket top receivers. Meanwhile, first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene should impress in the slot. Adding Kyle Van Noy, Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah should help Miami’s pass rush significantly this year. Put it all together under Flores’ direction and this could be an above-average defense in 2020.

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Los Angeles Rams

The Rams underwhelmed in 2019. After such a disappointing year, it’s understandable why changes were made to the roster and coaching staff. While making Brandon Staley the defensive coordinator came out of nowhere, it could be the move that gets this unit back to dominating.

There’s no denying that Aaron Donald is an unstoppable force capable of taking over a game. The presence of the two-time Defensive Player of the Year recipient makes this defense capable of greatness. Add in Jalen Ramsey, who will be moved all over the field this year, and you’ve got two cornerstones. We expect Leonard Floyd to thrive in Los Angeles, rounding out this front seven nicely. If the defense steps up and Jared Goff can execute the offense, the Rams will remain playoff contenders.

Cleveland Browns

There is an abundance of talent on Cleveland’s defense. Unfortunately, like the rest of this team, that hasn’t quite translated to consistent success on the field. Myles Garrett’s suspension clearly hurt this past season, but he’s back in 2020 and this unit looks stronger than ever.

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When Cleveland wants to pressure quarterbacks, Garrett, Larry Ogunjobi and rookie Jordan Elliott will do just that. As that trio collapses the pocket, a loaded secondary with Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams and Karl Joseph will be taking out passing windows. Oh, this defense also has Grant Delpit ready to be a force against the run and make plays in coverage. We’re especially confident in this group because of defensive coordinator Joe Woods, who could be the key in helping the Browns contend for a playoff spot.

Washington Redskins

Washington’s offense will not be fun to watch this season. Simply put, there isn’t enough surrounding talent at receiver or along the offensive line for Dwayne Haskins to thrive. That will lead to this defense spending a lot of time on the field, but this group could also make a strong impression in 2020.

The pass rush of Montez Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan, Jonathan Allen and Matthew Ioannidis already looked impressive. By hiring Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio, this group could take another step forward. Then they added Chase Young, a generational talent who could make a Nick Bosa-like impact as a rookie. The secondary will keep Washington’s defense from being great, but we think this will be a fun unit to watch when it takes the field.

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New Orleans Saints

The Saints have developed a recent tendency of falling short in the playoffs. Entering what might be Drew Brees’ final season, this team is more determined than ever to make it back to the Super Bowl. When we look at this defense, it looks like a group capable of winning it all.

There aren’t enough adjectives to describe how great this front seven is. Cameron Jordan is an easy All-Pro selection, Sheldon Rankins has shown flashes of ability and Marcus Davenport is coming into his own as a pass rusher. Behind them, Demario Davis is one of the NFL’s best linebackers and Zack Baun could make a big impact in his rookie year. The secondary is where we could see real improvement, especially with the addition of Malcolm Jenkins. If Janoris Jenkins can play up to his talent, this could be an elite defense. Combine that with the electrifying offense and this might be the best team in the NFC.

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