Dec 22, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon (8) is sacked during the fourth quarter by St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn (94) at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

Ranking The Best Defensive Players In the NFL

Among the most coveted awards in the entire NFL, who are some big names to watch for Defensive Player of the Year in 2014?

Earl Thomas – S – Seattle Seahawks

Richard Sherman gets all the attention for the Legion of Boom defense of the Seattle Seahawks, but the real backbone of that outstanding unit is All-Pro safety Earl Thomas.  He always seems to be in the right place at the right time, keeps teammates in the right position and has never missed a game his entire career.  If he can top his NFL best of five interceptions and the defense performs like it should, Thomas can win the award.

Patrick Peterson – CB – Arizona Cardinals

If things weren’t bad enough for Sherman with a teammate making the list instead of him, to think his increasingly hated rival Patrick Peterson makes it too would be hard to stomach.  Still, facts are facts.  Like Thomas the Arizona Cardinals corner has never missed a game and thanks to some solid additions to an already good defense such as Antonio Cromartie and Deone Bucannon should compel teams to put more balls in his direction.  If he plays like he thinks he can, he could reach that elusive double digit interception mark.

Robert Quinn – DE – St. Louis Rams

There is no denying that Robert Quinn is one of a handful of NFL sack artists in the league today.  He’s entering his prime and expectations are sky high especially after his St. Louis Rams took even more pressure off him by adding dynamic interior rusher Aaron Donald to the mix.  With him and Chris Long flushing the quarterback from one side, it should only create more opportunities for Quinn to swell his tally and possibly even challenge the single-season record as he did in 2013.

Kiko Alonso – LB – Buffalo Bills

Sheldon Richardson stole the Rookie of the Year award last season but many feel it belong with linebacker Kiko Alonso who ranked near the top of the league in tackles and also posted four interceptions.  He should be even better this season not just because of his own personal improvement but also some needed help around him.  The Buffalo Bills made some quality additions to their linebacking corps with veteran Brandon Spikes and rookie Preston Brown.  Their presence should make Alonso even better, and if the Bills defense improves then he can follow the lead of Luke Kuechley as another linebacker to win the award.

J.J. Watt – DE – Houston Texans

Defensive Player of the Year is nothing new to J.J. Watt.  The stud Houston Texans pass rusher won the award back in 2012 and was in contention for it again last season.  People know he is an absolute monster who terrorizes quarterbacks.  To think he could do even better this season thanks to the additions of Jadeveon Clowney and Louis Nix up front has to be frightening.  Yet there it is.  Watt might not have to see as many double teams as he has in the past and provided he stays healthy that can and will lead to sacks.

Tags: Earl Thomas J.J. Watt Kiko Alonso NFL Patrick Peterson Robert Quinn

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