NFL Defensive Line Rankings -- Midseason
Scoring is down in the NFL this season, which means that defenses must be playing exceptionally well. The key to any good defense is the ability to get after the passer. Consistent pressure on quarterbacks helps the secondary and keeps teams from finding a rhythm and stringing together chunk plays down the field.
Six weeks into the NFL season, we have an idea of who the most effective defensive lines are in the NFL. As a reminder, this ranking is strictly defensive line-based, which means you won’t see some of the NFL’s best pass rushers on this list because their teams run a 3-4 defense with the edge rushing coming from the outside linebacker position.
2023 NFL Defensive Line Rankings Through Week 6
Below is every team ranked 1-32 by how their defensive line has shaped up through six weeks of the NFL season.
1. Atlanta Falcons (Preseason Rank: 17)
Traditionally, teams that use a 3-4 base defense don’t expect big pass-rushing numbers from their three-down linemen. However, Atlanta has gotten solid production from their three starters to begin the season. The trio of Calais Campbell (13), David Onyemata (13) and Grady Jarrett (15) are either first or second on the team in pressures to begin the season. The group has also combined to generate 29 tackles and seven sacks on the season. This is an extremely disruptive defensive line group that is keeping the team in games while the offense finds its way to start the season.
FTN Data Stat to Know: Atlanta has the 12th-lowest blitz rate in 2023 (24.2%).
2. San Francisco 49ers (Preseason Rank: 4)
Nobody should be surprised to see the San Francisco 49ers near the top of this list. Nick Bosa has been a one-man wrecking crew this season, rating as PFF’s top edge defender thanks to 29 pressures and three sacks on the season. The team has to also be pleased with free agent acquisition Javon Hargrave, who has generated 21 pressures and three sacks on the interior of the defensive line. Both Clelin Ferrell (eight pressures) and Drake Jackson (14 pressures and three sacks) are getting play at the opposite defensive end, with Ferrell being utilized as a run defender and Jackson as a pass-rushing specialist to start the year.
FTN Data Stat to Know: The 49ers have generated the most pressure in 2023 (98).
3. Dallas Cowboys (Preseason Rank: 3)
The Cowboys have gotten exactly what they expected from PFF’s No. 2 edge defender (DeMarcus Lawrence) and number six edge defender (Micah Parson). The combination of Lawrence and Parsons have combined to generate 58 pressures and seven sacks through the first six games of the season. A welcome development has been the disruptive presence of Osa Odighizuwa on the interior of the defensive front. Odighizuwa has generated 18 pressures and three sacks from his defensive tackle position and is currently rated as PFF’s sixth-best interior defensive lineman to start the season.
FTN Data Stat to Know: The Cowboys have the second-highest pressure rate in 2023 (43.2%).
4. Philadelphia Eagles (Preseason Rank: 2)
The Eagles have flexed their defensive line depth to start the season. Seven different defensive linemen have played at least 120 snaps to begin the season. The Eagles have five players with at least 12 pressures and eight different defensive linemen with at least one sack to begin the season. The edge duo of Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat have been great (10 combined sacks), but the story of this defensive line is rookie Jalen Carter playing like the best talent in the 2023 class. Carter is PFF’s top-rated interior defensive lineman and has contributed 23 pressures and four sacks in five games this season.
FTN Data Stat to Know: The Eagles have the fourth-most sacks in the NFL this season (20).
5. New York Giants (Preseason Rank: 6)
Dexter Lawrence has developed into one of the most disruptive interior defenders in the NFL. Lawrence is PFF’s second-rated interior lineman to start the season (tied with Aaron Donald) thanks to 21 pressures generated from the nose tackle position. The veteran defensive linemen have nearly identical pass rush (86.8) and run defender grades (86.6) this season. The team is also getting a solid season out of Leonard Williams, who is third on the team in pressures (13) and second on the team in stops (13).
FTN Data Stat to Know: The Giants have the highest hurry rate in 2023 (24.5%).
6. Washington Commanders (Preseason Rank: 11)
Chase Young is back. The defensive end struggled last season in his recovery from an ACL injury but has been great to begin the 2023 season. Young has generated a team-leading 31 pressures and has racked up four sacks to begin the year. That has allowed Montez Sweat (20 pressures and six sacks) and Jonathan Allen (20 pressures and three sacks) to see more one-on-one matchups along the offensive line. Daron Payne continues to be a strong interior lineman, ranking second on the team in defensive stops (16) while generating 11 pressures of his own.
FTN Data Stat to Know: Washington is sixth in QB hit rate in 2023 (11.1%).
7. Los Angeles Rams (Preseason Rank: 15)
Everyone knows what to expect from Aaron Donald at this point, and he just keeps delivering, generating 30 pressures and three sacks through the first six games of the season. Los Angeles needed other players to step up along the defensive line heading into the season to take some of the pressure off him. They have gotten enough production from nose tackle Kobie Turner (eight pressures, two sacks and 11 stops) and Jonah Williams (six pressures, one sack and 11 stops) to at least keep opposing offenses honest. This is still the Aaron Donald show, but teams at least have to respect the fact that the Rams have two other solid defensive linemen in the trenches.
FTN Data Stat to Know: The Rams have the fourth-worst sack rate in 2023 (4.7%).
8. Cincinnati Bengals (Preseason Rank: 8)
Unlike the Eagles, the Bengals rely heavily on their four starting defensive linemen and a couple of depth pieces to be productive. That has worked out well for Cincinnati to start the season. Trey Hendrickson is PFF’s 10th-rated edge defender through six weeks, generating 27 pressures and eight sacks. The team has also gotten excellent play from B.J. Hill on the interior (20 pressures and two sacks). All four of the Bengals starting defensive line have at least 13 pressures and two sacks to begin the year. Reserve edge defender Cam Sample has also flashed as a pass rusher, racking up 11 pressures and two sacks on 73 passing downs.
FTN Data Stat to Know: The Bengals are seventh in pressure rate to start the 2023 season (35.2%).
9. Seattle Seahawks (Preseason Rank: 30)
The Seahawks have gotten solid play from all three of their down linemen, which has given their edge rushers free rein to attack the quarterback. Jarran Reed leads the team in pressures (17), which is surprising for an interior defensive lineman. The team probably wanted more when they gave Dre'Mont Jones a big contract this offseason, but it is hard to be disappointed with 11 pressures and two sacks from the veteran. The biggest surprise has been Mario Edwards, who is leading all box defenders in pass-rush grade (81.5) and has generated 12 pressures. This unit doesn’t have any flashy names, but they grind opposing offensive lines and work tirelessly to get to the quarterback.
FTN Data Stat to Know: Seattle ranks seventh in sack rate in 2023 (8.7%).
10. New York Jets (Preseason Rank: 7)
The Jets are like Philadelphia-lite, utilizing their depth along the defensive line to stay fresh and get after the quarterback. Eight different defensive linemen have at least 136 snaps played for the Jets this season. Bryce Huff has been a revelation as a situational pass rusher this season, leading the team in pressures (34) despite playing just 147 snaps on the season. The Eagles' four starters haven’t been bad either, combining to generate 67 pressures and seven sacks to begin the year. This has allowed the team time to help develop 2023 first-round pick Will McDonald, who was one of the best pass rushers in college football in 2022 but hasn’t cracked the rotation with the Jets yet this season.
FTN Data Stat to Know: The Jets have generated the ninth-most hurries in 2023 (35).
11. New Orleans Saints (Preseason Rank: 10)
The Saints' defense goes as their edge rushers go. Thankfully, both players have been fantastic to start the 2023 season. Both Cameron Jordan (21) and Carl Granderson (14) find themselves in the top-25 of PFF’s edge rusher grades to start the season. The duo has combined to generate 49 pressures and seven sacks through six games. If the team hoped that 2023 first-round pick Bryan Bresee would make an immediate impact, they are sorely disappointed. The rookie has struggled to see the field behind Nathan Shepherd (57.8 PFF grade) and free agent acquisition Khalen Saunders (67.0) to start his career.
FTN Data Stat to Know: The Saints have the third-lowest blitz rate in 2023 (18.6%).
12. Cleveland Browns (Preseason Rank: 9)
The Browns' goal this offseason was to bolster the defensive line talent around Myles Garrett to try and provide him with less attention from opposing offenses. Garrett remains one of the best edge rushers in the NFL, ranking as PFF’s third edge thanks to 26 pressures and six sacks in five games. The team is also getting a solid season from acquisition Za'Darius Smith, who is PFF’s 28th-ranked edge defender. Smith hasn’t registered a sack yet this season but does have 17 pressures to start the year. The Browns need to utilize Maurice Hurst more. Hurst is PFF’s seventh-ranked interior defender but has played just 107 snaps this season.
FTN Data Stat to Know: Cleveland has the highest QB hit rate in 2023 (16.2%).
13. Indianapolis Colts (Preseason Rank: 14)
The Colts were much higher on this list before run-stopping one technique Grover Stewart was suspended six games before Week 7. The Colts will now be without their best-run defender on the defensive line for the foreseeable future. Indianapolis has gotten excellent production from free-agent edge rusher Samson Ebukam (18 pressures and four sacks). He compliments disruptive interior lineman DeForest Buckner (13 pressures and three sacks) well and provides the Colts with consistent pressure in the pass rush game. The Colts don’t have many stars on their defensive line, but they have a bunch of solid contributors who have played well to start the season.
FTN Data Stat to Know: The Colts have the second-lowest blitz rate to start the season (18.0%).
14. Miami Dolphins (Preseason Rank: 20)
Christian Wilkins has been able to maintain the same disruptiveness he showed during 2022 into the 2023 season. Wilkins is second on the Dolphins in pressures (21) and tied for the lead in sacks (4) while ranking as PFF’s No. 11 interior defensive lineman. The team has also gotten excellent production from Zach Sieler, who has flown under the radar this season. Sieler has generated 18 pressures and four sacks on 183 pass-rush snaps this season. This defensive line duo has forced teams to play the Dolphins box defenders honestly, which has allowed edge rushers Bradley Chubb and Andrew Van Ginkel to get in the backfield consistently this season.
FTN Data Stat to Know: The Dolphins are fourth in sack rate in 2023 (9.1%).
15. Detroit Lions (Preseason Rank: 27)
Aidan Hutchinson has taken a massive leap in his second season. Hutchinson is PFF’s No. 7 edge rusher (90.7 grade) while racking up 36 pressures and four sacks through six games. The Lions have developed good depth along their defensive line with six different players playing at least 100 snaps this year. This has allowed four different players to log double-digit pressures and six different defensive linemen to register a sack. The team has to be pleased by the disruptive play of interior defensive lineman Alim McNeill. McNeill is PFF’s 9th-ranked interior lineman in 2023 and leads all of Detroit’s defensive linemen in run defense (84.0).
FTN Data Stat to Know: The Lions have the third-most hurries in 2023 (44).
16. Kansas City Chiefs (Preseason Rank: 22)
The Chiefs' defense looked like they were in rough shape in Week 1’s game against the Detroit Lions without Chris Jones. That forced the team to offer the defensive tackle a lucrative extension. Jones has been a man-possessed since inking the deal, logging 21 pressures and seven sacks in just five games this season. The team has also seen growth out of second-year edge rusher George Karlaftis, who leads the team in pressures (27) and is third on the team in sacks (3). Mike Danna is the unsung hero of this group, quietly producing 16 pressures and four sacks in 198 pass-rushing snaps. The team will hope that 2023 first-round pick Felix Anudike-Uzomah can provide some pop off the edge as the season goes on, but he has played just 103 of 361 defensive snaps to start the season.
FTN Data Stat of the Day: The Chiefs have the fourth-highest blitz rate in 2023 (34.4%).
17. Green Bay Packers (Preseason Rank: 21)
Devonte Wyatt struggled at times during his rookie season in 2022, but he has emerged as a dependable player along the defensive line this season. Wyatt has played just 182 snaps this season (the Packers heavily rotate their defensive line outside of Kenny Clark) but has generated 17 pressures and three sacks. Kenny Clark has lost a step this season but is still a very good defensive lineman. The dependable veteran is third on the team in pressures (14) and second in sacks (4) to start the season.
FTN Data Stat to Know: The Packers have run the seventh-fewest blitzes this season (45).
18. Tennessee Titans (Preseason Rank: 1)
The Titans' defensive line has been a massive disappointment this season. All three of Tennessee’s defensive linemen have PFF grades below 62.0 to start the season. Jefferey Simmons and Denico Autry have all still been productive considering they are two of the three players on the team with double-digit pressures and three or more sacks, but they have not been the same destructive force they were in 2022. Simmons has especially struggled as a run defender this season; his 48.0 PFF grade would be his lowest run defense grade by a considerable margin if the season ended today.
FTN Data Stat to Know: The Titans have the fourth-best hurry rate in 2023 (20.7%).
19. Las Vegas Raiders (Preseason Rank: 23)
The Raiders defensive line is taking the stars and scrubs approach to the 2023 season. Maxx Crosby has been stellar once again, logging 38 pressure and six sacks through six games to start the season. Crosby has nearly half the team’s sacks to start the year and is currently PFF’s fifth-ranked edge defender. Unfortunately, nobody else has done anything of note. Tyree Wilson has struggled to acclimate to the NFL after a foot injury limited him during the draft process. The rookie has played just 156 of 387 defensive snaps and is boasting a 33.7 PFF grade in six games played.
FTN Data Stat to Know: The Raiders have the second-lowest QB hit rate in 2023 (4.5%).
20. Buffalo Bills (Preseason Rank: 5)
The Bills have gotten consistent production from an array of defensive linemen this season, but will ultimately hope that the return of Von Miller will take their defense to the next level. Three technique Ed Oliver leads the team in pressures this season (20) and ranks second in sacks (5). The edge rusher rotation of Greg Rousseau (17 pressures, three sacks), Leonard Floyd (16 pressures, seven sacks) and A.J. Epenesa (15 pressures and four sacks) have exceeded expectations. This unit could be great down the stretch if Miller can return to his 2022 form before he injured his knee.
FTN Data Stat to Know: Buffalo has the fifth-highest pressure rate in 2023 (35.7%).
21. Baltimore Ravens (Preseason Rank: 16)
The Ravens have gotten disruptive play from Justin Madubuike and Michael Pierce along the defensive line to start the season, which has allowed the team’s edge rushers to get into the backfield with ease. Madubuike leads the team in sacks (5) and is second in pressures (19) while also logging a 66.4 run defense grade. Pierce hasn’t gotten to the quarterback as effectively but is still third on the team in pressures (12). Broderick Washington functions as the defensive line’s space eater, soaking up blocks to keep Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen free to make plays on the second level.
FTN Data Stat to Know: Baltimore has the fourth-highest sack rate in 2023 (9.1%).
22. Denver Broncos (Preseason Rank: 26)
Denver’s defensive line is filled with players who can do their jobs but struggle to create much for themselves. Only Zach Allen has generated double-digit pressures (16) or has a sack this season. The combination of D.J. Jones and Jonathan Harris has generated just nine pressures on the season. All three starters have run defense grades below 62.0 according to PFF. The Broncos clearly expect their defensive line to soak up blockers to get their linebackers free to disrupt.
FTN Data Stat to Know: The Broncos have the sixth-lowest blitz rate in 2023 (21.1%).
23. Minnesota Vikings (Preseason Rank: 19)
The Vikings utilize their defensive line to work primarily as run defenders while trying to free up their edge rushers on passing down. Of this group, only Harrison Phillips has double-digit pressures or a sack this season. Jonathan Bullard has been fantastic as a run defender this season, ranking third in run defense grade (76.5) on the team. Dean Lowry hasn’t done anything well this season and has played just 185 snaps while logging a 46.1 PFF grade.
FTN Data Stat to Know: The Vikings have the highest blitz rate in 2023 (58.6%) by over 20%.
24. Carolina Panthers (Preseason Rank: 18)
Derrick Brown remains one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the league despite the team’s shift from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense this offseason. Brown is second on the team in pressures (10) and has one sack while also leading the Panthers in run defense this season (67.8). This group is largely unremarkable outside of Brown’s contributions. Both Shy Tuttle and DeShawn Williams have run defense grades below 56.0 this season while racking up a combined 14 stops.
FTN Data Stat to Know: The Panthers have the ninth-lowest pressure rate in 2023 (27.7%).
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Preseason Rank: 25)
Vita Vea is the highlight of the Buccaneers' defensive line to start the 2023 season. Vea leads the team in sacks (4) and is second in pressures (12) while playing the nose tackle position. There has been very little production around him though. Rookie first-round pick Calijah Kancey has played just two games this season and showed flashes (eight pressures and a sack) but has struggled to stay on the field. The combination of Logan Hall and Greg Gaines has combined to generate 12 pressures and no sacks. Both Kancey and Hall have run defense grades below 31.0, which leaves Vea to try and do most of the heavy lifting from the middle of the defensive line. This has forced the Buccaneers to blitz more to try and create disruption from other places.
FTN Data Stat to Know: The Buccaneers are second in the NFL in blitz rate in 2023 (37.0%).
26. Pittsburgh Steelers (Preseason Rank: 12)
This group has struggled due to the injury to disruptive defensive end Cameron Heyward. Larry Ogunjobi (12 pressures and one sack) is doing his best to sustain the group, but teams don’t need to concern themselves much with any of the other players on this line. Rookie Keeanu Benton has looked good in limited snaps this season while rotating with starting nose guard Montravius Adams (78.3 PFF grade in 140 snaps) and should start to see more playing time after the bye week. Still, it will be hard for this unit to reach its potential without Heyward taking on the focus of the opposing offensive line. Thankfully, the team features two of the best edge rushers in the NFL to pick up the slack.
FTN Data Stat to Know: The Steelers have the fourth-highest pressure rate in 2023 (37.2%).
27. Chicago Bears (Preseason Rank: 29)
The Bears lacked defensive line talent coming into the season. However, they’ve (barely) exceeded expectations to go from a terrible unit to one that is just really bad. Chicago has tried to mix in steady veterans along the defensive line while getting experience for younger players as the team continues rebuilding. Seven different defensive linemen have played at least 140 snaps for Chicago’s defense this season. The four starters have led the way and are the only four defensive linemen with double-digit pressures on the Bears. However, Chicago’s defensive line has generated just seven of the team’s 11 sacks this year. The Bears need to hope that players like Gervon Dexter and Dominque Robinson can continue to develop to be pieces of this defensive line for the long term.
FTN Data Stat to Know: Chicago has the third-lowest sack rate in 2023 (4.1%).
28. Houston Texans (Preseason Rank: 13)
Will Anderson has been exactly as advertised for the Texans in 2023. He leads the team in pressures (24) and is PFF’s 19th-ranked edge defender through the first six games of his career. The team has also gotten solid performances around him. Veteran defensive ends Jonathan Greenard (15 pressures and four sacks) and Jerry Hughes (14 pressures and one sack) are providing pressure off the opposite edge. Maliek Collins hasn’t played very well to start the season (42.2 PFF grade) but is still second on the team in pressures (17). Houston seems to be getting by on scheme to start the season, but thankfully, Will Anderson looks like a cornerstone piece the team can build around going forward.
FTN Data Stat to Know: Houston has the second-lowest sack rate in 2023 (3.6%).
29. Arizona Cardinals (Preseason Rank: 32)
The Cardinals' defensive line came into 2023 as an unproven unit, which led them to the bottom of this list. Through six weeks of the season, we can confirm that they are quite bad. Arizona’s three starting defensive linemen all have PFF grades below 60.0 to start the season and have collectively generated 13 pressures and four sacks to begin the season. They aren’t much better at stopping the run, with 22 stops between the three of them.
FTN Data Stat to Know: Arizona has the lowest pressure rate in 2023 (25.3%).
30. Los Angeles Chargers (Preseason Rank: 31)
The Chargers don’t expect much from their defensive linemen. Which is good, because that is exactly what they have provided to start the 2023 season. The Chargers' primary starting defensive linemen have generated just 14 pressures (10 by Sebastian Joseph-Day) and three sacks to start the year. Only Joseph-Day has a PFF grade above 60.0 to start the season. Rotational lineman Morgan Fox has been productive when given opportunities, generating the third most pressures (13) and sacks (4) on the team in just 149 snaps. Unfortunately, he is abysmal against the run (42.4 PFF grade) and can’t be trusted outside of situational pass-rush situations.
FTN Data Stat to Know: The Chargers have the second-highest sack rate in 2023 (9.6%).
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (Preseason Rank: 28)
Roy Robertson-Harris (65.2 PFF grade) has been quite good this season. Unfortunately, his good isn’t good enough to cancel out the bad of nose tackle Folorunso Fatukasi and fellow defensive end Adam Gotsis. Robertson-Harris is third on the team in pressures (15) and boasts a 65.7 run defense grade. Unfortunately, neither Fatukasi nor Gotsis has run defense grades or pass rush grades above 51.0 according to PFF. Both players have combined to generate just nine pressures this season and are credited with just 11 stops.
FTN Data Stat to Know: Jacksonville has the fifth-lowest sack rate in 2923 (4.8%).
32. New England Patriots (Preseason Rank: 24)
The Patriots are known for having stout defensive lines and fearsome pass rushes during the Bill Belichick era. That hasn’t been the case in 2023. Deatrich Wise and Christian Barmore have looked good in flashes (25 pressures and two sacks), but neither player has been very effective in stopping the run. Veteran Lawrence Guy Sr. might as well not be on the field this year. The defensive end has played 224 snaps but has a team-low 31.8 PFF grade. Unfortunately, his backup (Davon Godchaux) has been equally as bad, totaling a 35.6 PFF grade on 211 defensive snaps. The Patriots have a gaping hole in their defense, which is why this unit finds themselves at the bottom of these rankings.
FTN Data Stat to Know: The Patriots have the eighth-lowest sack rate in 2023 (5.9%).