The 5 Best Defensive Players in the NFC South
Updated: Aug 8
The teams in the NFC South are looking to bounce back from a below-average campaign in 2022. Each team in the division finished below .500 and had issues on both sides of the ball.
The saying goes “defense wins championships” and with each team vying for an NFC South title and ultimately the Lombardi trophy, having stout defensive players matter. Here, the top defensive players from the NFC South are ranked due to their play on the field.
1. Cameron Jordan (Defensive End, New Orleans Saints)
New Orleans Saints defensive-end Cameron Jordan has been a cornerstone on the Saints defense since he was drafted in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft. Since getting to New Orleans, Jordan is an eight-time pro-bowler, a two-time second-team all-pro (’18-’19), a first-team all-pro (’17) and a member of the NFL’s 2010s All-Decade team.
The former California Golden Bear has accumulated 115 sacks (tied for 32nd all-time) and only missed one game due to injury during his 12-year career thus far.
In 2022, Jordan tallied 40 solo tackles, 8.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Jordan is an anchor on a defense that was placed in the top five in total defense the past three seasons (’20-’22).
2. Brian Burns (Outside Linebacker, Carolina Panthers)
Carolina Panthers linebacker Brian Burns is placed snuggly at the number two spot on the list.
Burns, who was drafted sixteenth overall in the 2019 NFL draft out of Florida State, finished the 2022 campaign at the tenth spot in total sacks(12.5) and accounted 17 tackles for loss. Burns is a two-time pro-bowler (’21-’22) and is widely known as one of the prominent pass rushers in the NFL.
The pro-bowl edge rusher will likely be moving from the defensive line to the outside more frequently due to Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero’s 3-4 defensive scheme heading into 2023. With this transition, it will give the former Florida State Seminole more opportunities to attack the quarterback and drop into coverage.
Since 2019 when Burns was drafted, he accumulated 38 sacks which ranks 11th among defensive players.
Expect a breakout year for Burns heading into his fifth season.
3. Marshon Lattimore (Cornerback, New Orleans Saints)
The former number eleven overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft from Ohio State has been one of the premier defensive backs in the National Football League.
Lattimore won the 2017 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award along with four pro-bowl selections (’17, ’19-’21). The former Buckeye ranked in the annual NFL top 100 list four out of his six seasons (’18 ranked 82nd, ’20 ranked 76th, ’21 ranked 86th and ’22 ranked 89th).
The former defensive rookie of the year suffered a kidney injury in week 5 against the Seattle Seahawks and only played seven total games in 2022. The 27-year-old, ball-hawking cornerback looks to bounce back this season for New Orleans as they are favorited to become NFC South champions in 2023.
Since 2017, Lattimore has accumulated 327 tackles, 78 pass deflections and 14 interceptions.
4. Devin White (Linebacker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Devin White is everything a defensive coordinator looks for in a linebacker. Since entering the league of out LSU in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft, White earned a second-team all-pro (’19) nod, a pro-bowl selection (’21) and was an anchor into helping Tampa Bay win Super Bowl 55 on their home turf.
White accounted for 5.5 sacks, 16 quarterback hits (career high), and eight tackles for loss in the 2022 season.
The former LSU Tiger has been one of the key pieces for Tampa Bay’s stout defense over the past three years along with 11-year Tampa Bay Buccaneers veteran linebacker Lavonte David.
White requested a trade during the offseason and is reluctant to participate in the Buccaneers offseason activities due to his demand for a new contract. The 2020 Super Bowl champions can’t afford to lose a young defensive force in White, who is one of the league’s best blitzers. White has accumulated at least 124 total tackles in each of the past three seasons.
5. Lavonte David (Linebacker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Lavonte David has been one of the most productive and consistent defensive players since being drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft out of Nebraska.
The 11-year veteran linebacker leads the league in solo tackles (949) since entering the league in 2012. David earned a first-team all-pro selection (’13), a pro-bowl selection (’15) and is a two-time second-team all-pro member (’16,’20).
In 2022, David recorded 3 sacks, 80 solo tackles and six quarterback pressures. David is an excellent open-field tackler who disrupts any offense that tries to run screens or crossing routes.
David, 33, is heading into his twelfth season as he signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay during the offseason.