The End is Near. A Good Defensive End Will Be At Any Rate

The End is Near. A Good Defensive End Will Be At Any Rate
Reading Time: 4 minutes.
Aug 25, 2018; Carson, CA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport (92) pressures Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Geno Smith (3) as offensive tackle Cole Toner (64) defends during a preseason game at StubHub Center. The Saints defeated the Chargers 36-7. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Mobile quarterbacks are running wild in the NFL. There’s only way to limit their impact their is to keep them inside the pocket. Rushing a mobile passer often opens up running lanes for them use. The best way to contain them is to set the edge and a good defensive end is vital for doing that.

Akiem Hicks 

Six-foot three-inch Hicks might not be a traditional defensive end (and he may only recorded one sack in 2022) but on a defense that struggled but Hicks finished strong. He tore the plantar fascia in his foot in week 2 and missed the next six games. Once he returned he made 17 tackles in the last eight games. The Buccaneers defense seemed to struggle as Todd Bowles juggled the roles of head coach and defensive coordinator but Hicks lead from the front.  

Hicks has played at defensive end in a 3-4 defense and as a defensive tackle for the Bears back in 2020. That versatility will appeal to teams who just need someone who take on multiple blockers and shift the pocket.  

Tampa Bay were Hicks’ fourth team, he spent the majority of his career in Chicago, but began his career in New Orleans (who could really use his skills on 3rd downs). With 41.5 sacks in his 11-year career and 115 QB hits to add to 409 total tackles there’s no arguing his effectiveness wherever he’s been. 

Marcus Davenport 

Another former Saint who’s available is 26-year-old Marcus Davenport. He’s three inches taller than Hicks but 30 kgs lighter! Like Hicks, Davenport had some injury issues last season. Although he just missed two games, but he only started nine. He only played 50% of the Saints defensive snaps. Davenport struggled with a calf/ ankle issue after week 7. He only played more than 46% of the Saints defensive snaps once in the last 10 weeks of the season. In week 17 he only played a total of 14 snaps but that was because he was ejected for fighting D’Onta Foreman (but coaches kind of like that sort of aggression from a defensive end). 

In his five-year career Davenport has 21.5 sacks, 25 tackles for a loss and 60 QB hits. Durability has been a concern throughout, but as an edge rusher or situational defensive end he would improve most teams. The best season of Davenport’s career came under Ryan Nielsen in 2021. Nielsen was the Saints defensive line coach, he has just become the Falcons defensive coordinator so that would be a good fit. 

Solomon Thomas 

27-year-old Thomas renewed his relationship with Robert Saleh when he signed a one-year deal with the Jets last year. They had previously worked together in San Francisco from 2017-2020. Thomas may be happy to stay in the Big Apple and maintain that relationship. If he does that it’s unlikely he’ll get paid his market value as the Jets chase a high-profile quarterback.  

Thomas played all 17 games for the Jets last season, but didn’t start any of them. Thomas’ work with his own charity The Defensive Line led him to be named the Jets “Walter Payton Man of The Year Award” nominee in 2022. His work to end youth suicide highlights what an important leader he would be in any locker room.  He decided to start The Defensive Line after Thomas suffered a tragedy in his own family.

A veteran of Super Bowl LIV Thomas has recorded 155 total tackles (103 solo tackles) in 30 NFL starts and has made 39 QB hits. Traditionally a defensive end, last season he lined up in the “A gap” when the Jets played a four-man front. He only played 33% of the Jets’ defensive snaps in 2022 but he did play on special teams too demonstrating a level of versatility that would benefit most teams. A reunion with John Lynch, who studied alongside at Stanford, in San Francisco seems like a good fit. 

Morgan Fox 

In a Chargers defense that really struggled against the pass (partly because Kahlil Mack was the only player to start all 17 games) Morgan Fox stood out. Fox only 12 games, he didn’t start regularly until week 10. When Christian Covington and Otito Ogbonnia were placed on IR Fox stepped up. In the last eight games of the season he made 25 total tackles. He ended the season with six tackles for a loss and five QB hits. 

2022 was the most productive season of 28-year-old Fox’s career, with 6.5 sacks in 12 starts, 11 QB hits and 38 tackles. He spent his first four years in the league as a Ram and moved to Carolina for a single season in 2021. In his six seasons in the league, he’s never appeared on an injury report. Fox should be a very important part of someone’s defense in 2023. 

Carl Nassib 

Nassib is well known for being the only active NFL player to “come out”. His announcement back in June 2021 made headlines and was welcomed by many athletes from the NFL and further afield. Nassib himself said he was surprised by the size of the reaction the news generated. That sort of mental strength and humility from a veteran would be welcome in any locker room. 

Like Akiem Hicks, Nassib was a Buccaneer in 2022, unlike Hicks he played 13 games. In the Tampa Bay 3-4 defense Nassib lined up as a linebacker but in 2021 he played defensive end on the Raiders 4-3 base. That experience and versatility will appeal to potential suitors.  

29-year-old Nassib recorded 3.5 sacks in 2022, the most since his first stint in Tampa back in 2019. He made 23 tackles, six tackles for a loss and 6 QB hits. He only played 30% of the Buccaneers defensive snaps last season. Only Devin White recovered more fumbles for the Buccaneers in 2022 though. He was sixth in the team for passes defended in 2022 too. Nassib ended the season with the fourth most sacks and QB hits for the disappointing Buccaneers defense. 

Nassib waited until August last year to sign with the Buccaneers so he might not be in a rush this year either. He would be a valuable addition for plenty of teams though. There’s a JJ Watt sized hole in Arizona that he could fill nicely. 

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