NFL: Top 10 Outside Linebackers Entering the 2019 Season

Outsider linebackers often rush the passer and stop the run. They don’t go into pass coverage often. A lot of good outside linebackers are in a 3-4 scheme, but there are some good outside linebackers in a 4-3 scheme as well. Who are the Top 10 outside linebackers heading into the 2019 NFL Season?

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10. Za’Darius Smith, Baltimore Ravens

With C.J. Mosley now gone from the team, Smith might be the best linebacker on the team. Za’Darius Smith had 45 tackles and 8.5 sacks last season. He also forced one fumble.

9. Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts

Leonard was a rookie in the NFL last season and he made the Colts defense respectable. Darius Leonard was a tackling machine with 163 of them. He also had seven sacks and 10 pass deflections. Leonard also had two interceptions. He also forced four fumbles and recovered two fumbles.

8. Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs pass defense was horrendous last season, but Kansas City’s pass rush was one of the best in football. Houston is still a factor on the defensive side of the ball. Kansas City will be switching to a 4-3 defensive scheme this season under Steve Spagnuolo as the new defensive coordinator after they let go, Bob Sutton. Sutton’s scheme was a 3-4 defense. Justin Houston recorded 37 tackles and had nine sacks. He had two pass deflections and one interception. Houston forced five fumbles and recovered three of them.

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7. Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans

Clowney is a beast and he is tough to handle on the outside. The Houston Texans have a very good pass rush but their pass defense is horrendous. Jadevon Clowney is the second best defensive player on the team behind J.J. Watt. There were rumors floating around that Clowney would be traded during the offseason and they never did. He recorded 47 tackles and had nine sacks. Jadeveon Clowney forced one fumble and recovered three of them. He also had a touchdown.

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6. Bradley Chubb, Denver Broncos

Chubb was a monster as a rookie on the other side with Von Miller. They could be a force on the defensive side of the ball for the next three to five years together. Vic Fangio is the new head coach of the Denver Broncos and he is a defensive mind. Fangio was the defensive coordinator last season with the Chicago Bears. Bradley Chubb recorded 60 tackles last season and recorded 12 sacks. He forced one fumble and recovered two of them.

5. Dee Ford, San Francisco 49ers

Ford was traded from the Kansas City Chiefs to the San Francisco 49ers during the offseason. Dee Ford was also a tremendous pass rusher last season. Kansas City will miss his presence, but San Francisco needed another pass rusher in the worst way. He had 55 tackles last season and recorded 13 sacks. Ford also forced seven fumbles.

4. Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Redskins

Kerrigan is an anchor on the Washington Redskins defense and he was one of the reasons why Washington’s defense was very good last season. The defense got worn down when quarterback Alex Smith was lost for the season with a gruesome leg injury. Ryan Kerrigan had 43 tackles last season and recorded 13 sacks. He also forced three fumbles and recovered one of them.

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3. T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers

Watt exceeded expectations as a rookie with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played inspired football all season long and his rookie season was not a fluke. T.J. Watt is one of the hardest working players on the team. Pittsburgh added inside linebacker Devin Bush in the draft to strengthen this defense. Watt could even be better in his second NFL season. He recorded 68 tackles and had 13 sacks last season. T.J. Watt also forced six fumbles.

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2. Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears

Mack single-handedly improved the Chicago Bears defense last season after being traded from the Oakland Raiders. This was one of the reasons why Chicago won the NFC North title for the first time since the 2010 season. Matt Nagy was in his first season as NFL Head Coach and Vic Fangio was the defensive coordinator, but Chuck Pagano will be the new defensive coordinator because Fangio took the Denver Broncos head coaching job. As for Khalil Mack, he could have very well won the Defensive Player of the Year Award. He recorded 47 tackles and 12.5 sacks. Mack had five pass deflections, one interception, and one defensive touchdown. He also forced six fumbles and recovered two of them. Quarterbacks were scared to face him and so were offensive linemen.

 

1. Von Miller, Denver Broncos

Miller dominates year in and year out. He is the best outside linebacker in the game, but some people will think Khalil Mack is the best outside linebacker in the game. Von Miller recorded 48 tackles and had 14.5 sacks last season. He had four pass deflections and one interception. Miller also forced four fumbles and recovered three fumbles. He gets double teamed often and Von Miller is ridiculously strong off the edge.

Other people I thought about putting on this list: Jordan Jenkins of the New York Jets, Matt Judon of the Baltimore Ravens, and Devon Kennard of the Detroit Lions.

How would you rank the outside linebackers heading into 2019? Leave a comment below.

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Follow Glenn on Twitter @glennkaplan13.

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