Squawka NFL

All-Squawka NFL Team: Defense

By Tayyib Abu

Published: 17:00, 16 February 2022 | Updated: 9:55, 21 February 2022

The Los Angeles Rams clinched the Super Bowl LVI title on Sunday with a dramatic 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium, bringing to a close a thrilling 2021-22 NFL season.

With that in mind, Squawka NFL has taken a look at the best players to play at each position to crown its inaugural All-Squawka team – although the one caveat was we weren’t allowed to include two players from the same team – sorry Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs and Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard.

Our All-Squawka defense includes the Defensive Player of the Year, Defensive Rookie of the Year, the NFL’s sack leader – and an unfathomable amount of talent.

Defensive End – T.J. Watt (Pittsburgh Steelers)

T.J. Watt won Defensive Player of The Year, he led the NFL in sacks and came up clutch at several points during the regular season. Watt finished with 22 sacks, five forced fumbles, and finished fifth overall in pass-rush success. Watt’s tenacity, relentless motor, and elite skills mark him out as the best pass-rusher in the NFL. The younger Watt is now the cornerstone player for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Defensive Tackle – Aaron Donald (Los Angeles Rams)

Aaron Donald is arguably the greatest defensive player in NFL history. The monstrous defensive tackle registered 15 sacks, four fumbles, and 49 solo tackles. Donald led defensive tackles in pass-rush success and generated 86 total pressures. The future Hall of Famer excelled in run-stopping as well, as he notched 49 run stops. Donald is the best player at his position – and perhaps the NFL.

Defensive Tackle – Jeffery Simmons (Tennessee Titans)

Jeffery Simmons finished second behind Donald in sacks for interior defensive linemen. Simmons was a constant nuisance in the trenches as he helped the Titans disrupt opposing offensive lines. Furthermore, Simmons assisted the Titans’ run defense to rank number one in the NFL. The third-year player ticked both boxes as a solid run-defender and an explosive pass-rusher. In total, Simmons registered 62 pressures and 43 run stops. He was elite in 2021.

Defensive End – Trey Hendrickson (Cincinnati Bengals)

Free-agent signing Trey Hendrickson backed up his breakout 2020 campaign with a stellar 2021 season as he helped the Cincinnati Bengals reach the Super Bowl. The former New Orleans Saints star shone as he posted 16 sacks and three forced fumbles during the 2021 season. Hendrickson is a fantastic speed rusher as he generated 75 pressures over the season. The AP voters rewarded Hendrickson with an all-pro nomination, and it looks like money well spent for the Bengals.

Inside Linebacker – Micah Parsons (Dallas Cowboys)

Rookie Micah Parsons exploded onto the scene in 2021. The Penn State alum demonstrated his unique skills as he scooped up the Defensive Rookie of The Year award. Parsons is a unicorn; his toolbox features various assets – Parsons can do everything. The rookie shone as a pass-rusher as Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded him 93. It wasn’t just his pass-rushing skills. Parsons displayed solid coverage skills and a penchant for getting physical in the running game. Seldom do we see a linebacker capable of matching tight-ends in pass coverage, blitzing the B gap to stop a run, and being able to generate pressure on the edge. Parsons is going to be a problem for a long time in the NFL.

Inside Linebacker – De’Vondre Campbell (Green Bay Packers)

Experienced linebacker De’Vondre Campbell quietly enjoyed a career season. The 28-year-old finally found a home with the Green Bay Packers as he played solid football in all facets of defense. Campbell finished sixth in tackles registered and, more impressively, notched 53 run-stops. Campbell arrived in Wisconsin on a one-year prove-it deal, and he proved to everyone that he is an elite linebacker. His consistency was marvelous, and that is why he deserved all-pro and Pro-Bowl honors. The former Atlanta Falcon is in line for a big payday this offseason.

Slot Cornerback – Kenny Moore (Indianapolis Colts)

Kenny Moore stole the show at the slot cornerback position. The Indianapolis Colts star tallied 88 tackles and four interceptions in the 2021 season. Moore’s ability to play between the numbers and his elite footwork allowed him to spoil his opponent’s day. The Colts player also led the NFL in receptions surrendered. He was a shut-down cornerback on the inside of the field. Slot corner is one of the new premier positions on an NFL team, and Moore played at a premier level in 2021. Colts fans are understandably clamoring for him to get paid this offseason.

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Outside Cornerback – JC Jackson (New England Patriots)

J.C. Jackson was the best cornerback in the NFL in 2021. The New England Patriots star finished second in the interception rankings behind Trevon Diggs, but his coverage grade was much better. Jackson was a lockdown corner; he allowed a 47.8 passer rating when targeted. Rarely did wide receivers create significant separation on Jackson. His quality play helped the Patriots finish fourth in passing defense, and it surprised no one when Jackson made second-team all-pro. Bill Belichick tasks his cornerbacks to defend on islands and win their one-on-one matchups. Jackson did it better than anyone in 2021.

Outside Cornerback – Darius Slay (Philadelphia Eagles)

Darius Slay shone in the Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive backfield in 2021 as he arguably enjoyed the best season of his long career. The Eagles veteran bagged three interceptions, scored three touchdowns, and allowed 44 catches on just 72 targets. Teams avoided throwing to Slay as much as possible. That is a sign of respect to any cornerback. Slay’s overall PFF grade was an excellent 82.7. His consistent performances saw him get Pro Bowl recognition. ‘Big Play Slay’ returned with a bang in 2021. 

Safety – Jordan Poyer (Buffalo Bills)

Jordan Poyer was one half of the best safety tandem in the NFL. Alongside Micah Hyde, Poyer surged his way to a first-team all-pro recognition. Five interceptions, three sacks, and 11 pass deflections headline Poyer’s season. He displayed his elite coverage skills constantly in 2021. Poyer was a significant reason the Bills finished as a top 5 pass defense in the regular season and with his physicality and knack for tackling in the box; Poyer was one of the standout defensive backs this season. 

Safety – Justin Simmons (Denver Broncos)

It is easy to ignore Justin Simmons because the Denver Broncos are not good. Simmons shouldn’t get ignored by anyone, as he is blue-chip talent. Under veteran head coach Vic Fangio, Simmons took another step forward in 2021. The headline numbers were five interceptions and an allowed passer rating of 59.4. The former third-round pick is one of the most rounded defenders in the league. His individual PFF grades bear that out as he graded in the 70s in run-defense, pass-rushing, and pass defense. Simmons’ skills matched Fangio’s coaching style perfectly, resulting in another quality season.

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