Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Top 4-3 Defensive Tackles In NFL History

OPINION
By John Turney

The 4-3 defense crept in the NFL in the early 1950s and became commonplace by the mid-to-late 1950s. For the purposes of this exercise, we've put Arnie Weinmeister in this list and a few others who played different fronts. What you won't find is 3-4 nose tackles or 4-3 shade (nose) tackles. That will be another post.
As with lists, they are imprecise and largely opinion. They can also be somewhat unjust. They raise questions like why is this guy 24th and this other guys 32nd? Really, putting players in groups would be better. For defensive tackles there is a group of four, then a group from 5 to maybe the mid-teens. Then maybe a bigger group after that. So, there is not a huge gap between say 24 and 32 or 35 and 55. These are simply fun exercises that open up discussions.

Lilly was the consummate defensive tackle. He played on the right side of Tom Landry’s Flex defense from 1963-74. He was a defensive end from 1961 through mid-season 1963 when he made the move to tackle and the defense immediately made a quantum leap to the Doomsday Defense. He was dominant for the next decade. In fact, in 1964, had there been a Defensive Player of the Year Award, surely it would have been his. He ended his career with 94 sacks with a high of 15 in 1966.

Lilly played fourteen seasons and never missed a game (or start) in his 196 career games. He was an eight-time All-Pro (seven consensus) and was a second-team All-pro an additional season and was a Pro Bowler eleven times. He was All-Decade for the 1960s and 1970s (though we feel the 1970s selection was dubious—only five seasons in 1970s and lifted on passing downs in 1973 and 1974).

Lilly was a “grabber and thrower” according to Paul Zimmerman, much like Gino Marchetti except playing inside rather than outside. He’d use the offensive lineman’s own weight and momentum to toss him aside.

The only negatives we found on Lilly were the internal reviews of Ermal Allen of the Cowboys coaching/scouting staff who wished that Lilly were "a bit meaner" and more of a vocal leader. Though Tom Landry would understandably have a bias toward Lilly, he did say, "A man like Lilly comes around once in a lifetime. He's a bit more than great, nobody is better than Bob Lilly". We'll take his word for it.

2. Joe Greene

Mean Joe was a left side tackle for the Steel Curtain from 1969-81. He was the heart and soul of that defense that won four Super Bowls in the decade of the 1970s.

Green played thirteen seasons and played in 181 games (172 starts) and was a First-team All-Pro five times (three were consensus) and was a Second-team All-Pro four additional seasons and was named to ten Pro Bowls. He was also a two time NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1972 and 1974) and an All-Decade selection for the 1970s. He ended his career with 78½ sacks and his top seasons were also the years he won the DPOY awards 11 in 1972 and 9 in 1974.

Greene was a player who used a variety of moves, but it seems like he used a lot of swim moves to get past linemen according to Merlin Olsen and confirmed by film study. However, it was run stuffing that was Greene's forte. The Steeler defense was among the best at stopping the run in the 1970s in an era when that mattered far more than it does today.

One thing keeping Greene from the top spot was his nagging shoulder issues that likely held him back. At his peak (1971 to mid-1975) he could be considered at the top, but his production slid some in the second half of the 1970s, he was still very good and great, even at times, but not what he was in the early 1970s.

Former teammate Andy Russell said about Greene, "(U)nquestionably the NFL's best player in the seventies," saying "No player had a greater impact or did more for his team.".


A left defensive tackle from 1962-76 he was an original member of the Fearsome Foursome. He went to 14 Pro Bowls in his first fourteen seasons and was a Pro Bowl alternate in his final season. He was a six-time First-team All-Pro (five consensus) and was a Second-team All-Pro in four additional seasons.

Olsen played 15 seasons and played 208 games (starting all of them) and missed only two games in his career. Olsen was All-Decade in the 1960s and 1970s, though like Lilly we question the 1970s selection. He was the NFLPA Defensive linemen of the Year in 1973 and was the Maxwell Club’s NFL MVP in 1974. Olsen had 92 sacks in his 15 seasons and his top years were 1968, 1969, and 1972.

Olsen was the largest of the "top 4" defensive tackles, listed between 270-275 he was more like 280 in the 1960s (as high as 297) and was lighter in his last couple of seasons, around 260-265 or so. But in his prime, 275-285 was about right. He also had tremendous hustle, due to excellent conditioning. He was known for "the Merlin Olsen jerk" and move where he'd pull blocker past him after an initial blow to the lineman. Hall of Famer Willie Davis would teach that move to his pupils at the College All-Star game in the years he coached the rookies there.

4. Alan Page

Page was the right defensive tackle for the Purple People Eaters from 1967 through the first part of 1978 when he was released. He was immediately signed by the Bears where he played through 1981.

Page began his career a bit heavy, around 278 pounds (maybe more than a 'bit' heavy). But dropped quickly to 250 then to 245. In 1977 he was down to 225 pounds and early in 1978 Bud Grant had seen enough and released him. But Page’s calling card was quickness, not power and performed well with the Bears (40 sacks from 1978-81).

He was a right tackle and had the freedom to line up anywhere from the center to the inside of the tackle (call it zero technique to 4i technique). He was the best pass rushing tackle of all time (until perhaps Aaron Donald) and recorded 148½ career sacks. "Alan has remarkable reaction off the ball, said his Viking coaches, "where the ball goes, Alan goes". Page was also one of the best, if not the placekick blocker ever with over 25 career blocks.

He was the NFL MVP in 1971, the NEA Defensive Player of the Year in 1973 and in two other seasons (1970 and 1974) he won various NFC Defensive Player of the Year awards. He was a First-team All-Pro six times (five times consensus) and was named Second-team All-Pro three other times and was voted to nine Pro Bowls. He was a Second-team All-Decade in the 1970s (and in our view should have had the First-team slot ahead of Bob Lilly) and was First- or Second-team choice ten times.

White began his career trying to convert to linebacker but in his first couple of years, he was used as a designated rusher, either as a tackle or end. In 1977 training camp Tom Landry ended the experiment at linebacker and he moved permanently to right tackle.

White played 14 seasons and was a starter for 11 of them. He played 209 games and started 165 and missed just two games in his career. He ended his career with 111 sacks and was a First-team All-Pro nine times (eight consensus) and was All-NFC nine times and voted to nine Pro Bowls. He was a co-MVP of Super Bowl XII (with Harvey Martin).

White, nicknamed “Manster” was playing the same position as Bob Lilly and was a tremendous pass rusher from that spot, and was a good pursuit player as well.  “Stronger than two bulls and quicker than three cats”.

According to Joel Buchsbaum, “His only flaw is he can be too aggressive and can be trapped, but is that a flaw?”

6. Leo Nomellini
Leo the Lion was the top defensive tackle of the 1950s. He was big for his era and quick. He also played tackle on offense in some seasons, but really made his bones as a defensive tackle. On film he does truly stand out, he was large but moved very well. He always seemed to get some up the middle pressure and you could also see him hustling and pursuing plays away from him.

Nomellini played 14 seasons and played 174 games, not missing any. He was a six-time First-team All-Pro (five consensus) and was an All-Decade selection for the 1950s.

7. Arnie Weinmeister
Weinmeister had a short career and played in the AAFC, the NFL, and the CFL. He was big for his era and his peak was higher than Nomellini but he didn’t have the longevity. Back in the day, his position was called a defensive tackle, but in today’s terms it would be a defensive end but then the “ends” had their hands in the dirt and today they would be outside linebackers standing up. Weinmesiter had great speed for his size, a reported 9.8 100-yard dash.

Weinmeister played six years and was First-team All-Pro five times and a Second-team pick in the six seasons. He finished his career in the CFL for the BC Lions.

8. Aaron Donald
It may be early for Donald to be here, but like JJ Watt on our defensive end list, he’s earned it. In fact, if the criteria to be at the top of this list is “sustained greatness” Donald has a chance to crack the top four, or higher if he keeps his level of production going. The Rams are now a good team, they are in a major market, so if he continues to be All-Pro, average double-digits is sacks and stuffs, and does so as part of a winning program, the top of this list is possible if he sustains it for another five-seven years.

So far, Donald, now in his fifth season (the minimum to qualify for our list) he has a total of 44 stuffs and 43 sacks (averaging 11 stuffs and 10 sacks per 16 games) and had been a consensus All-Pro three times and a Pro Bowler four times in his four full seasons. His ability to slip into the backfield and get tackles on running backs in the backfield is as prolific as anyone (if not more so)  than anyone we've tracked. And if he has to he can get 'under' a guard and blow up a block with his strength and leverage. He's a great run defender as well as a pass rusher, unlike many of the great three techniques that were really rushers only. And in addition to the sacks, depending on which analytical group you believe, Donald has averaged between 45 and 75 QB pressures or hurries per season.

Because his peak is as high as any defensive tackle ever he ranks at eighth on this list. Because he needs to do it longer is the only reason he's not higher on our list but that will change soon, we're sure.

9. John Randle
Randle was a tremendously successful NFL Player, lasting a long time, garnering top honors and amazing statistics. He played for 14 seasons (219 games, 185 starts) and a six-time consensus All-Pro and went to seven Pro Bowls. He was a First-team All-Decade selection in the 1990s and recorded 137.5 sacks. The most (official anyway) of any defensive tackle ever.

He was a three-technique, almost always played over the outside shoulder of a guard (he played some defensive end on passing downs in the late 1990s), and was a master rusher with great hand moves and hustle. We rank him higher than Sapp as a three-technique due to superior conditioning and hand use. 

“Incredible speed, quickness, and change of direction and is a block of muscle. Totally dedicated and plays in a controlled frenzy” was Joel Buchsbaum's comment on Randle.

10. Dan Hampton
Hampton played quite a bit of defensive end in his career, from 1979-81 and the from mid-season 1985 through 1987. However, from 1985 through 1987 he was a tackle in nickle and on the nose in the 46 defense. His play over the nose in the 46 was a vital part of that scheme’s success.

He was PFW’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1982 and the NFLPA NFC Defensive Lineman of the Year in 1984.  Hampton was voted to the NFL All-Decade team of the 1980s. He was a Four-time First-team All-Pro (three consensus) and was a Second-time All-Pro twice.

In his 1987 book "Fatso" Hall of Fame defensive tackle Art Donovan called Dan the best defensive lineman in the NFL and "the closest thing to Gino Marchetti I've seen". Hampton's play also caught the eye of John Madden, who named Hampton to his All-Madden team six times and to the 10th Anniversary All-Madden team.

Hampton was hampered by injuries, serious knee injuries (12 knee operations), however, missing 24 games in his career. The Bears had an 85-29 record when Hampton was healthy enough to play during his 12-year career. They were 8-16 when he did not play.

Hampton, who missed 24 games in his career due to severe knee injuries, was a positive force on the Bear defense. From 1983-90, in games Hampton missed the Bears only won 33% of the time. In games he played they won 77%. When he was in the lineup the Bears sacked the quarterback 3.6 times a game and only 2.3 times a game without him. When Hampton played the defense gave up an average of 14 points a game and allowed 23 points a game in the games he missed, all seemingly remarkable statistics

“Power pass rusher with excellent size, speed, and strength. Hampton flat-out whipped John Hannah last season” was the commentary by Joel Buchsaum at the time.

11. Bryant Young
Young doesn’t get the notice he should. He had 89.5 sacks and over 70 stuffs. He was a contemporary of Sapp and Sapp seemed to get more of the glory. He was a left tackle and when the 49ers shifted from ‘overs’ to ‘unders’ he had to play anywhere from outside the guard to over the center. Sapp usually was exclusively a 3-technique (over the guard, usually on the weak side).

Young played 14 seasons, played in 208 games (starting them all) and was a two-time First-team All-Pro and was a Second-team All-Pro two addition times and was voted to two four Pro Bowls and was a Second-team All-Decade pick for the 1990s.

“Quicker than most, strong for his size and has a motor . . . no hole in his game, a student of the game with great leverage” were some of the things Joel Buchsbaum said about Young's game.

So far, he’s been overlooked in Hall of Fame prospects, but hopefully, that will change in the near future because he’s worthy. In fact, we are likely shorting him here. Maybe (probably) he should be ahead of Kennedy and Sapp on our own list.

12. Cortez Kennedy
Kennedy was a solid player early in his career and in 1992 he had a 14-sack, 14-stuff season and was a consensus Defensive Player of the Year. He made eight Pro Bowls and was All-Pro three times (two consensus) and was a Second-teamer two more times. Additionally, he was First-team All-Decade Selection for the 1990s.

Kennedy, a right tackle, was "a big man with power and quickness. "Impossible to move" according to Buchsbaum. However, from our film review, he may be overrated and he slowed quite a bit in his latter years.

Sapp was Second-team All-Decade selection in the 1990s and a First-team All-Decade Selection for the 2000s, though the 1990s selection is a bit questionable. He was the consensus Defensive Player of the Year in 2000 and had 16.5 sacks that season, his career high.

He was a Four-time First-team All-Pro (four consensus) and was a Second-time All-Pro twice and was a seven-time Pro Bowls.

He ended his career with 96.5 sacks and 63.5 run/pass stuffs. “Super quick and agile, just needs to watch his weight” “When he is in shape, there are none better”. “A passionate player with rare quickness off the ball and explosive lower body power" were the comments of Joel Buchsbaum.

His issue was twofold: He got up the field so fast teams were able to run "under" him and his ended his career with very low grades. After 2002 he was never a "blue or red" after that. He played wll below his potential from 2003 through the end of his career.

14. Alex Karras
Like Young, not a Hall of Famer, but Karras was as good a pass rushing tackle as there was in the 1960s, maybe was the best. He played on a fine defense that was good at stopping the run and getting to the quarterback year-in and year-out.

He played a dozen seasons and was a 1960s All-Decade pick and was a four-time First-team All-Pro and was a Second-team All-Pro five additional times. We have his career total for sacks at 98½ but records are spotty for his first couple of seasons, so we are convinced he had over 100 sacks, maybe as many as 105, 110. But the exact total is unknown. However, that number of sacks in 12 seasons makes him among the best pass-rushing tackles ever.

15. Tom Sestak
A big man who was like the Merlin Olsen of the AFL but a knee injury felled him. He was solid versus the run and could get after the passer, totally 17½ sacks one season.

Sestak only played seven seasons, was a First- or Second-team All-AFL pick in six of those seasons and three of them he was a consensus First-team All-AFL pick.

In the mid-1960s the Bills were the top defense, especially against the run and in getting to the quarterback. They would vary their fronts, using a goodly amount of 3-4 defensive looks putting Sestak at the end sometimes and on the nose sometimes. It would have been great to see what kind of career he might have had, if healthy.

16. Buck Buchanan
Buchanan is a Hall of Famer, was a tall athlete who had a knack for batting passes. Didn’t always impress on film in our view. However, he was a four-time First-team All-AFL pick and five other seasons he was Second-team All-AFL/NFL and was an eight-time Pro Bowler/AFL All-Star pick.
He played 13 seasons and 182 games (did not miss a game) and was an All-AFL (1960s Decade) pick.

17. Henry Jordan
Jordan was a slashing-type 4-3 defensive tackle who played on the right side. A good pass rusher who was All-Pro three times. In some ways looked a little like Bob Lilly on film. Y.A. Tittle once told a reporter that, "Henry Jordan is the best tackle in football – perhaps the best in the history of the NFL.” High praise indeed. 

Jordan played 13 seasons and was a First-team All-Pro five times (four consensus) and was a Second-team pick two additional times and was a four-time Pro Bowler and was part of the five Packer NFL Championships in the 1960s.
Big Daddy could have been the best All-time, or at least the best of his era. Effort on the field and drinking off the field spoiled that. He began as a Ram and played both tackle and end but got released

The Colts picked him up and being surrounded by Gino Marchetti, Art Donovan and Don Joyce brought out the best in him. He was All-Pro in 1958 and 1959 and according to Coach Weeb Ewbanks' statistics, he led the Colts in tackles both seasons. He would even, at times, play inside linebacker in a quasi 3-4 look. With the Colts he was a sideline-to-sideline player, often running down plays from the backside of the play. 

When he when to the Steelers, his play changed into more of an up-the-field player, evidenced by his 1961 season when he had 17½ sacks, leading the NFL (unofficially) and would have been a great candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, though such an award didn’t exist. He followed that up with 10 sacks in 1962, his final year. In all, Lipscomb played ten seasons and 112 games. He was a four-time First-team All-Pro (three consensus).

19. Ernie Stautner
A Hall of Famer from a relatively poor team he was honored a lot by his peers, going to lots of Pro Bowls. He was smaller (225 pounds) but had what they now call a “high motor” and gave his guard a batter every time. Later in his career, he moved to defensive end to make room for Big Daddy Lipscomb.

Stautner played 14 seasons and 173 games, missing just one. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler and a three-time First-team All-Pro (two consensus) and was a Second-team All-Pro five times in addition to the three First-team selections and was a 1950s All-Decade selection.



Part of the Vikings “Williams” wall, he was a solid defensive tackle in all aspects of the game. He was a defensive end in base defense as a rookie, sinking to tackle in nickel.

He ended his 13-year career after the 2005 season after playing in 203 games (starting 193) and being a five-time consensus First-team All-Pro (four consensus) and being named to six Pro Bowls. He was a Second-team All-Decade pick for the 2000s and had 63 sacks.

21. Art Donovan
Donovan was a fine player but didn’t always impress us on film. He often lined up a half- or three-quarter yard off the ball, giving the Colts front somewhat of a “Flex” look. Gino Marchetti, meanwhile crowed the ball, exaggerating the look. Marchetti told us that was a personal choice of “Fastso” and not something the coaches designed. Nonetheless, he is a Hall of Famer and an All-Decade selection of the 1950s. So give him his due.

He played 12 seasons, 138 games, was a consensus All-Pro three times, and had one more First-team selection, in addition, had two more Second-team All-Pro selection.

22. Joe Klecko
Joe Klecko wasn’t a pure defensive tackle, like Dan Hampton he moved around. He played defensive tackle as a rookie then played a year as a 3-4 defensive end then back to defensive tackle. He played 1980-82 as a defensive end and then 1983-84 back inside. In 1985 he moved to nose tackle and stayed there the rest of his career, but again, when he played in nickel he played on a guard rather than a center. 

He was All-Pro as an end in 1981 and as a nose in 1985. He also went to the Pro Bowl as a tackle. So, in the end, we put him with the tackles and included his nose tackle work as part of the evaluation—making him the exception to our rule. Regardless, he was a fine player and deserves Hall of Fame consideration.

23. Roger Brown
Brown would be a star today. Massive size, good quickness. He might be compared to a Cortez Kennedy or a Ndamukong Suh or Jerome Brown. He had six sacks in the famous 1962 Thanksgiving massacre of the Green Bay Packers and was also great the rest of that season. He was named the LA Times NFL Lineman of the Year and he also got AP and UPI Player of the Year award votes (rare for a defender in those days).

Brown played ten years and 138 games and was a First-team All-Pro twice, a Second-time All-Pro three times and was a six-time Pro Bowler.

24. Michael Dean Perry
Often overlooked, Perry was a shorter, quick player who would have been perfect as a full-time 3-tech like Aaron Donald or Geno Atkins. He played on the right side and was too quick for guards and centers and had a knack for making plays in the backfield.

He ended his career with 61 sacks and had 78 run/pass stuffs in the backfield with totals of 10.5 stuffs in 1991, 11.5 in 1989 and 1990 and 14.0 in 1993. His top sack season was 11.5 in 1990.

Perry was a five-time First-team All-Pro (two consensus) and was a Second-team All-Pro one additional time and was a six-time Pro Bowler and six-time First- or Second-team All-AFC pick. He was also the KC Committee of 101 Defensive Player of the Year in 1989.

25. Larry Brooks
Also overlooked. Was a dominant player versus the run, he was a master of the “butt technique” where he just slam a guard’s momentum. And if pass showed he’d convert to a pass rush move.

The Rams defense from 1972-81, then ten years he started the Rams defense led the NFL in sacks and allowed the second-fewest rushing yards and allowed the second-fewest points in that span.

In all, he played eleven seasons and 131 games, was a First-team All-Pro twice and a Second-team pick one additional season. He went to five Pro Bowls and was a First- or Second-team All-NFC pick six times. He led the Rams defensive linemen in tackles from 1973 through 1980, except for 1975 when he was out half the season with a knee injury.

“A fine interior rusher with fine moves and body control. Guards swear it is impossible to block him” according to Buchsbaum.

26. Ndamukong Suh
Suh is a physically dominating player but for some reason, his flaws have been downplayed in the media we consumed. Early in his career, he fell for “sucker” plays a lot. Also, when double-teamed he’d fight it and get turned. Now, he’s much better at those things.

On the positive side, he’s a load for guards and gets good inside pressure and draws a lot of double teams (though not near as much as say JJ Watt or Aaron Donald based on our research).  As of this writing, he has 54.5 sacks and 61 run/pass stuffs (averaging about 6.5 sacks and 7.5 stuffs a year).

Suh is in his ninth season and he’s been a First-team All-Pro four times (two were consensus) and was Second-team two more times to go with his five Pro Bowls and was the NFL Alumni’s Defensive Lineman of the year in 2010 to match his consensus Defensive Rookie of the Year accolades that season.

27. Gary Johnson
Big Hands Johnson often gets lost in the mix. He was a starter early for the Chargers and was solid in all aspects, even leading the NFL (unofficially) in sacks with 17½ in 1980. He was part of a fine defensive line rotation for the 49ers helping them grasp a Super Bowl in 1984.

Johnson played 12 years, was a First-team All-Pro twice and a Second-team All-Pro twice and a four-time Pro Bowl selection. “Cat quick rusher”.

28. Mike Reid
Reid only played five seasons before retiring to a music career, but he was tremendously successful logging 49½ sacks in those seasons, the most of any pure defensive tackle in history unofficially) at the time of this posting. He was a two-time All-Pro and a four-time All-AFC pick.

He was particularly good in 1972 and 1973 when he should have challenged for the Defensive Player of the Year. His 49½ sacks in five years give him an average of just under 10 sacks a season, ranking right with Aaron Donald and Alan Page for the most ever.

Had he played longer he'd rank higher but remember, on a per-season basis his sack total is as good as any defensive tackle ever.

29. Geno Atkins
A very good three-technique whose bull rush is among the best. He’s not a top run player, except when stunts are called and he’s attacking at an angle or “on the move”.

Atkins is in his ninth season and he’s played 127 games with 114 starts. He’s been a three-time All-Pro (two consensus) and a Second-team All-Pro one more season to go with his six Pro Bowls. Through his first eight seasons he had 61 sacks and 35 run/pass stuffs.

He is off to a good start in 2018 with 19 tackles and six sacks in the season’s first month and a half.

30. Ernie Ladd
The Big Cat who was a pro wrestler as well, was 6-9, 335 pounds. At times he was dominant (he had a 4½-sack game) but also didn’t always seem to give full effort. He, at his peak, could have been the best, but gripes about pay and other issues held him back.

Ladd played eight years and was an All-AFL choice three times (1961 and 1964-65) and was an AFL All-Star from 1962-65 giving him post-season honors in all five seasons as a Charger. He played for the Pilers for a year and a half and the Chiefs a year and a half to close his career.

31. Wally Chambers
Chambers played a bit of defensive end early in his career but moved to tackle and was a dominant one from 1974-77 (hurt a knee mid-season 1977). He was traded to the Buccaneers where played left DE until the knee gave out for good.


Chambers won some Rookie of the Year Awards in 1973 and was the UPI NFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1976 and the NFLPA NFC Defensive Lineman of the Year in 1975 and 1976.

He had 14 sacks in 1975 for his career high and had nine in 1973 six in 1974 and eight in 1976. In 1973 the Bears credited him with seven forced fumbles and in 1979 the Bucs show his total was also seven. From 1973 through 1976, pre-knee injury, he averaged about 85 tackles a season and in 1975 he was credit by the Bears with 11 tackles for loss and in 1976 the number was nine.

32. Jerome Brown
Like Mike Reid played just five seasons. Yet in those seasons show dominance, though not all the time.

Brown was a Second-team All-Pro in 1989 and was certainly worthy of being First-team, but it was a very competitive year with Keith Millard, Jerry Ball, and Michael Dean Perry all turning in stellar seasons.

In 1990 he was First-team All-Pro but that was questionable. Statistics are not everything, but they do give some indications on if a tackle is making plays. In 1989 Brown had 17 run stuffs (tackles for loss) and 10.5 sacks (27.5 total plays behind the line of scrimmage). In 1990 his totals were 3.0 and 1.0.

In 1991, though Brown was dominant and the stats, though not to the 1989 standard were excellent nailing 9 quarterbacks and 8.5 running backs for losses and drawing a lot of double teams, which is saying a lot on a line that featured Reggie White and Clyde Simmons.

33. Dick Huffman
Huffman's career was similar to  Arnie Weinmeister's in many ways. Not in style, but in how and where they played and in success. Huffman played in the NFL just four years, but was All-Pro (consensus) three times and was a New York Daily News All-Pro in the fourth season. He played both ways quite a lot but his best position was on the defensive line. Also, like Weinmeister he played prior to the 4-3 era, so he's an exception on this list, but we grandfathered him in.

He was larger for the era and really stood out on film, one of those guys that were "impossible to block". Like Weinmeister he had a contract dispute and went North to what became the CFL where he was a six-time Western Conference All-Star and was elected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. One has to wonder if he had stayed in the NFL if he would have had the same success. Film study suggests yes.

34. Jerry Sherk
Another player who had knee issues. A solid player who often totaled over 100 tackles a season ended his career with 69½ sacks and was the 1976 UPI AFC Defensive Player of the Year. He was First-team All-Pro that year and went to four Pro Bowls. He reached double digits in sacks four times (1972, 74, 76 and 79) and was credited with 6 blocked kicks/punts (one was a tackled punter which is the same as a block).

Sherk was a prolific tackler averaging just under 90 tackles a season from 1970 to 1979. He missed significant time in 1977 with the knee injury and almost all of 1980 with it. In 1981 he came into games as an inside rusher in the nickel defenses of the Browns. In the mid-1970s some writers like the respected Cliff Christl felt that Sherk was the most consistent defensive tackle in the game.

35. Keith Millard
And the knee injuries keep coming. The 1989 consensus Defensive Player of the Year got hurt in 1990 and that effectively ended his career. He was the first 3-technique of the recent era (Lee Roy Selmon played it in 1976 but quickly moved to 3-4 end in 1977) and it suited him well. A slashing player, again, a little like Bob Lilly may have been if he played in the 1980s and 1990s.


Millard was a First-team All-Pro twice and a Second-team All-Pro twice in his eight seasons. In his 1989 season he had 18 sacks and 11 stuffs, for a total of 29 played behind the line of scrimmage. Said Floyd Peters on that season, "Keith is at the top of his game. The idea of a defensive tackle getting 18 sacks is so wild it's almost ridiculous.  

36. La'Roi Glover
Glover played some nose and pure defensive tackle but his best position was 3-technique and that his where he played most of his snaps.He was excellent in his had use in his pass rush, a good grabber and thrower, shades of a Bob Lilly in a way.


Glover was a First-team All-Pro twice and a Second-team All-Pro twice in his 13 seasons and was named to six Pro Bowls and totaled 83.5 sacks, leading the NFL in sacks in 2000. Said Buchsbaum, 
“Watch Glover’s hands and feet and see how quick they are. That plus a nonstop motor and a scheme that uses him to perfection have made him one of the most feared inside rushers in the game”

37. Chester McGlockton
McGlockton was a big powerhouse who could get a little rush, but his skill was run stuffing and his number reflect that with 86.5 run stuffs and 51 sacks. In fact, from 1993 through 1999 he averaged 10 stuffs (tackles for loss) a season with a high of 14.5 in 1993 and from 1993 through 1996 he averaged 8 sacks per year. Talk about an inside rusher making plays.


He was a two-time consensus First-team All-Pro and a one-time Second-team All-Pro and was voted to four Pro Bowls. “An awesome blend of size, speed and strength, and explosiveness. Not a better lineman in the game that this destroyer” is what Buchsbaum wrote about McGlockton at the time.

38. Fletcher Cox
Cox is moving up all the time, as of this writing he’s the second-best defensive tackle in the NFL, solid in all aspects of the game. Usually plays left tackle in base defense and moves to right tackle in nickel, though early in his career he was a defensive end. He was an All-Pro in 2017 and a three-time Pro Bowler. He also was a Second-team All-Pro twice. If he stays at his present level he will climb on this list.

39. Gerald McCoy
A three-technique that’s had some great years, but has been injured a bit too often. He was All-pro in 2013 and 2014 and has been voted to six Pro Bowls and from 2013 through 2016 he averaged 8.4 sacks and 42 tackles per season.

40. Jurrell Casey
Still rising, he's a three-time Pro Bowler (2015-17) and was a Second-team All-Pro (2013) and he’s been moved around too much for our tastes (we’ve seen in on occasion standing up in the A-gap or as an OLBer) but he’s a fine 3-technique.

41. Kawann Short
Like Casey, a fine three tech, in a golden era for that position. He was a Second-team All-Pro and Pro Bowler in 2015 when he had 11 sacks, 7.5 stuffs and three forced fumbles. Like Casey, he'd get more honors if Aaron Donald hadn't entered the league in 2014.

42. Dave Butz
At 6-7, 295 (or more) Butz was a classic 4-3 tackle for the George Allen scheme. Like Suh, he’s one who opposing guards judged by how sore they were the days after the game rather than the tackles or sacks they gave up.

Butz began his career as a defensive end with the St. Louis Cardinals, making him one of the biggest players at that position for his era. He injured a knee and signed as a free agent with the Redskins (Redskins had to give two first-round draft picks as compensation) and was a backup for a year with the Skins before taking over the left defensive end spot in 1976. He was a Second-team All-NFC pick in 1979 and a Second-team All-Pro in 1984 but 1983 was his ‘career year’. He was also a Second-team selection on the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-1980s Team.

That year he totaled 69 tackles and 11.5 sacks and forced five fumbles and was a consensus All-Pro. Notes from George Allen’s playbooks note that Allen loved Butz’s play versus the run but wished he would perform the “Jet” technique better. This was just after the 1977 season, his second as a starter when he totaled just one sack after having 3½ sacks in 1977. Perhaps it was communicated to Butz because from 1978-86 Butz averaged 6½ a season, not a stunning total, but an excellent one for a man of his size.  Butz ended his career with 63 sacks and deflected 40 passes at the line of scrimmage.

43. Louis Kelcher
Was thought to be the second coming of Merlin Olsen but he never got to that level, though he was very good at his peak. Weight and a nagging knee injury slowed him and he kind of faded away.
Big Louie was a two-time First-team All-Pro and a two-time Second-team All-Pro and went to four Pro Bowls.

Like most of the other big men of his time, he was a stop the run first-type player and he was always in his fair share of tackles averaging over 90 per season from 1975-81. But he could get to the quarterback as well, totaling 11 in 1977, nine in 1978, 6½ in 1976, 5½ in 1980 and 5 in 1981.

Again, like Butz not exactly Alan Page or Aaron Donald numbers but excellent for a 300-pounder.
Said Buchsbaum, “Premier power tackle in the NFL . . . unreal strength allows him to toss blockers around like a rag doll and dominate the line of scrimmage”.

44. Doug English
A big Texan, he quit in 1980 to sell oil or something, but he was a good all-around tackle, a cross between Louis Kelcher and Randy White.


Like Kelcher he made a lot of tackles, when healthy often in the 90s. And he could get to the QB very well averaging about 8 sacks a year (with a high of 13 in 1983) from 1977 through 1984, the years he was a 4-3 tackle. He ended his career as a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense in 1985 before hanging them up.

English was a three-time All-Pro, though none were consensus. In addition, he was Second-team All-NFC in 1978 and Second-team All-Pro in 1984. He’s also a co-record holder for most safeties in a career with four.

“Superb technician who does everything well” were Buchsbaum's thought.

45. Steve McMichael
A three-time All-Pro and two-time Second-team All-Pro twice and 95 career sacks and had three seasons (1984, 88, and 92) with double-digits in sacks. Said Buchsbaum, “The toughest, scrappiest street fighter you will ever see”. And “excellent inside rusher in the Bears 4-3”

46. Jethro Pugh
Pugh benefitted from playing next to Lilly, but give him credit he was a very good pass rusher. He played 14 seasons and played in 183 games with 156 starts. He was a Second-team All-Pro in 1968, the only year he had post-season honors. From 1967-72 his sack totals were 9-15½-13-13½-13½-8½ for a total of 73 in those six seasons by far the most by a defensive tackle in either the AFL or NFL. Oddly he was not chosen for a single Pro Bowl in those (or any) season.


Surely, playing next to Bob Lilly was a tremendous help to Pugh, but give him credit for taking advantage of not being double-teamed and being tremendously productive, both in the run game and the passing game, which the Cowboys Doomsday defensive was among the best in those categories

47. Kris Jenkins
Injuries also held Jenkins back. He was a very good player in the Kevin Williams mold. He was a three-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler. He has a small 'donut hole' when he missed most of two seasons in the middle of his career, but he came back and had three excellent seasons, but then the injury bug hit again and he was out of the NFL after the 2010 season.

48. Rosey Grier
With the Rams fearsome foursome, he was the “cop” or “piano player” who watched from draws, screens, and traps while Jones, Olsen, and Lundy got up the field.

Grier began with the New York Football Giants in 1956 and played there through 1962. As a Giant, he was a First-team All-Pro once and a Second-team pick twice and counting Pro bowls and All-Eastern conference selections garnered post-season honors in six seasons. With the Rams he was an All-Western Conference pick and Second-team All-Pro. It was with the Rams that he made history with the Fearsome Foursome.

Grier was a big man for the day, 6-5, listed at 290 but was like heavier, especially with the Rams but had excellent quickness. It’s said that he taught the head slap to Deacon Jones, who then perfected it.

49. Bob Gain
A steady type with the Browns, Gain played 12 seasons for the Browns and was a five-time Pro Bowler. In addition, he was First-team All-Pro in 1957 and 1958 and a Second-team All-Pro in 1955, 56, 60, 61, 62, and 63 and was All-Conference in 1959 and in four other seasons as well.

We’ve read his name mentioned as a possible Hall of Fame candidate from time to time. We don’t see that, but he was solid, part of a winning organization and usually in the second-tier of defensive tackles of the NFL when he played.

50. Dana Stubblefield
“Stubbafield” as John Madden called him did have a fine 15-sack, Defensive Player of the Year season in 1997. But he never had that kind of production in any other year. He was more of a run stopper and in that role he was solid most of his career. “Massive low to the ground, very powerful and quick" according to Buchsbaum.

51. Mike Barnes
Barnes was 6-6, 260 and began his career as a left defensive end. Had 11 stuffs and 8 sacks in 1977 and was the NFLPA Defensive Lineman of the Year as well as being All-AFC and a Pro Bowler that year. He was just as effective in 1975 and 1976 as well. “Powerful, aggressive, smart and intense” according to Buchsbaum, who added, “Not fast but has initial quickness and athletic ability”.

52. Otis Sistrunk
In 1976 the Raiders moved to 3-4 end but he moved to tackle in the nickel. From 1972-75 he was a fine tackle who made a lot of plays for the Silver and Black. 


In 1972 Sistrunk was with the Rams in their training camp and there was a visitor for a couple of days while the two teams scrimmaged—Al Davis. The Rams had several extra defensive lineman and in exchange of a couple of draft picks Davis was given his pick of four tackles. Davis picked the 6-6, 260 pound Sistrunk over Phil Olsen and Larry Brooks and Bill Nelson. (The Rams had been playing Sistrunk at end, mostly).

Sistrunk led the Raiders in sacks in 1973 (13), 1975 (13½), and 1976 (11) but also had several years under 5 sacks, as well. An injury to Dave Rowe in 1978 caused the Raiders to move Sistrunk to nose tackle for his final season.

53. Bud McFadin
In the early years of the AFL McFadin was the best DT in the league receiving post-season honors from 1960-63. He’d been a Pro Bowl tackle in the NFL in the 1950s (1955-56) who had a gap in his career due to an incident when he was accidentally shot in the stomach by a disgruntled ex-employee of a business he owned (or perhaps it was an accident, there is some dispute as to the full story). He recovered and began his AFL career in 1960. Had there been am official Mid-Decade team from 1955-65 he would certainly be in consideration. 

54. Trevor Pryce

In addition to being a 4-3 defensive tackle, Pryce played some 3-4defensive end in base defense who was an inside rusher on passing downs. He ended his career with 91 sacks and reached double digits in sacks three times. He was on the border of being in the 3-4 end post, but in looking close, he was slightly more tackle than end, as it were.

55. Houston Antwine
A good player and an AFL All-Decade pick and was a six-time AFL All-Star selection and a four-time All-AFL selection. He led the Patriots in sacks from 1967-69, though the top totals were not terrific, with 7½ being the highest.

56. Manny Fernandez
Fernandez played nose tackle for the Dolphins when they went to the 53 defense, which was usually on passing downs, but not always. Since he played before the installation of the '53' we considered him a defensive tackle over a nose tackle by a small margin. He also began his career as an end in the late-1960s.

 He was a Second-team All-Pro in 1970 and 1973 and was a First- or Second-team All-AFC pick from 1971-73. He had a fine Super Bowl VII and VIII after the 1972 and 1973 seasons and very well could have been the MVP.

57. Tom Keating
A smaller, quicker tackle with impressive strength. Injuries cut his effectiveness. He did play 11 seasons but was a bit of a journeyman at the end. He began in Buffalo and ended with the Steelers then Chiefs, but he made his bones with the Raiders from 1966-70. He was a major force as part of the 1967 Raider team that sacked the QB 67 times.


He was a three-time All-AFL selection (1966, 67, and 1969) and was All-AFC in 1970 and was a Second-team All-AFL team of the 1970s.

58. John Elliott
Another AFL quick-type, like Keating but not as strong. He was All-AFL in 1968 and 1969 and All-AFC in 1970 and won a ring on the 1968 Jets and had 32½ sacks over that 1968-70 period. In addition in that span the Jets were the top run-stopping team in either league (90.6 yards a game 3.4 yards a carry) and were 7th in the NFL/AFL in sacks and Elliot was a major part of that.

59. Jim Hunt
Solid, not spectacular, Hunt played 11 seasons for the Boston Patriots and was a four-time Second-team All-AFL selection and a four-time AFL All-Star, receiving post-season honors for a total of five seasons. He was short (5-11) but stout (255 pounds) and led the Patriots in sacks in 1966 with nine.

60. Joe Ehrmann
Often overshadowed by his linemates he was a vital part of the Sack Pack. Ehrmann played 11 seasons and was the fourth member of the “Sack Pack”. In 1976 he had 13 sacks and was Second-team All-Pro.

61. Joe Rutgens
Rutgens got a UPI Player of the Year award in 1965 and was a solid, not spectacular type. He was a two-time Pro Bowler. He had a total of 11 sacks in 1965 and 9 in 1967.

62. Cleveland Elam
A very short career, was perhaps the best rush tackle in the NFl in 1976-77, unofficially leading all defensive tackles in sacks in 1977 with 17½. He was Second-team All-Pro in 1976 and a Consensus All-Pro in 1977. In 1978 the 49ers moved him to defensive end and it didn’t work in addition he had knee issues.

He was shipped to the Lions in 1979 to be reunited with Monte Clark and Floyd Peters and he wasn’t able to answer the bell often enough and his career was over. At his peak, he was a great rusher (32 sacks combined in 1976-77).

63. Diron Talbert
In 1970 had 11 sacks and 11 stuffs and was very good with the Redskins though 1979. He played 14 seasons and 186 games (157 starts) and was a Pro Bowler in 1974 and a Second-team All-NFC pick in 1973.

64. Ernie Holmes
"Fats" had 100 tackles in 1974 and worked well with Joe Greene in the Steelers 'Stunt 4-3'. He played seven season (six with the Steelers) and was Second-team All-Pro in 1974 and Second-team All-AFC in 1975. He was called by John Madden the toughest Steeler lineman to block during the Steel Curtain era.

65. Dennis Byrd
A terrible injury ended his career just as it was getting started. He was an “Eagle” tackle (3-tech) in the Jets defense and had 13 sacks in 1990.

66. Darrell Russell
It seems many of the good defensive tackles had their careers shortened or hampered in some way. Russell was a complete-type tackle. He played just six seasons but was a consensus All-Pro twice and went to two Pro Bowls. In 1998 he had 12.5 sacks and 10 stuffs and the following year he had 9.5 sacks and 6.5 stuffs. He ended his short career with 28.5 sacks and 40 stuffs. Said Buchsbaum, “If he continues to improve the sky is the limit”.

67. Kyle Williams

He is in his thirteenth year with the Bills. He was All-Pro in 2013 and Second-team All-Pro in 2010 and was named to five Pro Bowls. Williams played both nose but also plenty of three techniques, so whatever the scheme, you could plug him in on the inside and it was a ‘go’. He was a solid run stopper and could get to the passer with 45 career sacks through the first month of 2018.

67. Eric Swann
Knee injuries shortened Swann's career and limited his effectiveness, but at his peak, he was among the best in the NFL at the time. He was All-Pro once and a two-time Pro Bowler. He was 6-5, 207 pounds and was hard to move. In 1994 he had 11 stuffs and 7 sacks but didn't garner any post-season honors. In 1995 he had 8.5 sacks and 8.5 sacks. Both seasons he was moved around on the line, often playing over the nose in the 46 front of Buddy Ryan, much like was done with Alan Page, Dan Hampton and Reggie White in previous iterations of the Ryan 46.

A classic three-technique, Harris played for Lovie Smith with the Bears when he was at best, being chosen for three Pro Bowls and a Second-team All-Pro and All-NFC choice in 2005. He ended his career with the Chargers and totaled 31.5 career sacks.

69. Sam Adams
Off the ball, Adams, Alan Page and Aaron Donald are the top three we’ve seen. He was a run stopper who was less than adequate in his pass rush, but not terrible, either. He was particularly fun to watch when paired with Cortez Kennedy with Seattle and Tony Siragusa with the great Ravens defenses of the early 2000s.

He played 14 seasons with 206 games and 177 starts. He was All-Pro in 2001 with the Ravens and a Second-team All-Pro the year before as well.  He went to a Pro Bowl in 2004 with the Bills. He began his career with the Seahawks and had cups of coffee with the Raiders (2002), the Bengals (2006) and the Broncos (2007).

70. Darnell Dockett
He was a three-technique most of the time in a 3-4 hybrid defense. He was very effective in making plays in the run game. Some may say he was a 3-4 defensive end, but he was almost always “reduced” or “sunk” to play over the shoulder of a guard.


Dockett was a three-time Pro Bowler and an All-Pro once in 2009. He ended his career with 40.5 sacks and 62.5 stuffs.

71. D'Marco Farr
Injures (that theme again) limited Farr's years, retiring after just seven years. He became a starter in 1995 in the Rams new "Jet" scheme and played 3-tech in it and in Bud Carson's scheme later on that ended with a Super Bowl ring for D'Marco in 1999.

In 1999 had his only Pro Bowl, but he was named to Dr. Z's (Sports Illustrated) All-Pro team in 1996 and Rick Gosselin's (Dallas Morning News) in 1995. In that season Farr had 11½ sacks and 11 stuffs and forced five fumbles for one of the best statistical seasons ever for a three-technique with those 22½ plays behind the line of scrimmage. For comparison, Aaron Donald's best season in that category is 24½ in 2015 when he had 13½ stuffs and 11 sacks. Donald's 11½ sacks in still the Rams record for three-techniques, pretty good considering Donald has not yet surpassed it.


72. Albert Haynesworth
Could have been great, but the end of his career was a dud given his talent. He did have a few ‘peak’ seasons worth noting. In 2008 he was the Sporting News Defensive Player of the Year and was a consensus All-Pro in both 2007 and 2008. He was solid from 2003-06 but after leaving the Titans and going to the Redskins, the production dropped. 


Has any team acquired more tackles that didn't work out than the Redskins? Sean Gilbert, Dana Stubblefield, Dan Wilkinson, Haynesworth. Really, the only one that worked out was Dave Butz.

73. Sean Gilbert
Could have been one of the best but didn’t seem his heart was in it. From 1993-96 he was very good, even great times. But a holdout and a trade (for two #1 picks) to the Panthers didn’t allow him to sustain it.


He was a Pro Bowler in 1993 when he had 10.5 sacks and 6 stuffs and in 1996, with the Redskins he was considered by most one of the top pair of tackles in the game, especially against the run.

In 1995 he played right defensive end in the Rams base "Jet" scheme and moved inside to pair with D'Marco Farr in the nickel. Later, with the Panthers, he played some 3-4 defensive end as well.

74t. Charlie Krueger
Like a Ron McDole, played a long time, solid, never spectacular but did a good job every Sunday. He played 15 seasons and was a starter in all of them, though later in his career he played only in likely running situations as the 49ers were one of the first team to employ third down rushers.


1961 8½ and 7½ in 1965 were his career highs in sacks and recorded three safeties in his career as well. He was a Pro Bowler in 1960 and 1964 and Second-team All-Pro in 1960 and 1965 and Second-team All-NFC in 1970.

74t. Billy Ray Smith
Played end early in his career for Rams and Steelers he was a solid tackle for the Colts in the 1960s. He received post-team honors only in 1968 when he was a Second-team All-Pro, but the 1960s were a tough time to make All-Pro if your name wasn’t Lilly, Olsen or Karras.

He did have 8½ sacks in 1960, 13½ in 1961, 9½ in 1964,  and 9 in 1968 as his top four seasons.

75t. Gary Larsen
The fourth member of the Purple People Eaters he was a two-time Pro Bowler and was the "cop" of that unit, the one who watched for screens and draws. Larsen played 11 seasons, 10 with the Vikings and was a solid part of that front four.

75t. Dick Modzelewski
"Little Mo" played 14 seasons, 13 as a starter for the Giants, Browns, Redskins, and Steelers, but was at his best with the Giants and Browns. In that time he got postseason honors four times—1957 (Second-team All-Pro), 1961 (NY Daily News All-Pro), 1963 (All-Conference) and 1964 (Pro Bowl).

The diversity of his selection shows why the 'AP only' school of thought is short-sighted. If you go by that dogma Modzelewski would be shut out—his career no better than a journeyman. While not a superstar, he had some excellent seasons and was a more than a solid player and getting a mention in various sources four times is a damn sight better than nothing.

75t Ray Krouse

Ray Krause is truly underrated. He was a player who always seemed to outshine or look as good as bigger-known names on his own line. He received some postseason honors from 1954-56 and won titles 1957, 58, and 59. He rotated with Art Donovan and Big Daddy Lipscomb with the Colts in the late 1950 and there was no dropoff when he was on the game.

With the Lions he required special attention by blockers and surely helped keep blockers off of Joe Schmidt. Prior to that, with the Giants he "flashed" almost as often as HOFer Arnie Weinmeister.

Krause is just a great player who was overlooked by All-Pro voters.
____

We have even more on our list, but at this point, we're going to cut it off. Seventy-five is plenty for now. We considered the peak of a player and the longevity, but in the end, some guys, though careers were short had a high enough peak to make it and others, while not as dominant at their peak played too long and too steadily to be ignored.

Agree or disagree? Let us know.

25 comments:

  1. Could it be argued that at his peak Big Daddy Lipscomb was the best of all time here?

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    1. I don't think so. Too much not playing hard. Maybe you could say most talent...but at his peak, from film, lots of guys better.

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    2. HALOTI NGATA SHOULD BE IN TOP 10 MOST DESTRUCTIVE DT EVER

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  2. -Interesting that you said Lilly would play like Millard in more modern game day. I think Dr Z. said Lilly would have a hard time grabbing and throwing lineman in the holding era.

    -Why rank Sapp over Hampton when Dan was tougher against the run?

    -I have never seen any footage of Nomellini. Really curious where you were able to see that? And would Leo be able to translate his style to the modern game?

    -Jerome Brown was a really productive tackle on my charts. Made tons of tackles near the line though not always stuffs.

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    1. Back in the 1990s was invited to NFL Films when being interviews and saw quite a few full games of Leo.

      I had to take into account what players were asked to do. In passing era, in the 1990s-2000s there was a premium on pass rush, so though Sapp was often too heavy and often didn't get done in the run game what, say, Young or Hampton did, he did have explosive first couple of steps and got the the QB and helped Rice and others get there, too.

      So, in terms of Millard, I was comparing body sizes, body quickness, body control. I would liken Lilly a little to Watt, but of course there are differences, Watt much bigger, but was trying to paint a picture for readers what guys looked like on film

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  3. Accidently deleted comment on Dave Butz--someone though 42 was too low and brought up the All-decade selection

    Butz was Second-team All-Decade. But he got just 3 votes. So, both of those tidbits were considered. Reasonable people can disagree, but the players around Butz are all of great caliber, in fact the difference between 25-45 is not much at all. So any of them could be interchanged depending on criteria.

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  4. Butz was impressive. Seemed like he had his best seasons at older ages too.

    Curious who did Mike Giddings rate as the best out of the big four of Lilly, Greene, Olsen, and Page?

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  5. The comment about Lilly in '64 got me thinking about Defensive POYs, by year, in the mid 50's - mid 60's NFL and all AFL (beof0re there was an award). I'd love to see your choices - would make a great post.

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    1. Still working on it, but this is temporary list

      1950 Arnie Weinmeister
      1951 Len Ford
      1952 Night Train Lane
      1953 Jack Christiansen
      1954 Lane, Willy
      1955 Gene Brito
      1956 Joe Schmidt 1 vote
      1957 Joe Schmidt/Jack Butler got votes
      1958 Gino Marchetti 2 Bill George 1
      1959 Sam Huff
      1960 Joe Schmidt, one possible for Dave Baker
      1961 Big Daddy Lipscomb
      1962 Roger Brown
      1963 Jim Katcavage
      1964 Bob Lilly
      1965 Alex Karras/Willie Davis?

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    2. Thanks John - awesome stuff. Any thoughts on the AFL? All pro results don't make it clear who was considered 'best'.

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    3. Great minds either think alike or go down swinging together: http://www.thegridfe.com/2018/09/06/godzilla-awards-1940-2017/

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  6. Agree with you John Steele. Curious about Lilly not being a real vocal guy? Greene and Olsen seemed like vocal leaders. What about Page? Was he a vocal guy?

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    1. All those guys where lead by example guys. Later in Olsen's career he was much more vocal, when he was elder statesman. Page not vocal, Jim Marshall was more the talker.

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  7. When Olsen, Iilly and Greene were at their peaks was there any consensus among the leagues coaches, players, personnel guys on who was the best? I love those testimonials that you dig up.

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    1. I would depend on year. Page was the "best" in 1970 and 1971 then Greene from 1972-74 or 1975. In the 1960s Lilly maybe from 1964-67, Olsen maybe 68-69

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  8. Is it just me, or do the players from the 50s and 60s just look so much older than the players of today??

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  9. Hi John: Working on a software game, essentially a Super 70s game that features players from 1970-79. For some reason I can't get my hands on film of the Redskins from 1977-79. in 1978 McDole started about half the season, Karl Lorch began to play well and then in 1979 McDole retired. Butz and Talbert manned the tackle spots. In 1977 they didn't have Coy Bacon, yet were able to generate a high sack percentage. I know in 78 and 79 most of the pass pressure came from Coy Bacon, who played the best against the run and pass (other than Bacon) for the Skins in these seasons (1977-79)?

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    1. Lorch better vs run. McDole still could rush. Talbert the rusher, Butz the better run player, Butz didn't do as will in "Jet calls" at that point in his career.

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  10. John Randle would get a 5 yard sack, then get suckered on a draw or screen for 9. Far too high on your list

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    1. In a passing era, getting pressure was more important than run stopping for Randle. They had Thomas next to him and forthe time Randle started for Vikes they were 8th in stopping the run and when Randle and Thomas were together 4th, so the benefit of a doninant 3-tech rush outweighed the loss of some run stopping.

      Context matters.

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  11. Forgot the always solid underrated Henry Thomas of the Vikings and Pat's. Also where's Ray Childress?

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    1. Didn't forget anyone. Henry Thomas is was a shade tackle. He was a nose, he's with the nose tackle article. Childress played both, but ultimately we put him with the 3-4 DEs where he spent the majority if his time.

      Even though Thomas was in a 4-3 defense, his duties were those of a nose tackle. In the 1990s-present odd-man defenses the nose is same as a 3-4 nose so we put Hank Thomas where he belongs.



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  12. Here is my list: 1 Joe Greene 2 Bob Lilly 3 Merlin Olsen 4 Randy White 5 Buck Buchanon 6 Sapp 7 Aaron Donald 8 Page 9 Cortez Kennedy 10 Arnie Weinmeister 11 Dan Hampton 12 John Randle 13 Henry Jordan 14 Leo Nomelini 15 Ernie Stautner 16 Artie Donovan 17 Joe Klecko 18 Ray Childress 19 Keith Millard 20 Roger Brown 21 Geno Atkins 22 Alex Karras 23 Bryant Young 24 Dave Butz 25 Manny Fernandez. by Jeff Durski

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  13. Rod Coleman quietly had a solid 58.5 career sacks for Raiders and Falcons. Very underrated player and pass rusher from DT position for 9 years.

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    1. yeah, and we could add him on a HM list--was a DPR for paert of that and most of the top guys we list were always starters, but he was a good player--and a one-time All-Pro, but the drawback is only 4 seasons as a fiull-time starter...

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