Photo credit Brigitte Werner by Pixabay
When you think of the NFL, the first thing that comes to mind is violence. That’s because football is a game built on strength, speed, and brutality. However, being one of the most violent sports doesn’t mean that footballers can’t be graceful once they step onto the field. The NFL has produced so many fast players and strong athletes over the years that its history is filled with amazing defenders from all eras.
The best defensive players understand their role as an attacker instead of a blocker and use their speed and strength to tyrannize opposing offenses. If you are reading this article right now, you probably know about some of these guys already, but let us take a look at some underrated defenders that deserve more recognition for their contributions to the NFL.
Mark Gastineau played his entire career with the New York Jets as a defensive end, and he was known for his pass-rushing skills and incredible athleticism. Gastineau is one of the best defensive players to never win a Super Bowl despite playing on a team that had one of the best defensive teams of all time.
Gastineau had a reputation for being one of the dirtiest players in the league throughout the late 80s and early 90s, but he was effective nonetheless. He ranks fourth in franchise history with 65.5 sacks for the Jets, including a league-high 22.5 sacks in 1984.
Gastineau was a 10-time Pro Bowl selection and an All-Pro selection five times during his career. He also earned a spot on the 1980’s All-Decade Team and was inducted into the Jets’ Ring of Honor in 2004.
Deion Sanders played cornerback and wide receiver for both the Atlanta Falcons and the San Francisco 49ers and is considered one of the best athletes in NFL history. Sanders is often referred to as a two-sport star because he was also a Major League Baseball player with the New York Yankees.
Sanders was a two-time Super Bowl champion, but he is mostly remembered for his incredible abilities on the field. He was a 10-time Pro Bowl selection, a two-time All-Pro selection, and a member of the 1990’s All-Decade Team.
Darin Ware played linebacker for the Denver Broncos for 10 years, and he was a key player on the Broncos’ defense during their Super Bowl runs in the late 90s and early 2000s. Ware was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and a three-time All-Pro selection during his career.
Ware is tied for third in franchise history with 1,089 tackles and 16.5 sacks. He also holds the Broncos’ record for most consecutive starts. He was inducted into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame in 2014 and also has his number 77 retired.
Jason Taylor played defensive end for the Miami Dolphins for 12 years and is the team’s all-time leader in sacks. Taylor was a six-time Pro Bowl selection, a two-time All-Pro selection, and a member of the 2000s All-Decade Team.
Taylor also represented the NFL in the World All-Star game three times and is known for his fantastic season in 2007. He retired with 107.5 career quarterback sacks, good enough for 16th all-time in NFL history.
Terence Newman played cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, and Cincinnati Bengals. Newman was a four-time Pro Bowl selection, a three-time All-Pro selection, and led the NFL in interceptions in 2007.
Newman played in the NFL for 13 years, and he was a key player on the 2002 Dallas team that lost to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. He is tied for 12th all-time in interceptions with 37, including a career-high 10 interceptions in the league’s 16-game season in 2007.
Ray Lewis is one of the most decorated defensive players in NFL history. Lewis played middle linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens for 17 years and led the team to two Super Bowl championships. He is also considered one of the best sports figures of his generation. Lewis was a 13-time Pro Bowl selection, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and a Super Bowl MVP.
He is also one of four players to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors and Super Bowl Defensive Player of the Year honors during their career. He is considered one of the best outside linebackers of all time and is a potential Hall of Fame inductee.
It takes a special kind of person to play in the NFL. It’s not just about being big and fast, or strong and tough. You also have to be smart, resourceful, and understand that everyone is trying to take you down. Every snap is a test of your mental fortitude as much as it is a measure of your physical strength.
These are some of the most underappreciated defenders from NFL history who managed to do more than feature on NCAAF odds. They pushed beyond what was expected of them on every snap, game after game for years on end.