The NFC West has one of the most talented defensive units in the league. The division also has some of the most elite defensive players in the NFL. With all four teams in the division becoming more efficient on the offensive side of the ball, there will be more pressure on the defenses to perform.. Here is the 2020 NFC West All-Division Team for the defense and special teams.
2020 NFC West All-Division Team: Defense/Special Teams
Defensive End: Arik Armstead, San Francisco 49ers
Last season, the San Francisco 49ers had the best defensive line in the entire league. The 49ers load up bulk and efficiency at both end positions. Arik Armstead had a huge impact this past season as he accounted for 54 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, and 18 quarterback hits. He stepped in a big way in 2019, stopping the run game and pressuring opposing quarterbacks. Armstead is entering his sixth season in the league and is the leading pass rusher for the team.
Defensive Tackle: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams
Aaron Donald is no doubt one of the best players in the league regardless of position. He would have won his third consecutive NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award if it wasn’t for Stephon Gilmore. Last season, Donald accounted for 48 total tackles, 24 quarterback hits, 20 tackles for loss, and 12.5 sacks. Donald is one of the most impossible defensive players to contain in the run and passing game. He has been selected as a first-team All-Pro for five consecutive seasons (2015-2019). He has been one of the most consistent defensive players on the Los Angeles Rams while other players have struggled. They need his leadership in the locker room and impact on the field after a disappointing 9-7 season last year.
Defensive Tackle: Jordan Phillips, Arizona Cardinals
Jordan Phillips had his most impactful season in 2019 in his five-years in the league. Last season,. while with the Buffalo Bills, Phillips had 31 total tackles, 16 quarterback hits, 13 tackles for loss, and 9.5 sacks. Phillips signed a big three-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals to be their nose tackle. The Cardinals made some serious player acquisitions on the defensive side of the ball this off-season. Phillips and rookie outside linebacker Isaiah Simmons could both really help the Cardinals defend the run and be versatile in the passing game.
Defensive End: Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers
At the other defensive end for the 49ers is Nick Bosa, who started immediately his rookie season. In 16 games and 14 starts last season, Bosa accounted for 47 total tackles, 25 quarterback hits, 16 tackles for loss, and nine sacks. He was named as the 2019 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and was selected to his first Pro Bowl. Bosa has the capabilities to grow even more as a pass rusher and be the future of the 49ers defense.
Outside Linebacker: Chandler Jones, Arizona Cardinals
Chandler Jones remains one of the most underrated defensive players in the league. Jones was voted as the 15th overall player in the league as voted on by the players in the league and fans need to take more notice. Last season, Jones accounted for 53 total tackles, 26 quarterback hits, 19 sacks (career high), and 11 tackles for loss. His 19 sacks were also second in the league, just behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Shaquil Barrett who had 19.5 sacks.
Middle Linebacker: Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks
Utah State was the only school that offered two-star recruit Bobby Wagner a chance to play. Wagner is now one of the most consistent middle linebackers in the league as he has been selected to six consecutive Pro Bowls (2014-2019). He has also been selected as a First-Team All-Pro five times. Last season, Wagner accounted for 159 total tackles, 86 solo tackles, and seven tackles for loss. Wagner is the heart and soul of the Seattle Seahawks defense and will likely remain as such until he retires.
Outside Linebacker: K.J. Wright, Seattle Seahawks
Joining Wagner in the linebacker corps is another highly consistent playmaker in K.J. Wright. Last season, Wright accounted for a career-high 132 total tackles, five tackles for loss, a career-high 11 pass deflections, and three interceptions. Wright continues to be one of the most versatile and reliable defenders for Seattle. He can crash the backfield to make the stop and stay in consistent coverage in the passing game. Much of the Seahawks success on the defensive side of the ball will depend on the reliability of Wright.
Cornerback: Richard Sherman, San Francisco 49ers
Many football experts wondered if the best years of Richard Sherman’s career were behind him. This past season, Sherman went to his first Pro Bowl (fifth overall) as a San Francisco 49er. Sherman accounted for 61 total tackles, 48 solo tackles, and 11 pass deflections in 2019. Sherman is going into his tenth season in the league and his third season with San Francisco. He looked to feel more comfortable in coverage schemes this past season. Sherman will be back as the best man coverage player in the NFC West once again.
Strong Safety: Jamal Adams, Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks have been looking for the next star to take over their entire defensive backs unit. After an extensive trade with the New York Jets, the Seahawks found their star in Jamal Adams, a two-time Pro Bowler. Adams will now be in a scheme where he fits in the most and is with a Super Bowl contender. Last season for the Jets, Adams accounted for 75 total tackles, 61 solo tackles, 13 quarterback hits, 10 tackles for loss, and seven pass deflections. Expect Adams to step up productivity in 2020 with a better scheme and more impactful players around him.
Free Safety: Budda Baker, Arizona Cardinals
On August 25th, the Cardinals made Budda Baker the highest paid safety in NFL history. Baker was tremendous in his third season in the league as he accounted for 147 total tackles, 104 solo tackles (team-high), seven tackles for loss, and six pass deflections. Baker led the league in solo tackles accounted for and total tackles as a safety. He is one of the most reliable tacklers on the team and he has been selected to two Pro Bowls in his three-year career.
Cornerback: Shaquill Griffin, Seattle Seahawks
While there could be a case for Los Angles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey to be selected here, Shaquill Griffin has played stellar in his first three years in the NFL. Griffin was selected to his first Pro Bowl this past season after accounting for 65 total tackles and 13 pass deflections. Griffin is the more reliable man and zone coverage cornerback in the NFC West. He is the best coverage corner for the Seahawks since Sherman.
Kicker: Zane Gonzalez, Arizona Cardinals
Zane Gonzalez had a rough start to his NFL career while with the Cleveland Browns for his first two NFL seasons. Since signing with the Cardinals, Gonzalez has been more composed and more reliable. Last season for the Cardinals, he was 31-for-35 on field goal attemps (88.6%) and only missed one extra point on 35 attempts. He was also 5-for-8 on field goals of 40-to-49 yards as well as 2-for-2 from 50 or more yards. Gonzalez was one of the Cardinals more efficient red-zone playmakers.
Punter: Johnny Hekker, Los Angeles Rams
At 29-years old, Johnny Hekker is one of the younger punters in the NFC West. Last season, Hekker averaged 47.4 yards per punt, which was third in the league. He had his best season since 2016, which was the first season in Los Angeles. Without the run support of running back Todd Gurley and consistent offensive line play, the Rams may need to rely on their punting game.
Kick/Punt Returner: Richie James, San Francisco 49ers
Pharoh Cooper is now in the NFC South with the Carolina Panthers and Tyler Lockett has regressed. Richie James was one of the more efficient returners in the NFC West last season as he returned 33 punts for 264 yards and returned 20 kickoffs for 428 yards. James often setup the 49ers with great field position. In his rookie season in 2018, James accounted for 655 return yards and a touchdown. With James becoming 25 years old in early September, James only has room to grow as an elite returner.
Click here for a breakdown of the 2020 NFC West All-Division Team on offense.