In our latest series, the Last Word on Sports NFL department will be selecting the best players in each division by position. The 2021 NFC South defense will be the focus here. Without further ado, let’s delve into who made the cut.
2021 NFC South Defense: The All-Division Team
Defensive End: Cameron Jordan, Saints
Cameron Jordan is the type of player that needs no introduction. He has been a model of consistency since entering the league. Jordan has terrorized quarterbacks in the NFC South for years, and has shown no signs of slowing down. Jordan has had 24 sacks in the last two seasons combined. These are the type of players that you can only pray your first-round draft picks will turn into.
Defensive Tackle: Vita Vea, Buccaneers
Vita Vea is the driving force behind Tampa Bay’s dominant run defense. He is constantly clogging up entire portions of the opposing offensive line. This allows the linebackers to play down hill with more aggression and ferocity. Vea will not put up flashy sack numbers, but he is the most important piece on the defense. He also has a case for best nose tackle in the entire league.
Defensive Tackle: Grady Jarrett, Falcons
Grady Jarrett is a great player stuck on a team that is going nowhere fast. As stated in the previous article, the Atlanta Falcons are a team in need of a rebuild, but refuse to admit it. On the bright side, Jarrett is scheduled to make good money over the next two seasons. By the time the team is possibly ready to be competitive again, Jarrett will already have one foot out the door.
Defensive End: Brian Burns, Panthers
As of this moment in time, Brian Burns is the second-best pass rusher to come out of the 2019 NFL Draft. Over these last two seasons, Burns has quietly put together a nice start to his career. Much like the Falcons with Grady Jarett, you do not get nearly the recognition you deserve when you play for a team like the Carolina Panthers. Burns should receive more national media attention if he continues to perform the way he has, regardless of the success of his team. This man is a difference maker.
Outside Linebacker: Shaquil Barrett, Buccaneers
Even despite the cutdown in sacks this previous season, Shaquil Barrett was as dominant as ever. He had three sacks in the NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers, and one in the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs. Barrett was just another vital piece in the dominance that was Tampa Bay’s defense last season.
Inside Linebacker: Lavonte David, Buccaneers
This is not the last time you will see a Buccaneers player on this list. You would be hard-pressed to find a play in which Lavonte David was not involved for the defense. He is a captain for the team, and the leader on defense. When you are a leader of the Super Bowl winning team, you will probably end up on this list.
Outside Linebacker: Jason Pierre-Paul, Buccaneers
Since 2016, Jason Pierre-Paul has finished each season with seven or more sacks. He also led the entire team in sacks last season. Pierre-Paul is a player that has somehow gotten better in his 30s. This is something typically only seen in quarterbacks. Also, a fact that is understated is how well all the pieces on Tampa Bay’s defense fit together.
Cornerback: Donte Jackson, Panthers
Add Donte Jackson to the ever-growing list of underrecognized players on bad teams. While Jackson does not necessarily have Pro Bowl potential, he is currently the highest graded cornerback in the division. The same division that features the once-dominant Marshon Lattimore. Whether that says more about the state of the division, or Lattimore’s fall from grace, is unclear. Jackson is a nice player though that many teams would love to have on their roster.
Free Safety: Marcus Williams, Saints
It is finally time for Marcus Williams to get the respect he deserves. The Saints have struggled with inconsistency in the secondary for what feels like forever now. Williams is the exception. He only allowed twelve receptions last season, and finished with three interceptions on the year. The next step is for Williams to make the Pro Bowl.
Strong Safety: Antoine Winfield Jr., Buccaneers
If you are looking for a physical box safety that has a natural instinct for the position, then look no further than Antoine Winfield Jr. If you watched the Buccaneers play at any point last season, then you likely witnessed a player constantly throwing his body into the opposing team. That player was Winfield Jr. We are witnessing a younger version of Jamal Adams.
Cornerback: Carlton Davis, Buccaneers
Rounding out the list is Carlton Davis. While Davis does not particularly do any one thing at an elite level, he has been consistent over the last two seasons. Again, this speaks more to the lack of talent at the cornerback position in the division. With that being said, Davis is only a few highlight-reel plays away from sneaking in a Pro Bowl.
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