2021 NFC South Breakdown by Position: The Defense

NFC South Defense Breakdown

During the month of August, the Last Word on Sports NFL Department will be breaking down every division in the league by position. This article contains a position-by-position NFC South defense breakdown. This breakdown will contain “the best” at each unit followed by “the rest” in descending order.

NFC South Breakdown: The Offense

2021 NFC South Defense Breakdown by Position

Defensive Line

The Best: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Rest: New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons

Tom Brady was the main catalyst for Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl run, but they couldn’t have done it without their front seven. Shaq Barrett proved he’s the real deal for the second consecutive season, Jason Pierre-Paul is a great complementary rusher, and Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh form one of the best interior duos in the league. Add in solid depth and you have a recipe for winning in the trenches.

Even without Trey Hendrickson, the Saints should still be able to get after the quarterback. Cameron Jordan is fantastic, while Marcus Davenport has played well when healthy. The Carolina Panthers could soar up the rankings if the youthful trio of Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, and Yetur-Gross Matos continue their upward trajectory. Atlanta is an easy last in this list, as Grady Jarrett is the only player of note on the defensive line.

Linebackers

The Best: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Worst: New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers

It’s hard to think of a better linebacker duo than Lavonte David and Devin White. David is a true master of the position with no true weakness in his game. White might not be the best coverage player, but he’s an absolute monster as a blitzer and a run stopper. While the depth leaves something to be desired, the elite talent of David and White make this an easy selection.

The rest of the linebacker cores in the NFC East leave something to be desired. Demario Davis is as good a tackler as anyone, but New Orleans doesn’t have a proven option opposite him. Deion Jones is still good, but he hasn’t been elite in quite some time. The Panthers might be higher if Jeremy Chinn was still playing linebacker, but Matt Rhule said he’ll be a safety in 2021.

Secondary

The Best: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Rest: New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons

Tampa Bay doesn’t have a single superstar in the secondary, but they are stacked to the brim with above-average starters. A defensive backfield is only as good as its weakest link, and the Buccaneers don’t have one. Carlton Davis, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean, and Jordan Whitehead are all above-average starters, while Antoine Winfield Jr. was one of the best rookies in the league.

Marshon Lattimore is better than any individual defensive back in Tampa Bay, but the lack of depth keeps New Orleans from the top spot. Jeremy Chinn played well as a rookie, and Jaycee Horn was a remarkable prospect. Once again, Carolina has a real chance to move up this list next year. The same cannot be said for Atlanta, as they have no youth and no talent in their defensive backfield.

NFC South Breakdown: The Offense

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