2022 AFC North Defense: All Division Team

In this series, the Last Word on Sports NFL department will be selecting the best players in each division by position. Taking a look at the AFC North defense, let’s take a look at the best of the best in the division…

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2022 AFC North All-Division Team: The Defense

Edge Defender: T.J. Watt, Steelers

The AFC North boasts one of the best defensive divisions in all of football. Leading us off is the Pittsburgh Steelers all-everything game wrecker, T.J. Watt. Since joining the league in 2017, Watt has destroyed offensive game plans on a consistent basis for opposing teams. The stats for Watt are also eye-catching in his five seasons in the NFL. The three-time All-Pro has amassed 72 sacks in 77 games played. He’s the heartbeat for Pittsburgh and can take over a game at a moment’s notice.

Edge Defender: Myles Garrett, Browns

One of the best in the business also makes the list at EDGE in the Cleveland Browns, Myles Garrett. Much like Watt, Garrett has stellar numbers to show for his elite pass rush abilities. The two-time All-Pro has 58.5 sacks in only 68 games in the NFL. Garrett has been equally important to his franchise as Watt has been in the same five-year span.

Defensive Lineman: Cam Heyward, Steelers

While he’s not flashy like his counterparts at the EDGE position, Cam Heyward has been every bit as consistent from inside the defensive line for the Steelers.  Heyward has shown he can win in multiple ways but his calling card has to be the effort he gives for 60 minutes. He also has very strong hands and an effective bull rush that can give quarterbacks nightmares with pressure up the middle.

Defensive Lineman: D.J. Reader, Bengals

D.J. Reader for the Bengals is one of the most underrated defensive players in the NFL. Reader is a stalwart along Cincinnati’s defensive line and is a pure run-stuffer in every sense of the definition. The Bengals star wins with an elite first step quickness and ability to read the snap count. He is also very powerful and often takes on double teams which gives pass-rushing opportunities for his teammates.

Linebacker: Logan Wilson, Bengals

Logan Wilson is another unheralded player for the Bengals that just provides results every game. Wilson has an uncanny knack for always being around the ball and was a key cog in the middle of Cincinnati’s defense last season. Wilson is a hard hitter with excellent vision and hands for a linebacker and boasts six career interceptions for the reigning AFC champions.

Linebacker: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Browns

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is an up-and-coming star in the NFL at the linebacker position. Owusu-Koramoah has excellent instincts, speed, and closing ability. Because of this, the Browns use him in a multitude of ways as he shines in passing sets and running sideline to sideline.

Cornerback: Denzel Ward, Browns

Denzel Ward is one of the best pure cover corners in the National Football League. The Browns often line him up against the opposing team’s number one receiver and he delivers with fantastic coverage. Ward has elite agility, speed, and ball-tracking skills that help fortify the Cleveland backend of the defense.

Cornerback: Greg Newsome II, Browns

Another Browns cornerback makes the list and it’s Ward’s running mate, Greg Newsome. This duo is one of the NFL’s best defensive backfields and Cleveland uses both players to limit big passing plays. Newsome is taller and plays with more length than Ward and these differing strengths add to their effectiveness on game day.

Cornerback: Marlon Humphrey, Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens, Marlon Humphrey rounds out the list of the best cornerbacks in the AFC North. Humphrey is just an all-around solid coverage corner that plays physical at the line of scrimmage and sometimes in the run game.

Safety: Jessie Bates III, Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals, Jessie Bates is often underrated in NFL circles and possibly even by the front office of his own team. Bates is a pure physical ballhawk that always seems to be in the right place at the right time. The Bengals should strongly reconsider re-signing him to a long-term contract after the 2022-2023 season.

Safety: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers use the dynamic Minkah Fitzpatrick to help fortify their swarming style of play. Fitzpatrick is a top 5 safety in the NFL at plays like it on a consistent basis. He’s very smart, quick, and durable for a Steelers team that will desperately need him at the top of his game this season.