In part-two of our preseason All-AFC West series, the Las Vegas Raiders new additions on defense earn a spot on the 11-man lineup.
The second in a two part series looking at the best players in the AFC West turns our attention to the defensive side of the ball. The Las Vegas Raiders have made improvements to their defense this offseason via the 2020 NFL Draft, and free agency, but will it be enough to land some players on this list?
We start our preseason All-AFC West defense by looking at the big guys up front, and find out who makes our 11-man starting lineup.
Von Miller, Denver Broncos
Von Miller is one of the preeminent experts in sackology in all of football. He is the driving force behind why the AFC West is built up at right tackle.
Miller has totaled 106 sacks in his career and coming off his second highest sack total in 2018, there hasn't been much that can stop the sack master. Next stop for Miller, Canton.
Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers
The older Bosa Brother has the misfortune of playing in one of the least visible markets in the NFL. But don't let the media narrative fool you, as Joey Bosa is the best Bosa, and one of the better defensive ends in football.
Totaling 54 pressures and 11.5 sacks alone in 2019, Bosa is basically a lock to get double-digit sacks if he plays a full season. On a revamped Chargers defense, he is the heart and soul.
Defensive Tackle 1
Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs
Chris Jones is a menace to interior offensive linemen across the AFC West and NFL at large. He has rare size and athleticism for the position at 6'6 and over 315lbs, but is blessed with catlike quickness and strength that make him too much of a task for most guards.
Despite being injured every year, Jones has put up incredible numbers for a pass rusher, much less an interior defensive tackle. The fact that the Chiefs were able to get him under contract for 2020 is bad news for the rest of the division.
Defensive Tackle 2
Maliek Collins, Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders finally get on the defensive side of the AFC West arms race, getting their own interior dynamo in Maliek Collins. Perhaps not the household name of other players on this list, Collins is well respected in film and analytic circles alike for his ability to command and defeat double teams and the impact he makes for his teammates.
Coming over from Dallas, the four-year NFL vet has improved every year under defensive line coach Rod Marinelli. This was one of the key gets for the Raiders in free agency, as he joins a young and talented defensive line ready to take their game to the next level in 2020.
Anthony Hitchens, Kansas City Chiefs
Perhaps the worst depth in all of the AFC West is at the linebacker position. That being said, Anthony Hitchens is one of the more stable and solid linebacker options in the division, and he is one of the two starters on our 11-man lineup.
As the defensive signal caller for the Super Bowl Champions, he helped orchestrate a defensive turn-around that allowed the Chiefs to contend for a title in 2019. In 2020, that defense is pretty much still in tact, and Hitchens is in for another big season for the Chiefs.
Cory Littleton, Las Vegas Raiders
The second and last Raider to be listed on the defensive side of the ball is another 2020 free agent acquisition. Cory Littleton is a very good NFL linebacker, and by bringing in both he and Nick Kwiatkoski, the Raiders now have capable players at the position group.
Elite in coverage, while being just okay against the run, his skillset will be put to use early and often going up against the passing attacks in the AFC West. This was a position group the Raiders had to address this offseason, and in Littleton, they get the best linebacker they have had in quite some time.
Defensive Back and Captain
Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs
Tyrann Mathieu gets the nod here and will be the captain in the secondary. His ability to play man or deep zones, nickel corner or safety make him among the most dangerous defensive players in all of football.
His cerebral playing style sees him make a big impact on the game every time he steps on the field. The All-Pro is probably the best defensive back in the AFC West.
Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers
A player who could push Mathieu for the title of best overall defensive back in the coming years is Derwin James. Equally as versatile, but more box oriented, James can be a linebacker, edge rusher, or strong safety for the Chargers.
He was deployed with lethal results in 2018, but a 2019 injury limited his ability and effectiveness. That being said, every team wants a Derwin James, and the Chargers are lucky to have him.
Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos
Justin Simmons is an unheralded safety in the media, but make no mistake, he is a very good NFL safety who is still ascending. The top rated safety in the NFL in 2019 according to PFF, Simmons defended 15 passes, intercepting 4 this past season.
He is primed to become one of the best safeties in all of football in the coming years, which is good news for a Broncos defense that is trending in the right direction.
Casey Hayward, Los Angeles Chargers
Casey Hayward suffers from being so good that he just doesn't get tested enough, as he was targeted on average three times per game last season. That being said, the NFL knows he has forced the highest incomplete pass percentage in the NFL over the last ten years (2x Pro Bowl).
He has been rated by various sports outlets as one of the best cornerbacks in football since his breakout season in 2016. The Chargers have talent on all three levels of their defense, and if they can get the answers they need at quarterback, they could be a dangerous team on both sides of the ball this season.
AJ Bouye, Denver Broncos
A.J. Bouye was traded to the Denver Broncos by the Jacksonville Jaguars back in March, and he is certain to fill the role left by Chris Harris Jr's departure. The standout cover man joins the rival Broncos who continue to boast a formidable secondary. Bouye has notched an interception in each of the last six seasons.
Bouye has been hailed in the media as being an elite cornerback, but the reality never matched that narrative. That being said, he is very good and the most consistent corner outside of Hayward at the outside cornerback spot in the AFC West.
- Chiefs - 3
- Chargers - 3
- Broncos - 3
- Raiders - 2