Defensive players in the NFL usually don’t get as much publicity as their offensive counterparts. Fans are generally more interested in scoring. But some defensive players are so good they become households names. One of the most important stats on defense is sacks. And these are the top 10 active sack leaders in the NFL. Do you recognize their names?
10. Carlos Dunlap, DE, Cincinnati Bengals, 72.5 sacks
Carlos Dunlap is the least known player on this list, possibly because the defensive end has played for the Bengals his entire career. But he’s racked up sacks in his nine-year career, so he just makes this list.
9. Chandler Jones, DE, Arizona Cardinals, 77 sacks
Chandler Jones began his career with the Patriots before he was traded to the Cardinals before the 2016 season. In his three seasons with Arizona, the defensive end hasn’t had fewer than 11 sacks in any year. At 29 years old, Jones should have some good years ahead before age catches up with him.
8. Justin Houston, LB, Indianapolis Colts, 78.5 sacks
The linebacker signed a two-year contract with the Colts in the offseason, ending his eight-year tenure with the Chiefs. After setting a career high with 22 sacks in 2014, Justin Houston hasn’t cracked the 10-sack mark in any season. With his new team, he’ll try to beat last season’s nine total sacks.
7. Calais Campbell, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars, 81.5 sacks
In his first two seasons with the Jaguars, Calais Campbell has averaged 12.5 sacks. He’ll try to hit double-digit sacks again this year as he enters his 12th NFL season. However, Campbell will be 33 years old when the season starts, which may mark a decline in his career.
6. Clay Matthews, LB, Los Angeles Rams, 83.5 sacks
After spending a decade with the Packers, Clay Matthews signed a two-year contract with the Rams this offseason. At 33 years old, the linebacker is coming off a career-low 3.5 sacks in 2018. In fact, Matthews hasn’t hit double-digit sacks since recording 11 in 2014. Is it a blip or his new norm?
5. Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Washington Redskins, 84.5 sacks
Ryan Kerrigan’s sack total is on the rise; he had 11 in 2016 and 13 in each of the last two seasons. If the defensive end can continue putting up those numbers this season, he’ll quickly approach 100 sacks for his career.
4. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans, 92 sacks
Last year was the first full season J.J. Watt played since 2015. (Injuries limited him to eight games total in 2016 and 2017.) The defensive end returned strong, putting up 16 sacks last season. Watt will try to continue this type of play as the Texans hope to win the AFC South in 2019.
2. Cameron Wake, LB, Tennessee Titans, 98 sacks (tie)
At 37, Cameron Wake left the only NFL team he’d ever played for, the Dolphins, to sign with the Titans. The linebacker is coming off a six-sack season, which isn’t terrible considering his age. But that’s about the best Wake can expect at this point in his career.
2. Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos, 98 sacks (tie)
Tied with Wake at 98 career sacks, Von Miller made 14.5 of those last season. The centerpiece of the Broncos’ defense, the linebacker has only had fewer than 10 sacks in one season (five sacks in nine games in 2013). If he stays healthy, we think Miller will continue his streak of double-digit sacks in 2019.
1. Terrell Suggs, LB, Arizona Cardinals, 132.5 sacks
After 16 seasons with the Ravens, Terrell Suggs signed with the Cardinals. The linebacker had seven sacks last season — falling from 11 in 2017 — and he’ll be 37 about a month after the season starts. Suggs is by far the active leader in sacks. Even at his advanced age, he should be able to get about a half-dozen or more sacks this season.