...And on with my nonsense...
Geno has a long road ahead to recover from such a devastating knee injury for a big man. But even if he plays only the second half of the year, he has a shot to surpass the combined sack total of the rest of the players in this category. He was down right unchecked mayhem for opposing o-lines. Peko deserves to be on this list over Steve McLendon because he provides more of a pass-rush than any other interior lineman in the division except Atkins and perhaps Ngata.
Dunlap beats out Heyward for the top spot because he's a turnover machine. Arthur Jones has some great years ahead of him as a prototypical 3-4 end. Johnson's knockdowns and interceptions in pass defense give him the edge over Brett Kiesel, Chris Canty, and the Browns' solid defensive ends. Wallace Gilberry should definitely be in the conversation with 14 sacks over the last two years as well, but its a tough field.
18 passes deflected for Smith last year, the guy made every play for the Ravens' defense in his first year with the team. Robertson, just finishing his second year in the league, was a playmaker for the Browns last year. Vincent Rey beats out Rey Maualuga for the last spot with the expectation that his role will expand.
Burfict has the biggest impact on his team out of these candidates. I really like Worilds in 3rd place here. He's the real deal and the Steelers' next James Harrison. There are far too many quality players to choose from when rounding out this position. Elvis Dumervil is the best pass rusher but also one of the most situational at this position within the division. Jabaal Sheard and Paul Kruger in Cleveland are solid pros who could have productive years, and the upside for young guys like Jarvis Jones and Courtney Upshaw could show up as soon as they earn their playing time.
Haden has a slight edge over Webb because of his ball skills. The artist formerly known as Pacman had a great season last year playing against the opponents' top speed receivers. Corey Graham is the Ravens version of Leon Hall circa 2012. I'd bank on Buster Skrine improving, the fast young corner across from Joe Haden in Cleveland is firmly entrenched as a starter.
Gipson was essential for the Browns last year, and frankly, he played better than any other AFC North defensive back not named Troy. Nelson is better in coverage than Clark and Matt Elam.
Troy still has the best instincts on the defensive side of the ball in the NFL. Ward may have gotten the prow bowl nod but Ihedigbo had to cover more ground in the Ravens' secondary.
P: Jawless Huber
KR: Antonio Brown