Camp Primer: Defensive Playmakers

The countdown to training camp continues with players set to report Aug. 1. Twelve days from the start of training camp, looks at the top established playmakers on defense.

5.) DT Isaac Holmes -- Holmes will not put up big numbers at the nose tackle position but returning his presence to the middle of the defensive line puts others in an improved position to make plays. Having a strong, senior presence at the nose lets linemen like Jamil Merrell and Darius Hamilton focus on getting to the quarterback. Holmes will be a run stuffer and eat up double teams inside when possible.

4.) S Lorenzo Waters -- Waters came on strong by the end of the 2012 season and is now the elder statesman in an inexperienced defensive secondary. Waters is a hard-hitter and plays well at the line of scrimmage against the run. Waters needs to improve his help coverage skills but should be next in the safety mold of players like Courtney Greene, Joe Lefeged (his cousin) and Duron Harmon.

3.) DE Jamil Merrell -- One of the best Rutgers linemen in terms of getting to the quarterback, Merrell moves back to defensive end with a focus on piling up sack numbers. Merrell improved his hands in his first year with position coach Jim Panagos and can be a dynamic weapon off the edge.

2.) OLB Kevin Snyder -- Snyder does not have even half the experience of Khaseem Green but will be playing the same position in the same defensive scheme. Greene re-defined the weakside linebacker spot at Rutgers with his speed and play-making ability and Snyder spent two years behind him learning the ropes. Snyder brings versatility and could end up at middle linebacker but WILL is the most natural fit for the Mechanicsburg, Pa., native to pile up big plays.

1.) OLB Jamal Merrell -- Merrell became an instant playmaker when he finally found a home at linebacker. A fulltime starter for the last two seasons, some of the biggest special teams plays in that time period belong to Merrell. The fifth-year senior has 127 career tackles and, more impressively, five blocked kicks in the last two seasons. Merrell's veteran locker room presence becomes even more important with the loss of key defenders like Scott Vallone, Logan Ryan and Greene. Merrell has a knack for forcing turnovers in big spots and will be a figurehead of the Dave Cohen defense.

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