Over the next few weeks we will be going through the division by position, handing out our rankings to determine which team has the best roster entering the 2016 season. The position groups will be ranked based not only on the starter but the depth behind them from first to fourth with the best team receiving four points. These point totals will then be added up to determine who has the best team this season.
1. Carolina Panthers (4 Points)
There is no denying that Luke Kuechly is the best middle linebacker in the game, especially with his improvement against the pass last season. He finished with a career high four interceptions during the regular season and added two more in the playoffs. He returned three of those interceptions for touchdowns.
The list of awards and accomplishments continues to grow for Kuechly, who has won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, NFL Defensive Player of the Year, selected to three Pro Bowls as well as three first-team All-Pro selections. The part that should worry the rest of the NFL is the fact that he continues to improve, as evident of his performance last year.
2. New Orleans Saints (3 Points)
The Saints jump all the way up to number two thanks to their free agent signing James Laurinaitis. The former Ram was cut this past offseason and he will hope to prove that he has plenty of football left ahead of him.
The former second round pick is a tackling machine and has registered over 100 total tackles each of his seven seasons in the league. He also has 16.5 career sacks, eight forced fumbles and 10 interceptions. He should be a nice boost for a defense that struggled mightily a season ago.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2 Points)
Kwon Alexander had an impressive rookie season for the Bucs at middle linebacker with 93 total tackles through 12 games however his season was cut short due to a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's Performance-Enhancing Drug Policy. He will be looking to build off a promising rookie season in 2016.
Panthers' fans will know his backup though, Adarius Glanton, who is a former Panther. He actually saw some significant snaps towards the end of the 2014 season for this team. Glanton was then signed to the Panthers practice squad prior to the 2015 season before the Bucs signed him at the end of November.
4. Atlanta Falcons (1 Point)
Paul Worrilow is coming off a bit of a down season after registering 125+ total tackles in his first two years and only 95 last season. The Falcons will need him to bounce back in 2016 to lead this young Falcons' defense.
One of those young players is rookie Deion Jones out of LSU. He is an athletic, fast linebacker but a bit on the smaller side at only 222 pounds. However, he is similar in a fellow LSU Tiger in terms of athletic ability and size, who excelled as a rookie. That player is Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander. If the Falcons are lucky enough to get similar production, this defense is sure to be better in 2016.
|Team||Defensive Line||Middle Linebacker||Outside Linebacker||Cornerbacks||Safety||Total|
|New Orleans Saints||3||3|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||2||2|
*Depth charts courtesy of Ourlads.com