Grady Jarrett: 6.0 sacks, 52 combined tackles, 8 TFLs, 16 QB hits, 3 forced fumbles
Sheldon Rankins: 8.0 sacks, 40 combined tackles, 12 TFLs, 15 QB hits, 1 forced fumble
Gerald McCoy: 6.0 sacks, 28 combined tackles, 6 TFLs, 21 QB hits
Ndamukong Suh: 4.5 sacks, 59 combined tackles, 4 TFLs, 19 QB hits, 2 fumble recoveries
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is now a Buccaneer. Fresh off a 2018 season that saw him, and the Los Angeles Rams reach the Super Bowl, Suh signed a one-year deal to come to Tampa Bay under Head Coach Bruce Arians and Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles. He joins a relatively young defensive line and will likely be tapped to help lead the unit entering his 10th NFL season because of his experience.
That experience includes four bouts in the postseason for a total of six playoff appearances. Just last year in the NFC title game against the Bucs’ division rival New Orleans Saints, Suh had 1.5 sacks along with four combined tackles and two quarterback hits in the game. Overall, in those six games he has 5.0 sacks, 20 combined tackles and 10 quarterback hits.
During his career, he’s been a model of consistency and has been selected to five Pro Bowls and earned All-Pro honors three times. Understanding his stat line is to understand his position on the field and how he seems to make plays on the ball. In addition to those two fumble recoveries mentioned above, Suh had four passes defensed in 2018, the most by far of any interior defensive lineman in the division. His counterparts have one or none, in fact, probably due to the fact a player on the interior is rarely concerned with where the ball is going once it’s out of the quarterback’s hands. That’s clearly not the case with Suh. He’s unique in his athleticism and versatility. He may at first look to be that true three-technique tackle but notice that Los Angeles had him at nose tackle more often than not last season. He can also kick out to potentially the five-technique on the line, putting him in better position to reach a hand up and disrupt a pass.
Make no mistake though, Suh is still doing his job from a physicality standpoint. His 59 combined tackles tied with former teammate Aaron Donald’s total on the Rams last year. His 19 quarterback hits rank second in the NFC South behind Buccaneer-turned-Panther Gerald McCoy, who notched 21 last year in Tampa Bay. Ball awareness and postseason experience set Suh apart from McCoy, who was taken with the very next pick after Suh in the 2010 NFL Draft. As a result, the two have been intertwined ever since and fans will now get to see a direct comparison with both players in the NFC South.
They aren’t the only two well-known interior defensive linemen in the division, either. McCoy’s new teammate Kawann Short reached the Pro Bowl last year while with the Panthers. He’s not listed above but Short had three sacks and 12 tackles for loss – the former stat tied for first in the NFC South with the Saints’ Sheldon Rankins.
Rankins had the most sacks among defensive and nose tackles in the NFC South last year with 8.0. It can be hard for a player at that position to gain notoriety via sacks, given that their job more often than not is to occupy blockers and plug up run lanes. To have a player that can overpower offensive lines and penetrate from the interior to get to the quarterback is a problem and Rankins did it as well as anyone in the division last year.
Then there’s Grady Jarrett in Atlanta who is one of the more well-rounded players at the position. Not only did he notch 52 total tackles along with 6.0 sacks and 16 quarterback hits last year, he also, like Suh, made plays on the ball by forcing three fumbles.
It appears that both the Buccaneers and Panthers will now deploy a defense more reminiscent of a 3-4 base, which could change things a bit for the players mentioned here. A 3-4 defense is nothing new for Suh, but it will be for McCoy who will learn the Panthers’ new system along with the rest of Carolina’s defense. It’ll perhaps give an even more similar comparison of the two players in 2019.