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The 2018 “need a ring” team: The defense

NFL players without a Super Bowl ring

Every offseason, we see the same question plastered on every sports page looking for mid-May clicks: “Which players deserve to win their first ring?” This is good fun, but results in the same names being recycled repeatedly.

I’d like to propose a twist: Assembling a super team of veteran players still searching for their first Super Bowl win. All these players must meet the following criteria:

  1. Have not won a Super Bowl with any team (obviously).
  2. Must be over 30 years of age.
  3. Must have at least one Pro Bowl selection.

Last week, we looked at the offense of our imaginary super team. In today’s second installment, we will dive into the defense. The defense will be in a base 4-3 lineup, including two tackles, two ends, three linebackers, two cornerbacks and two safeties. May the selections commence!

Defensive tackles: Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals and Ndamukong Suh, Los Angeles Rams

NFL players without a Super Bowl ring
Cincinnati Bengals’ defensive tackle Geno Atkins. (Photo by Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports)

Atkins barely sneaks onto our list after turning 30 this March. He has been the cornerstone of a rather underwhelming Bengals defense since being drafted in 2010. He has 61 career sacks with the Bengals, which is outstanding for a defensive tackle.

Atkins’ dominant run in Cincinnati has resulted in six Pro Bowls and two first-team All-Pro selections. But it has not translated to playoff success. He has yet to win a game in the postseason, despite four attempts.

Geno Atkins still has plenty left in the tank for a Super Bowl run, but his window could be closing within a few years.

A fellow member of the 2010 NFL Draft class, Ndamukong Suh has been a force to be reckoned with since being drafted by the Detroit Lions. The three-time All-Pro has asserted himself as one of the league’s premier pass-rushing defensive tackles.

Even at age 30, Suh played very well for the Miami Dolphins last season. He was let go due to his big contract, but then signed with the Los Angeles Rams shortly after. He and new teammate Aaron Donald will look to push the Rams over the top, possibly to a Super Bowl win.

Honorable mention: Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Defensive ends: Julius Peppers, Carolina Panthers and Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins

NFL players without a Super Bowl ring
Julius Peppers with the Packers. (Photo from footballinsiders.com)

You would be hard-pressed to find a more influential pass rusher in the NFL than Julius Peppers. Since arriving in the league in 2002, Peppers has set the bar for all 4-3 defensive ends.

His 154.5 career sacks are the most among any active player and the fourth most all time. Between stints with the Carolina Panthers (twice), Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, Peppers has earned nine Pro Bowl selections, along with three All-Pro selections.

He is arguably the best pass rusher of this century, but Peppers is still without a Super Bowl ring. He came close to earning a ring with the Panthers, but ran into Tom Brady’s Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

At 38 years old, this may be Peppers’ last season in the NFL, and it would be a shame to not see him win at least one Super Bowl.

NFL players without a Super Bowl ring
Miami Dolphins’ defensive end Cameron Wake. (Photo from the Sun Sentinel)

Cameron Wake has also had a productive career with the Miami Dolphins. Despite being overshadowed by big-name players like Peppers and DeMarcus Ware, Wake has been the bright spot on a very dull Miami defense.

He has five seasons in which he had over 10 sacks and was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2012. What is more impressive than his stats and accomplishments is his story. He was signed and quickly released by the New York Giants in 2005, leaving his future in doubt. From 2007-08, Wake had to play in the Canadian Football League to keep his dream alive.

He finally got a second chance the next year when the Miami Dolphins signed him to a one-year deal. As an inspiring underdog story, having Cameron Wake finally lift the Lombardi Trophy would be a heartwarming sight.

Honorable mention: Everson Griffen, Minnesota Vikings

Linebackers: Thomas Davis, Carolina Panthers, Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys and Derrick Johnson, Oakland Raiders

Another longtime Panther defender, Thomas Davis has been at the center of Carolina’s defense for 12 years. Even after tearing his ACL three times in the same knee, Davis is still going strong at 35 years old. He’s even seen a surge in his production since his last ACL injury, earning three straight Pro Bowl nods.

Although he does not get the accolades that teammate Luke Kuechly receives, the Panthers defense would be lost without Davis’ leadership. With Carolina being a perennial playoff team, could this finally be Davis’ year?

NFL players without a Super Bowl ring
Dallas Cowboys’ linebacker Sean Lee tackling Raiders’ running back Jalen Richard for a loss of yards. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Joining Davis on our super team is Sean Lee. When Lee is on the field for the Cowboys, their defense is instantly more viable. He is the bona fide captain of Dallas’ defense, and it shows when Lee is hurt.

Last season, the Dallas Cowboys gave up 16.6 points per game when Sean Lee was on the field. In games that he was not available (five total), that number jumped up to 29.8 points. Despite his multitude of injuries, Lee is still one of the best linebackers in the game and is more than deserving of his first Super Bowl ring.

Our third linebacker will be Derrick Johnson, the former Kansas City Chief who signed with the Raiders earlier this month. At 35 years old, Johnson’s best days are behind him, but he did build himself an impressive résumé in Kansas City.

In 13 seasons with the Chiefs, Johnson amassed nearly 1,000 career tackles, four Pro Bowls and an All-Pro selection to boot. He was the center of several great Chiefs defenses for over a decade, but it never translated to playoff success. In six playoff games, he has only won once in a 30-0 thrashing of the Houston Texans in 2015.

Honorable mention: Wesley Woodyard, Tennessee Titans

Cornerbacks: Josh Norman, Washington Redskins and Terence Newman, Minnesota Vikings

NFL players without a Super Bowl ring
Terence Newman breaks up a pass against the Oakland Raiders. (Photo by Jerry Holt/StarTribune.com)

Over the last five years, Josh Norman has been one of the league’s best cornerbacks. His physical playing style is second to none and has majorly improved the Redskins’ cornerback position. Norman has only played six seasons in the league so far, limiting his opportunity for a Super Bowl run.

Like many players on our super team, Norman lost Super Bowl 50 at the hands of Peyton Manning’s Broncos. With a new team and plenty left in the tank, it would be surprising to see Norman not win the Lombardi Trophy.

Terence Newman is the opposite of Josh Norman in terms of playing experience. A 15-year NFL veteran, Newman has seen his fair share of wide receivers. Between his tenures with the Cowboys, Bengals and Vikings, Newman has established himself as a solid starting cornerback.

At 39 years old, he is not as fast as he once was, but was effective as a slot corner in 2017. The two-time Pro Bowler has stated that this season will be his last, making this year Super Bowl or bust.

Honorable mention: Johnathan Joseph, Houston Texans

Safeties: Eric Weddle, Baltimore Ravens and Reshad Jones, Miami Dolphins

NFL players without a Super Bowl ring
Eric Weddle with the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers. (Photo from USA Today Sports)

Over the last decade, there has been no defensive player overlooked as much as Eric Weddle. With his former team, the San Diego Chargers, Weddle was a perennial Pro Bowler.

From 2011-14, Weddle was arguably the best safety in the NFL, with 13 interceptions and three Pro-Bowl nods in that span. He was also selected as a first-team All-Pro twice.

When he relocated to Baltimore in 2016, he brought his high production with him. Weddle has been selected to two straight Pro Bowls and shows no sign of slowing down.

He may be overlooked by many, but Weddle has proven himself as a top-flight safety over the last 10 years.

Another underappreciated backfielder, Reshad Jones has quietly had a great career in the NFL. Since the loss of Vontae Davis, the Miami Dolphins have been depleted in the defensive secondary.

Like his teammate Cameron Wake, Jones has provided some stability on a below-average defense. He does not have the pedigree of players like Kam Chancellor, but Jones has filled the enforcer role very well so far in his career in South Beach.

Honorable mention: Reggie Nelson, Oakland Raiders

 

Featured image from panthers.com

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