Each NFL team’s best defensive player so far
New York Giants — Landon Collins, S
The Giants’ defense may not be performing at as high of a level as they did in 2016, but that’s through no fault of safety Landon Collins. He is once again a do-it-all man for Big Blue, recording 37 tackles (29 solo), four passes defensed, one forced fumble and one interception on the season. While an ankle injury has hindered him a bit, he’s well on his way to a second consecutive dominating season.
New York Jets — Morris Claiborne, CB
The Jets do not have many standouts on defense, but Morris Claiborne is having one of the better seasons of his career through six games. In addition to his 27 tackles (20 solo, one for a loss), he’s also recorded a team-leading five passes defensed and one interception. His 74.5 PFF grade is also among the team’s best. The former No. 6 overall pick of the Dallas Cowboys is performing nicely in his first season with the Jets.
Oakland Raiders — Khalil Mack, DE
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year may not be putting up ungodly numbers, but Khalil Mack is still every bit as dangerous and impactful as he was a season ago. His 90.1 PFF grade is second only to Cameron Jordan among edge rushers, and he leads the Raiders with four sacks. He’s solid against the run and can rush the passer with the best of them.
Philadelphia Eagles — Brandon Graham, DE
Brandon Graham entered the season among the most over-looked players in football and may still be through six weeks of the season. He seems to excel as a sleeper. Graham currently leads the Eagles with four sacks and is second with four tackles for a loss. His 89.0 PFF grade is also sixth among all edge rushers. The former first-round pick is certainly living up to his draft status in Philly.
Pittsburgh Steelers — Cam Heyward, DE
Cam Heyward’s numbers won’t leap off the chart initially, but if you were to ask any Steelers fan who stands out above the rest defensively, the vast majority would mention his name. He’s not only dominant against the run, but more than capable at collapsing the middle of the pocket. He frequently finds himself in the face of the quarterback and has notched 3.0 sacks on the season.
San Francisco 49ers — Jaquiski Tartt, S
NaVorro Bowman likely would have been tabbed for this spot prior to his release, so now it defaults to safety Jaquiski Tartt. He is second on the team with 39 tackles (26 solo and three for a loss), and has also recorded 0.5 sacks, three passes defensed and one interception. Tartt’s 88.7 PFF grade is also fourth-best among all safeties. He’s been one of the bright spots on a defense that’s ranked towards the bottom of the league.
Seattle Seahawks — Bobby Wagner, LB
You could take your pick of Seattle defenders for this space (Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett and Kam Chancellor all deserve arguments), but it’s hard to disagree with Bobby Wagner, who leads all NFL linebackers with a 92.0 PFF grade. Wagner also leads the Seahawks with 41 tackles (30 solo and two for a loss), while adding 0.5 sacks, three passes defensed, one fumble recovered and one touchdown.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Brent Grimes, CB
The Buccaneers don’t have too many standouts defensively, so it’s cornerback Brent Grimes who gets the nod here. He leads the team with five passes defensed and is tied for the lead with one interception. His 20 tackles are also fifth-most on the team. In the one game he missed, Tampa Bay’s corners were lit up by Minnesota’s passing offense, further showing his value to the team.
Tennessee Titans — Wesley Woodyard, LB
Wesley Woodyard is having an unexpectedly impressive season for the Titans and is among the league leaders in tackles (49) through six weeks. His 86.3 PFF grade is fourth-best among all NFL linebackers, and he’s getting it done both against the rush and pass. A slight uptick as the season progresses and he could find himself named an All-Pro.
Washington Redskins — Zach Brown, LB
Zach Brown could be considered one of the best under-the-radar free agent signings of the year. He’s really shown up for the Redskins, recording 50 tackles (31 solo, five for a loss), which is double his next closest teammate and among the league leaders. He has struggled a bit in some areas, earning an overall PFF grade of 78.3, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any Washington fan complaining about his production. He’s certainly picked up where he left off after a 149-tackle season in Buffalo last year.