Introduction | #100-#91 | #90-#81 | #81*-#71 | #70-#61 | #60-#51 | #50-#41 | #40-#31 | #30-#21 | #20-#11 | #10-#1
Welcome to part three of our countdown, and it's a very defense-heavy edition today, with only two players from the offensive side of the ball. Players #80-71 sees a mixture of greybearded veterans players and up-and-comers, and features some players with major question-marks hanging over their heads as they enter the 2012 season, from those returning from injury to those having to adapt to brand new schemes and formations.
As always, leave your thoughts in the comments below, tell us on Facebook and tweet us @PullingLinemen, telling us why we're wrong, we'll respond to the best comments/arguments/insults in a 'TPL100' mailbag at the end of the countdown.
* Due to a clerical error by Mr. G. Samuel during the compilation of this list, our #79 player Eric Weddle was originally left off the Top 100. this was discovered just prior to today's publication thanks to the diligent work of one T. Durant. We felt it would be unfair to retroactively remove Vonta Leach (#100) and so we'll call him a bonus player, and you'll get 11 players today, instead of the normal 10. Gur is extremely sorry for his error and begs forgiveness from our dozens of readers.
#81 - Elvis Dumervil, DE, DEN [TD = --, PG = 78, GS = 61]
#80 - Jason Babin, DE, PHI [TD = --, PG = --, GS = 36]
#79 - Eric Weddle, S, SD [TD = 36, PG = 98, GS = --]
A 2nd round pick in 2007, Eric Weddle was immediately in the immense shadow cast on AFC safeties by Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed. However, as he's grown up in the league, so the others have grown old. Weddle is now perhaps the premiere safety in the AFC, making the 2nd team All-Pro in 2010 before "graduating" to the 1st team in 2011.
Weddle's 2011 season began with the Chargers making him, at 26, the highest paid safety in the league. He paid immediate dividends for them with a career high 7 interceptions and 12 passes defensed, becoming easily the best playmaker on the Chargers defense.
Now nearing his 27th birthday, and signed up for the next 4 seasons, the Chargers and their fans can look forward to even more stellar play from Weddle as he looks to cement himself among the very best at his position.
# 78 - Brian Cushing, LB, HOU [TD = --, PG = 57, GS = 74]
#77 - Charles Woodson, CB, GB [TD = 46, PG = --, GS = 85]
Charles Woodson may be 35, but he has shown no signs whatsoever of slowing down. At his age, many corners find they have been reduced to role-players only, or transition to safety, to compensate for the drop-off in speed and skill that comes with age. Not Woodson. Instead, he's coming off a season where he tied for the lead league in interceptions, adding a pair of sacks and a forced fumble, while his 75 tackles (solo & assists) speak to his willingness to get involved in run defense - something many corners of any age shy away from, let alone a greybeard like Woodson. How long can he keep up this level of play? Logic dictates that his play should have dropped off years ago; but Woodson seems intent on cheating Father Time for years yet, and as long as he does, you can expect him to be a the forefront of the Packers' D.
#76 - Dwight Freeney, LB, IND [TD = 96, PG = 62, GS = 74]
#75 - Jamaal Charles, RB, KC [TD = --, PG = 37, GS = 90]
#74 - Lawrence Timmons, LB, PIT [TD = 34, PG = 93, GS = --]
#73 - Geno Atkins, DT, CIN [TD = --, PG = --, GS = 24]
#72 - Steve Johnson, WR, BUF [TD = --, PG = 31, GS = 94]
#71 - Cameron Wake, LB, MIA [TD = --, PG = 26, GS = 96]
several places. Whether he plays the 2012 season in a 2-point or 4-point stance, he will be looking to build on an impressive resume since he became a starter in 2010, collecting 22.5 sacks in the past two years. If the Fins want to avoid ending up in the cellar of the AFC East for the second season in a row, they will have to step up and put pressure on opposing offenses to keep games close, or else the team as a whole may struggle, now that they're without a true #1 receiver. The only way that will happen is if Cameron Wake, from whichever position, is able to continue piling on the sacks. Miami clearly have faith in him, giving him a 4-year extension just shy of $50 million earlier this month - if he lives up to his contract, then 2012 could be a huge year for Wake.
We're now almost a third of the way through our countdown - let us know what you think so far below, on Facebook or on twitter. Check back tomorrow for players #70-#61, including the first tight end to appear on the countdown, the only rookie to make our Top 100, and perhaps the most controversial ranking on the entire list....
- Gur 'Fred' Samuel (@FredTheGur)
- The Pulling Linemen