Ranking Each NFL Team’s Top Defensive Triplets for 2024

We looked at each team’s pass rushers, linebackers and secondary to see which teams are stacked on that side of the ball.
Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton celebrates with linebacker Roquan Smith after scoring a touchdown.
Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton celebrates with linebacker Roquan Smith after scoring a touchdown. / Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports

NFL offenses aren’t the only ones forming a “big three.” 

Excuse me, I meant to say “triplets,” because “big three” is more of a basketball term, and that phrase started the biggest hip-hop feud of the decade between Kendrick Lamar and Drake. 

Kendrick Lamar said forget the big three, it’s just him. But in the NFL world, teams can’t win with just one star player on offense and defense. Trios are needed on both sides of the football. 

Matt Verderame recently ranked the best offensive triplets in the NFL, so now it’s time to rank the top 32 defensive triplets. But we didn’t just rank the three best defenders on every team. We listed one pass rusher, one inside linebacker and one defensive back to form each team’s defensive trio.  

One nugget from forming this list: I found myself ranking interior defensive lineman over edge rushers pretty often. That says plenty about the quality of players on the inside and how much teams prioritize having stacked defensive lines. For example, it wasn’t easy deciding between Dexter Lawrence II, Brian Burns and Kayvon Thibodeaux as the top pass rusher for the New York Giants. 

Many tough decisions were made to form these rankings. Let’s get to the list!  

32. Arizona Cardinals 

Triplets: Darius Robinson, Mack Wilson Sr., Budda Baker 

The Cardinals are banking on their first-round pick, Robinson, to immediately help one of the weakest defensive fronts in the NFL. Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon needs many first- and second-year players to step up to get the defense going in the right direction this season. The Cardinals, however, have no concerns with Baker, a perennial All-Pro safety.   

31. Washington Commanders

Triplets: Dorance Armstrong, Frankie Luvu, Emmanuel Forbes Jr.

Forbes, the team’s 2023 first-round pick, will need to prove himself to the new coaching staff after a rough rookie season. He’s one of few returning players from last year’s poor defensive unit. Coach Dan Quinn could turn things around after rebuilding his reputation in Dallas, as GM Adam Peters spent money to add underrated players like Armstrong and Luvu. 

30. Minnesota Vikings

Triplets: Jonathan Greenard, Blake Cashman, Camryn Bynum

The Vikings now have depth on the defensive front with the additions of the two former Houston Texans, Greenard and Cashman. There’s plenty of pressure on Greenard to deliver because he signed a four-year, $76 million contract and is expected to fill the void of Danielle Hunter. But he won’t have to do it alone with fellow newcomers Andrew Van Ginkel and Dallas Turner. 

29. Buffalo Bills

Triplets: Ed Oliver, Matt Milano, Rasul Douglas

Oliver has been a steady force in the middle of the Bills’ defense the past few seasons, but the Bills could use a star edge rusher to help him on the defensive front. Milano will look to return to his All-Pro form after an injury-riddled season. Douglas immediately improved the Bills’ secondary after being traded by the Green Bay Packers midway through the year. 

28. Philadelphia Eagles

Triplets: Jalen Carter, Devin White, Quinyon Mitchell

Carter was one of the few defensive bright spots for the 2023 Eagles, who struggled in the final two months of the season because of subpar play from the inside linebackers and secondary. The arrivals of Mitchell and fellow rookie defensive back Cooper DeJean could improve the back end of the defense (and the season). Perhaps a change of scenery could reignite White’s career after a down year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

27. Las Vegas Raiders

Triplets: Maxx Crosby, Robert Spillane, Jack Jones

Spillane and Jones might not be household names, but they were instrumental in helping defensive coordinator Patrick Graham produce one of the better defenses the Raiders have had in a very long time. Crosby, obviously, also made an impact by delivering another dominant season and making a strong case for Defensive Player of the Year. This could be the year Crosby wins the award.

26. Jacksonville Jaguars

Triplets: Josh Allen, Foyesade Oluokun, Andre Cisco

The Jaguars need a star playmaker in the secondary to move up the rankings, but they’ve gotten steady play from Cisco, who recorded 62 total tackles and four interceptions last year. There’s no question who the star players are at pass rusher and inside linebacker. Oluokun has racked up at least 173 total tackles in each of the past three seasons, and Allen is coming off a career year with 17.5 sacks. 

25. Cincinnati Bengals

Triplets: Trey Hendrickson, Logan Wilson, Cam Taylor-Britt

The Bengals got some good news when Hendrickson rescinded his trade request this offseason. He’s been one of the most productive edge rushers in the NFL since leaving New Orleans for Cincinnati in 2021. Wilson is another consistent playmaker in Lou Anarumo’s defense, recording 135 total tackles last season. Taylor-Britt, a 2022 second-round pick, could be on the verge of a breakout season after recording four interceptions last year. 

24. Indianapolis Colts

Triplets: DeForest Buckner, Zaire Franklin, Kenny Moore II

Buckner anchors one of the best interior defensive lines in the NFL, which also includes Grover Stewart and Raekwon Davis. The Colts’ edge rushers are on the rise with the arrival of first-round rookie Laiatu Latu, who could one day overtake Buckner as the team’s top pass rusher. Franklin and Moore have flourished in Gus Bradley’s defensive scheme and were rewarded with contract extensions this offseason. 

kobie-turner-los-angeles-rams
Turner had a great rookie season, but now has the task of replacing Aaron Donald / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

23. Los Angeles Rams

Triplets: Kobie Turner, Ernest Jones IV, Tre’Davious White

After a breakout rookie season, Turner will have the daunting task of replacing Aaron Donald as the team’s top defensive lineman. Turner, a 2023 third-round pick, recorded nine sacks last season. Jones was a consistent sideline-to-sideline playmaker during his first season as the team’s starting middle linebacker. If White stays healthy, the Rams could have a productive defense despite Donald’s retirement.

22. New York Giants

Triplets: Dexter Lawrence II, Bobby Okereke, Deonte Banks

As discussed in the introduction, this defensive line presented one of the toughest choices on the board. Burns might be the Giants’ most talented pass rusher, but he’s coming off a down season playing in the Panthers’ poor defense. Lawrence gets the nod for delivering back-to-back dominant seasons that ended with him being named a Second-Team All-Pro. Okereke could have many impact plays playing behind Burns, Lawrence and Thibodeaux. 

21. Carolina Panthers 

Triplets: Derrick Brown, Josey Jewell, Jaycee Horn

For a few years, it seemed the Panthers’ defense had a bright future with the trio of Brown, Horn and Burns. But that never materialized due to the injuries to Horn, and now Burns has been traded to New York. Brown has been a consistent force during some rough seasons in Carolina and was rewarded with a four-year, $96 million contract extension in April.  

20. Denver Broncos

Triplets: Zach Allen, Alex Singleton, Patrick Surtain II

The Broncos should thank Surtain for this generous ranking of their defensive triplets. They might have one of the worst rosters in the NFL, but they at least have Surtain, possibly the best cornerback in the sport. Allen and Singleton will be heavily relied upon by a team that lacks quality edge rushers. 

19. Atlanta Falcons

Triplets: David Onyemata, Kaden Elliss, Jessie Bates III

Some might disagree with this ranking because the Falcons lack star power, but this trio was instrumental in helping Atlanta form a productive unit while the offense struggled to score points last season. Onyemata, Elliss and Bates were all free-agent acquisitions in 2023. The Falcons might be an edge rusher away from becoming a top-10 unit in the league. 

18. New England Patriots

Triplets: Christian Barmore, Jahlani Tavai, Christian Gonzalez 

Gonzalez only played four games in his rookie season because of a shoulder injury, but it was easy to see he’s a star in the making. If he quickly regains his top form, this No. 18 ranking will be too low. Barmore was recently rewarded for his dominance with a four-year, $92 million contract extension. 

17. Seattle Seahawks

Triplets: Leonard Williams, Tyrel Dodson, Devon Witherspoon

The Seahawks disappointed last season despite having several playmakers on every level of the defense. There’s a logjam on the interior of the defensive line with Williams, Dre’Mont Jones and rookie Byron Murphy II. Williams is probably the best all-around defensive lineman in Seattle, and that includes the edge rushers. It’s up to new coach Mike Macdonald to get this star-studded defense to fulfill its potential.   

aidan-hutchinson-detroit-lions
Hutchinson made a massive leap in his second season, as the Lions nearly reached the Super Bowl / Junfu Han-USA TODAY Sports

16.  Detroit Lions

Triplets: Aidan Hutchinson, Alex Anzalone, Brian Branch 

Hutchinson made a massive leap in his second season, recording 11.5 sacks and 33 quarterback hits. His stats could look even better in Year 3 after the team added linemen Marcus Davenport and D.J. Reader in free agency. Branch excelled as the team’s do-it-all rookie in the secondary. He could be moving to safety this season due to the team drafting cornerbacks Terrion Arnold and Ennis Rakestraw Jr.  

15. Tennessee Titans

Triplets: Jeffery Simmons, Jack Gibbens, L’Jarius Sneed

With the Kansas City Chiefs having champagne problems, Sneed was forced to cash in elsewhere, joining a promising defense in Tennessee that’s been led by Simmons, the two-time Second-Team All-Pro. The Titans have plenty of talent in the front and back end of the defense, but they’re going to need Gibbens and the rest of the linebackers to contribute this season. 

14. New Orleans Saints

Triplets: Cameron Jordan, Demario Davis, Marshon Lattimore

These three have had plenty of success since Davis joined Jordan and Lattimore in New Orleans in 2018. But Jordan and Davis are in the back end of their primes and Lattimore has had issues staying healthy. Perhaps newcomer Chase Young will find consistency in his new home to aid the team’s veteran-laden defense. 

13. Green Bay Packers

Triplets: Rashan Gary, Quay Walker, Jaire Alexander

The Packers’ defense should have played better the past few seasons based on how many top picks they invested on that side of the ball. Perhaps new defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley can help Walker find consistency during his third season. The Packers, however, know what they’re getting from Gary and Alexander every week. Both need to stay healthy for this unit to play at a high level.

12. Miami Dolphins

Triplets: Bradley Chubb, Jordyn Brooks, Jalen Ramsey

The Dolphins’ star defenders have dropped hints this offseason about former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio being the one to blame for the unit’s disappointing 2023 season. New defensive play-caller Anthony Weaver will aim for better results, but they might struggle early with Chubb and Jaelan Phillips recovering from knee injuries. 

11. Los Angeles Chargers

Triplets: Khalil Mack, Denzel Perryman, Derwin James Jr.

Mack still has plenty to offer after recording a career-high 17 sacks last season. He and Joey Bosa could have a memorable season under the guidance of new defensive coordinator Jesse Minter, who runs a similar scheme as Macdonald, the former defensive play-caller of the Baltimore Ravens. Minter might use James the same way Macdonald used Kyle Hamilton last season, which led to a first-team All-Pro campaign.

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Triplets: Vita Vea, Lavonte David, Antoine Winfield Jr. 

Vea has created nightmares for offensive linemen since entering the league in 2018. David has been around since ’12 and hasn’t shown signs of slowing down heading into his 13th NFL season. Winfield is coming off a career year, which led to him being named a First-Team All-Pro and signing a four-year, $84 million contract extension. 

9. Houston Texans

Triplets: Danielle Hunter, Christian Harris, Derek Stingley Jr. 

Hunter got the nod over Will Anderson Jr. because of his experience and production level during his final year with the Vikings. The Texans’ splash signee recorded a career-high 16.5 sacks and will now join an impressive defense in Houston. Harris had a memorable pick-six against the Browns in the wild-card victory. Stingley recovered from a rocky rookie campaign and delivered a promising second season. 

8. Dallas Cowboys

Triplets: Micah Parsons, Eric Kendricks, Trevon Diggs 

The Cowboys have two of the best players at their respective positions with Parsons and Diggs. They’re lacking a cornerstone piece, however, at inside linebacker. Kendricks could potentially fill in for a year and help the younger linebackers grasp the scheme of new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who will have many playmakers at his disposal in Dallas. 

7. Chicago Bears 

Triplets: Montez Sweat, T.J. Edwards, Jaylon Johnson 

The Bears took a risk by signing linebackers Edwards and Tremaine Edmunds to lucrative contracts during last year’s free agency. Many teams stopped splurging on inside linebackers, but coach Matt Eberflus’s scheme runs better with talented off-ball linebackers, which was evident in 2023. Edwards had the better season over Edmunds, earning the nod to form this impressive trio with Sweat and Johnson.  

chris-jones-kansas-city-chiefs-run-smoke
Jones has starred on back-to-back Super Bowl teams / Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

6. Kansas City Chiefs

Triplets: Chris Jones, Nick Bolton, Trent McDuffie 

No defensive tackle has played better than Jones the past two seasons, a big reason why the Chiefs have won back-to-back Super Bowls. Jones is the star player and McDuffie is the versatile playmaker who has a knack for being at the right place at the right time. If Bolton stays healthy this season, the Chiefs might move up the rankings for 2025. 

5. Pittsburgh Steelers

Triplets: T.J Watt, Patrick Queen, Minkah Fitzpatrick

After a career year in 2023, Queen left the shadow of Roquan Smith this offseason and joined the Ravens’ biggest rivals. Queen recorded a career-high 133 total tackles and added 3.5 sacks and one interception last season. He’ll now look to make life easier for Watt and Fitzpatrick, two elite players at their positions. 

4. Cleveland Browns

Triplets: Myles Garrett, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Denzel Ward 

The Browns finally added help for Garrett on the defensive line, and it led to the star edge rusher hoisting the Defensive Player of the Year award. Garrett gets the bulk of the attention, but the Browns’ defense has many standout playmakers, including the underrated Owusu-Koramoah, who made his first Pro Bowl team last year. 

3. New York Jets

Triplets: Quinnen Williams, C.J. Mosley, Sauce Gardner 

The Jets are hoping their star-studded defense will get an opportunity to showcase themselves in a playoff game come January. That will depend on the play of Aaron Rodgers, but the ferocious unit can make life easier for their middle-aged signal-caller by containing offenses on a weekly basis. The Jets will be tough to beat with their stacked trio of Williams, Mosley and Gardner. Mosley is still playing at a high level heading into his 11th season. 

2. San Francisco 49ers

Triplets: Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, Charvarius Ward

There might not be a better one-two punch at edge rusher and inside linebacker than the duo of Bosa and Warner. The two have been instrumental in the team advancing to two Super Bowls in five years and three consecutive NFC championship games. But the play of Ward should not be overlooked. He stepped up during a rocky season for the secondary, which struggled at times without safety Talanoa Hufanga.  

1. Baltimore Ravens

Triplets: Justin Madubuike, Roquan Smith, Kyle Hamilton 

The Ravens were the obvious choice for this No. 1 ranking because they’re the only team that can confidently say they have at least one elite player at all three levels of the defense. Madubuike elevated his game last season and is now one of the highest-paid defensive tackles after signing a four-year, $98 million contract extension. Hamilton also enjoyed a breakout “sophomore” season, earning an All-Pro First-Team nod, and is now regarded by many as the NFL’s best safety because of his versatility. As for Smith, he’s been one of the league’s best linebackers since being drafted by the Bears in 2018.  


Published
Gilberto Manzano

GILBERTO MANZANO