If I was tasked with finding the most effective pass rushing tandem for my team, I’d look for two guys with different skill sets. That’s not to say that two speedy edge rushers can’t get the job done, but for my money I want a two pronged attack that can stress an offense in different ways.
Finding a terror off the edge is a must. Give me a guy that can win with speed, but also has the ability to convert speed to power, which opens the pass rusher tool box up even further. Give me a guy that has moves on top of moves on top of countermoves, that an offense has to be wary of on every single play.
An All-Pro like Khalil Mack would be a heck of a start for my dynamic duo.
Actually, Mack and (Insert Name Here) would be a great pass rushing tandem, as Mack is arguably the top edge rusher in the game today, and whomever you pair him up with would be a problem.
But also give me a big interior defensive lineman that can collapse a pocket. Give me some pressure up the gut, so quarterbacks feel the anxiety of a defender in their face. That will give quarterbacks no where to step up to escape the edge pressure. Give me a guy strong enough to eat double teams, but also quick enough to shoot gaps and penetrate into the backfield.
I think a Pro Bowler like Akiem Hicks would be the perfect complement to Mack.
In 2018, Mack and Hicks combined for 20 sacks and 34 quarterback hits for the Chicago Bears, but that wasn’t enough to land them on Bucky Brooks’ top five list for NFL.com. Here are the five tandems that he put on his list along with their sack and quarterback hit totals from 2018.
1) Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, Denver Broncos: 26.5 sacks, 47 QBH
2) J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans: 25 sacks, 46 QBH
3) Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, Los Angeles Chargers: 12.5 sacks, 25 QBH
4) Aaron Donald and Dante Fowler*, Los Angeles Rams: 24.5 sacks, 47 QBH
5) DeForest Buckner and Dee Ford**, San Francisco 49ers: 25 sacks, 49 QBH
* Fowler’s totals were from the Rams and the Jaguars in 2018.
** Ford was with the Chiefs in 2018.
Sacks and quarterback hits aren’t the only two stats that determine an elite pass rusher, but they are the only two the NFL officially recognizes. Forced fumbles are part off the equation too, but not every forced fumble is against a QB, so I won’t list those here. Pressures is a “stat” we’ll see referenced from time to time, but those can be subjective in nature and hard to quantify.
There are some outstanding pass rushing pairs on Brooks’ list, but I think Mack and Hicks deserve to be in the top five tandems.
My main gripe is with including the Rams’ Fowler, who has a career best of 8 sacks in 2017, and a career best 11 QB hits as a rookie in 2016. Last year between his two teams — the Jags traded him to the Rams for a 3rd rounder in 2019 and a 5th rounder in 2020 — Fowler racked up 4 sacks and 6 QBH in 15 games. So far in his career he has underwhelmed as a pass rusher, so including him on this list of top quarterback sackers seems like a reach.
Sure, one could make the argument that Donald (20.5 sacks in 2018) plus a bag of balls deserves a place in the top five, but if the point is identifying the best tandems, then the Ram duo isn’t it.
Mack and Hicks provide the total package as a tandem. One inside and one outside, both have power and quickness, both have a plethora of pass rush moves, both have incredible hand usage, and both play with good balance.
At the very least I think they should be third on the list, but I’m curious to hear what you guys have to say.
Where would you list the Bears’ twosome among the best pass rusher tandems in the NFL?