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The key to a good defense in the NFL? Great players.

We all know why scoring is up this year in the NFL: dynamic quarterbacks, innovative schemes, and a lack of cohesion among defenses due to reduced practice time in the offseason.

If you’re watching on Sundays, it’s obvious— defenses are having a hard time keeping up. 

But when analyzing a few of the top 10 defenses in the NFL, the Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Pittsburgh Steelers, a common theme, one that’s really quite obvious, emerges. Good modern defenses are developed by experimental coaches and powered by the NFL’s best players.

There are a handful of players who pass both the analytical and eye test. Players like Aaron Donald, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Shaq Barrett who dominate the opponent almost every weekend.

Having a player like this, an anchor of sorts, that has the ability to single handily change the outcome of a game, either by rushing the quarterback or making plays in the secondary, is a necessity.

Donald, who has already won the Defensive Player of the Year award twice in his career, currently has the best odds to win the award this year, according to Sports Betting Dime.

When it comes to good defense in the NFL, the Pittsburgh University product is once again playing on another level in 2020, having already recorded nine sacks and three forced fumbles.

When opposing offensive coordinators devise a game plan to beat the Rams, the first thing they must think about is containing Donald. He’s able to play on different spots on the line and effect the passing and running equally.

Last season, the Rams traded significant draft capital to land another blue-chip player in Jalen Ramsey, a defensive back who has the ability to lock down an entire side of the field.

This move was ridiculed because the Rams, a team with little salary cap room, was trading for a player who would need a massive new contract in the near future. 

They clearly thought that pairing Donald and Ramsey would solve two of the biggest questions facing defenses every week: pressuring the pocket and locking down the NFL’s top receivers.

So far the Rams defense has stayed healthy and appears to ready for a long playoff run, due in large part to the contributions of their two stars.