Worry Not: The Worst Defenses in the NFL

By Chris Burrows

Not sure when to put in that second-rate back or receiver that you picked up? Not sure which defenses to avoid picking up? Well here are the defenses around the league that will increase your offensive players’ numbers if they come face to face and that you should avoid adding to your own roster at all costs.

1. Houston Texans
To say that the defense in Houston is having issues would be an understatement. At the beginning of September first-time defensive coordinator Frank Bush was still unsure who would be getting the starting jobs and the secondary was a complete question mark. Pro Bowler Mario Williams’ return to the defensive end position seems to be the only sure thing with rookie first-round pick Brian Cushing, who was set to start at strongside linebacker, still out with a knee injury. There are also open defensive tackle position and cornerback positions that are proving hard to fill among injuries and CB Deljuan Robinson’s hiatus from the team. All of these problems will make overcoming their 23rd ranked rush-blocking in 2008 difficult and will give big games to opponents and their RBs.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars are notoriously bad at stopping the air-game. That shouldn’t change in 2009. They are another team experimenting with a 3-4 hybrid defense but they don’t seem to have the personnel to capitalize on it with their starting CB from 2008, Brian Williams, going to Atlanta and cut several other members of the squad. They’ve shown a proclivity in the preseason for their lack of pass-rush and only managed one sack in three games.

3. St. Louis Rams
Steve Spagnuolo is trying to pick up the pieces of a defense that allowed 465 points and was ranked 30th last season. New strong safety James Butler is an effective and important piece of it but it’s definitely a year for rebuilding under former-defensive coordinator Spagnuolo. Look for some improvement but St. Louis should continue to struggle to stop the run game to a harsh extent.

4. Kansas City Chiefs
Second in almost every “worst of” category only to Detroit, the Chiefs have managed to stay on-task between seasons and have shown incredible improvement in preseason play (despite the absent offense).

Head Coach Todd Haley announced a new 3-4 defense during the off-season that veteran players would have to adjust to—and it seems to be working. The Chiefs have allowed just 64 points and pulled off seven sacks in their four losses. But with their offense a major concern, expect Kansas City’s defensive squad to suffer under long on-field stints—they will likely spend a lot more time on the field than the offense and that’s enough to wear any defense down to nothing.

5. Arizona Cardinals
A middle of the road defense in 2008, the Cardinals have revealed manifold issues defensively after going 0-4 in their four preseason games in 2009 and allowing a whopping 47 more total points than they scored—and that can’t all be blamed on Warner’s sputtering offensive unit. Though the pass-rush has been a pleasant side-effect in AZ, their pass-stopping abilities haven’t been. Something needs to happen in Arizona before the train goes flying off the tracks.

6. Detroit Lions
Experts disagree on whether or not the Lions actually had a defensive squad last season. Whatever they had, it led the NFL in total yards allowed, yards per game allowed, total rushing yards allowed, points allowed, least interceptions (4), and games lost with 16. Also, they only had 30 sacks. Expect some progress to be made in this season with Jim Schwartz—former successful Titans defensive coordinator—taking over the helm.

Some summer additions will depth to this formerly abysmal defense. Rookie Safety Louis Delmas, new Cornerbacks Phillip Buchanon and Anthony Henry, and a new defensive line will all help to scale back their outrageous ’08 numbers—they’ve only allowed 76 points so far in the preseason—but don’t expect them to be fantasy-worthy just yet. Matt Forte, Steven Jackson, Adrian Peterson, and other RBs will get the chance to rack up some big numbers vs. Detroit again in ’09.

7. Cleveland Browns
There are some bright spots in Cleveland—new LB D’Qwell Jackson comes to the squad after leading the league in total tackles, and the new 3-4 defense under Eric Mangini should help stop the all-so-important rushing game of the AFC north. But weaknesses in some key holes may be their downfall—the safety and cornerback positions are notorious Browns weak points. The team allowed the fifth most points of defenses in 2008 and 70 points in four games so far this season. If your second-stringer RB is going up against the Browns—put him in.

Sleeper bad defenses to avoid:

Tennessee Titans
The Titans have allowed 104 preseason points so far after 2008 saw them lose Pro Bowl DT Albert Haynesworth and coordinator Jim Schwartz to #4 on this list.

Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles aren’t the force that they were last year after losing some real meat and potatoes players: safety Brian Dawkins, linebacker Stewart Bradley, and defensive mastermind Jim Johnson are all gone.