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Inside the minds of the NFL’s best pass rushers

Bruce Smith, Dwight Freeney, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Melvin Ingram tell us what it’s like to be a quarterback hunter.

In the 1997 season, NFL quarterbacks got sacked 1252 times. This season, that number was only 1194 - even though the league has two additional teams and everyone throws the ball more per game than they did 20 years ago. There are a lot of possible reasons behind that decline; mobile quarterbacks have become a greater part of offensive schemes, and rule changes have made it riskier to go after the passer too aggressively.

So how do you succeed as a pass rusher? We asked two of the NFL’s greatest sack artists, Bruce Smith and Dwight Freeney, and two current players who racked up 10-plus sacks this season, Melvin Ingram and DeMarcus Lawrence, on the mental preparation and physical skill you need to be the best, and what they think about the NFL’s ever expanding attempts to protect quarterbacks in the rulebook. (You’ll be shocked to learn they’re not fans.)