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Which NFL defense is 2018’s successor to the ‘Legion of Boom’?

The Seahawks’ reign is over. So who do quarterbacks fear now?

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Between 2012 and 2015, no defense in the NFL was tougher to score on than the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom. A do-everything secondary led by Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas bolstered a fearsome defensive front that featured the quarterback-smashing combination of players like Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Bruce Irvin.

But after Thomas’ season-ending injury, Seattle won’t have a single member of that group on the field this Sunday. A broken leg didn’t mark the end of the Seahawks’ time as the league’s most fearsome defense — that happened last fall — but it did reinforce the depressing truth that Seattle’s reign was over.

So which NFL defense has filled that void?

The 2018 season has played host to several monster performances. Through a quarter of the season, Jacksonville has held opponents to fewer than 260 yards per game and made Tom Brady look like Brock Osweiler. Chicago shipped a pair of first-round picks to Oakland to free Khalil Mack from Jon Gruden’s mismanagement and watched him lead a unit that’s allowed only 16 points per game. Baltimore’s defense is exactly what you’d expect from a Baltimore defense.

There will never be another Legion of Boom, but this season will cement one team’s status as the league’s most intimidating defense. Who’s it gonna be?

The case for: the Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville built a revival nearly a decade in the making behind a combination of solid drafting and smart free agent decisions. Over the past three seasons, the Jaguars have pulled players like Jalen Ramsey, Yannick Ngakoue, Myles Jack, and Dante Fowler from the college ranks to form the foundation of a homegrown defense. Their low-cost rookie contracts have allowed the club to splurge when it comes to adding veteran talent like Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, A.J. Bouye, and Tashaun Gipson.

Combine those two sides, and you’ve got a depth chart choked with Pro Bowl talent. The Jaguars can crush opponents with a fearsome pass rush or shut them down with a dominant secondary. Jacksonville’s four starting defensive linemen feature two former All-Pros (Campbell, Marcell Dareus) and two Pro Bowlers (Jackson, Ngakoue). Its cache of defensive backs is led by two cornerbacks who were All-Pros in 2017 (Ramsey, Bouye).

Give that unit an offense capable of gaining more than 12 first downs against the Titans and you’ve got an undefeated team pushing for the top spot in the 2018 power rankings. Even with an injured Leonard Fournette and the ongoing trials of Blake Bortles, this team is a Super Bowl contender — and it’s all because of a star-studded defense with a million different ways to stop the ball.

And like the Legion of Boom the group is led, at least vocally, by a trash-talking cornerback with extremely loud and extremely not-wrong opinions. With Ramsey serving as Jacksonville’s Richard Sherman, all the Jaguars need is a land-mammal pun that can rival Legion of Boom to cap their ascension. — Christian D’Andrea

The case for: the Chicago Bears

Khalil Mack is a dominant force and he’s probably the first person you think of when you think of the Bears defense — even if he’s only been there since the beginning of September. In his first four games with Chicago, Mack has made a strong case for NFL MVP with five sacks and four forced fumbles.

But the Bears defense belongs on this list because they were a top 10 unit before adding arguably the best defensive player in the NFL.

In 2017, the Bears were No. 9 in points allowed — despite having a disastrous offense that was dead last in first downs and made the Bears 27th in the NFL in time of possession. With Akiem Hicks and Leonard Floyd leading the way, Chicago had 42 sacks — seventh most in the NFL.

And now there’s Mack. With a dominant pass rusher added to the mix, the Bears are No. 1 in sacks, No. 2 in takeaways, and they still haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown through four games.

Rookie linebacker Roquan Smith is just getting started and second-year safety Eddie Jackson has already ascended to become one of the best at his position. The Bears are going to be a nightmare for opposing offenses for a long time. — Adam Stites

The case for: the Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have sneakily had an elite pass defense this season. They got a layup in Week 1 by decimating the Nathan Peterman and Josh Allen-led Bills offense, but they’ve been lights out for most of 2018. Andy Dalton managed to throw four touchdowns on them in a single half, but in the other quarters they’ve played they’ve only allowed one passing touchdown.

Marlon Humphrey has emerged as an impact cornerback in his second year, Tavon Young is a playmaker in the secondary, and they have a rock solid safety duo between Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson. Veteran Brandon Carr has been a consistently positive presence for the Ravens’ defensive backfield as well.

They’ll be getting stud cornerback Jimmy Smith back in Week 5 from suspension, further boosting their pass defense. Factor in linebackers like rookie sensation Kenny Young and C.J. Mosley and it’s easy to see why the Ravens have one of the toughest defenses in the league today. — Charles McDonald

Which defense is your pick?

Poll

Which defense has usurped Seattle to become the league’s most intimidating?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Jacksonville Jaguars
    (341 votes)
  • 53%
    Chicago Bears
    (640 votes)
  • 10%
    Baltimore Ravens
    (128 votes)
  • 7%
    Someone else (let us know in the comments!)
    (91 votes)
1200 votes total Vote Now