When it comes to the all-time greatest defensive player in NFL history, different names get thrown around, such as Deacon Jones, Reggie White and Lawrence Taylor, the latter of whom changed the way that NFL teams blocked pass rushers. And while that, along with the pass rush winning the battle in championship level games, make great cases for all three of those players, I feel that both leadership and being the quarterback (preparation included) of the defense supersede that, thus why I say that Ray Lewis is the all-time greatest defensive player in NFL history.
Sure, Lewis was a 3-4 inside linebacker for more than half (11 seasons) of his Hall Of Fame career. And sure, teams don’t really label one inside linebacker in the 3-4 defensive alignment as a middle linebacker. But given that Lewis was a middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense during his first six seasons in the league, he would have no doubt been the middle linebacker equivalent of a 3-4 inside linebacker. And of course, I have to give him the middle linebacker equivalent status, based on both his extraordinary leadership and preparation. Plus, he proved time and again that he could match wits with both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, the two quarterbacks who truly made the NFL the pass-happy league that it is today.
Lawrence Taylor was no doubt a great linebacker during his own Hall Of Fame career and has been regarded as the greatest defensive player in NFL history. But the responsibilities that a middle linebacker/inside linebacker has in a defense are far greater than the responsibilities that a pass-rushing 3-4 outside linebacker (Taylor’s primary position) has, I have to take Lewis over Taylor, along with the fact that for the second time in this entry that I say that Lewis is the greatest defensive player in NFL history. And with all due respect to the players that currently play middle linebacker/inside linebacker in the NFL, as well as Lewis’ contemporaries and the ones that came before him, he is and always will be at the very top of that particular list as well.
Of course, I included Deacon Jones and Reggie White in this entry, but this entry was intended to be a Ray Lewis Vs. Lawrence Taylor entry and I intend to present this entry as such. So with that being said, those of you reading this entry can vote on whether you think Ray Lewis, Lawrence Taylor or neither of those two players is the greatest defensive player in NFL history. Oh yes, and the title of this entry is based on Lewis playing collegiately at the University of Miami and Taylor playing collegiately at the University of North Carolina. And now that I’ve addressed that, you all can vote via the poll below.