NFC South Preview: Ranking 5 Best Defensive Players

The NFC South is defined by stellar quarterbacks and explosive offensive play. However, the division also boasts some elite defensive talent. Here are the five best defensive players tormenting the opposition in the NFC South:

5. Asante Samuel, CB, Atlanta Falcons

 A new arrival to the divsion, veteran cover man Asante Samuel is still one of the NFL's most prolific ball hawks. A master of off-coverage techniques, Samuel is a threat to steal any poorly timed or inaccurate pass.

The 31-year-old will take chances, but when deciding to jump a route, he usually guesses right. Despite a poor 2011 campaign, Samuel will add some vital big play capability to the Atlanta Falcons' defense.

4. Charles Johnson, DE, Carolina Panthers

A rising star, Charles Johnson is a complete 4-3 defensive end. Adept as a pass-rusher and run-stuffer, Johnson has dominated the trenches during the last two seasons.

After enjoying a breakout season with 11.5 sacks in 2010, Johnson added a further nine sacks, four batted passes and one forced fumble in 2011. Despite his large frame, the 6'2", 285-pounder is quick and agile enough to beat blockers on the edge and can rush with a deadly combination of speed and power.

3. Curtis Lofton, MLB, New Orleans Saints

Adding Curtis Lofton in free agency was a major coup for the New Orleans Saints. The savvy middle linebacker can direct new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's complex defensive schemes.

Lofton is a decisive tackler and has excellent instincts for underneath coverage. His ability to read the game and diagnose plays, will help Spagnuolo introduce more zone coverage concepts into the Saints' gameplans.

2. James Anderson, LB, Carolina Panthers

A true linebacker, Carolina Panthers' ace James Anderson is an underrated player who has become the key defensive player for Ron Rivera's team.

Anderson is an exceptional run defender and also possesses good blitz skills and the ability to take away a tight end or running back in coverage.

He has accumulated 199 solo tackles and five sacks in the past two seasons. Anderson can lead the revival the Panthers' defense needs to keep pace with their prolific offense.

1. John Abraham, DE, Atlanta Falcons

There are few pass-rushers in the league as smart and technically-refined as 34-year-old John Abraham. The 13-year-veteran has logged 112 career sacks, including 58.5, since joining the Atlanta Falcons in 2006.

Despite a reduced number of snaps in the past two seasons, Abraham remains the most dominant player on the Falcons' defense. He recorded 9.5 quarterback takedowns in 2011 and more importantly, forced four fumbles.

The Falcons have a new coordinator in Mike Nolan and a new scheme, but Abraham will still be the chief source of big plays on their defense.

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