By the decade: NFC West defensive line

Defensive end Leonard Little and defensive tackle Bryant Young stood out to me as the NFC West's best defensive linemen at their positions in the first decade of the 2000s.

The word "character" applies to both, though in different ways.

Little, his off-field legacy damaged by his role in a drunken-driving crash that killed a woman, showed what scouts and coaches call "football character" -- passion, determination, toughness, etc. Young, held up as a model citizen and all-around good guy, also possessed those on-field traits.

Both were extremely productive and, at their best, dominant and inspirational players. Both played hard regardless of how well their teams played.

The interception and diving touchdown return Little provided in the closing minutes against Jacksonville this past season stands out as one example. Young always commanded the highest compliments from opposing offensive linemen. They admired his production and the way he conducted himself. Former Seahawks guard Chris Gray once said he thought Young would have kept going to Pro Bowls if the 49ers had left him at defensive tackle in a 4-3 instead of transitioning him to end in a 3-4.

There were other very good defensive linemen in the NFC West during the decade.

The Cardinals' Darnell Dockett, now playing end in a 3-4, ranked second on my list of defensive tackles. Ranking second to Young, a potential future Hall of Famer, should stand as an honor. A few other defensive linemen -- Chike Okeafor, Grant Wistrom and Bryce Fisher -- played well for multiple teams within the division.

The charts below draw information from Pro Football Reference (Rams, Cardinals, 49ers, Seahawks).