Friday, June 5, 2009
LeBeau is top defensive coordinator
By John Clayton ESPN.com
Dick LeBeau has led the No. 1 defense the past two seasons; the Patriots' D has been in the top 10 for three years under Dean Pees; Leslie Frazier has developed a tough run defense in Minnesota.
A major shakeup has juggled the rankings of the league's top five defensive coordinators. Rex Ryan, Steve Spagnuolo and Jim Schwartz coordinated top-10 defenses last season and now have head-coaching jobs, increasing the number of defensive head coaches to 17. Monte Kiffin left the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to join his son Lane at the University of Tennessee. Former top coordinators Dom Capers (Green Bay Packers), Gregg Williams (New Orleans Saints) and Jim Bates (Tampa Bay) are trying new jobs. So who are the league's top 5 defensive coordinators after all of the changes?
AFC West blog
In his first full season as Chargers defensive coordinator, Ron Rivera is focused on fundamentals -- and reviving a once-fearsome pass rush, Bill Williamson writes.
1. Dick LeBeau, Pittsburgh Steelers -- He created the 3-4 defense, and even though he's in his 70s, he's inventive. LeBeau is coming off back-to-back seasons in which the Steelers finished No. 1 on defense. He's the current king.
2. Jim Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles -- Andy Reid and Eagles fans are praying Johnson can kick his bout with cancer and return. He's currently on a leave of absence and is confined to a wheelchair. On the sideline, Johnson is a master of timely blitzes and great calls.
3. Dean Pees, New England Patriots -- Sure, Bill Belichick is the real genius of the Patriots' defense, but somebody has to coordinate it. Pees took over after Eric Mangini left for the Jets, and the Patriots have finished sixth, fourth and 10th on defense under him. He's doing something right.
4. Ron Rivera, San Diego Chargers -- Rivera was a rising star when he was a coordinator for the Super Bowl runner-up Chicago Bears in 2006. Since then, he has reinvented himself in San Diego by learning the 3-4 and re-emerging in the middle of the last season as the Chargers' coordinator.
5. Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings -- Frazier went to the Vikings after working with Tony Dungy in Indianapolis. He's developing a defense in Minnesota that is impossible to run against and can bring the heat in passing situations.
John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.