With the exception of the Men’s Basketball team closing in on their quest for gold, the Olympics (or at least the sports that most Americans care about) are all but over. However if you still need your daily fix of international competition, part II of Team USA’s American Football roster is finally here. This time it’s the defense and special teams.
Once again, here are the selection criteria in case you need to refresh your memory:
- America has a history of not always sending professionals to compete internationally (i.e. the pre-Dream Team basketball era), but this roster has been assembled under the assumption that Uncle Sam has decided to take off the white gloves and come at the world with everything we’ve got.
- American Football is actually played on an international stage with each team allowed 45 available non-professional roster spots, however I was unable to confirm that number and since the NFL is the measuring stick of all American Football and because whittling the worthy down to 53 was hard enough, the NFL’s standard 53 available roster spots is what we’re rolling with.
- The roster was assembled under the assumption that every player selected is willing to miss training camp and brave disease, toxic water conditions, theft, and the possibility of potential murder for the chance to win America’s first ever football gold medal.
One more thing: Keep in mind that this is just a roster, not a depth chart. It was hard enough to find 53 players worthy of the Olympic roster, let alone put them into a 5,000 word blog while I’m at work. If you have any suggestions, feel free to get at me on Twitter or leave them in the comment section.
You can catch up on part I HERE.
JJ Watt – Amazingly enough, JJ Watt has found enough time in between flipping tires, nursing sick children back to health, and chopping down trees in the Wisconsin wilderness to accept Uncle Sam’s invitation to Rio. It doesn’t matter if Team USA is going with a base 4-3 defense, a 3-4, a 3-3-5 stack, or just throws JJ out there all by himself, Watt is going to wreak havoc because love him or hate him, he’s the best player on the planet right now.
Carlos Dunlap – If Dr. Frankenstein were to build a prototypical NFL defensive end from the ground up in his laboratory, the end result would probably look a lot like Carlos Dunlap. Dunlap has everything you’re looking for out of a defensive end. Good size, good speed, length, big hands, great footwork; the total package. That would explain Dunlap’s 14.5 sacks last year and why he’s eyeing Strahan’s single season sack record this upcoming season.
Chandler Jones – Much like Dunlap, Chandler Jones has every physical attribute you look for in a defensive end. The Patriots are known mostly for their prowess on offense, but Bill Belichick built a pretty formidable unit on the opposing side of the ball thanks in large part to the pressure Jones would bring off the edge before taking his talents to Phoenix. Also Jones likely won’t be phased by Rio de Janeiro’s rampant cocaine problem, seeing as he’s the younger brother of troubled UFC fighter, Jon Jones.
Michael Bennett – Seattle’s staunch defense was brought to prominence by Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom, but it’s much easier to lock down receivers one on one when Bennett is bearing down on opposing quarterbacks. Also I call dibs on writing Bennett’s firsthand account of the Olympic Village because you know he won’t hold anything back. The Bennett boys are as real as it gets.
Geno Atkins – Geno Atkins is a man of few words, and if he were your run of the mill defensive tackle, most people outside of the Queen City wouldn’t even know who Geno Atkins even is. However, Geno isn’t just your run of the mill defensive tackle. Throughout the course of his still young career, Atkins has used his incredible strength and explosiveness off the ball to become one of the best defensive tackles, if not all around defensive players in all of football.
Ndamukong Suh – Much like many of the players on Team USA’s roster, Ndamukong Suh was about as can’t miss as they get coming out of college. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s quick, and he’s mean. Like, real mean. Much like Incognito was brought in on offense for his attitude and bullish demeanor, Suh will unquestionably bring a nasty edge to an already stacked defensive unit. The only question mark surrounding Suh is whether or not he’ll spark an international incident when he inevitability punches an opposing team’s quarterback square in the beans.
Aaron Donald – Being one of the best interior lineman for an 8-8 team in the Midwest doesn’t get you much shine, but being one of the best interior lineman out in Los Angeles may just turn you into a star. Donald is nearly impossible to block one on one and now that he’s playing under the bright lights in Hollywood, expect Donald’s dominance to turn him into a household name.
Gerald McCoy – Don’t look now, but Jaemis and the Bucs have a chance to be sneaky good this season thanks in large part to the talent they’ve amassed on defense. McCoy certainly fits into that category as his ability to wreak havoc on the offensive line can cause huge problems for opposing offenses.
Marcell Dareus – The Bills are growing increasingly impatient with the talented Dareus as he will have to serve a four game suspension for a missed drug test this offseason. Fortunately, a missed NFL drug test doesn’t mean shit to the IOC so it’s either sit on the couch or lay low in Rio for Dareus.
Vince Wilfork – Much like Mangold on the the offensive side of the ball, Wilfork was brought in to provide leadership for an otherwise young defensive line. Wilfork is a behemoth and can still make plays from time to time, but Vince is mainly here to provide a likeable, veteran presence and perhaps no one personifies a likeable, veteran presence more than Vince Wilfork.
Pass Rush Specialists (LB/DE)
Von Miller – Von Miller spent the majority of the offseason fighting with John Elway and Broncos management, so what better way to blow off some steam (other than spending some of that new $115 million contract money) than to head down to Rio and terrorize some foreign signal callers? Miller is one of the better pass rushers and all around defenders in the game and no Olympic or All Pro roster would be complete without him.
Khalil Mack – It’s a shame that Khalil Mack has to chase around ball carriers on a baseball field, and even more of a shame that the Raiders star is spending the early years of his career out west away from the national spotlight. Much like the Broncos Miller, Mack specializes in rushing the passer and has already proven himself to be one of the best linebackers in all of football.
Luke Kuechly – In today’s NFL, it’s rare that fans, experts, players, and coaches can come to an agreement on which player is the best at their particular position, but Luke Kuechly is an exception to that rule. Since entering the league in 2012, Kuechly has been named to three straight Pro Bowls and All Pro teams and can do just about everything that has been asked from a middle linebacker on a defense that made the Super Bowl last year.
Navarro Bowman – not long ago, San Francisco was one of the league’s great superpowers, but much like the former Soviet Union, leadership problems and key defections left a once proud organization reeling. However much like Vladimir Putin, Navarro Bowman is the last bastion from the glory days where he was, and still is one of the premier linebackers in the game.
Vontaze Burfict – Burfict’s career has been marred by his on field reputation, suspensions, and numerous games missed due to injury. Because of that, many fans don’t realize how good Vontaze Burfict really is, but when he’s not injured or in Roger Goodell’s doghouse, Tez is arguably one of the top linebackers in the NFL. Don’t believe me, just go back and watch that playoff loss to Pittsburgh last year. Personal foul at the end of the game not withstanding, Burfict was the best player on the field in a game that featured a two time Super Bowl winning quarterback, a receiver that has put together statistically the best three year run in the history of the league, a five time Pro Bowler, and a former NFL defensive player of the year.
Jamie Collins – I have a soft spot in my heart for Jamie Collins as he blocked a meaningless field goal last season to clinch me a fantasy playoff berth. He also happens to be one of the most versatile defenders in the league as evidenced by said block. Collins can rush the edge, plug up holes, run with receivers and tight ends, even line up out wide on rare occasion. Collins is the Swiss Army knife to Bill Belichick’s Patriot defense.
Richard Sherman – The Don King of Seattle’s ‘Legion of Boom.’ Perhaps the league’s best trash talker since the Bengals Chad Johnson in the mid-2000’s. And much like Johnson, Sherman can back up all that talk. Seattle uses Sherman to shut down one side of the field and he’s done that job so well that opposing quarterbacks rarely look that direction anymore.
Patrick Peterson – The Peterson/Sherman rivalry may be the best individual position rivalry in all of football. Much like Sherman, Peterson is one of the NFC’s premier shutdown corners as well as one of the top return threats in football.
Josh Norman – In a way, Norman helped solidify Cam Newton’s status as the 2015 NFL MVP. Before Cam put the mitts on Norman at training camp back in 2014, Norman was kind of a scrub. Since the scuffle, Norman turned himself into a shutdown corner and one of the league’s most sought after free agents this offseason. Just make sure his locker is in the opposite corner as O’dell Beckham Jr’s.
Darrelle Revis – Another year, another spot amongst the league’s elite for Darrelle Revis. Since entering the league, Revis has hopped around the NFL collecting large paycheck after large paycheck and proving to be a nightmare for opposing pass catchers in the process. He’s a bit older now, but Revis Island is still very much open for business.
Malcolm Butler – Bob Costas and the rest of the NBC team covering the Olympics just love to hit you with inspirational pieces about athletes who overcame long odds to compete and acheive their goals on the biggest stage in all of sports. With that in mind, Costas is salivating over the chance to document Butler’s rise to Olympic glory. Don’t forget, Butler was originally an undrafted free agent out of Alcorn State before picking off Russell Wilson in one of the most memorable plays in recent memory. Not to mention he’s an All Pro talent and a nightmare for opposing wide receivers.
Earl Thomas – Richard Sherman gets all the headlines, Kam Chancellor makes all the highlight reel hits, but Seattle’s best DB is Earl Thomas. Thomas’ speed and instincts allow him to cover the entire field and embody everything defensive coordinators are looking for out of a safety in the modern NFL.
Eric Berry – Team USA is fortunate that the IOC approved Berry for competition in the 2016 Summer Games because Eric Berry may not be from the same country, or even the same planet as you or I. Anyone who can come back from lymphoma and play in the National Football League in the span of a year isn’t of the same species as the rest of us. Yet here we are and Berry is still an All Pro talent and arguably the best safety in the game today.
Tyrann Mathieu – perhaps no one in recent memory has had their off field issues documented quite like Mathieu, and perhaps no one in recent memory has been the perfect example for getting Back on the straight and narrow quite like the Honey Badger. Mathieu’s playmaking ability was never in question and now that he’s gotten his wits about him, Honey Badger is one of the top safeties out there.
Harrison Smith – Harrison who? How about Harrison that just cashed a check making him the highest paid safety in the league. Smith flies a little under the radar because he’s a white guy that plays in Minnesota, but make no mistake, Harrison Smith is the real deal. His size, speed, and versatility allow him to do just about everything a safety needs to do in Mike Zimmer’s staunch defense.
Stephen Gostkowski – Perhaps the hardest thing in all of sports to do is to come in and try to replace a preceding legend. Following in the footsteps of Patriots great Adam Vinatieri is no small feat, but Gostkowski has lived up to the hype nailing clutch kick after clutch kick while receiving plenty of kicking opportunities in one of the league’s best offenses.
Pat McAfee – Everyone’s favorite punter gets a chance to unleash “The Boomstick” in Rio, however something tells me this team won’t be doing a great deal of punting. McAfee is there for the scenery.
Nate Boyer – If you haven’t heard Nate Boyer’s story, do yourself a favor and check that out after you finish reading this article. Boyer is a true American hero and if anyone deserves to represent the United States in international competition, it’s Nate Boyer.
Also Googling “best long snappers in the NFL” doesn’t yield a whole lot of results and if you can honestly name more than two long snappers, DM me and I’ll Venmo you $5.