Worst position groups in NFL: Defense


I picked the worst position groups in NFL offenses on Monday. After nailing that list, let's try to throw another perfect game on defense.

Worst safety group: Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys entered the draft with the shakiest-looking safety group in the league. They left with an additional third-round pick, safety JJ Wilcox, out of Georgia Southern who is "light years" away from contributing. (That's according to a Cowboys assistant.) Second-year pro Matt Johnson and Barry Church are set up to start.

It is very Jerry Jones to saddle a highly paid, deep cornerback group with a poor safety combination. This has been a trouble spot for Jones for years.

Honorable mentions: Carolina Panthers, Washington Redskins, St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals: The Redskins are relying on Brandon Meriweather, which is never a good idea. They've often tried to replace another projected starter, Reed Doughty. ... The safety position cost the Panthers games last season, and they didn't upgrade. ... The Cardinals are starting over after letting go of Kerry Rhodes and Adrian Wilson.

Worst cornerback group: Jacksonville Jaguars

New general manager David Caldwell is not playing with a stacked deck in his first year. Their top cornerbacks include a third-round pick out of UConn (Dwayne Gratz) and an 11-year veteran who was out of work in May (Marcus Trufant). It will take time to rebuild this group, but coach Gus Bradley should maximize what he has.

Honorable mentions: San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders, Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles: Perhaps we need to readjust expectations about cornerbacks. There were so many more teams that appeared to have holes in the secondary compared to other positions. The Chargers have very little after injury-prone free-agent pickup Derek Cox. The depth for the rest of the teams here looks shaky.

Worst linebacker group: Oakland Raiders

The Raiders' linebacker group is the definition of replacement level. Nick RoachKaluka Maiava, and Kevin Burnett were all signed to cheap, short-term deals. They all would fit better as reserves somewhere, but they will start in Oakland. Third-round pick Sio Moore is the group's best hope for the future.

Honorable mentions: Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts: The Lions are weakest on the outside with Ashlee Palmer and DeAndre Levy. ... The Bills will run a hybrid 3-4, 4-3 scheme. They don't have many players they know they can rely on, but they do have a lot of them. Former safety Bryan Scott converted to the position. ... The final two teams on the list all have one very good linebacker but look thin otherwise.

Worst defensive line (3-4): Indianapolis Colts

Bruce Arians and Chuck Pagano earned that Coach of the Year award. The Colts won 11 games with all sorts of holes on their depth chart, especially in the front seven of their defense. Ricky Jean-Francois was a fun pickup, but he's never started before. The other starters (Cory Redding, Aubrayo Franklin, or Josh Chapman) are workmanlike, with shaky depth behind them.

Honorable mention: Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles: The Saints are a team in transition. There is some talent in place with Cameron Jordan and Akiem Hicks, but we don't know how they'll fit in the new defense. ... The Redskins lack difference makers. ... Fletcher Cox is fantastic in Philadelphia, but he needs more help.

Worst defensive line (4-3): Oakland Raiders

Once again, Oakland is starting guys who would struggle to get jobs elsewhere. Lamarr Houston is a nice player, but after that it's Vance Walker, Pat Sims and Jason Hunter. There just aren't young guys to get excited about. If Dennis Allen wins seven games with this roster, he should get Coach of the Year votes.

Honorable mention: Jacksonville Jaguars, Denver Broncos: The Broncos are the consensus AFC favorite, yet it's hard to name their best defensive lineman. Derek Wolfe? He's a promising second-year pick, but he was just average last year. Robert Ayers? He showed promise last season, but the Broncos have done their best to not play him since drafting him in the first round under Josh McDaniels. Terrance Knighton and Kevin Vickerson and others give an unremarkable group depth but not difference makers.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.