*In advance of the 2015 season, former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah draws on his evaluation experience in "Trait Eight" -- a series that identifies three key characteristics for eight high-profile players at various positions. Today's file covers pass rushers. Below, you'll find DJ's assessments of six of the most disruptive forces in the NFL -- plus two rookies who are already making waves in their first preseason. *
For more analysis on this topic, listen to the "2015 edge rusher preview" edition of Daniel Jeremiah's Move The Sticks Podcast.
J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
Three traits: Quick feet, quick hands, relentless. The first thing that people think of with J.J. Watt is the strength, but when you study his game, it's clear he wins more off quickness. There are a lot of pass rushers with quick feet, and there are a lot of pass rushers with quick hands, but Watt has the best combination of both.
Expectations for 2015: I don't see him slowing down. OK, the 20-sack mark is a pretty high bar to set, but I think he's going to be north of 15 or 16 sacks again. My forecast, quite simply, is that he's the best defensive player in football once again.
Von Miller, OLB, Denver Broncos
Three traits: Bendy, long, instinctive. When he was coming out of college, scouts latched onto the term "Gumby" -- his ability to bend and wrap and contort his body, while maintaining perfect balance, is just so unique and special. You talk about guys who can bend the edge to get to the quarterback, so they don't run by the quarterback -- get by the tackle and flatten -- Miller does it better than anybody.
Expectations for 2015: Hopefully, we see a fully healthy Von Miller this season, and if so, he's going to be right in the mix for Defensive Player of the Year.
Justin Houston, OLB, Kansas City Chiefs
Three traits: Explosive, strong hands, finisher. It's hard to imagine posting 22 sacks and flying under the radar, but unfortunately, Houston spent last year in J.J. Watt's shadow. One of the most important aspects for a pass rusher is to be able to finish -- not just beat your man, but actually get the quarterback on the ground. Houston is an outstanding finisher.
Expectations for 2015: Houston just got paid handsomely -- and rightfully so -- but I don't see him taking the foot off the pedal at all. Dontari Poe's health is a concern because he does such a good job of eliminating the escape room for a quarterback. If Poe's not in there collapsing the pocket, Houston's production could be affected. That said, this guy should still be a force to be reckoned with.
Robert Quinn, DE, St. Louis Rams
Three traits: Fluid, agile, leverage. Sometimes you sacrifice run-stopping ability as a defense when you have an edge rusher with athleticism and length -- offensive linemen might be able to move around a guy who's a little bit narrow -- but Quinn is really, really good at playing with leverage and power.
Expectations for 2015: I don't think we've seen the best of Robert Quinn, which is a frightening notion for opposing offenses. He started off very slow last year; I don't see that happening again in 2015. The Rams' D-line is terrifying. Good luck blocking Quinn andAaron Donald -- that's a pick-your-poison conundrum.
Mario Williams, DE, Buffalo Bills
Three traits: Size, versatile, power. After Houston surprised everyone and took Williams over Reggie Bush with the first overall pick of the 2006 NFL Draft, then-Texans GM Charley Casserly said: "He's almost 6-7 and runs a 4.7. His vertical jump is exactly the same as Reggie Bush and he's 90 pounds heavier." Charley nailed that pick. Williams is just an absolute freak of an athlete.
Expectations for 2015: The Rams' D-line gets a lot of attention, but I think Buffalo has the most talented defensive front in the NFL. The Bills' starting quartet racked up 40 sacks last season, and Williams led the way with 14.5. With new head coach Rex Ryan's ability to get his top players in favorable matchups, I think we could see Williams' total go up even more.
Cameron Wake, DE, Miami Dolphins
Three traits: Twitched-up, effort, rolls his hips. Rolling his hips is exactly like it sounds. When you've got a guy who's really, really stiff, it's kind of a steady power rush. Wake's able to roll his hips on contact just creates a jarring shot on offensive tackles. It's not a steady pushback, it is an explosive jolt that he provides.
Expectations for 2015: The Dolphins' defensive line is going to test the anchor of every O-line Miami faces. With Wake lining up next to Ndamukong Suh, that is a whole lot of power, strength and explosiveness coming at you. Wake's immense talent is no secret in NFL circles, but he really hasn't received the widespread attention he deserves. This could be the year he achieves mass notoriety among football fans.
Shane Ray, OLB, Denver Broncos
Three traits: Intense, high motor, tight. Ray's the opposite of a long, fluid pass rusher; he's more of a compact, stiff force. Ray reminds me a little bit of Trent Cole because he's really good with his hands, he's strong and he just never quits.
Randy Gregory, DE, Dallas Cowboys
Three traits: Loose, lean, natural. He has a slight build -- much was made of his weight (235 pounds) at the NFL Scouting Combine -- but he's very similar to Jason Taylor; they're both narrow, long, very loose athletes.