The Charlotte Observer highlighted sack totals for Luke Kuechly and Kony Ealy as "key numbers" for the Panthers team in 2015.
Carolina was in the middle of the pack in terms of sacks last season, clocking in at 13th in NFL with 40 total quarterback takedowns. DC Sean McDermott's defense will look to keep the pressure rolling in 2015 behind stud LB Luke Kuechly and emerging second-year DE Kony Ealy. The Carolina D/ST will be a solid Week 1 option when they face Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Tampa Bay defense is struggling with injuries at the defensive end position.
The Bucs lost DE Larry English to a "significant" knee injury in the team's fourth preseason game, and that puts a cherry on top of an offseason full of injury woes at the defensive end spot. DC Leslie Frazier will need to get creative in order to dial-up pressure this season in hopes of improving the Tampa Bay defense that struggled against the pass in 2014.
St. Louis safety Cody Davis made progress in his development over the 2015 preseason, and will help provide depth in the Rams secondary.
The third-year defensive back turned in a pick-six in St. Louis' fourth preseason game and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted Davis has has steadily improved over the summer. Davis still has plenty of company on the St. Louis depth chart, but any secondary improvement for the Rams in 2015 will go a long way behind what should be a ferocious defensive line. The Rams D/ST is a nice season-long fantasy option but will be tested in Week 1 against Seattle.
Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer believes secondary depth is still a concern for the Eagles as Week 1 approaches.
McLane noted, "Although the unit appears improved, a small sample size of preseason plays is far from enough evidence to say there has been an upgrade." Only the Atlanta Falcons allowed more passing yardage per game than the Philadelphia Eagles last season, so the new additions to the Eagles secondary will be counted on to make major improvements to Chip Kelly's defense. Philadelphia will not be a top Week 1 fantasy option when they travel to the Georgia Dome to take on Matt Ryan and the Falcons.
Rainer Sabin of the Dallas Morning News believes the difficult cut decisions among Dallas defensive linemen bodes well for the unit's 2015 outlook.
The Cowboys defensive line does possess some play-making ability, but the anticipated struggle of the Dallas secondary is the main concern for this defense after the loss of DB Orlando Scandrick to a season-ending knee injury. The Cowboys D/ST faces a tough test against OC Ben McAdoo's New York Giants offense in Week 1 and should be avoided for fantasy purposes.
Houston coach Bill O'Brien told the Houston Chronicle that LB Jadeveon Clowney will play Week 1.
The 2014 top draft pick did not play at all in the preseason, but appears to be ready to contribute in Week 1 after recovering from a knee injury. The return of Clowney adds firepower alongside J.J. Watt and increases the potential ceiling of the Houston D/ST in fantasy leagues. The Texans will host Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1.
The San Diego Union-Tribune noted that Chargers OLB Melvin Ingram showed improved explosion throughout the preseason.
The Union-Tribune also stated that Ingram "seems capable of beating his career total of six sacks and also setting the edge versus the run." Improvement from Ingram would be huge for the San Diego defense, as DC John Pagano's unit recorded just 26 sacks in 2014. The Chargers D/ST will be a middling Week 1 option when they host the Detroit Lions.
CSN Washington believes the ability of the Redskins defense to get pressure will be key when they face Miami in Week 1.
This report also noted that the Washington secondary is "shaky," which is why the Redskins defensive line will need to apply plenty of pressure to Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The Redskins D/ST is not a recommended fantasy option in drafts or Week 1.