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RZL All-Decade Team: Defensive Ends (2010s)
By Keith Van Wagner
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RZL All-Decade Team – 2010s (Defensive Ends)

This is the next article in what has become a long series of articles. In an effort to explore our league’s history, I’m developing an All-Decade team for the years 2010 to 2019. To do so I have had to sift through a lot of our archives, so it’s likely there are some errors. At the same time, we have a very rich history with many talented players. So it’s very likely that a few were excluded that some think should be included, especially since each of us may value some elements of the game over others. Either way, this series is meant to be fun and enlightening. I hope you enjoy.

Now that the Offense players on the All-Time team are done (thankfully), it’s time to now move to the other side of the ball. Defensive Ends feels like the proper place to start. And my guess is it’ll be one of the more contentious positions. For a couple of reasons. First, people tend to love their DEs much in the way GMs are loyal to their QBs and WRs. They know their guy is totally underrated and should be included. Second, there are a ton of quality prospects. Still, it’s fun to wade through all the data and look back at all the past stars. For the Defensive Ends, I chose 4 players to represent the All-Decade Team.

There may be some overlap of positions like we had on the Offensive Line, as maybe a DE moved to or from an OLB position, or a DT position. Keeping this in mind, I’ve done the best I could to capture where a player lined up. I can also report that 3 of the 4 DEs on this list were relatively easy. The fourth selection was hard and I go back and forth. I look forward to the debate that may result.

Here are the Defensive Ends of the Decade

Clay Henderson (Titans, 2010-2019). Henderson is a rare player in the league, having spent each of his 14 seasons in the league with one team, in this case, the Titans. Henderson didn’t waste much time, being voted to the Pro Bowl in his rookie season. But it wasn’t until 2013 that Henderson truly hit his stride, recording 3 straight seasons of 10 or more sacks. In fact, Henderson led or tied for the lead in sacks two consecutive seasons. One need not look further than Henderson’s amazing 6 Pro Bowl trips to see his impact on the Decade. These include 5 consecutive trips to Hawaii, starting in 2013. Henderson is 4th on the All-Time sack list, and is one of only 6 players with over 100 sacks. During the Decade, Henderson recorded 83 sacks, 2nd most during that period.

Stats (2010-2019)
Sacks: 83
Pro Bowls: 6 (2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
Awards: 2013 Best DL
10+ sack seasons: 3
League Leader in Sacks: 2013, 2014T
Top 5 in Sacks: 3 times

Dwight Freeney (Saints, 2010-2018). The inclusion of Dwight Freeney on this list was a no-brainer. His accolades truly do the talking. Freeney is the only player in the Deade to win the Best DL Award twice (2011 and 2014) and one of only 2 Defensive Ends to be named Defensive Player of the Year. Freeney also was the first player to reach 20 sacks in a season (21 in 2011) and still holds the record for the position. Only Kraig Garrison has more seasons with 10 or more sacks and his 4 Pro Bowls from 2010 to 2014 truly demonstrates how he was one of the most dominant Ends in the first half of the Decade. Perhaps the only knock on Freeney is that he wasn’t much of a contributor in the second half of the Decade as he was getting older. In fact, after recording 5 sacks in 2015, Freeney managed only 2 more in his final 3 seasons. Still, looking at the totality of his production, there’s little doubt Freeney deserves to be on the All-Decade team.

Stats (2010-2019)
Sacks: 70
Pro Bowls: 4 (2010, 2011, 2012, 2014)
Awards: 2011 Best DL, 2011 DPOTY, 2014 Best DL
10+ sack seasons: 4
League Leader in Sacks: 2011, 2014T
Top 5 in Sacks: 4 times

Kenwin Cummings (Rams, 2011-2019). It’s no accident that each of the first 3 Defensive Ends spent the entire Decade with only one team. Most GMs know a good thing when they see it, and Kenwin Cummings is definitely that. Cummings’ 77 sacks during the Decade rank 3rd amongst DEs. Cummings came into the league with a bang, recording 12 sacks as a rookie and being named Defensive Rookie of the Year. From 2014 to 2016 Cummings strung together 3 consecutive seasons of 10 or more sacks. Including 14 sacks in 2016, when he tied for the league lead. Cummings was the model of consistency, recording 7 or more sacks in 8 of his 10 seasons in the Decade.

Stats (2010-2019)
Sacks: 77
Pro Bowls: 4 (2011, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Awards: 2011 DROTY, 2016 Best DL
10+ sack seasons: 4
League Leader in Sacks: 2016T
Top 5 in Sacks: 3 times

Mathias Kiwanuka (Browns, 2010-2016). Mathias Kiwanuka was one of the harder decisions for the All-Decade team. Not because he didn’t deserve it, but rather because so many other qualified candidates were in the mix. Ultimately, Kiwanuka gets the nod by a hair. Kiwanuka played four outstanding seasons prior to the Decade, so some of his best work can’t be considered. Even so, it’s easy to see why he’s on this list. Kiwanuka recorded 20 sacks in 2015, a mark that still stands as the 2nd most of any DE in a single season. For this work he was named the Defensive Player of the Year and awarded the Best DL Award. Kiwanuka was no one trick pony, however, as he landed in the Top 5 in sacks two other times. His 66 sacks in the Decade is far below others not on this list, but he played in only 7 seasons during the Decade. Arguments could be made for many others in this final spot and those arguments are compelling. Regardless, Kiwanuka’s performance in the Decade was noteworthy.

Stats (2010-2019)
Sacks: 66
Pro Bowls: 3 (2010, 2013, 2015)
Awards: 2015 Best DL, 2015 DPOTY
10+ sack seasons: 3
League Leader in Sacks: 2015
Top 5 in Sacks: 3 times

Others Considered: Ervin Baldwin wasn’t too flashy, but the DE ended up with 84 sacks, more than anyone in the Decade. However, his lack of winning any awards and only 2 Pro Bowls hurt his candidacy…Buffalo’s David Veikune went to 3 Pro Bowls, had 4 seasons of 10+ sacks and tied for the league lead in 2014…Kraig Garrison should demand a recount. Garrison had more seasons of 10+ sacks than anyone (5) and went to 3 Pro Bowls. However, he never won any awards or lead the league in sacks, and only finished in the Top 5 once…Harold Pritts went to 3 Pro Bowls and had more sacks than Kiwanuka, but just missed the list…Kao Misi tied for the league lead twice and made 3 Pro Bowls, but had only 42 sacks in the Decade…Tommie Harris went to 3 Pro Bowls and lead the league in sacks in 2012, but only had 2 seasons of 10 or more sacks…Jerry Hughes was the Defensive Rookie of the Year and had 4 seasons of 10 or more sacks, but managed only 51 sacks and 2 Pro Bowls…Everson Griffen was born too late. He had 4 seasons of 10 or more sacks in his 4 years of the Decade…And we even had to consider ol’ Mario Williams. Williams made only 1 Pro Bowl during the Decade and was in the Top 5 only once. But he still finished with 70 sacks in the Decade, more than anyone on this list except Baldwin, Henderson, and Cummings. Fun fact: Williams is the only player (that I’m aware of) to have 10 or more sacks in 3 different decades. Wow.
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