One of the hallmarks of the greatest NFL defensive linemen to ever play in the NFL is their total ability to swing the balance of any game at any time, even if the explanation was simple: They could not be corralled with one-on-one blocking. Despite their brutish job description, these players made defensive football a thing of beauty by being equally adept at shutting down the running game and wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Sometimes operating on reputation alone, these all-time greats could alter offensive game plans and put opposing coordinators out of work.
Before each play, a defensive lineman in a three-point stance represents the calm before the storm. Immediately upon the snap of the football, the defender explodes upward, swivels his hips, and casts aside the opposing offensive linemen with a forearm shiver. From there, the greats all had a nose for the ball and the big play. With one fell karate-chop swoop, a game-changing lineman can force a fumble, recover the football, and head the other direction for six behind a convoy of like-minded goons. Here’s our list of the 10 greatest defensive linemen of all time. [Editor’s note: We’re waiting for J.J. Watt’s career to be over before we enshrine him next to his likely peers.]