Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Best duos on each NFL team: Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce pace Chiefs; Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp lead Rams

The NFL is blessed with plenty of star power across the league, and some talent even resides on the same team. But finding a dynamic duo that helps a team win games can be difficult, especially if they don’t play the same position. 

The best duos in the league don’t have to play the same position, but they have to contribute on the same side of the ball. So what qualifies as a duo for each team? Here were the qualifications for this particular list:

  • Play on the same side of the ball 

  • Contribute to the team’s offensive or defensive success
  • Can be from the same position, but not a prerequisite
  • Can be the two best players on that particular side of the ball

Here are the top duos for each of the 32 NFL teams, all of which feature some of the best players in the league: 

Arizona Cardinals — Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins

It’s pretty simple how good the Cardinals are when Hopkins is on the field, and how he impacts Murray’s game. Arizona was 8-2 when Hopkins played last year and averaged 30.2 points per game. Murray’s game is also considerably better when he has his No. 1 wide receiver. 

Murray completed 71.6% of his passes and threw for 278.2 passing yards per game in the 10 games he played with Hopkins in 2021. He also had 19 touchdowns to nine interceptions with a 106.0 passer rating with Hopkins in the lineup (81.2 without Hopkins). 

When Murray and Hopkins play, the Cardinals win. 

Atlanta FalconsCordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Pitts

The Falcons don’t have a longtime duo, but Patterson and Pitts give Atlanta its best chance to win games. Patterson was the do-it-all skill player on the Falcons offense last year, as he rushed for 618 yards and six touchdowns and caught 52 passes for 548 yards and and five touchdowns. The 1,166 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns made Patterson a unique weapon for the offense. 

Pitts was the best receiver on the Falcons last year, catching 68 passes for 1,026 yards and averaging 15.1 yards per catch — almost breaking Mike Ditka’s yardage record for rookie tight ends. He should be even better in 2022, no matter who plays quarterback for Atlanta. 

Baltimore RavensMarlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters 

Humphrey and Peters are one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL when healthy. The Ravens didn’t get to see that in 2021 when Peters was lost for the year before the season even started. Together, both are playmakers on the field. Peters has the most takeaways (39), interceptions (31), interception-return yards (814), interception-return touchdowns (six) and defensive touchdowns (seven). 

Humphrey became the first defensive back to register at least eight forced fumbles and a sack (2.5) in a single season in 2020. His 64 passes defensed since entering the league (2017) are fifth-most among all players. Like Peters, Humphrey also has multiple Pro Bowl appearances. 

Baltimore’s pass defense was among the worst in the league when those two weren’t on the field. That shouldn’t be the case in 2022. 

Buffalo Bills — Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs

Allen’s game took off when the Bills traded for Diggs, who set an NFL record with 230 receptions in his first two years with a new team. Diggs is also third in the NFL in receptions (230) and receiving yards (2,760) over the past two years.

Allen has become one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, totaling 88 touchdowns over the last two seasons (trailing only Aaron Rodgers), while his 135 total touchdowns trail only Dan Marino for the most by a player after his first four seasons. 

The Bills won consecutive AFC East titles and have become Super Bowl contenders with Allen and Diggs leading the way. 

Carolina PanthersJeremy Chinn and Jaycee Horn

These two have only been together in the secondary for three games, but the impact was already felt in Carolina with such a small sample size. Carolina allowed just 146 pass yards per game, leading the NFL in that category after the first three games of 2021 (when Horn and Chinn played). 

Horn allowed just a 39.6 passer rating in coverage when he was the primary defender, while Chinn is one of three players in franchise history (Jon Beason, Luke Kuechly) to have 100 tackles in each of their first two seasons with the Panthers. 

The potential for Horn and Chinn together in year two can carry the Panthers defense, as both players aren’t even close to entering their primes. 

Chicago BearsRobert Quinn and Roquan Smith

The Bears made so many changes on their roster, it was hard to find a consistent duo. Fortunately, general manager Ryan Poles kept Quinn and Smith around. Smith recorded 100-plus tackles in each of his first four seasons, becoming the first Chicago player to do so since Lance Briggs. 

Quinn had 18.5 sacks last season, which set a franchise record and was second only to T.J. Watt. Quinn is one of eight active players with 100 career sacks (101), reaching double-digit totals five times. The 32-year-old Quinn is one of just five players with multiple seasons of 18-plus sacks (the NFL recorded sacks as an official stat in 1982). Reggie White, Michael Strahan, DeMarcus Ware, and J.J. Watt are the others.

If the Bears defense is going to perform in 2022, Quinn and Smith will be at the center of its success. 

Cincinnati BengalsJoe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase

One year together and the Bengals made the Super Bowl. That’s how impactful Burrow and Chase were in year one. Chase had the most receiving yards in a season by a rookie in the Super Bowl era (1,455) and had eight receiving touchdowns of 30-plus yards — the most be any player in a season since Jordy Nelson in 2011. 

Including the playoffs, Burrow led the league in completion percentage (70%) and yards per attempt (8.6), while finishing second in passer rating (105.9). Burrow completed 61% of his passes, averaged 8.6 yards per attempt, and had a 92.4 passer rating when pressured — all of which led the NFL. 

Burrow and Chase will be a dangerous duo for years to come

Cleveland BrownsNick Chubb and Kareem Hunt

The Browns offense goes through Chubb and Hunt, arguably the best running back duo in the league. Chubb leads all running backs with 5.23 yards per carry since entering the league. His 17 100-yard rushing games are second in the league over the last four years while his 3,557 rushing yards rank third.

Hunt, meanwhile, ranks eighth in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (4,593) and total touchdowns (37) since his rookie season in 2017, when he became the sixth rookie in the Super Bowl era to lead the league in rushing.

Chubb and Hunt continue to produce at a high level and will be even more productive with a better passing game in Cleveland.

Please check the opt-in box to acknowledge that you would like to subscribe.

Thanks for signing up!

Keep an eye on your inbox.

Sorry!

There was an error processing your subscription.

Dallas CowboysMicah Parsons and Trevon Diggs

What both Parsons and Diggs did to transform the Cowboys defense in 2021 was phenomenal. Parsons was the first player with 13-plus sacks and 80-plus tackles in a single season since J.J. Watt in 2012 and was the first rookie to have 30 quarterback hits in a season. 

Diggs led the NFL with 11 interceptions and was second with 21 pass breakups, the only player in the league with 10-plus interceptions and 20-plus pass breakups. He’s one of just seven players since 1970 with 11-plus interceptions in a season. 

The Cowboys defense improved from finishing 28th in points allowed to seventh and led the league with 34 takeaways. Parsons and Diggs played an integral role in that. 

Denver BroncosJavonte Williams and Melvin Gordon 

Even with Russell Wilson in the fold, the Broncos have to salivate over having Williams and Gordon in the backfield another year. Williams came on the scene in his rookie season, rushing for 903 yards and four touchdowns (4.4 yards per carry) and finishing with 1,219 yards from scrimmage and seven total touchdowns. He finished third among all rookies in rushing and third among rookie running backs in yards per carry — while ending up second among rookie backs in yards from scrimmage.

Gordon had 203 carries for 918 yards and eight touchdowns in 2021. He and Williams were the first running back duo since 2011 to each have 900 yards rushing in the season. They’ll play a major role in Russell Wilson’s success with the Broncos. 

Detroit LionsJameson Williams and Amon-Ra St. Brown 

Williams hasn’t even played an NFL game yet, but he will make St. Brown’s life a lot easier as he heads into year two. St. Brown had 90 catches for 912 yards and five touchdowns in his rookie season, but most of his production came in his last six games. He caught 52 passes for 560 yards and five touchdowns during that stretch — all ranking in the top five in the NFL. 

What Williams brings to the table in the Lions offense can’t be ignored, as 1,329 of his 1,561 receiving yards at Alabama came when he was deemed open (per Pro Football Focus). He ranked fourth in the nation by averaging 9.3 yards after the reception. His nine catches of 50-plus yards last year tied Ja’Marr Chase for the most by a player in an FBS season. 

The Lions have a passing game with Williams and St. Brown, and the duo can be one of the best wide receiver tandems in the NFL. 

Green Bay Packers — Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones

The Packers offense revolves around Rodgers, who has claimed the league’s MVP award in consecutive seasons. Rodgers leads the NFL in completion percentage (69.8%) and touchdown passes (85) while throwing just nine interceptions — the fewest in the league. His 116.7 passer rating also leads the league of quarterbacks who have thrown 1,000 passes. 

With Davante Adams to Las Vegas, Rodgers’ top running mate is Aaron Jones — who is ninth in the NFL in rushing yards (1,903) and fourth in yards per carry (5.1) over the last two years (minimum 300 carries). Jones has 2,649 yards from scrimmage during that stretch, seventh among running backs. 

Jones is the top option in the Packers offense not named Aaron Rodgers. He’s set up for a big year in 2022. 

Houston TexansDavis Mills and Brandin Cooks

The Texans don’t have much to work with on their roster, but Mills was surprisingly good for them last season. Mills ranked third in NFL history among all rookie quarterbacks in completion percentage (66.8%) and had three games with a passer rating of 125 or higher — tied for the second-most among rookie quarterbacks since the 1970 merger.

Mills’ top target was Cooks, who has six 1,000-yards season in his past seven years. Cooks has 7,367 receiving yards since the start of the 2015 season, seventh in the NFL. He had a career-high 90 catches last season, including 25 for 295 yards and three touchdowns in the final five games (when Mills had a 102.4 passer rating).

If the Texans offense is going to be competitive, Mills and Cooks have to lead the way. 

Indianapolis ColtsQuenton Nelson and Ryan Kelly

Nelson and Kelly are one of the best interior lineman duos in the NFL — and the pair line up right next to each other. Nelson has played 4,027 snaps in his career, allowing as many sacks as Pro Bowls and All-Pro selections earned (four). Kelly has been to three consecutive Pro Bowls and allowed only six sacks and 11 quarterback hits in 2,773 snaps. 

The Colts offensive line has been one of the best in the NFL because of Nelson and Kelly. Both players should be paired next to each other for years to come. 

Jacksonville JaguarsJames Robinson and Travis Etienne

These running backs have never played together, but that’s going to change in 2022. Etienne left Clemson as the ACC’s all-time leader in rushing yards (4,952), scrimmage yards (6,107), rushing touchdowns (70), and scrimmage touchdowns (78) — yet didn’t play his entire rookie season due to injury. 

Robinson may not be back in time for the start of the year, either, but he’s been productive since he’s entered the league. Robinson’s 1,414 scrimmage yards are the most scrimmage yards by an undrafted rookie in NFL history, and he followed up that campaign with 767 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games despite questionable coaching decisions by Urban Meyer. 

Robinson can be the thunder to Etienne’s lighting in Doug Pederson’s offense, as both backs will play a pivotal role in Trevor Lawrence’s success. 

Kansas City ChiefsPatrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce

There may not be a better duo in the NFL than Mahomes and Kelce, two players who have dominated at their respective positions and have taken the Chiefs deep in the playoffs four consecutive years. Mahomes leads the NFL in passing yards (18,707) and passing touchdowns (151) and is second in passer rating (106.2) among quarterbacks with 1,500 pass attempts since the 2018 season. 

Kelce is second in the NFL in receiving yards (5,106), third in receptions (397) and tied for sixth in touchdowns (35) since Mahomes became the starting quarterback in 2018. These two have helped the Chiefs reach four consecutive AFC Championship Games, win two conference titles and secure a Super Bowl title.

With Tyreek Hill off to Miami, Kelce will be even more prominent in the Chiefs offense. Mahomes and Kelce still have several more years of greatness.

Las Vegas RaidersMaxx Crosby and Chandler Jones

The Raiders will be getting after the quarterback in 2022, especially after all the havoc Crosby caused on the edge last season. Crosby had a league-high 92 pressures last year and finished fourth in the NFL with 30 quarterback hits despite only having eight sacks. 

Crosby’s sack totals should improve with the addition of Jones, who leads the NFL in sacks (107.5) and forced fumbles (33) since entering the league in 2012. Jones has averaged 0.77 sacks per game, seventh-best in NFL history since sacks became official in 1982 (minimum 20 games). 

With the talent of quarterbacks in the AFC West, the Raiders have the best tandem to get pressure on them. 

Los Angeles ChargersKeenan Allen and Mike Williams

Justin Herbert belongs with this dynamic duo, but the Chargers superstar’s top wideouts are just as vital toward this team’s success. Allen has 1,000 receiving yards and 100 receptions in four of the past five seasons. Allen’s 507 catches are the most in the league over the last five seasons, and his 5,918 receiving yards are fifth in the league. 

Williams is one of the best deep threats in the NFL, hauling in 21 catches of 40-plus yards since the start of the 2018 season (second-most in the NFL). His 11 touchdowns of 30-plus yards since the start of 2018 are tied for second in the NFL. Williams had a career year in 2021, posting a career-high 76 catches for 1,146 yards.

With Williams back in Los Angeles for the next several years, he and Allen will be vital in the Chargers’ quest toward the top of the AFC. 

Los Angeles RamsMatthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp

One year together and Stafford and Kupp were able to win a Super Bowl. Kupp became the first player since 2005 to win the NFL‘s triple crown, leading the league in receptions (145), receiving yards (1,947) and receiving touchdowns (16). He’s just the fourth player since 1970 to achieve this feat. Kupp is the only player ever with 2,000 receiving yards in a season (including playoffs), finishing with 2,425 on the year. 

Stafford threw for 4,886 yards and 41 touchdowns in his first season with the Rams, throwing for 14 touchdowns to zero interceptions with a 123.2 passer rating in the fourth quarter. He also led the Rams to the Super Bowl title in his first year with the team, only the third quarterback in NFL history to achieve this feat.

The Rams are Super Bowl contenders with Stafford and Kupp. That won’t change in 2022.

Miami DolphinsByron Jones and Xavien Howard

Jones and Howard may be the league’s best cornerback duo, even if Jones had a down season in 2021. Jones failed to record an interception and opposing quarterbacks targeting him had a 75.3 passer rating, but he’s still one of the top cover corners in the league. 

Howard is typically one of the best cornerbacks in the game, even if he allowed seven touchdowns last year. Opposing quarterbacks only had a 64.0 passer rating when targeting Howard, who finished with five interceptions.  Howard’s 23 interceptions are the second-most in the NFL over the past four seasons. 

This is a highly paid duo, but also a highly productive one when both are playing at a high level. 

Minnesota VikingsDalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson 

Cook and Jefferson are the home run hitters on the Vikings and two of the best at their positions in the NFL. Cook has 3,851 rushing yards and 35 rushing touchdowns over the past three seasons, second-most in the NFL. His 4,955 scrimmage yards are also second-most in the NFL, trailing only Derrick Henry. He’s made the Pro Bowl in each of those three seasons.

Jefferson has 196 catches for 3,016 yards and 17 touchdowns over the past two years. He’s seventh in receptions, first in yards and 10th in receiving touchdowns over that span. His 10.39 yards per target is also 10th in the league. Jefferson’s 196 catches are tied with Michael Thomas for the most in the league for players after their first two seasons, and his 3,016 yards are the most ever for a player in that span.

No matter how the Vikings play, Cook and Jefferson are going to perform. Both players are cornerstones for the franchise — and will continue to be for years. 

New England PatriotsDevin McCourty and Adrian Phillips

The Patriots have typically had strong safety play under Bill Belichick, and that hasn’t changed with McCourty and Phillips controlling the back of the secondary. McCourty has recorded 900 tackles and 31 interceptions in his 12-year career, earning four Pro Bowls and three second-team All-Pro selections. He has played the most defensive snaps since entering the NFL in 2010 with 11,446, and his 24 postseason starts are the fourth-most in NFL history. He is also just one of just seven players in league history to start in at least five Super Bowls. 

Phillips had a career-high four interceptions for the Patriots last season to go with 92 tackles. Opposing quarterbacks targeting Phillips had just a 49.0 passer rating when he was the primary defender in coverage, and he allowed just three touchdowns.

McCourty and Phillips continue to lead the Patriots secondary, especially since J.C. Jackson has departed. They’re the glue to the unit in 2022. 

New Orleans SaintsCameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport

Whoever pairs with Jordan typically has success on the Saints defense, which is expected when Jordan is one of the best pass rushers in the game. Jordan finished with 12.5 sacks last season at age 32 and has 106 sacks since the start of the 2012 season, second-most in the NFL. His 136 tackles for loss are third in the league during that span while his 201 quarterback hits rank fifth. It doesn’t hurt that Jordan has four double-digit sack seasons in the last five years. 

Davenport had a career-high nine sacks last season and matched a career-best three forced fumbles and 16 quarterback hits. He also finished with 40 pressures and notched a career-high 14.3% pressure rate. 

Jordan and Davenport are an excellent pass-rushing duo and are two reasons why the Saints defense is near the top of the NFC. 

New York GiantsLeonard Williams and Azeez Ojulari

The Giants don’t have much to choose from, either, but Williams and Ojulari were productive in 2021. Williams had 43 pressures and 6.5 sacks in 2021 after a career-year with the Giants in 2020, but is still a consistent force off the edge. 

Ojulari had 38 pressures and eight sacks in his rookie season for the Giants while adding 13 quarterback hits and a forced fumble. The Giants are relying on Ojulari to take the next step in 2022 as the team’s top pass rusher. 

Wink Martindale’s scheme is expected to make Ojulari and Williams even better, as the two will be relied upon to consistently get to the quarterback. Those two will be vital toward New York turning its defense around. 

New York JetsLaken Tomlinson and Alijah Vera-Tucker

The Jets have built a strong interior offensive line with the signing of Tomlinson, who was one of the top guards in the league last year. Tomlinson allowed just two sacks and 23 pressures in 565 pass-blocking snaps, becoming a mainstay in San Francisco for five seasons. 

Tomlinson will play left guard for the Jets while Vera-Tucker moves over to right guard. Vera-Tucker allowed three sacks and 41 pressures during his rookie season, but learning from Tomlinson should help his development. 

The Jets should be strong at guard for years to come. 

Philadelphia EaglesJason Kelce and Lane Johnson

Kelce and Johnson have been mainstays on the Eagles offensive line for nearly a decade — and they are two of the best in the league at their respective positions. Kelce already is at the top of his game as the league’s premier center. An All-Pro selection in 2021, Kelce played 993 offensive snaps and allowed just one sack and 17 pressures (his lowest totals since 2018). Kelce is one of just 12 centers to earn four first-team All-Pro selections in NFL history. The other 11 are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Johnson also had an excellent season in 2021, allowing just one quarterback hit and zero sacks. Of players who faced 1,000 pass blocking snaps over the last three seasons, Johnson has allowed just two sacks — fewest in the NFL. 

Both Kelce and Johnson are in their 30s, but are linchpins on the Eagles offensive line. 

Pittsburgh SteelersT.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward 

There’s no need to explain how good of a player T.J. Watt is, but I’ll do it anyway. Watt tied Michael Strahan’s NFL record for sacks with 22.5 in 2021, and his 116 quarterback hits over the past three seasons are 37 more than any other player in the NFL. Watt led the NFL in sacks (22.5), quarterback hits (39), and fumble recoveries (three) last year. 

While Watt was the Defensive Player of the Year, Heyward was a first-team All-Pro who finished with 89 tackles, 17 quarterback hits, 10 sacks and nine passes defensed.

The Steelers made the playoffs thanks to what Watt and Heyward did for their defense. Based on how well these two work together, they can match that production this year. 

San Francisco 49ersNick Bosa and Fred Warner

Bosa and Warner are the stalwarts on the 49ers defense, one of the top front sevens in the league. Bosa’s 21 tackles for loss last season tied T.J. Watt for the most in the NFL. He also had a career-high 15.5 sacks with four forced fumbles last year — and finished third in the league in quarterback hits (32). Bosa already has the most sacks in 49ers postseason history (eight). 

Warner is one of just three players in the NFL with 115-plus tackles in each of the last four years. He notched a career-high 137 tackles and a career-high three fumble recoveries in 2021, one of the best seasons of his career. 

Bosa and Warner should lead San Francisco’s defense for a long time. 

Seattle SeahawksTyler Lockett and DK Metcalf

Even without Russell Wilson, Lockett and Metcalf should still be one of the top receiving duos in the NFL. Lockett had 73 catches for a career-high 1,175 yards and eight touchdowns last season — his third consecutive season with over 1,000 yards. 

Metcalf has 216 catches for 3,170 yards and 29 touchdowns in his first three seasons — averaging 14.7 yards per catch. He’s one of only eight players in NFL history to have 200 catches, 3,000 yards, 25 receiving touchdowns and average more than 14 yards per catch after his first three seasons — joining the likes of Randy Moss, Jerry Rice, Tyreek Hill and others. 

Lockett and Metcalf are both in the top 11 in receiving yards over the last three years and the top seven in touchdowns. They are arguably one of the best receiving duos in football. 

Tampa Bay BuccaneersMike Evans and Chris Godwin

Evans and Godwin may give Lockett and Metcalf a good fight for the title of best receiving duo. Evans is the only player in NFL history to have 1,000-yard seasons in each of his first eight years and the only player to have 12 or more touchdowns in each of the past two years. He has the most touchdowns in the league over the last three years (35). 

Godwin has averaged 81.9 receiving yards per game since the start of the 2019 season, fourth in the NFL. His 53 catches of 20-plus yards since the start of 2019 are third in the league and his 1,443 yards after the catch are fourth in the NFL. One of the best slot receivers in the game, Godwin has 152 catches (fifth in NFL), 2,082 yards (fourth), and 11 touchdowns (tied for eighth) from the slot for the last three years — despite missing nine games with injuries. 

Evans and Godwin are both in the top 10 in receiving yards over the past three years and both rank in the top 13 in touchdowns. There’s also that Super Bowl title they won in 2020. Evans and Godwin can make the case they are the best receiving duo in the game — and one of the best overall duos in the league. 

Tennessee TitansJeffery Simmons and Harold Landry

The Titans defense is anchored by two of the most productive players at their respective positions. A second-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection last year, Simmons finished with 52 pressures and 8.5 sacks with 16 quarterback hits. He was just one of three defensive tackles to finish with 50 tackles, eight sacks and 15 quarterback hits last season — joining Aaron Donald and Jonathan Allen

Landry had a breakout season with the Titans last year as he finished with a career-high 75 tackles, 12 sacks and 22 quarterback hits — earning his first Pro Bowl appearance after four seasons in the league. Landry also recorded a career-high 57 pressures and finished with 41 hurries. 

Both Simmons and Landry are 26 or under and should be anchoring the Titans’ pass rush for a long time. The best is yet to come for this duo. 

Washington CommandersMontez Sweat and Chase Young 

The ACL injury to Young hampered his 2021 season, but he has the potential to be one of the most productive edge rushers in the game. Young’s 2021 season was a disaster (1.5 sacks), but it’s hard to ignore the game-changer he was in his rookie campaign. 

Young was the standout of his rookie class, leading all rookies in sacks (7.5), tackles for loss (10), pressures (40) and tied for first in forced fumbles (4). He became the first player to record at least two games with at least one fumble recovery, a forced fumble, a sack and a pass defensed since the stats were first recorded in 1999 — and was the first rookie to accomplish the feat.

Sweat finished with nine sacks in that 2020 season and finished with just five last year with 13 quarterback hits. If Young gets back to the form he had in his rookie season, both he and Sweat should revert back to being one of the top young edge rushing duos in the league. 

Related articles

Comments

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Share article

Latest articles

Newsletter

Subscribe to stay updated.