Brandon Thorn’s Defense to Defend the Planet

He might not be regarded as one, but Reggie White's role on the defensive line was the football equivalent of slang. Photo by Keith Fujimoto.
He might not be regarded as one, but Reggie White’s role on the defensive line was the football equivalent of slang. Photo by Keith Fujimoto.

Brandon Thorn creates a hybrid defense with many players I know you’ll see again soon. 

Defensive Coordinator: Bill Belichick

Belichick is the more notorious, defensive-oriented counterpart version of “The Genius” Bill Walsh. “The Evil Genius” is a coach renown for finding the smallest weakness in his opponent and mercilessly exposing it by any means necessary.

Belichick grew up under the tutelage of his father, Steve, who was involved in college and pro football as a player, coach, and scout for 51 years. Belichick’s coaching career started off 40 years ago with the Baltimore Colts before landing a gig as a special teams coach and defensive assistant with the New York Giants in 1979. It was in New York where Belichick began his ascension as a defensive and special teams prodigy, learning Bill Parcells 3-4 system and soon running it himself.

Pairing teacher and pupil – Parcells and Belichick – together again was an opportunity I simply couldn’t pass on. Belichick had final say over the defense but worked in close conjunction with the boss on the personnel about to be presented to you.

Without further ado, let’s see who two of the greatest defensive minds in football history get to lead in defense of earth.

Defensive End: Reggie White

A man among boys, a giant among men. “The Minister of Defense” was one of the most iconic players to ever step onto an NFL field. Best known for his deep religious faith off the field and overwhelming dominance on it, White had remarkable gifts. I often wondered if White was created for something greater than even his exploits in the NFL, something such as this very project: Serving as a commando in a defense to defend our existence.

White’s career is full of otherworldly achievement. He earned 198 sacks in his 15-year NFL career (23.5 sacks in his two-year USFL career), a Super Bowl ring, 13 All-Pro selections, and an inclusion on the NFL’s illustrious 75th anniversary team. What separates him from any other option for our ace 5 technique selection is his unshakable will to be the best.

The most dominant players in sport often have a single trait or skill that puts them over the top. A move or technique that they can always resort to and always conquer their adversary. For White, it was his infamous “hump move” as seen in the above clip.

Not only could White out-muscle virtually every man in the NFL, his lightning-quick closing speed, and ability to perform his best in the biggest moments are all aspects of his game that will add an invaluable dimension to this defense.

Nose Tackle: J.J. Watt

While this has the feel of Christian Laettner being included on the 1992 Dream Team, I can assure you it’s much more meaningful. Watt is the most dominant and best player in today’s NFL. He is well on his way to becoming a first-ballot hall of famer. Saying that about any player after just four seasons would usually be blasphemy until you consider his level of production. In the last three seasons Watt has posted 51.5 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, and 9 recovered fumbles.

If possible, I wanted to have a token current player on this squad. He had to be a throwback type who was mean, nasty, and relentless. There was nobody even close to being as deserving of this slot as Watt was. Plus, I needed a bigger body than the others who I was considering without sacrificing any athleticism. I don’t have any apprehension in giving such a young player such monumental responsibility.

Defensive Tackle: “Mean” Joe Greene

“The Greatest Steeler,” as the Rooneys refer to him, is one of only two Pittsburgh players to ever have his number retired.

Much like on offense with Walter Payton being a “backup” due to scheme, Greene will be utilized much the same. We will run a hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense, so don’t worry, you will get to see Greene have opportunities to one-gap and attack the guard’s shoulder.

“Mean” Joe will always be fresh and in his ideal position (3 technique) when he’s on the field for Belichick. He also can provide a breather at either 5 technique spot in case White or Bruce Smith needs a break.

Greene’s unbreakable will to win, intimidating presence, and ferocity are traits I did not want left off this team.

With Greene I am getting the best player from the best defensive unit in NFL history. A first-ballot hall of famer who redefined his position. Greene, along with White will often  be lined up side by side. What more can you ask for?

Defensive End: Bruce Smith

To put it simply, the only defensive end who is a better fit for this team will be lined up on the other side of the defense.

At Virginia Tech, Smith amassed 46 sacks and 71 tackles for loss. In the NFL, he is an 11-time All-Pro and the all-time sack leader at 200. What makes Smith’s sack accomplishment all the more remarkable is that he played in the 3-4 scheme throughout his career. You cant outperform what he did as a 5 technique player.

As you can see in his highlight tape above, he was a bundle of fire who used impeccable anticipation, acceleration, power, leverage, and determination to obliterate his opponents. Smith was such a warrior that he had 9 sacks in his 18th season at 39 years old!

Above all, this defensive front will be led with toughness, with intimidation, and with heart. Once on offense the aliens will have to battle through this first line of defense – fortified steel – in order to reach the next level of our defense; adamantium.

Outside Linebacker: Lawrence Taylor

“Lawrence Taylor, defensively, has had as big an impact as any player I’ve ever seen. He changed the way defense is played, the way pass-rushing is played, the way linebackers play and the way offenses block linebackers.”

– John Madden

After facing him in an exhibition game, Pittsburgh Steelers Terry Bradshaw recalled, “He dang-near killed me, I just kept saying, ‘Who is this guy?’ He kept coming from my blind side and just ripped my ribs to pieces.”

Parcells and Taylor had a bit of a love-hate relationship in their tenure together. While Taylor could get agitated by Parcells’ constant ribbing, they had a special connection that still continues till this day.

Separating these two would be like separating Walsh from Montana, you simply don’t do such a thing.

Think of Taylor as Parcells’ blood-thirsty assassin that he only unleashes on an enemy. Taylor’s crazy and nasty demeanor, sheer explosiveness, power, and physicality were traits tailor-made for this spot. Belichick will find ways to move him all over the field to ensure we create as much chaos as possible for the alien offense.

Middle Linebacker: Ray Lewis

“To me, what you see sometimes is Ray is a very motivational guy, very motivational when he talks, when he gives a speech, when he comes onto the field – all those kinds of things. But the things that we see or I see as a coach – and I’ve been blessed to be around a lot of really excellent linebackers – the things is, he is the best example anybody could ever be as a teammate. For every young player that comes in, to watch a guy that has been in this league 17 years sit there and take notes and look like a rookie back there in the meeting room, to me, it’s phenomenal.”

-Former Ravens Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees

The above video sums up every reason why I selected Ray Lewis to be our defensive centerpiece. One man was worthy to be the leader of the premier unit on this team to lead planet earth into its rightful future.

An unbreakable will, unshakable faith, and relentless determination are the best descriptions of what Lewis represented as an NFL player. Not only was Lewis rich with all the intangibles he has ideal size, sideline to sideline range, and an otherworldly “feel” for the game. In my mind, the greatest middle linebacker of all-time had to be apart of this team.

Middle Linebacker: Mike Singletary

Singletary hit with such power that he cracked 16 helmets during his years at Baylor. He was not only a big-time hitter but as sure of a tackler as they come. In fact, in one game against Arkansas, he was credited with an astonishing 33 tackles.

Instincts and anticipation ability perhaps best contribute to what made Singletary so great. He was also the leader of arguably the greatest single-season defense ever (1985 Chicago Bears). Singletary along with Lewis two were teacher and pupil with the Baltimore Ravens while developing a mutual admiration, appreciation, and chemistry with each other.

Singletary now gets to go back to his physical prime to make a pairing that results in not only the greatest duo of middle linebackers ever assembled, but two of the greatest leaders imaginable who will orchestrate their greatest symphony together.

Outside Linebacker: Derrick Thomas

To round out our premier position group I couldn’t think of anyone better than Thomas.

The record books say Terrell Suggs set the NCAA record for most sacks in a single season with 24. The NCAA record books also didn’t begin recording official defensive statistics until 2000. Derrick Thomas is the true NCAA leader in sacks with his 27 in the 1988 season at Alabama.

Thomas, along with his partner on this team, LT, can be considered the two greatest pass rushers to ever play the game. Thomas was certainly as dominant as anybody to ever play, best explained by his NFL-record 7 sacks in one game and 6 sacks in another.

These two pass rushers will ensure that neither of them ever see a double team which automatically means our alien opposition will all but have to eliminate any 5 or 7 step drops they may have been planning.

Our goal is to create chaos for the aliens and to force them to have to abandon their game-plan early so that we can achieve the upper hand. Also, want to give our secondary ample opportunity for creating turnovers. .

Cornerback: Rod Woodson

No, Deion Sanders is not on this team. I need complete football players regardless of how dominant they were in one area. To have a glaring weakness such as Sanders’ tackling ability is a hindrance that I cannot afford.

Roderick Woodson played cornerback for the first 11 years of his career before switching over to safety for his last five seasons. Only a select few corners could ever cover or play the run as well as Woodson did. It also can be argued that none have ever done both so magnificently.

Woodson ranks No. 3 all-time in interceptions (71), No. 1 in interceptions returned for touchdowns (12), No. 1 all-time in fumble recoveries (32), recorded 1,050 tackles, 13.5 sacks, and forced 20 fumbles in his illustrious career.

Woodson is one of the most overlooked players in NFL history but was easily among the greatest athletes to ever play the sport. Woodson graduated Purdue University a living legend, as a two time All-American in football and track. Woodson would go on to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the 110 meter hurdles and held the NCAA 60 meter hurdles record for 10 years.

During his rookie season, Woodson and the Steelers couldn’t agree on a contract so Woodson ran track in his spare time, recording the fourth fastest 110 meter hurdle time in the world at the time.

His longevity spoke to how mentally tough an individual he really was along with how highly sought after and respect he was throughout the NFL. He always seemed to make entire defenses better with his all-around spectacular play. He will be our No. 1 CB.

Cornerback: Mel Blount

It can be argued that the greatest single reason for the success of the passing game in the NFL began because of Blount’s dominance. “The Mel Blount Rule” went into effect in 1978 due to the fact that a receiver didn’t have a chance to catch the ball against Blount. This rule essentially states that after five yards, the defender has to let the receiver run his route.  The year after this rule went into place what did Blount do? Earn an All-Pro selection.

Before the rule was created, Blount’s size, speed, athleticism, and physicality made it nearly impossible for a receiver to break free and get open. Blount was so powerful that the game had to change to make things fair for the offense. This alone placed the caption “legend” alongside Blount’s name forever.

Blount is a member of three halls of fame: The Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame (for his college career at Southern University), and the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame (for his high school career in which he starred in baseball, football, basketball, and track).

After this game he may be inducted into a new kind of hall of fame, one in which a group of men saved the world from an alien race seeking to destroy it.

Strong Safety: Ronnie Lott

When I decided that this game would be played with every rule change since 1995 expunged I had Lott at the forefront of my mind. You can use your helmet to deliver bone-crushing hits, Ronnie.

Lott was a converted cornerback who grew into one of the most feared hitters to ever play the game. He was much more than just a great hitter, though. A prime example was the 1986 season in which he missed the final two games of the regular season yet still led the NFL in interceptions with 10.

While Lott was a standout coverage safety, his primary source of intimidation was with physical intimidation. The next player on the list used other means to strike fear into his opponents.

Free Safety: Ed Reed

These videos show aspects of Reed’s game that aren’t talked about enough. He was a supremely passionate player who would come up in run support and deliver knock out blows.

It is critically important for this defense to have two safeties who can both serve as enforcers and ballhawks simultaneously. I chose in my mind the greatest enforcer and ball hawk ever with these two picks.

Reed was renown for coming up with huge plays on the biggest stages. Not only was Reed a remarkable coverage safety, he was a superb playmaker with the ball in his hands. He is the first person in NFL history to return an interception, punt, blocked punt, and fumble for a touchdown.

I want to be able to seize every opportunity given to us to ensure we have the best chance at winning this game. Reed is the most dynamic safety I could possibly have to fill this spot and to be our true last line of defense in defense of our world.

Kick Returner: Gale Sayers

A long, lean-limbed player who was as graceful as a gazelle with moves upon moves, slithering his way through defenders like a snake through grass, Sayers was one smooth cat. Not only that, to this day (45 years after he retired) he still holds the NFL-record for highest kickoff return average at 30.56.

Sayers gets a place on this time for being perhaps the greatest open field runner to ever step foot on a football field. I’m sure Walsh will conjure up a trick play or two for “The Kansas Comet” as well.

Team Captains 

Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, Joe Greene, and Ray Lewis. Our work ethic will be uncompromising and our mindset heading into this game will be laser-focused thanks in large part to these four leaders, who all lead in a different way. Rice by example, Payton by example and affection, Green and Lewis by intensity and confidence.

Brandon Thorn is the NFL Draft Lead Writer at The Football Educator and a contributor at Draft Breakdown and CBS Sports. Thorn is also an Air Force veteran with 3 tours to his credit. He resides in Colorado Springs. You can see Thorn’s offense here. Find the rest of the RSP Writers Project submissions here

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