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The 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame Voting Preview: The Defense

By Bryan Dietzler

The 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame voting is coming soon and it’s time to start the debate as to who is going to end up in the Hall of Fame. It’s fun to speculate and take a guess and hopefully, the guess is right and well educated.

That’s what we are here to do. Try to figure out who the next Hall of Fame members will be.

This time, we are going to take a look at the defense and see how they stack up. What are their career numbers? Which honors did they receive while in the NFL? What are their chances?

Read on and find out.

Steve Atwater-S

Atwater spent the bulk of his 11-year career with the Denver Broncos but did spend one year with the New York Jets. This is his 9th time as a semi-finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Atwater played in 166 of 167 games and registered 1180 tackles and 24 interceptions. Some of the honors that he earned while playing include being named to the Pro Bowl eight times and being named All-Pro twice. Atwater was also named AFC Defensive Player of the Week once.

Hopefully, this time will be the charm and Atwater will get in. He’s got the honors and played on some good teams to boot. I think that it’s about time that Atwater got into the Hall. I would think that he will be voted in on this ballot.

Carl Banks-LB

This is Banks’ first time as a semi-finalist and he may get in as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But how does he stack up against the rest of the players who are vying for a spot in the Hall?

Banks played 12 years in the league most of it with the New York Giants. He also played for the Washington Reskins and the Cleveland Browns. Banks played in 151 of 173 games and had 860 tackles and 39.5 sacks. He was voted to the Pro Bowl a total of one time and was named a first-team All-Pro once. He was the NFC Defensive Player of the Week in 1987.

Banks has the performance that you look for in a Hall of Fame linebacker and played with some great Giants’ teams. The only thing he is lacking is honors. He had one great year where he was voted to the Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro but beyond that, he didn’t receive many accolades. Will this count against him when it comes to the vote? We will soon find out.

Ronde Barber-CB/S

Barber is well known for his time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with whom he spent his entire 16-year career. He played in 232 out of 241 games and recorded 1231 tackles and 47 interceptions. Some of the recognition that he received while he was in the league included being named to the Pro Bowl five times, being named first-team All-Pro three times and NFC Defensive Player of the Week nine times.

With honors like that, it’s hard to see Barber not getting elected to the Hall. This is his third time as a semi-finalist, and I think that the third time will be the charm for him. I bet he gets in this year.

LeRoy Butler-S

This three-time semi-finalist spent his entire 11-year career with the Green Bay Packers. During that time span, he started in a total of 161 out of 185 games. Butler had 889 tackles and 38 interceptions. When it came to Pro Bowl honors, he was selected to the Pro Bowl four times and was named First-Team All-Pro the same number of times. Butler was the NFC Defensive Player of the Week once.

Butler has a decent mix of honors, longevity and play on the field to warrant himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I would think that this would be his year to get in.

John Lynch-S

The well-known former Buccaneer and Bronco is currently on his 8th time being a semi-finalist for the Hall. He was in the league for 15 years and played in a total of 224 games with 191 starts. Lynch had 1054 tackles with 24 interceptions. He was selected to the Pro Bowl nine times, was named a first-team All-Pro twice and was named both an AFC and NFC Defensive Player of the Week.

Eight times is a lot for someone to be a semi-finalist and not get into the Hall of Fame. Could this be the year that Lynch gets in? I almost bet it is. He’s been on the ballot so long, I think that he gets in easily this year.

Clay Matthews-LB

Matthews is going through his fourth time being a semi-finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He spent a bulk of his 19-year career with the Cleveland Browns capping it off with a short stint in Atlanta. He played in 278 games starting 248. Matthews registered 1595 total tackles to go along with 69.5 sacks. Some of the honors that he earned include being named to the Pro Bowl four times and AFC Player of the Week twice.

Longevity is the name of the game with Matthews and it’s his longevity that’s going to get him into the Hall of Fame. Maybe it will be this ballot maybe it will be a future ballot but he’s got what it takes to be a Hall of Famer. It would be no surprise if he made it this year.

Sam Mills-LB

The late great Sam Mills is up for the Hall of Fame again this year after being named a semi-finalist three times prior. Mills was in the league for 12 seasons playing most of those 12 seasons with the New Orleans Saints. He also played with the Carolina Panthers. Mills started a total of 173 out of 181 games played. He recorded 1265 tackles and 20.5 sacks. In terms of honors, Mills was selected to the Pro Bowl five times and had one All-Pro team appearance. He was selected to the NFC Defensive Player of the Week once.

Mills should get in based on his play on the field, at least. He was a very important part of the Saints’ and Panthers’ defense when he was with each team. He has the accolades to be worthy of being in the Hall and it would certainly be great to see him in it. Let’s see how the voting shakes out this year and see if he finally makes the cut.

Troy Polamalu-S

This long-time Pittsburgh Steeler is the first-time semi-finalist for the Hall this year. Polamalu spent 12 years in the NFL. He played in 158 games with 142 starts. Polamalu intercepted 32 passes and had 778 tackles. Some of the accolades he received during his time in the NFL include being named to the Pro Bowl eight times and landing on the All-Pro team four times. Polamalu was also named AFC Defensive Player of the Week seven times.

There is no doubt that Polamalu should be named a Hall of Fame player on the first ballot. He’s got it all and his play on the field was more than solid. I would look for him to get in this year.

Simeon Rice-DE

This is Rice’s second time as a semi-finalist. He played for four teams during his 13-year career. Rice played with the Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts during his NFL tenure. He started in a total of 161 of 174 games and registered 122 sacks to go along with his 471 tackles. Some of the accolades that Rice received during his career include being named to the Pro Bowl three times, being named to the All-Pro team once and being named NFC Defensive Player of the Week three times.

Rice has the play on the field to back himself up but doesn’t have as many honors as some of the other guys. I think that he will get in the Hall of Fame but there are other guys on this list that will get in before him. Rice may have to wait just a little while longer.

Richard Seymour-DE/DT

This former longtime New England Patriot and Oakland Raider is seeing his name come up as a semi-finalist for the second time. Seymour played in the NFL for a total of 12 years and started 157 of 164 games. He registered a total of 496 tackles and 57.5 sacks. Some of the honors and accolades that Seymour received during this career include being named to the Pro Bowl seven times and being named a first-team All-Pro three times. He also was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week twice.

Seymour belongs in the Hall of Fame. He has the accolades, his play on the field was solid and he was part of some winning teams. The only thing that he doesn’t have is extreme longevity but ten years in the league is a feat that many players don’t achieve. With that then, it’s likely that Seymour will see his way into the Hall this year.

Zach Thomas-LB

Thomas is a two-time semi-finalist this year and is looking to get in sooner rather than later. Thomas spent the majority of his time with the Miami Dolphins but also had a short, one-year stint with the Dallas Cowboys. In his 13-year career, he played in 182 games with 184 starts. He recorded 1727 tackles and 20.5 sacks. Some of the accolades that Thomas picked up during his playing days include being named to the Pro Bowl seven times, being named to the All-Pro team five times and AFC Defensive Player of the Week three times.

Like a few others on this list, Thomas should be a shoo-in to get into the Hall of Fame. He has the accolades but doesn’t have time on championship teams to back him up. We hope that doesn’t hold him back from getting selected to the Hall. I think he gets in this year.

Patrick Willis-LB

This former San Francisco 49er spent his entire 8-year career with the San Francisco 49ers. This is his first time as a semi-finalist. Willis played in and started in 112 games. He registered 950 tackles and 20.5 sacks. Some of the honors that he picked up include being named to the Pro Bowl seven times, a first-team All-Pro five times and NFC Defensive Player of the Week twice.

While he may not have the longevity, Willis has the honors and accolades having made the Pro Bowl almost every year he was in the league. He played very well on the field and should be a lock for the Hall of Fame. But will it be this year that Willis gets in or will he have to wait? I say he goes another year and then gets in.

Darren Woodson-S

Woodson played his entire career with the Dallas Cowboys. This is his fourth time as a semi-finalist. Woodson spent 12 years in the league starting 162 of 178 games. He registered 951 tackles with 23 interceptions. Woodson was named to the Pro Bowl a total of five times and was named to the All-Pro team three times. He was also honored as the NFC Defensive Player of the Week once.

Woodson may find it a little difficult to get in with the talent that is ahead of him in terms of honors and accolades. He was great on the field and perhaps he didn’t get the recognition that he deserved. If he doesn’t make it into the Hall of Fame this year, I think it will be another year or two until he gets in depending on the talent vying for spots in the Hall.

Bryant Young-DT

Young was a lifetime San Francisco 49er playing 14 seasons in the league with them. He was a starter in all 208 games that he played in. Bryant recorded a total of 614 tackles and 89.5 sacks. A few of the honors that he earned while he was in the league include being named to the Pro Bowl four times, being named a First-Team All-Pro once and he was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week three times.

Longevity is what Bryant seems to have and it will be that longevity, to go along with his solid play, that will get him into the Hall of Fame. However, this is his first year as a semi-finalist so he might have to wait a season or two, while some of the others that have hit and missed getting into the Hall have their shot. But he is Hall of Fame player for sure.

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