Blows were exchanged in multiple NFL games this weekend, as frustrations boiled over and chippy play got the better of some divisional or conference rivalries. The Cardinals and 49ers threw down over a questionable hit on a sliding rookie quarterback. Mike Evans leveled rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore after a shove to Jameis Winston. Stars A.J. Green and Jalen Ramsey were each ejected in a dominant win for the Jaguars.
The NFL is filled with men of superhuman proportions, strength and ferocity, but at the prospect of coming to fisticuffs, who holds the most clout in the league? These five have to sit at the top.
Ndamukong Suh, DT, Miami Dolphins
Suh’s reputation as one of the most ferocious players in the league is well documented. Suh most recently half-choke slammed QB Ryan Mallett in the midst of a blowout loss to Baltimore. His history of downright nasty play goes well beyond this latest incident. Suh has been suspended multiple times and has lost over $400K in fines over the course of his NFL career.
The most egregious of these incidents? A suspension of two games for stomping on the arm of Packer OG Evan Dietrich-Smith. Combine Suh’s imposing frame, power and violence as a legal player with a willingness to walk the line of clean and dirty, and Suh is one tough hombre.
James Harrison, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Harrison doesn’t have the size of Suh, but he’s every bit as violent and powerful as a player. Harrison’s training regiment is the kind you’d see in a junkyard: He flips tires and one-arm presses barbells like it’s nothing. Harrison has made a career of beating up offensive linemen with his low center of gravity and powerful lower body.
Maybe Harrison is past his physical prime, but he’s as mean as ever and his age also leads to wisdom. Harrison has evolved as a player in his later years; surely that self-awareness would make him a handful in a fight, especially considering he’s pound for pound one of the strongest men in the NFL.
Tyron Smith, OT, Dallas Cowboys
Suh and Harrison have strength as their calling card, but imagine trying to land a punch of Tyron Smith. He has vines for arms. Regardless of whether Smith decides to grapple or throw hands, he’s going to win with that length.
Smith has surreal natural athleticism. He’s capable of beating linebackers and second-level defenders to their spot with consistency. One of the best tackles in football, Smith may not have the intimidating reputation of some of his contemporaries on this list, but make no mistake: Smith is a smashmouth run blocker who can physically impose his will when going backwards as well.
Kelechi Osemele, G, Oakland Raiders
Osemele, like Smith, doesn’t have a rap sheet as a “dirty” player, but is there a more effective man-on-man blocker in the league than Osemele? The Raiders’ guard has the ability to overpower any man unlucky enough to line up across the line of scrimmage from him. Osemele has heavy, powerful hands, a trait that lends itself extremely well to winning in the trenches but would also be quite useful if he ever needed to use them in a scrap.
Osemele is a big presence at the line of scrimmage and he has a nose for putting bodies on the ground — not a guy to go toe to toe with.
Taylor Lewan, OT, Tennessee Titans
Lewan isn’t just a powerful blocker, he has the gift of gab to go with it. Lewan is a loud personality who knows just how effective he can be as an enforcer and protector on the field. Lewan is the guy at the bar fight who gleefully rubs his fists together before jumping into the fray.
Lewan is mean, athletic, cocky and loves to chat after collecting pelts throughout the game. Head games are a part of any battle of wills. Lewan has a clear edge in this area as an enforcer who will get in the head of his opponents. Don’t let him get to you, he’ll talk you right out of your game plan.
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