Three Bears Crack the List of 20 Greatest NFL Defensive Ends

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greatest bears defensive ends

Do the greatest Bears defensive ends in franchise history have a place on the list of the all-time best in the NFL? With that list expanding every day it’s fair to wonder. Chicago hasn’t seen a dominant pass rusher they could truly call their own for a long time now. Julius Peppers was great but he only lasted four seasons.

People talk about the linebackers in this town but the truth is all their greatest defenses wouldn’t have functioned without at least one top defensive end. According to former scout and executive Gil Brandt, now an analyst for NFL.com, the Bears produced three of the top 20 players at that position in pro football history. Peppers and Jared Allen were also members who snuck into the overall list as well.

So how did the rankings shake out? Fans might be surprised.

Greatest Bears defensive ends hold court in ’85

20. Richard Dent

Chicago Bears, 1983-1993, 1995; San Francisco 49ers, 1994; Indianapolis Colts, 1996; Philadelphia Eagles, 1997
» Two-time Super Bowl champion
» Voted to four Pro Bowls, First Team All-Pro one time
» 1985 NFL sacks leader
» Recorded 137.5 sacks (No. 9 on all-time list)
» Enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Dent is the official franchise leader in sacks. His run in the 1985 playoffs was the stuff of legends. He sacked Phil Simms 3.5 times in the divisional round, forced the decisive fumble on Dieter Brock in the NFC championship and won Super Bowl MVP with his 1.5-sack performance. Combined with his postseason career, Dent retired with 148 sacks.

16. Dan Hampton

Chicago Bears, 1979-1990
» One-time Super Bowl champion
» Voted to four Pro Bowls, First Team All-Pro four times
» NFL 1980s All-Decade Team
» Made All-Pro as both defensive end and defensive tackle
» Officially credited with 57 career sacks
» Enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

So why was Dent outdistanced by his longtime teammate, Hampton? Likely because Danimal proved more valuable to the overall impact of the defense. Sure Dent had more sacks, but he only played one position with one primary job. Hampton made the Pro Bowl at both defensive end and defensive tackle. Officially he has 57 sacks, but if one included his first three years that numbers balloons to 82. Top that off with the fact he was one of their best run defenders and it’s no surprise he placed higher.

Only one man entered the realm of myth though

6. Doug Atkins

Cleveland Browns, 1953-1954; Chicago Bears, 1955-1966; New Orleans Saints1967-1969
» Two-time NFL champion
» Voted to eight Pro Bowls, First Team All-Pro four times
» Played 17 NFL seasons
» NFL 1960s All-Decade Team
» Enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

People don’t remember Doug Atkins these days for two reasons. He played way back in the 1960s and sacks weren’t an official statistic at the time. So there’s really no way to remember how dominating the 6’8″ monstrosity from Tennessee really was. Only fleeting clips found on the internet offer an idea. If people were to really understand, they’d have to watch the film because Atkins was that good.

One time he estimated grabbing 25 sacks in a single season. Keep in mind this was when teams were playing 12-14 games and quarterbacks were passing an average of 20 times per game. Hampton was one of those ultra rare talents who could’ve played and owned any era in NFL history including today. He still might be the biggest steal among trades the Bears ever had.

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Erik Lambert
Brainwashed by the sports culture as a wee lad, Erik was educated to be a writer at the prestigious Columbia College. He has spent the past 10 years covering the Bears.