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2024 NFL All-Breakout Team, Defense: Steelers, Jags each boast two selections; fear Kayvon Thibodeaux!

Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks knows the ins and outs of this league, providing keen insight in his notebook. In today's installment, he spotlights 11 defensive players poised to make noise in 2024.

With mandatory minicamp in the rearview and training camp a month away, it's summer break in the NFL. This is the calm before the storm of another football season, a time to reflect on rosters and project what could be in store for the coming campaign. With that in mind, I'm here to identify players who can make the leap to stardom in the fall.

I performed this same exercise last offseason, accurately predicting breakout years from guys like George Pickens, Tyler Smith, Derrick Brown and Derek Stingley Jr. Of course, not every selection proved savvy -- SEE: Kenny Pickett, Kadarius Toney, Nakobe Dean -- but that won't stop me from providing another forecast on future stars.

The players listed below have yet to receive any All-Pro or Pro Bowl honors, but I believe they could garner consideration with their play in the coming campaign.

So, without further ado, here is the defensive side of my 2024 All-Breakout Team.

EDGE
Kayvon Thibodeaux
New York Giants · Age 23

After amassing 11.5 sacks in his second season, Thibodeaux could become the next elite pass rusher to flourish in the Big Apple. The 6-foot-5, 258-pounder thrives as a speed rusher off the edge -- and now he's in position to really wreak havoc, lining up across the formation from two-time Pro Bowler Brian Burns. New York's blockbuster trade acquisition will command most of the attention as the team's most established edge rusher, leading to more one-on-one opportunities for Thibodeaux. With second-team All-Pro DT Dexter Lawrence also wrecking shop inside, Thibodeaux could post monster numbers in Year 3.

DT
Jalen Carter
Philadelphia Eagles · Age 23

The ultra-talented interior D-lineman flashed serious disruptive potential in a rotational role as a rookie, despite playing on a dysfunctional Eagles defense that lacked an identity. With Vic Fangio taking over the unit, Carter could blossom as a featured playmaker at the point of attack. Whether harassing quarterbacks up the gut or punishing runners attacking the middle, Carter could destroy opponents at the line of scrimmage, especially given the defensive architect's history with interior playmakers -- like Christian Wilkins just last season in Miami. Considering Carter totaled six sacks, nine quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and a scoop-and-score touchdown despite logging just one start, the Eagles' young standout could move into the top-five conversation at his position with a strong sophomore campaign.

DT
Keeanu Benton
Pittsburgh Steelers · Age 22

The Steelers are known for identifying and developing worker bees on the defensive front. Benton appears to be the next young DT poised to give opponents fits. The 6-4, 309-pounder held his own as a part-time starter for a unit specializing in bully ball in the trenches. As an energetic defender with a non-stop motor and active hands, Benton outworks and outlasts blockers to win battles on critical downs. Though it is easier to win when playing alongside T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward and Alex Highsmith, Benton's disruptive talents could help the Steelers get back to playing championship-caliber football.

EDGE
Lukas Van Ness
Green Bay Packers · Age 22

Jeff Hafley's arrival as the Packers' new defensive coordinator could unlock Van Ness' dynamic talents. A freakish athlete with natural pass-rush skills, the second-year pro could emerge as one of the NFC's top edges if he takes the next step as a playmaker after finishing his rookie season with a bang. Van Ness tallied five sacks and 15 pressures, per Pro Football Focus, from Week 12 through the playoffs, displaying intriguing potential as a relentless pursuer. With Hafley implementing a "see ball, get ball" approach that creates splash plays, this 2023 first-rounder could flourish as a difference-maker.

LB
Trenton Simpson
Baltimore Ravens · Age 23

Stepping into Patrick Queen's role isn't easy, but this former Clemson standout is ready for the challenge as a "hit, run and chase" defender. Simpson's speed, quickness and acceleration could make him a star on an aggressive unit that always encourages defenders to play in attack mode. Though he heads into the coming campaign with limited experience, the 2023 third-rounder will benefit from playing beside a heat-seeking missile in Roquan Smith. As opponents attempt to avoid running or throwing at the perennial Pro Bowler, Simpson will have plenty of chances to register "bang-bang" hits and timely takeaways against unsuspecting rushers and pass catchers.

LB
Devin Lloyd
Jacksonville Jaguars · Age 25

Lloyd could be the biggest benefactor of the Jaguars' scheme change under new DC Ryan Nielsen. The third-year pro could reprise his role as a SAM linebacker, which helped him earn high marks as a prospect in the 2022 draft class. A unique playmaker with instincts, awareness and pass-rushing skills, Lloyd can make his mark as a linebacker who attacks from all angles. He thrived in a similar role at the University of Utah, which helped him walk away with a plethora of honors after dotting his r茅sum茅 with splash play after splash play. Though the Jaguars haven't been entirely open about Lloyd's expected role, it's not hard to envision the third-year pro crushing it as a DPR (designated pass rusher) with on- and off-ball linebacker skills.

CB
Christian Gonzalez
New England Patriots · Age 22

The Patriots might have landed the league's next superstar on the island with the 17th overall pick of the 2023 draft. Gonzalez showed rare traits as a big corner (6-1, 205) with ballerina-like feet and hips in an injury-abbreviated rookie season. The smooth-moving playmaker can blanket receivers utilizing various techniques to shrink the field for the passer and pass catcher. Moreover, Gonzalez displays the ball skills and instincts to develop into a takeaway specialist on a defense that could utilize more zone coverage to keep more eyes on the ball. Given the 22-year-old's talents, traits and technique, it is only a matter of time before Gonzalez is recognized as one of the elites on the island.

CB
Joshua Williams
Kansas City Chiefs · Age 24

Perhaps the Chiefs were willing to move on from L'Jarius Sneed due to Williams' potential as a sticky cover corner in a man-heavy scheme. Since his arrival as a fourth-round pick out of Fayetteville State in 2022, Williams' growth has raised eyebrows around the league, with scouts and executives appreciating the small-school standout's game. As an instinctive playmaker with exceptional length, Williams has earned rave reviews for his work as a part-time player in Kansas City's defensive backfield. He is not afraid of the bright lights and big stage, as evidenced by his play as a young defender on the back-to-back Super Bowl champs. With more opportunities to showcase his talents against elite receivers in the AFC, Williams could emerge as a worthy complement to Trent McDuffie on the perimeter.

CB
Joey Porter Jr.
Pittsburgh Steelers · Age 23

The second-year pro is a dark-horse contender for Pro Bowl honors in 2024 after thriving as the CB1 in Pittsburgh down the stretch last season. Porter's toughness, tenacity and tools make him a difficult matchup for pass catchers who lack the speed and physicality to escape his clutches at the line. Though he remains a work in progress on the island, Porter's alpha-dog mentality and unshakeable confidence could enable him to shine without a polished game.

S
Ji'Ayir Brown
San Francisco 49ers · Age 24

The ball-hawking safety lived up to his reputation in Year 1. Brown notched a pair of regular-season interceptions and a postseason pick as a part-time starter who was thrown into the fire following Talanoa Hufanga's season-ending injury. The INTs showcased his range and ball skills, adding a dimension to a defensive backfield that feasts on tipped passes and overthrown balls down the field. With the 49ers expected to return to a scheme that places a premium on turnovers, the second-year pro could become a household name as a takeaway specialist on an elite defense.

S
Andre Cisco
Jacksonville Jaguars · Age 24

The fourth-year pro has a chance to become an elite defender in a new defensive scheme that suits his talents as a ballhawk. Cisco already has logged seven interceptions over the past two seasons while playing as a center fielder in a system that lived and died with blitz pressure. Now, though, the Jaguars' young standout could see his takeaway number spike as the designated deep-middle defender in a scheme designed to bait quarterbacks into mistakes. Cisco is a high-IQ player with a nose for the ball; his range and awareness could help him spark a defensive revival in Jacksonville.

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