Eyes of the Guru - Week 7
Updated 10/22 by John Norton, Exclusive for Footballguys.com
Between injuries and trades there has been a lot of action this week.
Starting corner Brian Williams tore up his knee late in the Bears game and is lost for the season. This moves Chevis Jackson and Brent Grimes up the depth chart. Jackson is the favorite to start with Grimes taking over the the nickel duties. Jackson could have a little value in corner required leagues but we should probably take a wait and see stance with him. Rookie safety William Moore also came out of the game gimpy with a bad hammy. So much for any thought that he might make his way into the lineup later this year. With Eric Coleman and Thomas DeCoud playing well, it was unlikely that Moore would have earned a significant role this year anyway.
New Orleans Saints
The time may have arrived to cut ties with Jonathan Vilma. History has shown us over and over the negative effects that playing on a very good team can have on IDP production, particularly at the LB positions. The perfect example of this being Keith Bulluck who was a perennial top 5 LB when the Titans were average and dropped off the map when they were good over the past couple of years. Now that they are bad again Bulluck is on pace to finish near 100 solo stops again. It's safe to say at this point that the Saints defense is greatly improved and the offense is just plain great. That doesn't bode well for the chances of Vilma rebounding. On the other hand, Charles Grant and Will Smith could continue to benefit from the current situation. Last week I suggested we should bench these guys versus a Giants squad that doesn't surrender many sacks. This week they need to be in your lineup against a Miami squad that controls the ball a lot with the run but still allows an average of 1.8 sacks a game to defensive ends. Grant in particular should get consideration since he has a history of being a tackling machine and has gone 11-1-3.5 over the past three games.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
We already knew that the Bucs were not thrilled with Gaines Adams so it probably shouldn't have surprised us when he was traded. For those in need of help at the DE position, the ripple effect of this move provides some opportunity. Jimmy Wilkerson has already been snatched up in most leagues but Stylez (Greg) White is likely going to be available. White has been productive as the team's third end and pass rush specialist over the past few years and now gets an opportunity to play every down. His first game produced an impressive 8-0-1. While we obviously can't expect eight tackles a game, we should get quality production from White the rest of the way. White limped off the field at one point on Sunday but was not mentioned on the Wednesday practice participation report, which is a good sign. Tim Crowder has also played pretty well and likely contributed to the decision to move Adams. He will assume the role of #3 end. He will factor into the rotation but shouldn't steal enough snaps to affect the production of either starter.
With Tyler Brayton moving inside more often, Charles Johnson got a lot of opportunity in week 6. The result was a career best 3-1-2 with 2 FF for the third year player. Johnson looked strong and would likely be worthy of pick up consideration were it not for the Panthers acquisition of DT Tank Tyler from the Chiefs. Tyler should step right in and contribute at tackle, moving Brayton back into the DE role and once again limiting Johnson's opportunity. We should still keep an eye on Johnson who has a lot of potential.
Speculation has Bob Sanders returning for week seven. The Colts have not given us anything concrete concerning Sanders but it would probably be a good idea to sneak him onto your roster before any announcement is made.
The Texans spent a second round pick on Connor Barwin who was considered a raw talent after spending much of his college career playing TE. This guy has huge upside which began to show when he recorded his first career sack in against the Bengals. Barwin played his college ball at Cincinnati so his expanded role against the Bengals may have been the coaching staff throwing him a bone, but the results (2-0-1) were not a surprise to those of us who watched him play at UC. Antonio Smith was signed over the offseason to start opposite Mario Williams but Smith has been somewhat of a disappointment. Barwin probably won't capture a starting role this year but don't be surprised if his role continues to expand. Dynasty owners may want to consider tucking him away for safe keeping.
With 19 solo tackles in the past two games Keith Bulluck is now on pace for 104 solo stops. If he breaks the century mark is will be the first time since 2006. Interestingly enough, Stephen Tulloch is on the exact same pace. What a difference a year makes.
Greg Ellis was active for the game against Philly but didn't see his normal workload. That and the Eagles regular use of multiple receiver sets led to a lot more playing time for Trevor Scott who answered the call with a pair of sacks. Scott's production in this game is not going to hurt his chances of getting on the field more, but don't get too excited. Once Ellis is healthy Scott will once again have a hard time getting on the field, especially on early downs.
San Diego Chargers
Steve Gregory started at SS against Denver but it was youngster Kevin Ellison at 6-1, who made the most noise from the position. Gregory is a solid veteran presence but the word is that it was Ellison who made Clinton Hart expendable. The Chargers have used a time share at this position regularly in recent years but that may have been due more to the fact that neither Hart nor Gregory stood out enough to claim the role full time. We need to keep an eye on Ellison who could become very productive on a consistent basis if he can capture this job all to him self... Kevin Burnett was having a decent game before going down with an ankle injury. He was in a boot and on crutches after the game so Tim Dobbins will probably be in the lineup for a while.
Kansas City Chiefs
Todd Haley continues to play games with his starting lineup. After being absent from the box scores for a couple of weeks and playing very little if at all, Derrick Johnson got the start along with Jovan Belcher in week 6. It has been suggested that this only happened because the Chiefs opened the game in their nickel package but the bottom line is that in previous weeks Johnson was not even playing even in the nickel. Albeit with only 3 solo tackles, Johnson out produced Demorrio Williams for the first time this season leaving us to wonder what we should expect going foreword? The Chargers have been a weak match up for linebackers this year anyway so we shouldn't be considering either Johnson or Williams this week anyway. We will however, be looking hard at how the playing time breaks down.
St. Louis Rams
With Will Witherspoon traded to Eagles, Paris Lenon will step into the WLB role the rest of the way. Lenon is a marginal veteran starter in NFL terms but has proven to be a solid IDP option when plugged in to a productive situation. With the Rams circling the drain Lenon once again finds himself in a high potential environment. Laurinaitis is undoubtedly the top dog of this group but Lenon could prove worthy as a decent #3 starter or quality depth as attrition continues to eat away at our LB options... Craig Dahl has been very productive since stepping in at SS for James Butler. Dahl's last two games have produced 11 solo stops, a sack and a fumble recovery. I'm not sure if the quality production has more to do with Dahl's quality play of the target rich environment is is in. We should soon find out though as Butler is close to returning. I have to think that whoever the Rams run out there will put up solid numbers in that situation. If your options are limited take a look at Butler who was 8-4 with a pick in two games before the injury.
Lofa Tatupu was originally thought to be done for the year with a pectoral tear. Upon further review he may now only miss a few weeks. Either way this is another opportunity for Michael Hawthorne. Even if you only get to use him for a few weeks Hawthorne is a worthy pickup for anyone in need at the position. Especially when you consider that the jury is still out on Tatupu... With a pair of sacks in the first half Patrick Kerney was on fire in week six before aggravating his groin injury. He didn't play in the second half and may not be a full speed for some time. There is no word on how many games he will miss but it's a safe bet that Daryl Tapp and Lawrence Jackson are going to have an increased role... In a bit of good news for Seahawks fans, Leroy Hill and Marcus Trufant are expected to return after the bye week. It will be interesting to see if Hill takes snaps away from Hawthorne in the nickel packages. My guess would be yes.
Cardinals defenders have been somewhat disappointing in general this season but don't hold last weeks low numbers against them. Simply put they had no opportunity against Seattle who ran just 22 offensive plays resulting in a tackle. That should change drastically this week versus a Giants team that should come out of the tunnel frothing at the mouth after last weeks drubbing. Karlos Dansby is a must start on any week but those owners who like to shuffle those fringe players should take a long look at Gerald Hayes in this one. The other guy who should be in your lineup this week is Adrian Wilson. While has has clearly not lived up to expectations this year (or last for that matter) don't overlook what this match up has done for other safeties this year. Roman Harper 4-1-1, Tyvon Branch 7-3 PD, Mike Brown 6-3-1, LaRon Landry 8-0 PD, even Will Allen 9-1 and Ken Hamlin 6-2 have been very productive. Personally I wouldn't put Wilson ahead of another DB who has been very productive on a consistent basis, but Wilson could have a big game for you if you choose to gamble.
The Eagles lost both Omar Gaither and Victor Abiamiri with knee injuries in week six. There has been little word on the severity of these injuries with the exception that as of Wednesday afternoon neither player has landed on IR. Regardless of injury status, the trade for Will Witherspoon is a bad sign for Gaither. Andy Reid tells us that Witherspoon will be plugged in at MLB where he upgrades and solidifies a thin and needy position in Philly. The addition of Laurinaitis made Witherspoon an afterthought in St. Louis but he's a very good player who may well step in and lead the Eagles in tackles over the remainder of the season. This addition drops the stock of Akeem Jordan a little and could cost Quintin Mikell a handful of tackles along the way as well. Before the trade Witherspoon was reportedly going to have an MRI on his hip/back after being banged up in week six. There was never a report on the MRI findings but the fact that Philly was willing to make this deal probably signals a clean bill of health. That said, He is likely to be a bit sore this week... If Abiamiri misses time it will mean an increased role for Juqua Parker and probably Darren Howard as well.
New York Jets
The Jets are going to miss NT Kris Jenkins who is done for the year with a knee injury. Sione Pouha stepped in versus the Bills and piled up a 5-4 mark. He's no Kris Jenkins but Pouha could be productive enough to make an impact in DT required leagues.
New England Patriots
While it's a good sign for the future, don't read too much into the 3-3 with a pick put up by rookie safety Patrick Chung against Houston. He didn't show up in the box scores until the 4th quarter when the Patriots started playing their reserves.
Donte Whitner left Sunday's game with ankle injury and is currently listed as day to day. With rookie Jairus Byrd playing very well it will be interesting to see who emerges as the starting safeties once Whitner and Bryan Scott are healthy. It may be a good idea to pluck Byrd off the waiver wire and sit on him for a week or two until we see what happens here... Kyle Williams was also forced out of the game with a shoulder injury. With a 14-7-1 mark over the previous three weeks Williams has been very productive in tackle required leagues. If he misses time Spencer Johnson will get the call and should produce similar numbers... Paul Posluszny made it through week 6 without re-breaking his forearm. While I am still very leery of this situation, I have to admit to being encouraged.
The Bengals took a huge hit when Antwan Odom was lost to an Achilles injury. Jonathan Fanene will likely get the call to start in Odom's place but rookie Michael Johnson will see a big increase in playing time as well. Johnson comes with grand expectations and has looked pretty strong in limited action to this point. He's a guy we should certainly have on our radar, especially in dynasty leagues. Fanene will be of particular interest to some owners as he is designated a DT in some league management programs. MFL is one example that I am aware of... Domata Peko was also injured in this game but it remains unclear if his injury will keep him out of any games. If he sits look for Tank Johnson to log a lot more snaps... Roy Williams has missed the last two games with a forearm injury and is in doubt for week 7. The Bengals have given us very little detail on this injury so we really don't know how much more action he will miss. What we do know is that Chinedum Ndukwe continues to impress and should be in your lineup every week that either Williams or Chris Crocker is inactive.
D'Qwell Jackson landed on IR with a shoulder injury early this week but the Browns have not been very forthcoming about how they will replace him. In Sunday's game the club plugged in rookie Kaluka Maiava who is the early favorite to make the next start. However, when Jackson left the week five game it was David Bowens who shifted inside and played fairly well. Coach Mangini didn't help us much when he told reporters on Wednesday that the team could use Maiava, Bowens or Jason Trusnik at inside linebacker. Whoever gets the call will have an opportunity to be very productive based on the dismal season the Browns are having but the headliner of this group becomes Eric Barton who will shift over and take Jackson's role as the every down LB and signal caller.
Troy Polamalu returned to action and made an immediate impact with an interception. He got up limping after the pick but was able to continue in the game. He will likely take it easy during practices for the next few weeks and continue to play but he is clearly not 100% and will be a major re-injury risk for a while... Lawrence Timmons posted a respectable 5 solo tackles against Cleveland but blew up in the big play columns with a pair of sacks and two forced fumbles. Timmons may never finish among the leagues tackle leaders but he should make up for it by being one of if not the best big play ILB in the league over the next few years. This Steelers defense is going to be scary when everyone is healthy.
Green Bay Packers
Nick Barnett is finally looking like we expected he would in this defense. He's no longer on a play count and has assumed his role as the every down LB and centerpiece of the Packers 3-4. He's posted strong tackle numbers in each of the past two games and should be a quality option for us on a weekly basis the rest of the way. The news however, is not so good for A.J. Hawk who is slowly being eliminated from the lineup. Hawk is still seeing action in some of the base defenses but played only about 30% of the snaps in week 6. Brandon Chillar paired with Barnett in the nickel packages and even stole some base snaps from Hawk... The Packers continued to use some of the 3-5-3 look that we saw from them while Atari Bigby was out. They seemed to be easing Bigby back into action. Expect his role to expand into a full time gig over the next couple of weeks.
Having little time to prepare it was no surprise that Gaines Adams was inactive in week 6. That will change in week seven but it's hard to tell just what the Bears short term plans are for him. Teams don't give up second round picks for guys to provide depth so they obviously expect him to earn a starting job at some point. Adams showed glimpses of greatness while with the Bucs but was never able to put it all together. If anyone can get Adams to produce it's Bears DL coach Rod Marinelli. When he's ready Adams will likely bump Alex Brown to the bench. The Bears have been trying to replace Brown for the past three seasons. He even lost the starting job to Mark Anderson at one point but Anderson soon floundered and Brown was back in. Until/unless we see something from Adams very soon, I wouldn't rush right out to get him in redraft leagues. Dynasty owners however, should take a very hard look.
I talked about DeAndre Levy in previous weeks but after his 5-1 with a pick in week six, just have to put his name out there again. Yes I know that the head coach says Ernie Sims will start when healthy but then Drew Bledsoe was going to start when he returned too. We've heard that from coaches before and right now Jim Schwartz probably intends for that to happen, but if Levy continues to play as well as he has thus far it will be tough to take him off the field.
Best of luck in week 7.