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Reading the Defense: Week 1

A weekly look at IDP trends with a mix of metrics, film study and matchup strategy

ten years

It seems unbelievable to me, but this is my tenth season writing this column. I'm not certain, but I think it's the second longest running IDP column in the industry -- behind John Norton's Eyes of the Guru. If it isn't, it's pretty close. While I've added the injury beat to my weekly schedule and am proud of what it's become, RTD is still my first love. 

That's entirely thanks to you.

From our Forum posters to our podcast listeners to my Twitter followers, the people of our IDP community are the most knowledgeable and respectful anywhere in the fantasy world. Thanks for providing me an outlet to write and for being so gracious and encouraging over the past decade.

And I'm thankful I made it far enough to post that clip.

If you've been reading since the beginning, I'd love to hear from you. Thanks again.

back to the roots of the rtd

Although I enjoyed doing last year's team by team updates, I often wished I had more time to drill down on why players were underperforming or showing signs of a breakout. So, I'm going back to the roots of the RTD this year.

I'm bringing back video breakdowns when something catches my eye and taking an extended look at whether a player's game film accurately reflects his boxscore. And I'm bringing back some more matchup discussion and (when time permits) some actionable metrics.

Instead of the longer team vignettes, I'm going to post a list of depth chart changes, both known and projected. If there's a situation that's on your mind, email me at bramel@footballguys.com by Monday night and I'll address it here.

I'll try to have this column out as early as possible to help with waiver wire decisions. For the most part, I'll still write with the intent of including the important things you didn't realize you didn't know yet. I'm just not going to break down every team every week.

EVERY-DOWN LINEBACKER PROJECTION

I was hoping the lack of preseason injuries would have this chart firmed up for Week 1. It's not. We're just not going to know the personnel packages for some of these teams until after Week 1. What follows is my best educated guess per team.

TEAMEVERY-DOWN LBs75-100% SNAPSINJ | SUSPNOTES
ARIZONA Alex Okafor : Sean Weatherspoon   Daryl Washington Not confident, but project Weatherspoon over Minter in sub
ATLANTA Paul Worrilow : Justin Durant      
BALTIMORE C.J. Mosley : Daryl Smith : Terrell Suggs      
BUFFALO Preston Brown : Nigel Bradham      
CAROLINA Luke Kuechly : Thomas Davis      
CHICAGO Shea McClellin : Christian Jones : Pernell McPhee      
CINCINNATI Vinny Rey   Vontaze Burfict Lamur healthy and will come off bench in nickel
CLEVELAND Karlos Dansby : Paul Kruger     Browns listing Kirksey as starter right now, nickel unknown
DALLAS Sean Lee : Anthony Hitchens     Hitchens expected to return to practice this week
DENVER Von Miller : Brandon Marshall : Demarcus Ware : Danny Trevathan     Broncos cut Steven Johnson, who had replaced Trevathan 
DETROIT DeAndre Levy : Stephen Tulloch      
GREEN BAY Clay Matthews : Sam Barrington : Julius Peppers      
HOUSTON Brian Cushing : Whitney Mercilus Mike Mohamed Jadeveon Clowney  
INDIANAPOLIS D'Qwell Jackson : Jerrell Freeman Trent Cole Robert Mathis Mathis off PUP, will play 80+% of downs when ready
JACKSONVILLE Paul Posluszny : Telvin Smith      
KANSAS CITY Derrick Johnson : Ramik Wilson : Justin Houston : Tamba Hali      
MIAMI Jelani Jenkins : Kelvin Sheppard      
MINNESOTA Anthony Barr     Hodges won MLB job but likely Kendricks w/ Barr in nickel
NEW ENGLAND Jamie Collins : Jerod Mayo     Ninkovich is every-down OLB classified as DL 
NEW ORLEANS Stephone Anthony     Not clear whether Hawthorne or Ellerbe will start in base
NEW YORK GIANTS J.T. Thomas   Jon Beason Thomas lone every-down LB final two preseason wks
NEW YORK JETS David Harris : Demario Davis Quinton Coples : Calvin Pace    
OAKLAND Malcolm Smith : Khalil Mack     Armstrong replacing Lofton in third preseason game
PHILADELPHIA Kiko Alonso : Mychal Kendricks : Brandon Graham : Connor Barwin      
PITTSBURGH Ryan Shazier : Lawrence Timmons      
ST. LOUIS James Laurinaitis : Alec Ogletree      
SAN DIEGO Donald Butler : Manti Te'o : Melvin Ingram Jerry Attaochu    
SAN FRANCISCO NaVorro Bowman : Michael Wilhoite : Ahmad Brooks Aaron Lynch    
SEATTLE Bobby Wagner : K.J. Wright      
TAMPA BAY Lavonte David : Kwon Alexander      
TENNESSEE Avery Williamson : Zach Brown : Brian Orakpo : Derrick Morgan      
WASHINGTON Keenan Robinson : Perry Riley : Ryan Kerrigan      

I'll update this table every week between now and Week 17.

final CAMP depth chart NOTES

Expanding a bit more on the notes in the every-down linebacker chart:

**I believe the plan in Arizona was for Sean Weatherspoon to be the lone linebacker in the dime subpackage. A hamstring injury threw a wrench into that plan and I wouldn't bet a lineup slot on him, but I'm projecting him as the lone every-down inside linebacker for now.

**The Browns final preseason depth chart elevated Chris Kirksey over Craig Robertson. There's been no indication an every-down linebacker will emerge from the ongoing rotation, but I'll have more next week.

**Anthony Hitchens and Lawrence Timmons both look likely to practice on Wednesday and resume their expected every-down roles in Week 1.

**Danny Trevathan didn't play in Week 4. In Week 3, he was replaced in nickel packages by Steven Johnson. The Broncos cut Johnson and kept only four inside linebackers on the final 53. I think we'll see Trevathan alongside Brandon Marshall on every down this week.

**Gerald Hodges won the starting middle linebacker job in Minnesota. Since the team moved him inside, however, it's been Eric Kendricks in the nickel with Anthony Barr and Hodges on the sideline. Unless we hear otherwise later this week, I'd assume the Vikings follow the same rotation this week.

We don't have to worry about whether Sio Moore will be healthy enough to bump Malcolm Smith from the starting lineup in Oakland. The Raiders traded him to Indianapolis, where he's arguably in a worse roster situation for 2015. Long term, a healthy Moore could push one of the Colts' veterans aside. The big winner here is Smith, who is a favorite of defensive coordinator Ken Norton and a favorite to play weak side linebacker every down.

The Niners waived Nick Moody after a hamstring injury derailed what looked like a strong bid to unseat Michael Wilhoite earlier in the season. It's time to put Shayne Skov back on the deep dynasty radar. If there's an injury, I think Skov gets the nod over Nick Bellore, who's more of a special teams body.

We are well into Week 1 preparations and there's been no movement on the Kam Chancellor holdout. Dion Bailey is in line to start right now. The Seahawks do expect to have Earl Thomas back. The issues in the secondary are good news for K.J. Wright, especially when Seattle is on the road away from their assist-heavy home stat crew.

Following up on a few key injury situations:

**You shouldn't be surprised Vontaze Burfict ended up on inseason PUP. The July report about a possible return for the third preseason week was never realistic. The Bengals are extremely stingy with injury information, but I'll try to keep you updated as the PUP deadline approaches in case Burfict looks like a strong pre-emptive midseason roster addition.

**Jason Pierre-Paul finally made it into see the Giants' medical staff this week. There were rumblings that he could be ready to play in a week or two, but he left without signing the franchise tender and a Tuesday note suggested he's still a month (or more) from playing shape.

**San'Derrick Marks and Dontari Poe made their teams' active rosters this week. Neither are good bets to be full strength for some time, but there's a glimmer of hope for both to have fantasy value this season. Jairus Byrd also stayed off the inseason PUP list.

Will Allen was named the starter over Shamarko Thomas in Pittsburgh. Duke Ihenacho never lost his hold on the strong safety job in Washington. Eddie Pleasant has won the Houston safety job over Andre Hal.

Subscribe to The Audible on iTunes or download our weekly IDP podcast here every Thursday for injury updates, player analysis and matchup discussion. Follow and ask questions on Twitter @JeneBramel.