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Reading the Defense: Week 6

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

DEPTH CHART NUGGETS AND KEY INJURY REPLACEMENTS

***So much for needing a week to work into game shape. I thought Greg Hardy would see limited duty in his first week back and potentially struggle to get to Tom Brady, who's generally a tough sack. But Hardy was a blur off the edge at times and flashed an equally strong bull rush. He got to Brady twice for sacks and was credited with five quarterback hits on 69% of the team's defensive snaps. Expect him to remain an elite defensive end after the bye week.

***Mike Pettine is searching for pass rushers and run stuffers. He's clearly soured on Chris Kirksey, a borderline talent he spent a third round pick on last year. After one week as a near every-down player filling in for Craig Robertson, Kirksey was off the field in many situations in favor of Tank Carder last week. Kirksey's ship has sailed...and probably sunk. Rookie Nate Orchard started and saw over half the defensive snaps. Paul Kruger saw his snap count plummet and played just 40% of the time. Barkevious Mingo was moved to special teams duty and was credited with just four snaps on defense. Aside from Karlos Dansby, this continues to be a mess best avoided.

***The Cardinals adjusted their depth chart this week and are more or less calling Deone Bucannon a linebacker now. That's how he's been functioning in their primary subpackage, which has essentially become their base defense with Sean Weatherspoon now not even on the active gameday roster. Bucannon's 9-2 stat line this week is a ceiling expectation, but he's going to be a top five fantasy defensive back for the rest of the season. It's also great news for the prospects of Kevin Minter, who essentially has no depth chart competition at all.

***You can't fool John Norton. The Guru saw right through Jeff Fisher's comments to the media last week implying Akeem Ayers would be taking over Alec Ogletree's role and correctly surmised the Rams would look to Mark Barron in subpackages as a hybrid linebacker. Barron had 50 snaps (81%) to Ayers' 20 snaps (32%) last week. If you picked up Ayers -- as I did -- you can send him packing to the waiver wire and watch for any changes. Barron will have DB3 value in weeks where the Rams are likely to be in a nickel defense frequently.

***The Raiders pulled Curtis Lofton from the nickel package again last week, this time for Neiron Ball. Whether that was a wrinkle specifically worked into the game plan against Denver remains to be seen, but the Oakland coaching staff clearly doesn't see Lofton as an indispensable member of their front seven on passing downs.

***DeAndre Levy managed only 17 snaps before leaving last week's game with an aggravation of a hip condition. Two weeks of practice looked reassuring, but the tone of the post-game media quotes were not optimistic at all. Levy sounds likely to consult with his doctors early this week and make a determination on whether he has any shot of returning this season.

***Tennessee added Wesley Woodyard to their inside linebacker rotation more heavily this week, this time at the expense of Zach Brown. Though Brown still rotated, Woodyard outsnapped him nearly 2:1. Neither player saw more than 60% of the team's defensive snaps. Avery Williamson played nearly every down but continues to take a series off now and then.

***The Colts are running a three man rotation with Jerrell Freeman still recovering from a groin strain. Nate Irving was the base inside linebacker, with Sio Moore seeing lots of subpackage snaps. Josh McNary saw many fewer snaps than last week. I don't expect Moore to work himself into a full time role, but he's worth monitoring if Freeman's injury lingers. As is often the case, the Colts aren't saying much about Freeman's status. The Wednesday practice report will be our first indication of his Week 6 availability.

***Last week, I warned not to read too much into the garbage time snaps Allen Bradford played for Paul Worrilow. The Falcons kept Bradford in a special teams role only in Week 5. Keep him on your long term watch list. Atlanta also adjusted their plans with Justin Durant shelved with an elbow injury. Joplo Bartu (base) and Nathan Stupar (sub) rotated. That can be expected to continue.

EVERY-DOWN LINEBACKER PROJECTION

 

TEAMEVERY-DOWN LBs75-100% SNAPSINJ | SUSPNOTES
ARIZONA Kevin Minter   Alex Okafor : Daryl Washington  
ATLANTA Paul Worrilow   Justin Durant Rotation w/ Stupar and Bartu
BALTIMORE C.J. Mosley : Daryl Smith Za'Darius Smith : Courtney Upshaw Terrell Suggs (IR), Elvis Dumervil  
BUFFALO Preston Brown : Nigel Bradham      
CAROLINA Thomas Davis : A.J. Klein   Luke Kuechly  
CHICAGO Christian Jones Pernell McPhee Shea McClellin Bears went 3-3-5 nickel w/ McClellin out 
CINCINNATI Vinny Rey   Vontaze Burfict (IR-R)  
CLEVELAND Karlos Dansby   Craig Roberston Mike Pettine searching for answers at ILB & OLB
DALLAS Sean Lee Rolando McClain    
DENVER Von Miller : Brandon Marshall Danny Trevathan DeMarcus Ware Trevathan playing time starting to increase
DETROIT Josh Bynes   DeAndre Levy Levy likely done for the season
GREEN BAY Clay Matthews Julius Peppers Sam Barrington (IR)  
HOUSTON Brian Cushing   Jadeveon Clowney Dime is primary subpackage
INDIANAPOLIS D'Qwell Jackson Erik Walden Jerrell Freeman Jackson playing dime snaps w/ Freeman out
JACKSONVILLE Telvin Smith : Thurston Armbrister   Paul Posluszny  
KANSAS CITY Derrick Johnson : Justin Houston Tamba Hali, Ramik Wilson Josh Mauga Chiefs used lots of dime subpackages last week
MIAMI Jelani Jenkins Koa Misi    
MINNESOTA Anthony Barr : Eric Kendricks      
NEW ENGLAND Jamie Collins   Dont'a Hightower  
NEW ORLEANS Stephone Anthony Hau'oli Kikaha    
NEW YORK GIANTS Uani Unga : J.T. Thomas   Jon Beason, Devon Kennard Giants in a 4-5 man rotation now when healthy
NEW YORK JETS David Harris : Demario Davis      
OAKLAND Malcolm Smith : Khalil Mack Aldon Smith   Lofton out of nickel again
PHILADELPHIA Jordan Hicks Connor Barwin : Brandon Graham Kiko Alonso : Mychal Kendricks  
PITTSBURGH Lawrence Timmons   Ryan Shazier  
ST. LOUIS James Laurinaitis   Alec Ogletree Rams used Mark Barron in Big Nickel
SAN DIEGO Manti Te'o : Melvin Ingram Jerry Attaochu    
SAN FRANCISCO NaVorro Bowman Aaron Lynch : Michael Wilhoite Ahmad Brooks Hodges not ready yet and Wilhoite productive
SEATTLE Bobby Wagner : K.J. Wright Bruce Irvin    
TAMPA BAY Lavonte David : Kwon Alexander      
TENNESSEE   Avery Williamson : Derrick Morgan : Brian Orakpo   Brown benched for Woodyard 
WASHINGTON Keenan Robinson : Ryan Kerrigan Perry Riley   Some rotation b/t Riley and Compton last week

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

PERFORMANCES OF NOTE

Will return next week...

WAIVER WIRE PRIORITIES

I'm checking the waiver wire in a mix of my most and least competitive leagues, including expanded lineups. If there's someone on your list who hasn't made mine, shoot me a note and I'll add them here.

DE: Sheldon Richardson || Allen Bailey | Cliff Avril | Damontre Moore

LB: Eric Kendricks ||| Uani Unga | Avery Williamson | Rolando McClain | Wesley Woodyard

DB: Micah Hyde | Mark Barron 

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.