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Reading the Defense: Week 4

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

News and Notes

The team-by-team notes will return soon. Over the next couple of weeks, I'm working through a mid-season tier update by position.

  • News broke late Tuesday night that J.J. Watt has aggravated the back injury that led to offseason microdiscectomy surgery and would likely be moved to injured reserve. He could return late in the season, but it's extremely unlikely. Jason Pierre-Paul and Dontari Poe told us how difficult this recovery is and we saw it with Watt over the first three weeks. He was a shell of his usual self as he tried to regain core strength while practicing and playing. It's not worked out. Whether he has a repeat surgery or chooses to slowly rehab, this should be a minimum 10-12 week recovery and it's unlikely Watt or the Texans risk bringing him back more quickly lest they risk him ever returning to full form. Don't expect to see him until 2017.
  • I stubbornly held onto Denzel Perryman through his part-time snap counts, but I'm sad his increased value will come at the expense of Manti Te'o's Achilles injury. You should also continue to watch Jatavis Brown closely. For now, Brown looks like he'll rotate with Kyle Emanuel as the Chargers work to replace Te'o. But I suspect it'll be difficult to keep Brown off the field. And if/when Brown takes over in the base defense, he will challenge Perryman for dime snaps.
  • Ryan Shazier is ... frustrating. He's "very questionable" to play Sunday night after aggravating his recent MCL sprain. Lawrence Timmons needed a hospital visit to treat a puncture wound, but should be able to play.
  • Karl Joseph took over as the starting strong safety in Oakland. Behind a messy linebacker group that was without benched Ben Heeney, Joseph got off to a nice start. Neither Keanu Neal nor Clayton Geathers played full time snaps as they work themselves into the Atlanta and Indianapolis lineups, but all three young safeties are going to have value quickly.
  • Vontaze Burfict will be back this week. I don't expect the Bengals to play him every down, but it's not impossible. I'd probably hold on starting Burfict this week unless we hear otherwise. You should also keep Vinny Rey on the bench this week. Burfict's snaps are coming at Rey's expense.
  • Zach Brown had a big week, but played just 60% of Buffalo's snaps. His stat crew and the dearth of tackle competition will help him hold value through limited snaps but prepare for some future variance.
  • Darron Lee played well enough in the base defense that it's unlikely Erin Henderson will get his starting job back when he returns to health.
Make sure you're reading Aaron Rudnicki's upgrades and downgrades and John Norton's Eyes of the Guru for more details on last week's play. And we'll have more in our Thursday podcast, including lots of matchup and injury discussion after Wednesday's first practice participation report.
 

Positional Tiers

We're three weeks into the regular season and getting a much better sense of schemes, depth charts, and player production. There's still time for disappointing players to turn their season around or fairy tale trends to turn back into pumpkins. But that becomes less and less likely after 3-4 weeks of data.

These tiers will not be as extensive as my offseason tiers. During the season, I put players into three categories: Matchup Independent Starters, Matchup Dependent Plays, and Priority Watch List. Dynasty league owners should have an additional category: Stashes you must keep on your roster. In deeper leagues, the matchup dependent list will obviously need to be longer.

This week: Defensive Line

Defensive Line Tiers

Matchup Independent Every-Week Starters
Khalil Mack, Jabaal Sheard, Jason Pierre-Paul, Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson, Brandon Graham, Carlos Dunlap, Everson Griffen, Robert Quinn, Olivier Vernon, Cameron Jordan, Calais Campbell, Devin Taylor, Ezekiel Ansah (inj)

Rosterable Matchup Dependent Plays
Sheldon Richardson, Demarcus Lawrence (susp), Derek Wolfe, Timmy Jernigan, Kyle Williams, Vinny Curry (will move up when healthy), William Hayes, Mike Daniels, Henry Anderson, Jurrell Casey, Cameron Heyward, Corey Liuget, Jaye Howard

Big Play Matchup Plays
Danielle Hunter (arguably matchup independent despite part time snaps), Cameron Wake, Frank Clark, Cliff Avril, Chris Long

Priority Watch List
Rob Ninkovich (susp)

Dynasty Must Roster Stashes
J.J. Watt (injured-IR), Dante Fowler, Jadeveon Clowney (still listed LB), Joey Bosa, Noah Spence

Dynasty Watch List
Carl Nassib (inj), Trey Flowers, DeForest Buckner, Robert Nkemdiche, Owa Odighizuwa, Lorenzo Mauldin, Randy Gregory (susp)

Defensive Tackles to Roster
Fletcher Cox, Aaron Donald, Linval Joseph, Geno Atkins, Michael Bennett, Kerry Hyder, Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Damon Harrison


EVERY-DOWN LINEBACKER PROJECTION

 

Additions to the every-down column in BOLD. Injury situations to monitor this week in italics.

TEAM
EVERY-DOWN LB
75-100% SNAPS
INJ | SUSP
NOTES
ARIZONA
     
ATLANTA
Deion Jones DeVondre Campbell  
BALTIMORE
C.J. Mosley : Zachary Orr
 
 
BUFFALO
 
   
CAROLINA
     
CHICAGO
Danny Trevathan Watch for news on Trevathan injury
CINCINNATI
none
Karlos Dansby
Vontaze Burfict (returns W4)
Burfict likely limited role in first week back
CLEVELAND
Demario Davis : Chris Kirksey
   
DALLAS
   
Durant and Hitchens continue to rotate
DENVER
   
DETROIT
Kyle Van Noy (while Levy out) DeAndre Levy  
GREEN BAY
none
 
Base - dime rotation among ILBs
HOUSTON
 
Clowney playing defensive end
INDIANAPOLIS
none
D'Qwell Jackson
Trent Cole (IR) Walden may get 80% w/ Cole injured
JACKSONVILLE
     
KANSAS CITY
 
 
LOS ANGELES
     
MIAMI
 
 
 
MINNESOTA
     
NEW ENGLAND
  Dont'a Hightower  
NEW ORLEANS
 
Ellerbe will replace Robertson when healthy 
NEW YORK GIANTS
none
 
   
NEW YORK JETS
  Erin Henderson
 
OAKLAND
Malcolm Smith : Cory James
  Heeney benched
PHILADELPHIA
Jordan Hicks   
 
PITTSBURGH
Lawrence Timmons (moves up if Shazier out)    
SAN DIEGO
 
Manti Te'o (IR)  
SAN FRANCISCO
NaVorro Bowman : Gerald Hodges
     
SEATTLE
     
TAMPA BAY
     
TENNESSEE
   
WASHINGTON
   

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.