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Reading the Defense: Week 5

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.

  • It was going to happen sooner than later. Two weeks ago, we had the largest run on offensive injuries we'd had in some time. This time last week, news was breaking that J.J. Watt's season was about to end. Ryan Shazier, among others, would join Watt as primary fantasy options to miss extended time. That was painful enough. This week, we've lost NaVorro Bowman, Sean Weatherspoon, Gerald McCoy, and a few others to injured reserve or multiple week injury.
  • The 49ers don't have anyone to replace Bowman. Michael Wilhoite will move into an every-down role, with Gerald Hodges again competing for extended playing time. Bowman had needed an extra year to recover from a brutal knee injury. He'll have a good chance to recover from the Achilles tear, but he doesn't have as much reserve to lose and still be a special player. The biggest value upgrades come for Wilhoite and Antoine Bethea here.
  • If you think the 49ers' depth chart is bad, watch out for the mess in Atlanta if Deion Jones is sidelined with a calf injury and DeVondre Campbell (and Paul Worrilow) aren't ready to return. The Falcons signed A.J. Hawk this week. Watch the injury report later in the week for depth chart details here.
  • We will get Demarcus Lawrence, Marcell Dareus, and Rob Ninkovich back this week. All three will deserve consideration at DL immediately.
  • Cory James had a huge Week 4 and is locked into an every-down linebacker spot in Oakland with Ben Heeney on injured reserve with an ankle injury. Malcolm Smith also left last week's game with an injury.
  • So much for Denzel Perryman. The Chargers wasted no time in turning Jatavis Brown into an every-down inside linebacker.
  • The Colts waived Sio Moore from a lackluster group of linebackers. I suspect there's something more than average play here. Regardless, the Colts will still likely rotate D'Qwell Jackson, Josh McNary, and Antonio Morrison. I'm not sure Morrison is the answer here, but he may get a long look as the season progresses and there's plenty of opportunity to come.
  • I'd prioritize the waiver-wire linebacker adds: Michael Wilhoite=Jatavis Brown=Cory James (if still avail)>Gerald Hodges>Antonio Morrison. Vince Williams and Shaq Thompson will also be good short-term adds and immediate starts if Ryan Shazier remains out and Thomas Davis' hamstring injury proves significant.
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: Linebacker

LINEbacker TIERS

Matchup Independent Every-Week Starters
Luke Kuechly, Alec Ogletree, Kwon Alexander, Zach Brown, C.J. Mosley, Vontaze Burfict, Derrick Johnson, Jamie Collins, Telvin Smith, Lavonte David, Ryan Shazier, Benardrick McKinney, Bobby Wagner, Zachary Orr, Mark Barron, Kiko Alonso, Deion Jones, Preston Brown, Eric Kendricks, Paul Posluszny, Michael Wilhoite, Sean Lee, Jatavis Brown, Cory James, Tahir Whitehead, Jerrell Freeman, DeAndre Levy (inj), Will Compton

Rosterable Matchup Dependent Plays
Craig Robertson, Brandon Marshall, Lawrence Timmons, Malcolm Smith, Deone Bucannon, Danny Trevathan (inj), Avery Williamson, D'Qwell Jackson, Nigel Bradham, Dont'a Hightower, Jake Ryan, Christian Kirksey

Big Play Matchup Plays
Von Miller, Chandler Jones, Melvin Ingram, Jerry Hughes, Anthony Barr

Priority Watch List
Jordan Hicks, Denzel Perryman

Dynasty Must Roster Stashes
Myles Jack, Justin Houston (inj), Su'a Cravens, Darron Lee, NaVorro Bowman (inj), Blake Martinez, DeVondre Campbell, Shaq Thompson, Preston Smith, Bud Dupree, Mychal Kendricks, Jaylon Smith

Dynasty Watch List
Antonio Morrison, Leonard Floyd, Shane Ray, Shaq Lawson, Vic Beasley, B.J. Goodson, Stephone Anthony


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, Paul Worrilow, Sean Weatherspoon (IR) Watch Jones' calf injury
BALTIMORE
C.J. Mosley : Zachary Orr
 
 
 
BUFFALO
 
  Brown back in every-down role W4 
CAROLINA
  Thomas Davis  
CHICAGO
 
Danny Trevathan  
CINCINNATI
 
 
Dansby and Rey likely rotating in subpackage
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
Brian Cushing 
 
Clowney playing defensive end
INDIANAPOLIS
none
D'Qwell Jackson
Trent Cole (IR) Moore waived, deep rotation coming
JACKSONVILLE
     
KANSAS CITY
 
 
LOS ANGELES
     
MIAMI
 
 
MINNESOTA
     
NEW ENGLAND
Dont'a Hightower    
NEW ORLEANS
Nate Stupar
Ellerbe may replace Robertson when healthy 
NEW YORK GIANTS
none
 
   
NEW YORK JETS
   
Lee and Henderson rotating
OAKLAND
Cory James
Malcolm Smith, Ben Heeney (IR)  
PHILADELPHIA
Jordan Hicks   
 
PITTSBURGH
  Ryan Shazier   
SAN DIEGO
 
Manti Te'o (IR)  
SAN FRANCISCO
  NaVorro Bowman (IR)   
SEATTLE
     
TAMPA BAY
     
TENNESSEE
   
WASHINGTON
Ryan Kerrigan   

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.