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Reading the Defense: Preseason Notes 1

A first pass at this year's every-down linebackers and catching up on key early camp stories

We're nearly two weeks into camp now and defensive coordinators around the league are beginning to show their cards. Depth charts are becoming somewhat clearer. And beat writers are tweeting and writing about who's making plays and who isn't. While that can be deceiving, players who catch the eye of observers often carry their strong starts into the regular season.

camp news and notes

***I'll be rewriting the DL Tiers to reflect last month's report that J.J. Watt had back surgery. Watt most likely had a microdiscectomy to address ongoing symptoms related to a herniated disc. The 6-8 week recovery period isn't unreasonable, but most players who have had this procedure in the summer months -- including Jason Pierre-Paul in 2013 and Dontari Poe in 2015 -- have said it takes closer to three months before they feel themselves again.

***Watt isn't the only elite fantasy defender with an unclear injury situation. DeAndre Levy saw time during OTAs and minicamp, but is mysteriously absent and on the PUP list in Detroit. It feels like there's something new going on here. Watch this one carefully. Tahir Whitehead isn't a world-beating talent, but his situation continues to improve. If he starts the season behind a strong defensive line and flanked by Kyle Van Noy and Jonathan Bostic, his opportunity is going to be stellar.

***While it's silly to read too much into Twitter trends, Jacksonville defensive end Dante Fowler has far and away prompted the most beat writer love thus far. Every day, my timeline serves up multiple Vines of Fowler destroying overmatched tight ends and offensive tackles or notes about him blowing into the backfield for a big play. The 2015 edge rushing class hasn't lived up to its expectation (Vic Beasley, Randy Gregory, Bud Dupree, and Fowler are all yet to return value) but Fowler looks to be coming on strong. He may not have been as quick off the edge as the others, but his tape was full of bad intentions. He looks fully recovered from last week's brutal ACL tear.

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