Eyes of the Guru - Week 3
Posted 9/19 by John Norton, Exclusive to Footballguys.com
As usual week 2 gave us confirmation on a lot of issues but created uncertainties in other areas. Add in the the normal sprinkle of injuries and we have a lot to think about as we get ready for week 3 and beyond. Lets get right to it.
Lawyer Milloy followed a strong 5 tackles and a pick in week 1 with a very solid 7-1 in week 2. Unfortunately he woke up in the Gray Bar Motel on Monday after a DUI arrest. This is something that we need to consider but in reality the legal process is going to drag out as usual and the league can't/won't act until that process has run it's course. That means if/when Milloy is disciplined by the league, it will likely be after this season. Milloy has been a marginal fantasy option in recent years but much has changed with his situation. The Falcons are rebuilding and there is a new defensive scheme in place. The bottom line here is that until we hear differently, Milloy could very well average 5+ tackles a week and be a solid #3 starter for us. If something does come of the DUI this season it could open the door for rookie Thomas DeCoud who is the heir apparent to the soon to be 35 year old Milloy... Second year DE Jamal Anderson finally made a showing with a career best 6-0 in week 2. This may provide a glint of hope for him but he has still not produced a single sack in 18 starts and has a long way to go if he's going to beat the bust tag that's already been put on him by many.
New Orleans Saints
EOTG readers are familiar with the rookie corner rule. That rule certainly applies to Tracy Porter. The injury to Randall Gay moved Porter into the starting lineup against Washington and he proceeded to go 8-1. By the time Gay returns, Porter may well have laid claim to the job. He's probably the most talented of the New Orleans corners anyway so this opportunity only accelerates his learning curve. At just 188 pounds Porter isn't the most physical specimen but some of us on the FBG IDP team see a lot of the 180 pound Antoine Winfield in him. When everyone is healthy here Porter's numbers will likely benefit from playing opposite quality veteran Mike McKenzie while Gay assumes the nickel corner duties. If it pans out this way Porter will be among the leagues leading tacklers at the corner position... The club hasn't given us a time table for the return of Roman Harper from his hamstring injury but there are signs that he'll be out a while. The most telling tale being that he was declared out for week 3 very early. Most clubs will list a guy as questionable or even doubtful even is he's realistically a couple of weeks away. We may not see Harper again until after the club's week 9 bye. In the meantime don't hesitate to grab Kevin Kaesviharn or maybe even Josh Bullocks. Even with Harper healthy Kaesviharn has gone 6-1 in each of the first two games. He's not a flashy big hitter type but he gets the job done, has been consistently productive whenever given an opportunity to play and is a big play threat. Bullocks will replace Harper at SS and could post similar numbers to Harper, at least in the tackle columns. He's not much of a big play threat however, which had a lot to do with his loosing the starting FS job to Kaesviharn... Jo-Lonn Dunbar was an unimpressive 3-3 in place of Scott Fujita against Washington... Scott Shanle took Fujita's role in the nickel package but managed just a 3-2 mark after missing some time with a minor injury.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Gaines Adams exploded with the first multiple sack performance of his career in week 2 when he was an impressive 3-3-2. After a very average rookie campaign, it looks as if the light may have come on for him at last. He certainly doesn't look like the same player I watched struggle last season. Maybe he is this year's version of Mario Williams after all... Reports of Derrick Brooks demise were obviously exaggerated. He clearly wasn't 100% but showed his metal by fighting through the injury in week 2. The one effect of the injury was that Cato June saw most of the action in nickel situations... There was much speculation a year ago that Sabby Piscitelli would bump Jermaine Phillips from the SS job. He didn't come close last season but we should keep an eye on the situation this year. Piscitelli spelled Phillips against the Falcons and just happened to pull in an interception during his limited playing time. That's how players get noticed and win jobs. Stay tuned.
Richard Marshall was one of the top drafted corners this summer but his 1-1 in each of the first two games has a lot of owners bailing already. Unless you league format dictates otherwise, be patient here. He's not been 100% as he battles a leg injury that has limited his playing time quite a bit. Park him on the bench for another week or two if you can. If he hasn't shown us something by then, cut your ties and move on... Thomas Davis didn't show us much in week one but against the Bears in week 2 he looked great both on the field and in the box scores. I don't think he will challenge Jon Beason for the team tackle lead on a weekly basis but the 8-1 last week is certainly reason for optimism that he will be pretty productive, at least when the match up is strong. He looks like an excellent sleeper start this week against the Vikings stellar ground game... DE Charles Johnson saw his most significant playing time as a pro in week 2. Maybe the coaching staff got the hint that Brayton isn't going to get the job done. At any rate, watch Johnson's progress over the next few weeks.
Bob Sanders made it through last season without missing time due to injury. It looks as if he used up all his good fortune. Sanders is expected to miss at least a few weeks with a high ankle sprain. He'll officially be replaced by Melvin Bullitt in the lineup but the smart money says that Antoine Bethea is the guy to pick up here. Bethea is the strong safety which is an advantage based on the scheme, but more importantly it was Bethea who stepped up in the box scores back in '06 when Sanders was out. One more sign is the fact that he was the Colts second leading tackler when Sanders went down against Minnesota.
The lights are back on at the end of the tunnel for Chris Hope. Granted his 4-4 against the Bengals in week two was far from impressive in general, but consider the match up and the fact that he led the Titans in tackles for the game. I'm not saying you need to jump up and grab him right away, but he has earned a place on our radar. Lets see what he does with a much better match up (Houston) this week.
Most draft experts classified Quentin Groves as a project and said he was unlikely to ever be more than a situational pass rusher. I wonder how many of those experts watched him go 3-0-1 and force a fumble against Buffalo? Sometimes when a player moves to the next level it just clicks. Maybe it's the difference from one coach to the next or maybe it's that he better fits the scheme. Whatever the reason, the early eyeball test says that Groves isn't the player those scouts thought he was at this level. He played sparingly in week one and didn't make much of a box score impact, but even then he was disruptive. He hasn't claimed a starting job yet but his workload increased in week 2 and included a few snaps on early downs. If he continues to improve/impress, the Jaguars coaching staff will have a hard time keeping him him off the field. Fellow rookie Derrick Harvey continues to see action as well. He hasn't been as impressive as Groves but just getting on the field this early after the extended hold out is a good sign. It looks more and more like Groves and Derrick Harvey will be the starters for Jacksonville in the very near future. Possibly as soon as later this season... Justin Durant finally laid full claim to the starting WLB job in week 2. Unfortunately he came out of the game gimpy with a sore groin. He's expected to be listed as questionable for week 3 and he has yet to knock Darryl Smith out of the nickel LB role. It's only a matter of time before that happens and dynasty owners need to move now or take a chance on missing out. If the injury doesn't hold him back or keep him out, Durant should make a solid bye week fill in even as a 2 down guy... I've been talking about Brian Williams since early July. He was 6-2 in the opener and followed it up with a team high 8-0 in week 2. He's a natural at safety and is the real deal. I expect his big play production to kick in soon as well, once he gets into a comfort zone at the new position.
Never under estimate the effect of emotion on a football team, and particularly on a defense. After all the turmoil between the front office and the coaching staff last week, the Oakland defense was inspired and fired up by DC Rob Ryan's comments and actions. Granted it was only the Chiefs but this simply wasn't the same unit that Denver ran over in week one. Derrick Burgess returned to action with a strong 4-1-1 and a forced fumble, Kalimba Edwards made an impact in his Raiders debut with a 3-0-1 while working in pass rush roll and Ryan even got the linebackers involved in the pass rush scheme. The result was 5 sacks, 2 picks and a couple of forced fumbles. We have seen this defense play very well before despite having no offense. Don't be surprised if they prove week 2 not to be a fluke.
San Diego Chargers
There are some misleading stats that came out of the San Diego-Denver game in week 2. We all know owners who chase big numbers. Those owners will be all over Quentin Jammer this week. Don't be one of those owners. Jammer's 10 solo tackles were a pure result of the butt kicking he took from Brandon Marshall. He won't face Marshall again this week so his numbers will return to the normal 3-4 tackles. Unknown DB Steve Gregory finished second on the Chargers tackle list for this game but don't get too excited about him either. He replaced an injured Clinton Hart early in the game and then shifted over to FS later when Hart returned and Eric Weddle went out. Hart suffered a broken hand early in the game and then toughed it out to return late in the second half. He had surgery on the hand Monday but there is still some chance he will play in week 3. Even if he goes, you will want to sit him for a week and see how this plays out before trusting him as a starter again. Weddle has a sore groin but may also try to go. This whole situation is pretty muddy until we get some word on the injuries later in the week. The Bottom line here is that unless one or both of the starters are ruled out, and Gregory is announced as the replacement, it's hard to say who will play or how long they will last. The Chargers are hurting pretty much everywhere so the safeties (whom ever they may be) are going to have a lot of opportunity. Other injuries include OLBs Marques Harris who will likely be questionable with a hip pointer and Shaun Phillips who has a sore groin. Early speculation is that both will play but we'll see.
The one big question coming out of Denver is where's Elvis? Unfortunately I have no sure answer here. He played more than 80% of the snaps in each of the first 2 games but has been invisible thus far. The broken Thumb undoubtedly is a factor but Dumervil hasn't even been getting close. At the very least he needs to be on your bench until he steps up, and if there are quality options available don't hesitate to make a move. I dropped him for Alex Brown in one league this week and for Lawrence Jackson in another. The coaching staff isn't very happy about the lack of production from the DL either. Last year's first round pick Jarvis Moss is expected to be active in week 3 for the first time this year, and is likely to get some playing time.
San Francisco 49ers
Patrick Willis owners got a scare when their stud LB left Sunday's game with a leg injury. They and the Niners breathed a huge sigh of relief when he returned to the game and then broke a big smile when he returned a pick for a score. We may want to temper our excitement this week when it comes to Willis. Not only is he going to be sore, but he faces a Lions club that is one of the worst match ups in the game for an inside linebacker. Just look at the numbers from the first two weeks. Keith Brooking and Curtis Lofton combined to go only 4-3 in week one. In week two A.J. Hawk salvaged his game with a couple of sacks but he and Nick Barnett combined for only 6-3 in the tackle columns. It's hard to sit a guy like Willis but if you have other quality options, consider it.
After virtually splitting snaps in the opener, Lawrence Jackson seems to have laid claim to the DE job opposite Patrick Kerney on virtually a full time basis. His big 4-1-2 performance against San Francisco was a real eye opener. If you have him or can get him this week, don't hesitate to plug Jackson right into your starting lineup against a Rams club that has already allowed 11 sacks (7 to linemen)... With a 4-0-1 against San Francisco, DT Rocky Bernard reminded us that when healthy, he's one of the most productive interior linemen in the league. He's been hurt for so long that many had forgotten the 43-9-8.5 he put up in 2005. If you are in need of a DT, he should be at the top of your list this week... Lofa Tatupu has gotten off to a very slow start but don't panic. He's been banged up since early in the preseason. It started with a bone bruise to his knee, then a thumb injury and most recently he had fluid drained off the knee. It's hard to play when you can't run or hold on. He'll be fine soon but you may want to sit him this week versus the offensively challenged Rams.
Last week I talked about how impressive Travis LaBoy looked in his new role as a stand up 3-4 linebacker. I also mentioned the fact that he wasn't playing when the defense is in a 4-3. I didn't get to watch a lot of the Cardinals game against Miami but from what I did see, the Cards seemed to be using a lot of 4-3 in that game. I'll get a better look this week if NFL Network give me a replay, but that would explain both LaBoy's vanishing act and Bert Berry going 3-1-1.
New York Giants
Mathias Kiwanuka was active and started in week 2 but he was obviously limited by the ankle injury which resulted in a part time role. The good news is that he came through the game no worse for wear. The Giants pass rushers have a great match up this week against a Bengals offensive line that can't block anyone, but playing Kiwanuka in this one is a big gamble. If/when the G-Men get ahead, he will probably become a spectator. I suggest you keep him out of your lineup until we see him produce again... Owners of Antonio Pierce find themselves in somewhat of a predicament. He's done very little this far and though I believe he will eventually come on, the Giants have weak match ups all the way to week 7. Cincinnati this weekend, then a bye followed by a struggling Seattle offense and then a struggling Cleveland offense. If you can afford to sit on him until week 7 it may pay off as that starts a string of games against the Niners, Steelers, Cowboys and Eagles. That said, it's hard to stick with a guy based on the possibility that he may become productive half way through the season... Owner in tackle required leagues should take notice that Fred Robbins has been very hot. He followed a strong 4-0 in week on with a career best 4-0-2 against the Rams. As mentioned previously, the upcoming match ups are good for linemen.
Going 5-1-.5 with a pass defended, LaRon Landry looked very promising after the opener. Unfortunately that turned to dust heading into week 2 when the club announced that he would be used off the ball in more of a centerfielders role going foreword. The result being a very mediocre 2-1 with a pair of PD in week 2. If the coaching staff continues to keep him back away from the ball, it will be hard for Landry to achieve decent numbers with any consistency... Reed Doughty was a surprise inactive for week 2 as he sat out with an illness. I wonder if he knows the name Wally Pip? Rookie Chris Horton got the opportunity to start in Doughty's place and all he did was earn defensive player of the week honors with two picks and a fumble recovery. Horton had a lot of people talking with an impressive preseason. It remains to be seen if Pip.. er I mean Doughty, gets his job back. Keep an eye on this one. With Landry playing off the ball, Horton could be in a position to be very productive... Jason Taylor was forced out in the second quarter with what looked to be another hit on his sore knee. The good news is that he return and went on to have a big game. He'll be on the watch list for a while until the knee heals... Keep an eye on linebacker H.B. Blades. He got the start at SLB for an injured Marcus Washington in week 2 and made another good showing. If he ever gets a shot at starting and can stay healthy, this guy could be big for us. Rocky McIntosh has a degenerative knee that will likely cut his career short and London Fletcher is 32. Blades could be a big part of the long term picture for Washington.
Don't get down on Stewart Bradley or Quentin Mikell after their poor outing on Monday night. This game was a big play pass fest throughout the first 3 quarters and they simply didn't have a lot of opportunity. Most of the numbers they did have came in the 4th quarter when the game settled down to a somewhat normal pace. There guys are going to be fine. If anything, maybe you can parlay their poor outing into a trade and steal them from an opponent.
Don't overlook the effect of the broken forearm suffered by Roy Williams on Monday. The prognosis is that he'll miss at least a couple of weeks but in reality this injury could be a much bigger problem. In years past we have seen guys come back from such an injury and last less than a game before landing on IR. Bones just don't heal that fast and hard hitting guys like Williams put a lot of force on their forearms when taking on blockers etc. The ripple effect of this injury doesn't go too far but it could be big. Pat Watkins not only steps into Williams starting role but will remain on the field in the Cowboys nickel package as well. At least when they use one. Dallas continues to use what is basically a dime package on many passing downs. The one change versus the Eagles being that Kevin Burnett replaced Bobby Carpenter as the lone LB in this set. Ken Hamlin continues to creep up into an LB alignment with Burnett. As a result Hamlin turned in his second consecutive 5 solo outing. Not big numbers but worth keeping an eye on.
New York Jets
With a 4-4 in week two, David Harris continues to fall well short of expectations. It's not time to panic but there is reason for concern as this turn of events is eerily reminiscent of Vilma's fall off after his big season in New York. The Jets are a much better club on both sides of the ball which means less opportunity for the defenders, but that doesn't explain how Eric Barton has led the club in tackle for 2 consecutive games. If Harris tanks again with this weeks solid match up against the Chargers, it may just be time to panic... Don't get off the Kerry Rhodes bandwagon too soon either. Since moving to FS he's not going to make a lot of tackles but should get the big play numbers going soon, especially considering the front 7 is getting good pressure on the QB, and the fact that they have Arizona, Cincy, Oakland and the Chiefs in the next month.
Coach Sparano (and GM Parcells I'm sure) are not at all happy with the play of their leaky secondary that allowed 13 yards per pass attempt in week 2. Sparano is calling for a shakeup. Exactly what that means we may not know until Sunday. Renaldo Hill replaced Chris Crocker (stinger) at FS in week 2 and speculation is that Hill will get the start week 3. Beyond that who knows. It could mean more time for Jason Allen and/or less time for Yeremiah Bell. If you grabbed Bell after his big week 1 numbers, I suggest you sit him this week until we can get a read on this mess.
Terrence McGee has become an every week must start for owners in corner required leagues but you may want to park him this week against a Raiders team that doesn't pass. Like Buffalo, the Chiefs play a lot of cover 2 yet their top tackling corner (Brandon Flowers) managed only 3-0. In week one Dre' Bly was the most productive corner for Denver at only 2-1. On the other hand, you want to start the guys up the middle. Paul Posluszny and Donte Whitner could have their best numbers of the year. Oakland has a league high 77 rushing attempts to date and will pound the rock even when behind late in the game... Aaron Schobel won't have a lot of pass rush opportunity in this game but he's a strong run support guy and could put up 5-6 solo stops.
Dexter Jackson has already pronounced out week 3 so it's time to get back on the Chinedum Ndukwe band wagon. In his first game back from injury Ndukwe fell just one solo tackle short of tying for the team lead against Tennessee. As you all know this is a guy that many of us here at FBG were very high on before the knee injury knocked him out for 2 months. He's a playmaker and can be a tackling machine as well. With BIG Brandon Jacobs pounding his way through a questionable the front 7, Ndukwe is in line for a strong outing. For that matter Keith Rivers, Dhani Jones and Marvin White should all be in your lineup this week. These guys may get some riding time but there is no penalty for a tackle made 5 yards down field. The other point here is that the Bengals hand out assists like candy on trick or treat night. Even if they only average 5-6 solo stops, these guys are going to get enough assists to bump them up among the 7-8 tackle guys. Corner Jonathan Joseph is likely to miss the game with a bad ankle, meaning David Jones will start opposite Leon Hall. The moral to this story is that if you have a Giants WR on your roster, play him. Steve Smith will likely be covered by a guy fresh off the taxi squad.
Green Bay Packers
Every week we are talking about Atari Bigby being banged up. This week it looks as if the hamstring may finally force him to sit. This may be the chance Aaron Rouse has been waiting for. Rouse however, played about half of the game on Sunday and wasn't at all impressive. If he is going to make anyone think about promoting him he will need to look much better versus Dallas... Don't sweat the 1-1 we got from Nick Barnett in week 2. There may be no worse match up in the league for a middle linebacker than the Lions. He goes from one extreme to the other when he squared off against my favorite running back Marion the Barbarian this week.
With help from the big play, E.J. Henderson had a productive week 2 for us, but don't overlook the fact that Chad Greenway has led the club in tackles each of the first two weeks. The numbers aren't huge but I'll take 6 solo stops from my #3 LB every week... Jared Allen recorded his first sack as a Viking in week 2 but has been pretty quiet for the most part. Call it a guy feeling but I believe he is due to explode this week against Carolina. The Vikings have their backs against a wall and it's time for their big time players to step up.
Kevin Payne wasn't huge in the box scores (5-1) against Carolina but he did show more quickness and better anticipation than I had seen from him previously. The jury is still out but maybe the Bears made a good decision by plugging him in. After watching him in this game I am much more optimistic. As it turns out Brandon McGowan wouldn't be on the field even if he hadn't been bumped from the starting job. The ankle injury that allowed Payne to capture the position a few weeks ago, has returned to bite McGowan again. He was on crutches after Sunday's game and will likely miss at least a couple of weeks. He'll be replaced by Danieal Manning in the nickel package... Alex Brown hasn't made any highlight reels but he is quietly off to a strong start going 2-0-1 and 3-0-1 in the first two games. More importantly, Brown has been on the field for nearly 75% of the of the Bears defensive snaps. If he continues to get to the passer there will be no reason for the coaches to take him off the field.
FS Gerald Alexander lost his starting job to Daniel Bullocks before the week 2 game so there is no fear that he will regain the starting job once healthy. That's important since Bullocks had a team best 8-4 in the game. Playing a cover 2 scheme, Detroit safeties don't have a strong history of production. However, with such a leaky front 7 that includes Ernie Sims at less than 100%, Bullocks could prove to be the exception to that rule... We expected Paris Lenon to share time with Jordon Dizon in week 2. That didn't happen and it's not clear why it didn't. Lenon played like a true backup LB. Maybe it's because he's banged up but the fact is, even before the injury he didn't look very good. He certainly isn't making the plays that he did last season. Dizon owner need to hang in there. The way this club/defense is playing they will be looking to get the young guys some playing time by the middle of October if not sooner... Consistency, or lack there of, was a huge problem for both Jared DeVries and Dewayne White last season. For DeVries it has been business as usual so far but White has a sack in each of the first two games and has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dark cloud for the Lions defense.
That does it for this edition. Best of luck in week 3.