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
|TEAM||EVERY-DOWN LBs||75-100% SNAPS||INJ | SUSP||NOTES|
|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