The Cardinals continue to slowly evolve defensively. In week two Sean Weatherspoon was on the field for a few more snaps. He even saw some action alongside Kevin Minter on a handful of plays. As a result Deone Bucannon took a seat on just over a dozen snaps. Meanwhile Rashad Johnson was back in an every down role, though he continues to line up as the deep safety. Tony Jefferson had a big game with 9 solo tackles and a pick for a score, but his snap count remained consistent with him on the field for 54 of 72 plays. In week one it was Bucannon and Tyrann Mathieu with the better box scores. In week two it was Jefferson and Johnson. There is a ton of value to be had with this group. Unfortunately this trend of week to week inconsistency is looking more like the norm than the exception.
Paul Worrilow left Sunday's game with a bruised calf and could miss the week three contest. The injury happened late in the game so his poor statistical production had more to do with the Giants offensive game plan than the injury. The game plan also helped Justin Durant to a mark of 9-1-0 on the day. Durant is not a flashy player but he seems to always put up good tackle totals when given an opportunity to play full time. He should be an excellent start against Dallas this week; especially if Worrilow is out. The Cowboys have been an excellent matchup for linebackers thus far. Uani' Unga was 10-2-0 with an interception in week one, followed by Jordan Hicks at 7-0-1 with a forced fumble and Mychal Kendricks with 7 solo stops in week two. There is also the extra edge of Durant facing a former team which adds a little emotion to the mix even if the players try to pretend otherwise.
Nigel Bradham stole the spotlight in week one but it was Preston Brown's turn in week two. Brown finished at 6-5-0 with a forced fumble against the Patriots. Both Brown and Bradham are going to have their standout games but I still believe Brown will have the upper hand once all the numbers are counted. Neither linebacker is a particularly strong play this week against a Dolphins team that is among the bottom six in tackle opportunities through two weeks.
Corey Graham left the week one game in the first quarter but he put up a solid 6-3 in week two. This is nothing to get too excited about just yet, but it is reason to have him on the radar going forward. Another strong outing would make it a trend. Aaron Williams spent the night in a hospital after suffering a neck injury against New England. He is expected to be fine but may miss this week's contest. Bacarri Rambo would be his replacement.
With Luke Kuechly sidelined, Thomas Davis led the Panthers in tackles (6-3) as expected. A.J. Klein replaced Kuechly at middle linebacker but was on the sideline in sub packages, while rookie Shaq Thompson was on the field much more than in the opener. Kuechly has been taking part in some non-contact drills this week but has not been cleared to play as of Wednesday evening. Keep an eye on this as the week unfolds, and keep an eye on the playing status of Drew Brees as well. The Saints offense has struggled as it is, without Brees they may be a bottom five matchup for linebackers.
Kurt Coleman managed to go 5-4-0 against the Texans. He is another defensive back worth keeping an eye on over the next couple of games. Kony Ealy made his second start and played a significant number of snaps (48) but he has yet to make a ripple in the box scores. Being patient with him this week may be alright for some owners but I am moving on in the league I had him rostered.
Bad as the Bears have been, we might expect Shea McClellin and/or Christian Jones to be among the league's tackle leaders. That has not been the case thus far but we should not be in too big a hurry to dump either of these guys. Arizona does not have a power running game and Chris Johnson has never been a good matchup for linebackers. Thus we had McClellin at 5-4 and Jones 2-2 last week in the blowout loss. This week Chicago goes to Seattle where the Seahawks are a different team. I expect a heavy dose of success from Marshawn Lynch and plenty of between the tackle opportunities for the Bears ILB duo.
Last week I talked about Adam Jones production as a full time corner. He now has 17 solo stops, 2 assists, a forced fumble and 3 pass breakups in two games. The Ravens passing game has not been clicking but Jones is doing a lot of his damage in run support anyway. At this point he may be an every week start even in leagues where all defensive backs are lumped together. He is clearly a must start CB1.
Michael Johnson returned to the starting lineup in week two. He was officially 2-1-0 on the day but I believe he had a sack called back on a penalty. Johnson played 63 snaps and has clearly regained the role of three down end. Will Clarke was active over Margus Hunt in week two. He was impressive when I saw him at training camp this summer and is a guy to keep an eye on going forward. He could bypass Wallace Gilberry as the third end before the season is over. The Bengals already have 6 sacks after finishing 2014 with a league low 20.
Our man Sigmund Bloom was singing the praise of then defensive end Armonty Bryant last season. After Bryant went 3-3-2.5 with a forced fumble in week two, we can expect to hear Bloom singing at the top of his lungs. Bryant has shifted to outside linebacker this year and may have found a home. The Titans certainly had no answer for him, but keep in mind it was the Titans. Bryant was quick and explosive off the corner on Sunday. He did not start but played more than twice as many snaps as Barkavious Mingo who has basically been a bust. It will be no surprise to see Bryant in the starting lineup this week. Owners in big play based leagues may want to go ahead and move on him.
Anthony Hitchens owners may want to go ahead and move on if there is someone worth picking up. He managed a sack this week to salvage an otherwise pedestrian point total, but Hitchens was on the field barely over 60% of the team's defensive snaps. We are not sure what happens when Rolando McClain comes back in a couple of weeks but it is a safe bet Hitchens opportunity is not going to increase.
Danny Trevathan managed to lead the Broncos in tackles week two with 7 solos. Owners should not let this cloud the fact he is still participating with a seriously reduced role. Trevathan was on the field for 38 of 64 defensive plays against the Raiders, sitting out most if not all sub packages. Sooner or later the lack of opportunity is going to be a factor. That may happen this week against a Lions team that likes to spread the field with three and four receivers. It is noteworthy to point out no linebacker has more than 4 solo tackles versus Detroit through two games.
Ezekial Ansah had a good final stat line last season but week to week inconsistency was a problem. He has a sack in each of the first two games this year and is coming off an excellent 6-1-1. Peyton Manning has uncharacteristically been dumped seven times already. Ansah is nearing every week must play status. I like his chances of making it three in a row against Denver and taking the final step.
Stephen Tulloch has never been a big play guy, nor has he particularly excelled in coverage. Still it was a shock to see him in a two down role against the Vikings. He may not be all the way back from last year's injury. Regardless of the reason, the fact remains he is now a reduced role player. Josh Bynes not only took over for the injured DeAndre Levy, he has stepped in as a three down weak side linebacker. Bynes has a limited upside but he is a dependable veteran option who could be worth a pickup in deeper rostered leagues. We keep hearing that Levy is close to playing but he has not set foot on the practice field in a month. There are rumors floating around that his injury may be more serious than the team is letting on.
Green Bay Packers
Nate Palmer replaced Sam Barrington in week one and assumed the three down role as well. He was a hot waiver addition heading into week two but it may be time to move on already. Palmer saw action in a few sub package situations but was ultimately on the sideline roughly 25% of the time against Seattle. He may be a decent play this week against the Chiefs who run a more conservative offense using a lot of two tight end formations, but it looks as if Palmer will be a matchup based fill in at best going forward.
After seeing no action in the opener, Bernardrick McKinney got on the field for a handful of defensive snaps in week two. He still has no value in redraft leagues but there may be a light at the end of the tunnel for Dynasty owners and Texans fans.
We knew the Jets were going to be a lot better but did anyone expect the beat down the Colts got on Monday? The Indianapolis defense was a mess, largely because they are so depleted in the secondary. It is not getting any better this week with Vontae Davis and D'Qwell Jackson added to the M.A.S.H. list. Both players left the game under the league's concussion protocol. As of Wednesday evening we are still awaiting word on their status for week three. The short week is not going to help things. Might we see Sio Moore's debut in a Colts uniform week three? Look for Clayton Geathers to see more action at strong safety with Dwight Lowery taking snaps as the slot corner. Geathers playing time more than doubled from week one to week two.
Despite a rash of injuries among their pass rushers, the Jaguars are middle of the pack with 4 sacks through week two. Their cause was helped in week two by Jared Odrick who was 2-0-1 with a forced fumble and a batted pass against his old team. There is little chance Odrick will threaten double digit sacks but he is at least a three down player. He was on the field for nearly 80% of the team's defensive plays against Miami. Odrick may end up with 35 or so solo stops and 6-8 sacks on the year. He's not an every week starter but is roster worthy in many leagues, especially with bye weeks fast approaching.
Kansas City Chiefs
Owners in tackle required leagues should waste no time adding Jaye Howard. He followed up a 2-3-1 in the opener with a strong 7 solo stops in week two. Maybe the biggest surprise here is his starting ahead of Dontari Poe in week two. There were some situations with both Howard and Poe on the field together. We may see a lot more of that going forward with one or both of them working at end.
Marcus Peters = rookie corner rule extraordinaire. He now has 10 tackles, 2 assists, 2 interceptions, a whopping 7 passes defended and a score in his first two games as a pro. There is no chance he will keep up this blistering pace but the guy has certainly proven himself. He is everywhere in both coverage and run support and is showing the signs of a corner who could actually be an exception to the rookie corner rule. It will be no surprise if Parker becomes a perennial top five corner and a quality DB2 or better in the long term.
Maybe the best news of week two was the return of Eric Berry to the starting lineup. He played strong safety, bumping Ron Parker over to free, and was on the field for 71 of a possible 73 plays. Welcome back Mr. Berry! He was not impressive in the box scores posting 4 solo stops, but the numbers will follow. Berry should be on a lot of waiver lists this week.
I have already received some emails asking if I "missed" Cameron Wake in my projections this week. What I have missed is his production in my lineups for the first two games. Wake is battling a hamstring injury. He was a no show in the week one box scores and played a total of fifteen snaps in week two. I may add him into the later updates once we get some word on his status, but for now I am approaching week three as if he will not play or at the least will continue to be ineffective. Derrick Shelby would be the starter if Wake sits with Terrence Fede working as the third man at end. The Dolphins have 1 sack thus far but hope to get fat on a Buffalo offense that gave up 9 to New England.
Just when it looked as if the Vikings were coming to their senses late in week one, they start Andrew Sendejo at strong safety again in week two. This time he went all the way keeping Robert Blanton on the bench. Sendejo is a decent veteran starter who has been given more than ample opportunity to prove he is not an NFL starter, and he has done so at every turn. Blanton is hardly a pro-bowl talent himself, but he was a quality run support strong safety in 2014. Maybe the improved talent level in the front seven has the coaching staff looking for better coverage skills at strong safety. Sendejo may have an edge there. The bottom line here is its time to move on from Blanton. I would not anticipate Sendejo being a suitable replacement but he is worth keeping an eye on.
After a big week one Anthony Barr crashed back to earth hard in week two. A 2 tackle game makes it hard to trust a guy the following week, but let me remind everyone Jamie Collins Sr was 3-3-0 in week one before going 8-3-2.5 with a forced fumble in week two. Barr will be just fine. Chad Greenway on the other hand, will not. Greenway may not be completely washed up from a talent perspective but he is not the Vikings best by any stretch at this point. It was sad to see Greenway play only sixteen snaps without being injured.
Everson Griffin is off to a somewhat slow start but we should have him in our lineups this week against a San Diego offensive line that is missing a couple of starters. The Bengals had 4 sacks against the Chargers last week and had pressure on Phillip Rivers all day. Owners in deeper leagues may want to consider Brian Robison as well.
New Orleans Saints
Jairus Byrd is another of those injured players we keep hearing are close to a return, yet he has not set foot on a practice field in weeks. When the Saints lost Rafael Bush for the year in week one, the resigned Kenny Phillips who had played well during the preseason. Phillips was plugged in at free safety against Tampa Bay, finishing the day with 5 tackles and 3 assists. He is not a standout in terms of talent but the Saints secondary look like it will be a target rich environment this year. They have two rookies starting at linebacker and an offense that has been struggling even with Drew Brees. Phillips combined with Kenny Vaccaro to go 11-6-0 in week two. We may see a lot more of those type numbers unless something gives in New Orleans.
New York Giants
The Giants may get Jon Beason back for week three. We need to be on top of this situation as Washington has been a stellar matchup thus far. Jelani Jenkins, Koa Misi and Alec Ogletree have all had big games against the Redskins who have put on a real show with their running game. There is no reason to believe the Giants will fare any better. Devon Kennard was 7-2 in a less than full time role last week. He could have 10 solo stops in the same role week three. Landon Collins and Brandon Meriweather could also be in for a big night on Thursday. Meriweather is 10-3-0 with 3 passes defended to date and the Giants have some excellent matchups coming up. He is a worthy free agent add in most twelve team leagues starting three defensive backs.
After ripping the Oakland coaching staff in last week’s column, I have to applaud them for the changes in week two. Curtis Lofton returned to his every down role at middle linebacker. The result was a win for the Raiders and a strong 7-6-0 with a forced fumble for Lofton. For those of us who cut him after week one, this is one of those situations that teach us patience. If you let him go or someone else did and he is available, make Lofton a priority add this week. If you picked up Malcolm Smith and cut Lofton, the lack of patience is much easier to live with. Smith paired with Lofton in nearly all sub packages and finished with a strong 7-5-0. Chances are he and Lofton will each have their share of games at the top of the Raiders tackle list.
One of the big surprises from week two was seeing Charles Woodson on the field. He suffered a dislocated shoulder in week one and was able to play through what had to be significant pain against Baltimore. Woodson finished with a 3-1 mark that is far below his norm. He toughed it out but was not the same aggressive tackler fantasy owners have come to expect. He will go in week three against a Cleveland offense that has not been a great matchup so far. I am keeping him on my bench until he starts to look healthy.
Kiko Alonso is going to miss some time with a partially torn ACL and he may be headed to IR. Mychal Kendricks left Sunday's game with a hamstring injury and is likely to miss at least one game, maybe more. What was a crowded position at inside linebacker in Philadelphia is not in the hands of veteran DeMeco Ryans and rookie Jordan Hicks. We know Ryans is more than capable. He will be the signal caller until further notice. If the play of Hicks in week two is an indication (and it probably is) the Eagles will be fine. Hick probably has the most upside so I would prioritize him first in dynasty situations, but both of these players are worth picking up for at least the next couple of weeks.
With 16 solo stops, 6 assists, a sack, forced fumble and a recovery, Ryan Shazier has come out of the gate on fire. He is resting a sore shoulder early this week but should be fine come game time. It is only two games but it sure looks as if Shazier is on the way to becoming the centerpiece of the Steelers defense. Lawrence Timmons owners should be a little concerned. Both players are going to be on the field full time but Timmons is not accustomed to so much competition for tackles. Maybe he will rise to the challenge but he has not looked great so far.
Antwon Blake blew up for 10 solo tackles in week two. He will be on the add list of many owners in corner required leagues this week. Blake may turn out to be a quality addition but we should temper expectations with this week's matchup against the Rams. St. Louis is not going to throw the ball a lot and they have not been a good matchup for corners dating back to last season.
San Diego Chargers
Jimmy Wilson has taken over the strong safety job in San Diego. His box scores have not been impressive but his play on the field has been better than the numbers would suggest. Unless you are in a deep drafted league it is a little too early to make a move, but Wilson should be on our radar.
Michael Bennett was 1-1-1 against the Packers but he is now 5-1-2 on the season with 5 tackles for loss. What the fantasy numbers do not show, he has 5 hurries against Green Bay. Bennett was a disappointment last season. This year he is being used in a manner that best suits his abilities. He may well be a 40 solo and 10 sack guy at the end of the season.
San Francisco 49ers
Navorro Bowman owners should not panic over his 4 assist day in week two. This was largely a result of the Steelers offensive game plan. The Cardinals are not a great matchup either but Bowman's week two numbers were a fluke. He will be in my lineup everywhere I have him this week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jacquies Smith was a favorite of mine heading into training camp. When he was used as a sub package pass rusher in the third preseason game I was surprised and disappointed. Smith has been back in a three down role over the past two weeks and is now sitting on a 4 sack start. The only concern with Smith is a lack of tackle production outside the sacks. He is well on the way to breaking double digit sacks but he may fall short of 30 solo tackles. Even so, Smith is a quality addition as at least a solid DL3 with top fifteen upside.
The Tampa Bay secondary continues to be a mystery with no safety playing full time. There is a lot of opportunity to be found among this group but the current approach of rotating three or four guys will basically kill them all.
With Washington's running game controlling the ball nearly 40 minutes a game, the defense has not been on the field much. There were 31 tackle opportunities for this group in week two and their average of 36.5 a game is the lowest in the league by a wide margin. As a result Keenan Robinson, Perry Riley, DaShon Goldson, DeAngelo Hall and anyone else in a Washington uniform has been hard pressed to put up decent numbers. They are not going to be able to run on everyone. Sooner or later Robinson and the rest of the fantasy contributors will get back on track. We just need to be patient or we may end up being sorry.
Perry left Sunday's game with a calf injury and is likely to miss week three. Will Compton is a quality replacement and will likely get the call.
That does it for week three. Best of luck to everyone this weekend.
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