Final Preseason Notes By Team
We'll get confirmation of many starting roles, subpackage duty, platoons, and rotations this week. Here's what attracted my attention over the past ten days.
- Tyrann Mathieu is expected to play every down this week.
- It's not clear how D.J. Swearinger Sr and Tony Jefferson will be used. Both will play in subpackages but the team has yet to reveal the base starter next to Mathieu.
- Markus Golden is likely to get the majority of outside linebacker snaps opposite Chandler Jones with Alex Okafor fighting a torn biceps muscle.
- Deion Jones and De'Vondre Campbell will start at middle linebacker andweak sidelinebacker but Sean Weatherspoon and Paul Worrilow will also see time.
- Keanu Neal is out for 2-4 weeks with a probable meniscus injury. Kemal Ishmael will likely replace him, but veteran Dashon Goldson was signed and could steal snaps.
- I'll be watching Vic Beasley Jr (who's stuck at strong side linebacker) and Derrick Shelby (who's playing 3-technique in subs) for big play value.
- Lardarius Webb will play deep safety and free up Eric Weddle to see lots of time in the box and give him a chance to equal the elite numbers he had in San Diego.
- Terrell Suggs is ready to return. Elvis Dumervil is not. Za'Darius Smith remains on my radar, but he may not play in all subpackages.
- Zach Orr won the inside linebacker job over Kamalei Correa and will play every down.
- Zach Brown and Preston Brown have been inconsistent over their respective careers. Aaron Williams -- if he can stay healthy -- and Corey Graham should both hold value.
- Marcell Dareus is suspended and in rehab. He may not return when eligible in Week 5
- Shaq Lawson was placed on the Reserve/PUP list. He's missed critical developmentaltime but is very likely to return around Week 6. The team has very little depth at outside linebacker.
- The Panthers want to find more ways to use Shaq Thompson but he's yet to force Thomas Davis off the field in subpackages.
- James Bradberry is a smart early season streaming option at cornerback.
- Pernell McPhee ended up on the Reserve/PUP list. LaMarr Houston and Willie Young will get the majority of snaps, but watch for Leonard Floyd to gain ground soon.
- The back seven is full of replacement level talent. Danny Trevathan will have a chance at top ten numbers if he can stay healthy.
- Vontaze Burfict is suspended for three games. Vincent Rey will replace him at weak side linebacker with Karlos Dansby playing on the strong side.
- Rey and Dansby will play every down while Burfict is out. I'd lean toward Rey sitting in the base and Dansby sitting in the nickel when Burfict returns.
- Neither Rey nor Dansby has the same range they once did. Watch for safety Shawn Williams to be more productive than expected.
- Paul Dawson was cut and cleared waivers to the practice squad. Nick Vigil is now the developmental prospect to watch here.
- Add Ibraheim Campbell. He continues to fly way under the radar at safety. Tons of opportunity, questionable surrounding cast.
- Carl Nassib turned heads in training camp but has yet to win a starting job in the base defense.
- With Paul Kruger cut, Emmanuel Ogbah has been moved back to outside linebacker. The swings won't help his development.
- With Demarcus Lawrence (4 games) and Randy Gregory (indefinite) suspended, the Cowboys are going to rotate ends, tackles, and outside linebackers.
- Justin Durant started and played the first two series of the third preseason game over Anthony Hitchens. There's been no report on this depth chart battle and neither player was active in the final preseason game. Avoid anyone not named Sean Lee for now.
- Jaylon Smith remains on NFI to start the season and his most likely ETA remains 2017.
- The Broncos continue to use packages with six defensive backs but Justin Simmons is seeing as much time in the box as T.J. Ward
- Demarcus Ware is healthy enough to start in Week 1 but Shane Ray and Shaq Barrett should also see time.
- DeAndre Levy is back and playing every down. He looked healthy in his only preseason action.
- Tahir Whitehead's ceiling is a little lower with Levy back. However, with Josh Bynes on injured reserve, Whitehead looks like his every-down role is secure.
- Tavon Wilson won the strong safety job. Like many before him here, expect a number of strong games but lots of variance.
- With Sam Barrington cut, Jake Ryan will likely join Blake Martinez at inside linebacker. Watch for Joe Thomas to challenge Ryan.
- Martinez will likely be the lone every-down linebacker. Morgan Burnett didn't play a preseason snap but may play linebacker in subpackages.
- The Texans say J.J. Watt is ready to return in Week 1. He's not likely to be his usual disruptive self. Jason Pierre-Paul and Dontari Poe had similar surgeries at similar times and weren't themselves until October or later.
- Benardrick McKinney struggled through the first two weeks of the preseason. In the third preseason week, the Texans frequently played six defensive backs with starting safety Quintin Demps playing linebacker.
- Watch a healthy Jadeveon Clowney closely in big play leagues. He could be dominant whether Watt is healthy or not.
- The Colts will likely be without Vontae Davis, Henry Anderson, and Clayton Geathers this week. Kendall Langford, Sio Moore, and Darius Butler aren't healthy either.
- He wasn't more than replacement level, but the release of Nate Irving and hamstring injury likely to sideline Moore leaves a hole at inside linebacker. Josh McNary is listed as Moore's backup. Antonio Morrison could see time eventually here.
- All of the above leads to a possible big day for safety Mike Adams. If you're streaming defensive backs, he's a great gamble this week.
- If Geathers doesn't return quickly, watch for rookie T.J. Green to get some statistical run.
- Redraft leaguers should stash Myles Jack if you have deep rosters. He's already seeing a small number of first team practice reps and could find his way into more playing time than expected by midseason.
- There's some angst with Telvin Smith Sr missing assignments. I don't know that anything will come of it, but it's notable.
- Dante Fowler couldn't sustain his early camp strong play. As is the case with most young defensive ends, he'll still need time to develop.
- Josh Mauga is on injured reserve and Ramik Wilson was cut. That leaves Justin March as the starting inside linebacker next to Derrick Johnson. I expect to see the Chiefs using six defensive backs on many passing downs, however.
- Justin Houston stayed on the PUP list as camp ended. He's ineligible until Week 8 at the earliest as the Chiefs have an early bye week.
- I'm rooting for Dee Ford to put things together with Houston out and Tamba Hali not ready for full time snaps yet.
- The Rams released an unofficial depth chart showing Mark Barron as a "weak side" defender and five other defensive backs.
- If that alignment holds, Lamarcus Joyner as slot corner and T.J. McDonald at strong safety could have some value.
- The St. Louis stat crew limited the ceiling of James Laurinaitis due to a severely depressed assist count. If there's a new crew in Los Angeles, Alec Ogletree could be a top five IDP.
- The Dolphins first released depth chart has Cameron Wake and Jelani Jenkins listed as starters. However, Jason Jones will start over Wake in most base defensive situations and Jenkins is no lock to play Week 1 after a knee scope.
- Rookie Xavien Howard may be targeted often opposite Byron Maxwell. Consider him a solid streaming option at corner.
- Eric Kendricks didn't play all preseason with a hamstring injury but has been practicing for two weeks. He's expected to play this week.
- Danielle Hunter didn't beat out Brian Robison in camp but will still see enough pass rush snaps to have value in deeper big play leagues.
- Rob Ninkovich has been suspended four games for violating the performance-enhancing drug policy. Trey Flowers is worth a long look in Ninkovich's absence.
- The Patriots added Barkevious Mingo and Eric Rowe in trade this preseason. Mingo was listed at outside linebacker but will be a pass rush specialist.
- New England's depth chart lists a 4-3. It's no surprise but serves as confirmation of Dont'a Hightower's upside as an every-down middle linebacker.
- Stephone Anthony continues to recover from a preseason leg injury. He wasn't playing in subpackages over Dannell Ellerbe before the injury.
- Paul Kruger was added late in the preseason after the Browns released him. He will work in rotation with Kasim Edebali and Obum Gwacham.
New York Giants
- Kelvin Sheppard won the middle linebacker job. Jasper Brinkley was released. The only every-down linebacker will be Jonathan Casillas.
- Both Owa Odighizuwa and Jason Pierre-Paul could see time as interior pass rushers in subpackages.
- Landon Collins should again thrive behind a weak linebacker group. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie gets a stat bump with his projected move to slot corner
New York Jets
- Erin Henderson likely survived camp as the starting inside linebacker next to David Harris, but Darron Lee was making up ground in late August.
- Leonard Williams will see more playing time this year in rotation and will get the chance to prove he can be a consistent pass rusher.
- I think both Jordan Jenkins and Lorenzo Mauldin have interesting upside at outside linebacker but will be too high variance to trust.
- Khalil Mack will be classified at defensive end in nearly every league management system. I have him rated over J.J. Watt due to Watt's back surgery concerns.
- Jihad Ward is going to see lots of defensive end snaps but may be classified as a defensive tackle.
- Mario Edwards will start the year on injured reserve. It's a disappointing result for the young end with upside and a favorable depth chart.
- Karl Joseph will start the year behind Nate Allen but you should have him at the top of your watch list. He'll start soon.
- The Eagles list Vinny Curry as a backup but will rotate three defensive ends
- Mychal Kendricks missed most of camp with a soft tissue injury, prompting concerns he could be pushed aside by new arrival Stephen Tulloch. If the unofficial depth chart is to be believed, Kendricks is safe for now. Whether he plays in subpackages is still an open question. Kendricks played well into the second half in the final preseason game.
- Bud Dupree was put on injured reserve with a core abdominal muscle injury. He's ineligible until after Week 8 and loses still more developmental time.
- If he stays healthy, I love Ryan Shazier's upside.
- The Chargers played a dime package on rare occasions during the third preseason game and left Manti Te'o as the only linebacker.
- Joey Bosa missed all of training camp. His 5-technique role and the loss of key developmental time will hurt his chances of being a viable fantasy option this year.
- NaVorro Bowman will make all the tackles this year. It's close of course but I'd rather have him than Luke Kuechly. Ray-Ray Armstrong and Gerald Hodges will rotate at the other linebacker position.
- I don't see much pass rush on this defense. Eli Harold will start and has little upside.
- Antoine Bethea should be a top five defensive back with so much opportunity and so little competition.
- No surprises this preseason. The depth chart remains stable and strong. I'm watching for rookie defensive tackle Jarran Reed to carve out a productive role.
- Noah Spence attracted attention for his good play this preseason. He'll have a pass rushing role in subpackages and will be worth an add in big play leagues if he gets off to a consistent start.
- Vernon Hargreaves will see lots of snaps opposite Brent Grimes. Though Grimes isn't special, rookie corners get targeted often.
- It'll be Wesley Woodyard over Sean Spence at inside linebacker but there's going to be lots of rotation here. Avery Williamson is the linebacker to target, but Nate Palmer was seeing some subpackage snaps over him late in the preseason.
- Your best fantasy bets may be safeties Rashad Johnson and Da'Norris Searcy.
- Will Compton and Mason Foster will start at inside linebacker and likely play every down.
- Su'a Cravens has started to practice at safety now and the team would be smart to get him coached up there quickly. It's silly to keep a playmaker off the field and start David Bruton instead.
- Last warning: Big play leaguers should roster Preston Smith before his breakout.
EVERY-DOWN LINEBACKER PROJECTION
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