Reading the Defense: Week 2

A weekly look at IDP trends with a mix of metrics, film study and matchup strategy

Week 1 Notes


  • WAIVER WIRE NOTE: Tyvon Branch is a long time IDP value and seems to have picked up where many recent Arizona safeties have left off with a seven solo tackle start. But his on-field play was terrible against the Patriots. He played only 70% of the defensive snaps. And he remains behind Tyrann Mathieu, Tony Jefferson, Deone Bucannon, and Kevin Minter in the defensive pecking order. I don't necessarily fear D.J. Swearinger Sr here, but Branch is likely a statistical mirage.
  • Chandler Jones had extra motivation against his former team in Week 1 but his line is no fluke. He'll be just fine as an outside backer.


  • Sean Weatherspoon and Paul Worrilow each saw a handful of snaps but Deion Jones and De'Vondre Campbell played nearly 90% of the time. Jones and Campbell are still learning but are both worth rostering unless and until the Falcons cannot live with their youthful mistakes.
  • There's too much rotation along the defensive line to trust Derrick Shelby or any of his teammates. That includes Vic Beasley Jr, who was on the field for just 39 of the team's 64 snaps.


  • Tackle opportunity is critical. The Ravens saw only 41 tackle opportunities last week against Buffalo. But that's not the only reason C.J. Mosley's stat line was poor. The Bills were able to get an offensive lineman to the second level on most running plays. If the Ravens front three doesn't begin attracting more attention, that could be a regular occurrence for Mosley. Zach Orr will be the beneficiary. It's too soon to panic on Mosley -- and keep him in your lineup this week at home against the Jets -- but this warrants close observation.
  • Za'Darius Smith saw over 70% of the defensive snaps this week. While he made just one tackle, the volume bodes well for his future.
  • WAIVER WIRE NOTE: Shareece Wright isn't a stud cover corner. But he's always been a willing and sure tackler in run support. While the 11 solos are obviously a fluke, Wright was a productive tackler in San Diego. He's worth a streaming add in cornerback-required setups.


  • Jerry Hughes was a stud the last time he played a standup outside linebacker role in Buffalo. He's off to another great start with a 5-1-2 opening effort.
  • Duke Williams started at safety but Aaron Williams rotated in heavily. Corey Graham remains the lone safety of value here.


  • Tre Boston played better than Kurt Coleman in Week 1. There's not much value behind the linebacker group, but Boston will cut into any upside Coleman may have had.
  • I liked James Bradberry as a streaming option last week but was nervous about the Denver matchup. Five solo tackles on 18 completed passes was a great start for him.
  • Charles Johnson looked healthy for a change. I remain unimpressed by Kony Ealy, who has a fine motor but doesn't have a dominant pass rush move.


  • Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman benefited greatly from the very favorable Houston stat crew and a high tempo Texans' offense that gave the Chicago defense 59 tackle opportunities in Week 1. Still, I think this defense will continue to see a high volume of snaps. Both are every-week plays.
  • Last week, I wondered how soon Leonard Floyd would begin to see the majority of snaps at outside linebacker. No need to wait any longer. Floyd played 80% of Chicago's defensive snaps. There's lots of potential here -- Floyd flashed the beginnings of a solid power rush move to go with a solid first step and showed the ability to set the edge against a tight end. There's going to be plenty of growing pains, but Floyd may be developing faster than I expected.


  • Not much of note here. Karlos Dansby and Vinny Rey played every down as expected. Carlos Dunlap continued his consistent play with a 4-1 effort despite not adding a sack. Shawn Williams started the season with a solid nine total tackle effort -- albeit with the benefit of the Jets' favorable stat crew and 30 rushing attempts and seven completions to running backs. Oh, and Geno Atkins will be dominant as always. 


  • WAIVER WIRE NOTE:  Carl Nassib finished with three solos, a sack, a pass defensed, and an additional quarterback hit. Long time readers know I'm stubborn about changing my first impressions of a college player until I see clear signs of improvement. I watched every one of Nassib's snaps. I like Nassib's motor -- the quarterback hit came on a play when Carson Wentz left the pocket and Nassib disengaged and ran him down. Nassib also was active in backside pursuit on run plays. In pass rush, there wasn't much of note. Frequently the last off the ball at the snap, he was regularly engulfed and left to try to knock passes down. He showed one successful but late edge rush move. His sack came after a missed offensive line assignment. I think Nassib will improve but the athletic attributes suggested by his combine measurables still show up only rarely on tape. Consider him a dynasty hold in deeper rosters, but I don't yet see him as a priority add.
  • Ibraheim Campbell had a solid five solo tackle first week. Only two of those solos came on rushing plays, however, and the Browns are clearly using an interchangeable safety pattern.


  • The Cowboys are still evaluating options at middle linebacker. Anthony Hitchens started and played nearly every down through the third quarter. He struggled to shed often and was beaten on a seam route by Larry Donnell in the second quarter. Justin Durant replaced him for much of the fourth quarter.
  • Hitchens and Durant combined for a 3-7 line. It wasn't as impressive as it looks. Barry Church should again hold weekly value.


  • Brandon Marshall missed time for a concussion evaluation. He would have been the team's lone every-down linebacker. After a strong second quarter, Marshall struggled to shed blocks and finish tackles in the second half. The opportunity will be there but he needs to be more consistent to hit LB2+ value consistently.
  • Justin Simmons made just one tackle but continues to see time in passing subpackages. His full time ETA may not be until 2017 but it's coming.


  • DeAndre Levy played every down but managed only a 3-1 line next to Tahir Whitehead's 6-4. It's something to continue to watch closely. For now, I think both are every-week starters.
  • Ezekiel Ansah didn't have the solo tackle numbers to buffer the zero sack game that we saw from other ends like Carlos Dunlap, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Everson Griffen. It was a doubly disappointing effort against the poor Indianapolis offensive line but patience is the right move here.

Green Bay

  • Even when we think we know, we really don't know what teams are going to show in Week 1. Blake Martinez looked like the best inside linebacker on the depth chart this preseason. With Jake Ryan playing well and Joe Thomas a capable reserve, the team was comfortable cutting Sam Barrington. All signs pointed to Martinez playing every down. In Week 1, however, Dom Capers put Thomas in the dime package. Martinez (and Ryan) saw just 60-65% of the snaps. Thomas drew praise from Capers after the game and you can expect the rotation to continue.
  • Morgan Burnett's nine tackles are no fluke. He didn't play in the preseason but frequently saw snaps in and around the box in camp practices. He's a lock to finish in the top five defensive backs if he can stay healthy.


  • J.J. Watt isn't close to his usual self. Undoubtedly behind on core strength after this summer's discectomy, Watt was unable to play with his usual leverage and found himself on the ground often. Barring any compensatory injuries, he'll eventually work his way into shape by midseason. But it'll be awhile before he returns to his usual form in the boxscore.
  • The Texans moved Jadeveon Clowney to 5-technique defensive end this week, where he played nearly 80% of his team's snaps. It's not Clowney's best fit, but Watt and Clowney with Vince Wilfork in the middle could be a formidable run front.
  • The Texans also utilized an interesting subpackage with Watt and Clowney in wide stances and Whitney Mercilus, John Simon, and Benardrick McKinney standing up over the interior offensive line. When those five players are fully healthy and hit their stride, that's going to be a dominant package.


  • When healthy, Sio Moore has always been productive. He was questionable heading into Week 1, but played over 70% of the snaps and was by far the most productive linebacker. 
  • D'Qwell Jackson left the field in some packages and disappointed with just two solos. Both Anthony Morrison and Josh McNary saw time. The Colts may provide their backers lots of opportunity, but Jackson is going to see too many blockers to be consistently productive until their defensive line gets healthy.
  • T.J. Green followed Clayton Geathers to the sideline with injury this week after just 28 snaps. Green will miss time with an MCL sprain. Geathers isn't ready to return from a foot injury. That leaves Winston Guy as the starter.
  • The uncertainty and struggles in the linebacker and strong safety groups will continue to make Mike Adams a weekly start.


  • Johnathan Cyprien nearly out-tackled the combined efforts of Paul Posluszny and Telvin Smith Sr against Green Bay. That won't happen again this year.
  • Jalen Ramsey played 95% of the Jaguars' snaps and nearly all of them as the slot defensive back. It's a promising role, but we'll need to watch what happens against a team that uses multiple wide receiver sets less often than Green Bay.
  • Myles Jack is still firmly on my redraft radar. But he did not see a single defensive snap in Week 1.

Kansas City

  • WAIVER WIRE NOTE: Be very careful with Justin March-Lillard. While he led the Chiefs with eight solo tackles (nine total) last week, he played only 70% of his team's snaps. Derrick Johnson and Eric Berry are still the bellcow tacklers on this team.
  • WAIVER WIRE NOTE: It's difficult to predict cornerback streaming candidates before the season, but they present themselves quickly. Steven Nelson is getting the most snaps opposite Marcus Peters right now. He is a fine start in any week the opposing offense has a viable WR2. Will Fuller V may fit that bill this week. Eric Decker definitely does in Week 3.
  • BIG PLAY LEAGUE NOTE: Wheeeeeeeeee. Dee Ford is growing into the NFL. He played well in all phases in Week 1 and tallied four solos and a sack. Expect some variance, but big play league owners will want to add speculatively and then watch for a dip in snap count as Tamba Hali works his way back into shape.

Los Angeles

  • If the stat crew in Los Angeles is more liberal with assists than in St. Louis, Alec Ogletree will challenge for the league lead in tackles.
  • Lamarcus Joyner indeed played in the slot against San Francisco. He sat on only two snaps and ran up a 6-1 line. He's a very strong play.
  • Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald (along with the rest of the Los Angeles front) were surprisingly shut out of the sack column. They get a struggling Seattle line and a gimpy Russell Wilson this week.


  • It's always tough to know what to make of a Seattle box score. Reshad Jones was 6-6, Kiko Alonso 3-8, Jelani Jenkins 1-6, Isa Abdul-Quddus 3-5. All were around the ball frequently. I'd continue to tier their upside in the order listed there.
  • Jelani Jenkins played only 32 of 82 snaps. Recovering from a preseason knee scope, those snaps will increase soon.
  • WAIVER WIRE NOTE: Editing last week's note >>> Rookie Xavien Howard may will be targeted often opposite Byron Maxwell. Consider him He is a solid streaming option at corner.


  • BIG PLAY LEAGUE NOTE: Danielle Hunter had a sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. He's still not playing enough snaps to hold value in balanced scoring leagues. But, while there will be variance, Hunter is worth a roster spot in big play systems.
  • WAIVER WIRE NOTE: I'm not sold on Trae Waynes but he was heavily targeted by Tennessee. He should be added and watched closely in corner-required leagues.
  • Eric Kendricks had an average five solo tackle day but played well and looked fully recovered from his offseason hamstring strain.

New England

  • Dont'a Hightower played nearly every down against Arizona. Though the tackle opportunity wasn't great, one solo tackle isn't going to get it done. It's a great role for a player who should be talented enough to take advantage. The Miami matchup at home is average to above-average. Another disappointing effort here and it'll be time to think hard about moving on.
  • Like many other top tier defensive ends in Week 1, Jabaal Sheard didn't manage a sack. But he was in the backfield all night and tallied three tackles for loss and at least one holding call. He remains a must start against Miami this week.

New Orleans

  • Early this offseason, I highlighted Keenan Robinson and Stephone Anthony as sell high players in dynasty leagues. Anthony's value continues to plummet. With Dannell Ellerbe out with injury, journeyman Craig Robertson stepped in on the weak side -- and in subpackages. 
  • WAIVER WIRE NOTE: Robertson's 8-3, QH, PD stat line will draw waiver wire attention but he's going back to the bench as soon as Ellerbe is healthy.

New York Giants

  • Jason Pierre-Paul played 76 of 78 snaps. He had four solos and narrowly missed sacks on multiple plays. His pass rush will be there this year.
  • We're back to the messy linebacker rotation. Jonathan Casillas and Kelvin Sheppard saw the most snaps, but no Giants' linebacker will be a full time player. Even Keenan Robinson saw snaps against Dallas.

New York Jets

  • The Bengals interior line was no match for Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson this week. In a subpackage with both playing next to each other in a four man front, Williams was dominant coming upfield. His first step has improved, his pass rush moves are technically sound, and his closing speed is striking. He'll play less than the 90%+ he did against Cincinnati when Sheldon Richardson returns this week, but Williams will still be productive.
  • Darron Lee played more snaps than Erin Henderson this week, mostly in subpackages. He struggled in coverage early, giving up a long play on a fairly straightforward seam route in which he didn't stay close enough in trail coverage.
  • Calvin Pryor played all but six snaps but didn't record a tackle in front of the most favorable stat crew in the league. It may be impossible for running backs to get to the third level of this defense. 


  • Khalil Mack is a stud. The Saints are a horrible pass rushing matchup, especially at home. Mack proved he's matchup independent with a strong weekly floor with a 4-3 effort. The sacks may come this week at home against Atlanta.
  • I wouldn't fret too much about Ben Heeney and Malcolm Smith. The Saints ran the ball just 18 times from a traditional backfield set. However, Reggie Nelson and (when he enters the lineup) Karl Joseph are going to greatly increase the competition for tackles in the back seven.


  • Mychal Kendricks played just 19 of the team's 52 snaps in Week 1. Stephen Tulloch vultured none of them. Unfortunately, the Eagles have decided Nigel Bradham is a better subpackage fit. It may not be until 2017, but Kendricks is clearly on his way out of Philadelphia. He may have value on another team, but he's unlikely to have much redraft value this year.
  • Vinny Curry is struggling through a knee injury and played 12 fewer snaps than Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin. If that rotation continues, I'd rank them Graham=Barwin>Curry but each end will have his share of big games. Fletcher Cox had a better game than all three of them. He's likely to be more productive in the boxscore than Aaron Donald.


  • Easy come, easy go. Ryan Shazier started hot with five solos, an interception, two passes defensed, and a forced fumble. But he left after 48 snaps with another injury. He'll be a stud when on the field but durability continues to be a very limiting factor here.

San Diego

  • The last two preseason games proved to be prescient. Manti Te'o was the team's lone every-down linebacker, with Denzel Perryman on the bench in subpackages. If you'll forgive the biased editorial -- that's just dumb. Perryman isn't an above-average coverage linebacker, but Te'o doesn't have the range or recovery speed to hang with running backs and tight ends and will be exploited as Kansas City did last week. However, as long as this rotation continues, Te'o is clearly the better fantasy play. I'll stubbornly hold Perryman for at least another 2-3 weeks, however, and would advise adding him if he's dropped in any league with multiple linebacker bench slots.

San Francisco

  • Ray-Ray Armstrong and Gerald Hodges rotated next to NaVorro Bowman. Neither have any fantasy value. Bowman managed seven solos and two assists on just 42 tackle opportunities and added an interception.
  • Watch Jimmie Ward at corner. The opportunity wasn't there this week, but Ward is a safety/corner package and could compete for tackles on the edge in run support. It's a good combination for statistical value.


  • Different season, same story lines in Seattle. The Seahawks use fewer defenders than most other teams. Nine defenders played more than 80% of their team's snaps in Week 1. And the assist-happy stat crew remains an issue. Bobby Wagner somehow didn't get credit for a single assist but the crew awarded 25 solos and 30 assists to the Seahawks on just 41 tackle opportunities.
  • Keep an eye on Frank Clark. He wasn't one of the nine regulars, but he had one solo, two assists, and a sack in just 29 snaps.

Tampa Bay

  • Kwon Alexander had 15 solos and a sack in Week 1. There wasn't anything particularly special about the opportunity (52 total tackle chances, 22 rushes) though he did make a bunch of plays on short passes to backs and tight ends.
  • Noah Spence played 35 snaps and didn't record a stat. That's to be expected from a young, one-trick edge rusher. He'll improve this year, but will be a very high variance option until 2017.
  • Gerald McCoy didn't miss the bus of stud defensive tackles running up good numbers this week. It's nice to see him fully healthy again.


  • Wesley Woodyard and Sean Spence rotated as expected. Neither will hold fantasy value until the platoon breaks.
  • WAIVER WIRE NOTE: Da'Norris Searcy was in a more favorable role than Rashad Johnson and produced accordingly. He's has cemented himself as a viable streaming option at safety.


  • Will Compton and Mason Foster didn't finish the blowout against Pittsburgh but will be near every-down players.
  • Washington did find a way to get Su'a Cravens on the field more often in Week 1. He was violent and productive in just 18 snaps with a 3-1 line.
  • Preston Smith didn't get to the quarterback against Pittsburgh but did hit Ben Roethlisberger at least once. He'll have a very tough matchup against the strong Dallas offensive line this week and could turn into a nice buy low candidate heading into Week 3 and 4.



75-100% SNAPS
C.J. Mosley : Zachary Orr
Za'Darius Smith
Vinny Rey : Karlos Dansby
Vontaze Burfict (returns W4)
Demario Davis : Chris Kirksey
Durant and Hitchens still battling for MLB job
Base - dime rotation among ILBs
Clowney playing defensive end
D'Qwell Jackson : Sio Moore
Tamba Hali : Dee Ford : Justin March
Jenkins behind Misi in subs while recovering
Jamie Collins Sr : Dont'a Hightower
Ellerbe will replace Robertson when healthy 
Henderson in base, Lee in nickel
Kendricks out in subpackages 
Manti Te'o : Melvin Ingram III

Subscribe to The Audible on iTunes or download our weekly IDP podcast here every Thursday for injury updates, player analysis and matchup discussion. Follow and ask questions on Twitter @JeneBramel.

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