Week 3 was a wild one. In its wake, we are left with a lot of injuries to overcome some decisions to make on our underachieving players, some clarity on unsure situations and even a fair amount of opportunity to improve our rosters.
Marcus Golden was active and played 12 snaps against the Bears. He will be eased into action so it may be a few weeks before Golden starts getting significant time. The quality play of Benson Mayowa will make it easy for the organization to exercise patience.
Haasan Reddick and Deone Bucannon played five snaps between them in Week 3 while Josh Bynes and the three safeties continued to play full time. There is a thin line between patience and stupidity when it comes to holding guys like Reddick and Bucannon, but it sure feels like time to cut ties and move on with both.
Ricardo Allen tore his Achilles late in Sunday’s contest, leaving Atlanta without either of their starting safeties for the rest of the season. When Keanu Neal was lost it was easy to pick out Damontae Kazee at the player to pick up. This development muddies those waters as Kazee is now expected to line up at free safety with a trio of players being considered at strong. Jordan Richards came off the bench to finish the game, but Kemal Ishmael and Keith Tandy are also getting consideration.
Ishmael has been working at linebacker since last season but has starting experience at strong safety. In fact, he was 66-27-0 with 6 takeaways in 2014 when he started 12 games. If you already have Kazee this is not a panic situation. There will probably be plenty of opportunity for both safeties. If you do not have Kazee (or maybe even if you do), keep an eye out for news later in the week and grab Ishmael if he gets the call.
Brian Poole had another strong game with eight solo stops in Week 3. He is working as the third corner but has seen action on at least 88% of the snaps in all three games. The highly productive outings in a row are plenty of reasons to make the move for Poole even in leagues that lump the defensive back positions together.
Vic Beasley Jr got his first sack of the season so there may be some hope if you are still holding onto him.
Duke Riley is not playing in dime situations but is still seeing plenty of snaps. He was on the field for 81% of the plays in Week 3; enough to rack up an 8-4-0
With C.J. Mosley a game-time scratch, Kenny Young got the start at inside linebacker versus Denver. Young had a strong stat line of 8-2-0 despite playing 65% of the snaps. Matt Judon led Baltimore linebackers with 47 of a possible 68 snaps. Surprisingly it was Albert McClellan starting next to Young on the inside though Patrick Onwuasor ended up getting more than half the playing time at the position. It is likely we will see Mosley back on the field this week and Young may be with him.
Micah Hyde finally broke out with a big game. While it was surprising it came in a lopsided win, it is certainly a good sign for those counting on him the rest of the way.
Buffalo opened in a nickel with both Edmunds and Milano on the field. Despite the hopeful start and a solid 4-4-1 stat line, Milano gave up almost 30% of the playing time to Ramon Humber; thus he is not a safe every week play.
Trent Murphy was starting to show promise with 5 tackles, an assist, a sack, forced fumble, and pass defended in the last two games. Unfortunately, he was knocked out of Sunday’s contest with an ankle injury that has his status for Week 4 in question. The Packers are a horrible matchup for pass rushers anyway.
Lorenzo Alexander came crashing back to earth in Week 3. If that was not enough to convince everyone; most teams play a nickel base defense against Green Bay. Alexander rarely participated in nickel sub packages so he may see fewer than 20 snaps this week.
Adrian Amos had a great 2017 when the Bears were struggling on both sides of the ball. His stock is dropping rapidly with the team’s overall improvement and particularly better play in the front seven. That said, managers may want to consider the schedule before giving up on Amos. Starting in week 10 Chicago faces the Lions twice (with their newly found running game), the Vikings, Giants, and Rams.
Ryan Glasgow tore his ACL against Carolina and is heading to IR. Andrew Billings will see an increased role and could have some value in tackle required leagues. The Bengals added Adolphus Washington to fill out the depth chart.
Preston Brown sat out against Carolina with his sore ankle. He has a chance of playing in Week 4, but keep in mind the Bengals get Vontaze Burfict back in Week 5 so there may be some shakeup. Vincent Rey made a cameo appearance in Week 3 so he should be available as a backup going forward.
Derrick Burgess looked to have suffered a serious knee injury in the win over the Jets but he may have dodged the bullet. The injury is being called a sprain and the team is hopeful he can return in a few weeks. Christian Kirksey says he hopes to play in Week 4. Even if he plays managers may want to steer clear until we see if he is healthy. Kirksey is nursing both shoulder and ankle injuries.
Jabrill Peppers exited the Week 3 contest with a shoulder injury but was able to return. Keep an eye on the practice reports if he is one of your starters.
Sean Lee entered Week 3 listed as questionable with a tender hamstring. He left the game with a more significant injury to the other hamstring and is expected to miss some time. This opened the door for rookie Leighton Vander Esch who has been outstanding in limited action thus far. Over the past two weeks, he has 16 tackles and 2 assists on 61 snaps. That is roughly one tackle for every three plays he has been on the field. Lee is a good player but he is 32 years old and has not been able to stay healthy. With the quality play of Vander Esch, the veteran may have a lesser role when he returns this time. It is time to get Vander Esch off the taxi squad and into our lineups.
Brandon Marshall managed to play on his sore knee but split time nearly evenly with rookie Josey Jewell. As a result, the Broncos once again had no three-down linebacker with Todd Davis logging the most time at 71%.
With both Ezekiel Ansah and Kerry Hyder Jr out in Week 3, Eli Harold picked up some of the pass rush opportunity. He responded with a pair of sacks. Unfortunately, most league management sites still have Harold listed at outside linebacker so his fantasy value will be limited even if he continues to see a lot of action.
Ansah was limited in practice last week with a sore shoulder so he may be back in action Week 3. Being on the field and being healthy are vastly different things, however. Ansah has a history of playing through nagging injuries but they usually have a considerable effect on his production. It would be a good idea to sit him until we see some numbers if you have other quality options.
There has been no clear word on Hyder’s situation. After playing 78% of the snaps in Week 1 he was limited to 10 plays in Week 2 and on the inactive list for game three. At this point, we can only speculate there is some issue with his surgically repaired knee. What seems clear, however, is the coaching staff views Hyder as their starter when healthy. Meanwhile, they are probably regretting the release of Anthony Zettel.
Green Bay Packers
Muhammad Wilkerson was not making much of a statistical impact before Sunday’s ankle injury so the direct IDP impact of from him being lost is minimal. This loss may have some impact on the inside linebackers that were working behind Wilkerson though. Dean Lowery is the next man up and is a solid player but he will not command the attention teams would dedicate to Wilkerson.
Oren Burks was active for Week 3 but did not start. Chances are this was a case of easing him back from the injury so be patient if he is on your roster. If he is not seeing significant action this wee, however, it may be time to look for other options. Antonio Morrison got the start in Week 3. He is not a great player but does have starting experience on his side.
Nick Perry is still in concussion protocol as of Wednesday afternoon and could miss Week 4.
In Week 2 the Texans shifted Kareem Jackson into a corner role in place of Kevin Johnson. Last week Jackson moved back to full-time strong safety with Aaron Colvin at corner and Shareece Wright as the nickel corner. The result was another solid outing for Jackson who finished 5-4-0 on the day. His two games as a full-time safety have produced 30 fantasy points. Justin Reid played 21 snaps mostly lined up as a nickel linebacker.
J.J. Watt proved he is back and healthy. He celebrated two years without a sack by going 4-4-3 with a forced fumble against the Giants. He is a must-start going forward but temper expectations for Week 4. The Colts are currently tied for the third-fewest sacks allowed at five.
Anthony Walker continued to see his opportunity grow in Week 3 when he was up to 89% of the defensive snaps. His playing time coincided with a solid 7-2-0 and an interception. He should be high on the waiver list this week but hold off on plugging Walker into your lineup. The Texans have been a poor matchup thus far with one linebacker reaching five solo stops against them.
It has taken Margus Hunt a while to develop but it looks like the exceptional athlete has finally evolved into a football player. Hunt was a size, speed, strength physical freak coming out of college in 2013. His first six years as a pro produced 35 tackles, 22 assists, a pair of sacks and 5 batted passes. Through three games this year he is 9-1-3 with a forced fumble, a recovery, and a pass breakup.
The Jaguars got a scare when Calais Campbell came up a little gimpy with an ankle injury in Week 3. He has been a limited participant early this week but it looks as if he will be able to suit up against the Jets.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Eric Berry watch continues. Early last week there was some optimism he might play but that was quickly squashed when he failed to practice at all. As of Wednesday, we have not seen any positive signs to suggest he will in Week 4 either. With Berry out, Ron Parker has been the starting strong safety and has quietly put up good numbers.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers seem content with their current situation at linebacker. For the third consecutive game, Kyzir White led the group in snaps, but he has not yet seen 80% of the action in any game.
Los Angeles Rams
Marcus Peters has not yet been ruled out of Thursday’s game but his injury and the high ankle sprain that landed Aqib Talib on IR will probably leave the Rams with Nickell Robey-Coleman and Sam Shields as their starters and Troy Hill as the nickel corner this week.
At least we know what is going on with those players. The Mark Barron situation remains clouded in mystery. He continues to show up on injury and practice reports as a non-participant due to an ankle injury but keep in mind Barron was shut down late last year without warning due to what we eventually learned was a sore Achilles. Many managers are sitting on him in expectation of a glorious return. It is starting to feel like that may never happen.
Another thing many are awaiting is the return of Aaron Donald to box score prominence. With three tackles, four assists and no sacks Donald has been a huge disappointment so far. This guy is simply too good to be held down so be patient a little longer.
Jerome Baker should be high on our waiver add lists this week. He was 7-2-0 in Week 3 and it was not a fluke. The rookie was impressive during the preseason and has been outplaying Raekwon McMillan from day one. Week 3 gave us a sign the coaching staff is starting to come around as well. Better late than never I guess. Baker’s snap count went from 15 in Week 2 to 46 against the Raiders with the additional playing time coming at the expense of McMillan. Baker was on the field in some sub packages and is likely to see his opportunity continue to increase going forward.
Reshaad Jones sat with a sore shoulder in Week 3 and has been limited so far this week. In his absence, the Dolphins moved T.J. McDonald to strong safety with Minkah Fitzpatrick playing free. If Jones is not able to go this week, look for McDonald to have a big game. The Patriots are an excellent matchup for strong safeties because they often get matched up with Rob Gronkowski. Kareem Jackson and Ronnie Harrison drew those duties in the first two games and had 15 solo stops between.
William Hayes will miss the rest of the year with an ACL injury while Andre Branch will be out a few weeks with a lesser knee issue. That should mean more playing time for Cameron Wake going forward. The coaching staff would like to limit his snaps to keep the 36-year-old fresh but we know he can be fantasy productive with enough opportunity.
Vincent Taylor appears to have passed Akeem Spence on the depth chart and has taken over as the third tackle in the rotation. He had a solid outing at 3-4-1 against Oakland and should be on your radar in leagues requiring tackles.
Everson Griffen has been in the news this week as he deals with mental health issues. Everyone wishes Griffen the best and we hope he can get healthy soon. In the meantime, he has been ruled out for Week 4 and we do not know what will happen beyond that.
Stephen Weatherly stepped in against Buffalo playing 76% of the snaps and finishing 5-2-1 on the day. Weatherly is a third-year former seventh-round pick that has not seen a lot of action in his young career. He is also a player the coaching staff has been high on and may have been part of the decision to release veteran Brian Robison. No one can argue with the volume of opportunity or the quality of the scheme. If you are looking for a replacement for Griffen, Weatherly may be your best option
Tashawn Bower also had a solid outing going 4-2-0 as the third end. If Griffen misses additional time and Weatherly proves to be a one-game splash, Bower could be someone to watch.
Trae Waynes left week thee with an ankle injury and was replaced by Mike Hughes. The rookie would be in line to start this week if Waynes is unable to go.
New England Patriots
Rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley may have a bright future but his 2018 season ended this week when he landed on IR with an undisclosed injury. Taking Bentley out of the mix could lead to more consistent playing time for the rest of the linebackers. Both Kyle Van Noy and Don’t’s Hightower played at least 85% of the snaps in Week 3.
New Orleans Saints
With Manti Te’o inactive both Demario Davis and A.J. Klein were three down linebackers against Atlanta while Alex Anzalone had a marginal role. The Saints gave up a ton of points once again so we may well see a different combination of players at the positions this week.
Von Bell (5-0) is currently getting about 70% of the snaps at strong safety with Kurt Coleman (1-1) getting the rest of the playing time. Coleman is a better pass defender which has been a team weakness thus far so this may still be a fluid situation.
New York Giants
Alec Ogletree has been among the poorest run defending linebackers in the league over the past couple years according to the Pro Football Focus rating system. He should be blowing up the box scores in his current situation but has instead been a relative disappointment. Unfortunately, this is probably going to be the norm rather than the exception.
Landon Collins has also been disappointing thus far. Much of his absent production, however, can be attributed to the new scheme. Unlike Ogletree, Collins is by consensus one of the game’s best strong safeties. He may not be the 85+ tackle guy we have seen in the past, but in the end, he should still be a quality DB1.
New York Jets
After his 11 tackle game versus Cleveland, a lot of managers are looking to add free safety Doug Middleton this week. It is hard to argue against that move but be aware Marcus Maye is close to getting back on the field. Chances are Maye’s return will send Middleton back to the bench.
How many reasons do we need to avoid Oakland defenders like the plague? Here are a couple really good ones to start with. No Oakland defender had more than three solo stops against Miami while Tahir Whitehead was the only player on the field full time. He and Reggie Nelson (89%) were the only two with more than 75% of the snaps.
Lack of opportunity has been an issue for Seattle pass rushers in the past as they shuffled so many players through the positions. They no longer have the quality depth of years past so Fran Clark has seen at least 76% of the snaps in each of the past two games. Clark has quietly recorded a sack in each of the first three games and is worth picking up in most leagues
San Francisco 49ers
Injuries were part of the story for San Francisco this week. Richard Sherman will miss time with a calf injury. Strong safety Jaquski Tartt was inactive with a sore shoulder and free safety Adrian Colbert was forced out with a hip issue. Antone Exum stepped in for Tartt and had a big day. D.J. Reed replaced Colbert. Tartt is practicing on a limited basis this week but a safety with a bum shoulder is a big risk even if he does play.
The bigger news out of San Francisco is we finally have an answer to what this defense will look like with all their linebackers available. Fred Warner started at middle linebacker with Reuben Foster on the weak side and Malcolm Smith playing strong. Just as importantly it was Warner and Foster together in the nickel. Anyone sitting on Smith and move on and find a better use for the roster spot.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Strong safety Chris Conte landed on IR this week with a knee injury. Jordan Whitehead played well in his place and will assume the starting job going forward. Conte posted solid if unspectacular numbers of 5-2-0 in each of the first two games. Whitehead had similar numbers with four solo stops on about 80% of the snaps after taking over in Week 3.
Do not be the owner that overreacts to M.J. Stewart's 9 tackles against Pittsburgh. This was a case of a veteran quarterback picking on a rookie slot corner because of the matchup. Stewart saw just 63% of the action while fellow rookie Carlton Davis played virtually every down opposite Brent Grimes who returned to action.
Inconsistency may be the rule with Kevin Byard going forward. In three starts he has been a bust twice with an 11 point game sandwiched in between. Too much of his value last year came via the big play and those numbers are often not repeated.
Rashaan Evans started at inside backer in Week 3 but played only 18 snaps in the game. Expect his opportunity to increase as he works back into playing condition.
Washington opened in a nickel with both Mason Foster and Zach Brown on the field. While that was encouraging for those with Brown, by the end of the game he had still played just 72% of the time. There is some speculation his reduced opportunity is due to an oblique injury that has been bothering him and he will be back to full time once healthy. Unfortunately, it is hard to buy into that theory since this has been going on for so long. The Redskins are on bye this week so hopefully Brown will be back to playing full time when they return. Optimism is fine but we should not count on it. More likely they are trying to limit his time so he can be healthy at the end of the year. Remember he was battling nagging injuries down the stretch last season.
Managers in corner required leagues may want to look at Quinton Dunbar coming out of the bye. He has been putting up solid numbers so far and the schedule is highly favorable. Washington has the Saints, Giants twice, Falcons, Buccaneers, and Eagles twice over their next 10 games.
That’s a wrap for this week’s offering. Best of luck in Week 4!