The Cardinals have settled on Josh Bynes as their every-down middle linebacker. He has always been a smart, dependable linebacker that tackles well and rarely makes mistakes. What Bynes has not been over the course of his career is a playmaker. Entering his eighth season in 2018, Bynes had career totals of three forced fumbles, two interceptions, with a sack and a half. Granted he has been a backup for much of his career but Bynes played enough to have 172 solo stops in those six seasons. With an average of better than six and a half solo tackles and two assists per game this season, Bynes is already established as a trustworthy starter. The box score explosion of nine tackles, two assists, a sack, forced fumble, pass breakup, and a score in week five, could be a sign of bigger things to come.
The team continued to experiment at their other linebacker spot in week five, finally giving Haason Reddick his shot at the job. Reddick played every snap against San Francisco and his response to the opportunity points to the Cardinals finally having a long-term answer. The 2017 first round pick rolled out a stat line of 8-0-1 with a forced fumble and two pass breakups. Those are impressive numbers but his impact on the game may have even been bigger as Reddick seemed to be everywhere. He should be at the top of this week’s free agent list for anyone in need of help at linebacker. That said beware starting Reddick this week unless we hear something from the team to confirm they saw the same game everyone else did. The Vikings have been a positive matchup but the Cardinals coaching staff has not been able to make up their minds. In their defense, no one else has grabbed the spotlight like this.
Robert Nkemdiche continues to struggle with one injury after another. He managed to play through a sore knee for a few weeks before missing week five with a foot problem. Rodney Gunter stepped in and played 78% of the snaps against San Francisco, posting a respectable line of 2-3-0 with a forced fumble and a batted pass. The player to keep an eye on here, however, is Pierre Olsen. After missing a couple games with a toe injury, Olsen was part of the tackle rotation in week four. In week five his playing time doubled to 52% of the snaps. Olsen was a hot commodity down the stretch last year, finishing 22-8-5.5 on the season. If Nkemdiche continues to miss time, Olsen could work his way into a starting role over the next couple weeks.
Markus Golden sat out week five due to a flare up in his surgically repaired knee. It is apparent he will not be anywhere near full speed this season, at least not in time to help fantasy managers. Dynasty managers will want to hold tight if possible. Once he returns to full health Golden is going to be a good one.
Brian Poole followed three great games to start the season with a pair of stinkers. The only good reason not to cut and move on from him is this week’s matchup with the pass-happy Buccaneers, and that may not even be enough. After seeing some time at safety in week four, Poole was a slot corner against the Steelers, garnering 61% of the snaps. Meanwhile, Isaiah Oliver went back to a minor role with Jordan Richards making the start at safety.
Sit your Atlanta linebackers in week five. Shear volume will carry these guys on most weeks but both De'Vondre Campbell and Duke Riley are coming off stinkers against the Steelers, and the pass-happy Buccaneers are next. Linebackers have struggled versus Tampa Bay with only one reaching five solo stops against them.
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