This article attempts to immediately highlight defensive players whose production was significantly better or worse than normally expected for the prior week of games. Note there is sometimes limited information available when this article is written, but I will try to give everyone an early look at players who are moving up or down in value among IDP circles. When warranted, I'll also call out some players under No Change that tries to explain why the stat lines may be misleading. It’s difficult to give waiver advice for IDPs since there is such a wide variety of lineups and scoring systems, but hopefully, the information provided can help inform your waiver, trade, and upcoming lineup decisions. If you have any questions about specific players or situations, feel free to email me or reach out via twitter.
MIAMI @ HOUSTON
DE Cameron Wake, MIA (5 solos, 1 asst)
At 36 years of age, Wake is certainly nearing the end of his career but he may still be able to contribute to your team this year. His snap count this week (33 snaps, 54%) was very similar to what he’s seen all year, but he extremely active against the run which is not something we’ve seen from him very often.
LB Zach Cunningham, HOU (2 solos)
Cunningham came into the game on a hot streak but was forced to leave this week’s game after just 16 snaps (24%). He suffered a knee sprain that appears to be minor and will hopefully not keep him out of next week’s game against the Broncos.
CB Jonathan Joseph, HOU (0 tackles)
Joseph had been very productive over the past month but he lasted just 10 snaps this week before leaving with an ankle injury. He was diagnosed with a sprained MCL as well as a high-ankle sprain and is expected to miss a few weeks, but the Texans do have a bye coming up in week 10.
PHILADELPHIA @ JACKSONVILLE
LB Jordan Hicks, PHI (8 solos, 4 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Hicks has been in the league since 2015, but he’s taken his game to a new level this year. While many probably expected him to regress back to his career norms after a hot start, he’s been able to sustain it through all 8 games of the year without missing a single snap. At this point, he’s clearly a #1 fantasy linebacker who is on pace to finish with 98 solo tackles and 6 sacks, and at 26 years, of age he’s likely just starting to enter the prime of his career.
CB Avonte Maddox, PHI (4 solos, 1 TFL, 1 FF)
Maddox is a rookie 4th round pick who has bounced around between nickel corner and safety due to injuries. Despite never playing the safety position before, he is quickly emerging as a key young playmaker in the Eagles secondary. He’s been a full-time player for four weeks now and is averaging 4 combined tackles per game and had a big forced fumble this week.
DT Malik Jackson, JAX (1 asst, 1 PD)
Jackson’s playing time hasn’t been an issue as he saw 81% of the defensive snaps in the past two weeks, but his production has been disappointing. He bounced back from a slow start last year to post 8 sacks in the middle of a dominant defensive line, but so far this year he has just 1 through 8 games. For a player who has averaged 7 sacks per year over the past three seasons, he’s been one of the bigger disappointments among fantasy defensive tackles this year.
CB Jalen Mills, PHI (1 solo, 2 asst)
Mills has struggled for the Eagles and continues to be one of the most targeted cornerbacks in the league, which has helped him to post 36 solo tackles in the first 7 games. He lasted just 23 snaps (36%) this week, however, before leaving with a foot injury. That created an opening for Rasul Douglas, who saw 42 snaps and could be in line for more work if Mills misses time.
S Barry Church, JAX (0 tackles)
Church was held without a tackle on Sunday despite playing nearly the entire game. He was evaluated for a concussion late in the game so will likely need to clear the concussion protocol during the upcoming bye week. He was also one of four Jaguars players arrested for not paying a large bar tab during their weekend in London. Rough weekend aside, he’s only put together a couple decent starts this year and may not even be worth holding onto if you need roster space.
BALTIMORE @ CAROLINA
LB Shaq Thompson, CAR (6 solos, 7 asst)
Thompson remains in a 2-down role behind Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, but he outperformed them by a fair margin this week with 13 combined tackles on just 39 snaps (57%). In comparison, Kuechly was and Davis were each credited with 5 tackles while playing 91% and 74% of the defensive snaps. With just 18 rush attempts faced in the game for the Panthers defense, this likely isn’t sustainable but still a positive sign for Thompson that he was so productive despite a limited workload.
DT Kawann Short, CAR (1 QH)
Short has failed to record even a partial sack since opening up the year with a pair in week 1. While he did generate some pressure this week and was credited with a quarterback hit, his overall pressure rate seems down. He’s also not making much of an impact against the run with just 6 solos and 2 assists over the past 4 games.
N.Y. JETS @ CHICAGO
S Marcus Maye, NYJ (7 solos)
Maye only missed one week of action with a broken thumb and returned to action this week. He played through the injury with a cast on his hand and still managed to lead the team with 7 solo tackles. Apart from a 70-yard touchdown catch by Tarik Cohen, the Jets secondary held up very well in the game and Maye was a key part of that.
CB Bryce Callahan, CHI (4 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 3 PD)
Callahan continues to play well as the Bears slot corner as he piled up 3 passes defensed this week along with a sack. He’ll likely have a quiet game next week against the Bills but then has a nice 3-week stretch against the Lions, Vikings, and Lions again which should provide excellent matchups for fantasy players who like to stream the position.
LB Darron Lee, NYJ (2 solos, 2 asst)
Lee continues to play every defensive snap for the Jets but his play against the run has been disappointing. Over the past two games, he’s been on the field for 135 snaps and faced 58 rush attempts but has been credited with just 4 solo tackles and 2 assists.
TAMPA BAY @ CINCINNATI
DE Jason Pierre-Paul, TB (2 solos, 1 asst, 2 sack, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Pierre-Paul continues to be one of the only bright spots in a terrible Buccaneers defense. Despite getting minimal help from his teammates, he’s recorded at least a sack in 6 straight games and seems likely to post the best numbers he’s had since his 12.5 sack season from 2014 before his July 4th injury derailed his career.
S Jessie Bates III, CIN (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 3 PD, 1 TD)
Bates continues to be one of the most productive rookie IDPs in the league. He, along with several other Bengals defenders, was certainly helped by the interception-prone Jameis Winston this week but he’s been incredibly consistent all year. Amazingly for a rookie free safety, Bates currently sits in the top-10 among fantasy IDP scoring at this point with 41 solo tackles, 19 assists, and 3 interceptions.
LB Adarius Taylor, TB (1 solo, 2 asst)
In his first start at middle linebacker in place of Kwon Alexander, Taylor had a pretty quiet showing. He was on the field for 52 snaps (80%) but was only credited with 1 solo tackle and 2 assists. Given the Bengals pulled out to a 27-6 lead in the game and generated 50 tackle opportunities, better numbers were likely expected here but it’s probably best to give it another week to see if things improve next week against Carolina.
DT Geno Atkins, CIN (1 asst)
Atkins started out this season with 6 sacks over his first 5 games and looked like the elite pass rusher we’ve always known him to be. While he’s still been generating pressure, the sacks have dried up over the past three weeks as he’s been credited with just 3 assists and 0 sacks in that time period. Following the upcoming bye, the Bengals take on the infrequently-sacked Drew Brees in week 10 so we may not see Atkins get back to the sack column until week 11.
SEATTLE @ DETROIT
DT Damon Harrison, NYG (7 solos, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
Harrison made an immediate impact for the Lions just days after being acquired via trade from the Giants. Already established as an elite run-stopper, he also picked up his first sack of the year while playing 39 of 63 (62%) defensive snaps. While they planned to ease him into the lineup, he got more playing time as the game progressed given the need to slow down the Seattle running game as they ran 42 times for 176 yards. Note that A'Shawn Robinson also had a productive game with 6 tackles on 43 snaps.
LB K.J. Wright, SEA (5 solos, 1 PD)
Wright made his season debut this week and was credited with 5 tackles on 50 snaps (85%). He looked good and his presence also seemed to contribute to Bobby Wagner putting up a better game than we’ve seen from him lately. With Melvin Gordon III and Todd Gurley coming up next on the schedule, things are looking up for the Seattle linebackers.
LB Barkevious Mingo, SEA (1 FR)
Mingo played almost a full-time role on defense in the two games before the bye, but he was only on the field for 17 snaps (29%) this week as K.J. Wright returned to the lineup. His only contribution to the box score came on a special-teams fumble recovery.
DENVER @ KANSAS CITY
LB Dee Ford, KC (4 solos, 3 sacks, 3 QH, 2 FF)
Ford missed most of last year with an injury but he’s making up for lost time this year. With 3 sacks this week, he’s now up to 8 in 8 games. Even more impressive perhaps is the fact he has 4 forced fumbles in his last 4 games. The Chiefs offense should continue to provide plenty of opportunities to rush the passer and the Chiefs are also hoping to get Justin Houston back soon, which could make it even tougher for blockers to key on Ford.
LB Anthony Hitchens, KC (6 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL)
Hitchens appeared to be back to playing his every-down role this year and was very productive with 9 tackles on 55 snaps (75%). It appears he left the game late with a rib injury, however, and was replaced by Dorian O’Daniel. Early reports indicated Hitchens would be week-to-week so we may see a lot more snaps for O’Daniel next week with safety Daniel Sorensen also possibly returning and taking on a similar role in passing situations.
WASHINGTON @ N.Y. GIANTS
LB B.J. Goodson, NYG (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
With Alec Ogletree sitting out this week to rest a hamstring injury, Goodson received a season-high in playing time with 59 snaps (87%). He wasn’t all that helpful in slowing down Adrian Peterson, who averaged 5.7 yards per run on 26 attempts, but Goodson did manage to lead the Giants in tackles.
LB Ryan Kerrigan, WAS (2 solos, 2 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Kerrigan had a really quiet start to the year with just 1 solo and 1 assist in his first 3 games and was probably cut loose by many fantasy players. Since the bye week, however, he’s been back to his usual disruptive self. In four games, he has collected 10 solos and 4.5 sacks and was part of a Washington pass rush that sacked Eli Manning 7 times this week.
S D.J. Swearinger Sr, WAS (4 solos, 1 asst, 2 INTs, 3 PD)
Swearinger began his career as a big-hitter who sometimes played out of control but he’s developed into one of the better playmaking safeties in the league. With 2 more interceptions this week, he’s now up to 4 on the year which already matches his total from last season. He also has a sack and two forced fumbles in the past three games.
CLEVELAND @ PITTSBURGH
LB Jamie Collins Sr, CLE (4 solos, 7 asst, 1 TFL, 1 FF)
With Joe Schobert out again this week, Collins once again played every defensive snap. He took full advantage of the opportunity, leading the team with 11 tackles while also adding a forced fumble to give him at least one type of big play in four of his last 5 games.
LB Genard Avery, CLE (1 solo)
Avery saw a large increase in playing time the past two weeks due to the Joe Schobert injury, but he has failed to fully capitalize on it. On 126 combined snaps the past two weeks, he’s been credited with just 3 solo tackles plus a fumble recovery last week. With a tough matchup looming against the Chiefs, the rookie edge rusher may be in for another down week.
LB Vince Williams, PIT (1 solo, 3 asst, 1 QH)
After playing a full-time role for most of the year, Williams saw a reduction this week as he was only on the field for 42 defensive snaps (66%). The Steelers were coming off a bye week so perhaps this is a new strategy they came up with, but it’s a concern for Williams as he’s unlikely to remain a reliable fantasy option if he only plays two-thirds of the snaps going forward.
CB Artie Burns, PIT (0 tackles)
The former 1st round pick was limited to special teams duties this week after showing up late to a team activity last week. He has had a very disappointing year and has been benched at times for his poor play, so this certainly won’t help him get back in favor with the coaching staff.
INDIANAPOLIS @ OAKLAND
S Clayton Geathers, IND (3 solos)
The stat line of 3 solo tackles didn’t stand out but it was reassuring to see Geathers return to action this week after missing time with a neck injury. He was one of only two Colts defenders to play every defensive snap in the game while his replacement Mike Mitchell saw 32 snaps before leaving early with an injury. The secondary played pretty poorly without Malik Hooker but getting him back should free up Geathers to play closer to the line.
LB Marquel Lee, OAK (7 solos, 4 asst)
Lee finished with an impressive 11 combined tackles in the game, which led all players. He may not warrant a clear upgrade, however, as his playing time lower than it had been in recent weeks. After averaging nearly 80% of the defensive snaps leading into the bye, Lee was only on the field for 43 snaps (55%) this week. His numbers were clearly boosted by the fact the Colts ran the ball 40 times for 222 yards in the game.
DE Bruce Irvin, OAK (0 tackles)
Despite having the league’s worst pass rush, the Raiders continue to give very little playing time to their best pass rusher. Irvin saw a season-low 24 snaps (31%) this week, which was apparently due to a minor shoulder injury and also helped by the run-heavy game script. There has been speculation that he could be traded before the deadline as the Raiders continue to reshape their roster under Jon Gruden, but perhaps a change of scenery would help boost his value.
SAN FRANCISCO @ ARIZONA
DE Markus Golden, ARI (7 solos, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
Golden’s playing time hasn’t increased as much as expected but he’s been getting nearly 60% of the defensive snaps over the past few weeks. He finally had a breakout performance this week, however, as he led the Cardinals in tackles with 7 solo stops while adding in a sack as well. Looks like he’s clearly over the ACL injury that wiped out his 2016 season.
LB Reuben Foster, SF (1 solo, 1 QH)
Foster has been one of the most disappointing linebackers in the league this year. He ranks among the league leaders in missed tackles and has been a complete liability in coverage. Foster has also had trouble staying healthy during his brief career and he left the game this week after just 22 snaps (33%) with a hamstring injury.
GREEN BAY @ L.A. RAMS
CB Jaire Alexander, GB (7 solos, 5 PD)
Not often you see 5 passes defensed in a game, but clearly, the Rams felt comfortable throwing at Alexander in this game. The rookie was clearly up to the task, however, and also was very active in run support. He missed the past two games with a groin injury and had the bye week to recover as well, but was able to play all 78 snaps this week and should be a solid fantasy option in the weeks ahead.
DT Ndamukong Suh, LAR (2 solos, 1 QH)
Suh continues to play 90+% of the defensive snaps each week but he’s helped by the fact the Rams defense doesn’t spend a lot of time on the field. After posting a sack in three straight games earlier this year though, he’s posted just 2 solo tackles in each of the past three games. While he hasn’t been a prolific pass rusher in his career, his 14 solo tackles through 8 games (on 420 snaps) this year is disappointing and not the sign of an elite fantasy option.
NEW ORLEANS @ MINNESOTA
DE Everson Griffen, MIN (1 solo)
Griffen didn’t make much of an impact this week but keep in mind he was coming off a 6-week break and facing one of the toughest matchups for a pass rusher in the league. It also didn’t help that the Saints played most of the game with a lead and Drew Brees only attempted 23 pass attempts. This was still a hugely positive sign that Griffen was back on the field and able to play 37 snaps (70%) in the game.
CB Eli Apple, NO (9 solos)
After spending less than a week with his new team, Apple was on the field for 70 snaps (96%) this week as Ken Crawley was inactive. He was tested by an explosive Vikings offense and came out as the leading tackler in the game with 9 solo tackles. That makes him one of the most productive cornerbacks in the league over the past month and he should continue to be tested with matchups looming against the Rams, Bengals, Eagles, and Falcons coming up.
S George Iloka, MIN (1 solo)
Iloka made a third straight start this week but only saw 5 defensive snaps in the game. There were no initial reports of an injury, but Anthony Harris (92%) and Jayron Kearse (70%) wound up seeing extensive playing time in the game while Iloka sat.
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