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.
CAROLINA @ PITTSBURGH
DE Cameron Heyward, PIT (2 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Heyward broke out of his cold slump with a multi-sack effort on Thursday night. He had been generating some pressure but wasn’t showing up on the stat sheet with just 2 assisted tackles and 0 sacks over his previous three games.
S Eric Reid, CAR (6 solos, 3 asst)
Reid came into the Thursday night game with a questionable tag due to a shoulder injury but he was able to play. He did leave the game early after being ejected for a late hit but still managed to lead the team in tackles with 9 on 46 snaps. Over his last 4 games, Reid has been credited with 19 solos and 12 assists (with a sack and interception), making him one of the most productive safeties in the league over that span.
DE Mario Addison, CAR (0 tackles)
Addison was completely shut out following his 3-sack effort against the Buccaneers last week. The Steelers have been one of the toughest teams to generate sacks against of late, however, and this was just an overall terrible performance from the Panthers defense. Addison still led all Panthers edge rushers with 66% of the snaps and should bounce back next week against Detroit.
DETROIT @ CHICAGO
DT Damon Harrison, DET (6 solos, 1 TFL)
Harrison led the Lions in tackles with 6 solo stops this week and now has 18 solo tackles during his three games as a Lion. He had been credited with just 15 solo tackles in 7 games with the Giants, so he’s clearly seeing a huge uptick in production since the trade.
CB Prince Amukamara, CHI (8 solos, 2 FF, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Amukamara has always been an above average corner in terms of his cover skills and a solid source of tackles but a lack of big plays has limited his fantasy upside. He failed to record even a single interception in his last two seasons and finished with more than one just once in his 7-season career before 2018. So, it’s unlikely his interception and two forced fumbles this week is something that he’ll be able to replicate going forward.
DE Akiem Hicks, CHI (1 solo)
Since posting 3 sacks in his first 4 games, Hicks has now gone 5 games without adding to his sack total. He also has been credited with just 6 solo tackles (and 4 assists) over the last 4 games. While Khalil Mack got back on track with a pair of sacks this week, Hicks is dealing with his own slump.
CB Kyle Fuller, CHI (1 asst)
Fuller had an enormous game against the Bills in week 9 but some of the big plays he’s been involved with have masked a large dropoff in his tackle numbers. After another quiet game this week against the Lions, Fuller now has just 1 solo tackle (and 4 assists) over his last 3 games.
NEW ORLEANS @ CINCINNATI
LB Alex Anzalone, NO (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Anzalone is finally starting to emerge as a core player for the Saints over the last few weeks. Over his last three games, he has produced a forced fumble, an interception, and a sack. The coaches appear to have taken some notice as he actually led all Saints linebackers in snaps this week with a season-high 79% in an easy win over the Bengals. The Saints defense only saw 38 snaps in the game so opportunities were limited, but they have excellent matchups coming up in the next few weeks.
DE Cameron Jordan, NO (1 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Jordan had a sack this week but it may cover up some other issues. After posting 13 sacks a year ago and 5 sacks in his first 5 games this season, his sack this week was his first in the last 4 games. He hasn’t made up for it with his play against the run either as he’s on pace for 34 solo tackles after topping 40 the past two years.
CB Dre Kirkpatrick, CIN (4 solos, 1 asst)
Kirkpatrick posted 5 tackles on just 37 snaps (49%) but he was forced to leave the game early with a concussion. The Bengals secondary was already missing Darqueze Dennard, so Darius Phillips and Keivarae Russell had to take on a bigger workload as a result.
ATLANTA @ CLEVELAND
LB Deion Jones, ATL (activated off IR)
Jones has not played since the opener but he returned to practice last week and is eligible to return to action against the Cowboys this week. That’s a huge boost to a defense that has looked lost for much of the year without their defensive leaders in Jones and strong safety Keanu Neal. His return likely pushes Duke Riley back to the bench and bumps either De'Vondre Campbell or Foye Oluokun out of the nickel packages.
LB Joe Schobert, CLE (4 solos, 3 asst)
Schobert returned to the lineup this week after missing the previous three games. The team appeared to ease him back into action with just 68% of the defensive snaps but he’ll now get the bye week to recover and should be back to a full-time role in week 12.
CB Travis Carrie, CLE (4 solos, 2 asst, 2 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR)
Carrie has primarily worked as the nickel back for the Browns this year but injuries suffered by E.J. Gaines and Terrance Mitchell are pushing him into a full-time role. He has played every defensive snap over the past two weeks and should continue to see a heavy dose of targets playing opposite Denzel Ward after the upcoming bye week.
JACKSONVILLE @ INDIANAPOLIS
DL Tyquan Lewis, IND (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 QH, 1 PD)
The Colts traded up to pick Lewis in the second round of this year’s draft but placed him on injured reserve with a toe injury before the season started. He had been practicing with the team for several weeks and looked good enough that the team decided to start him at right defensive end this week. He collected three tackles and had several pressures while seeing 54 snaps (72%).
LB Anthony Walker, IND (7 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL)
Walker had a very productive outing with 10 combined tackles but he was helped by the fact that Jacksonville had 34 rush attempts in the game. Of bigger concern is that Walker was only on the field for 45 defensive snaps (60%) this week.
DT Marcell Dareus, JAX (0 tackles)
This marks the second time in the past three games that Dareus was shut out on the stat sheet. He was on the field for 40 snaps (73%) this week but faced a tough matchup in the Colts, who have been giving up very little sacks or pressure of late. Things don’t appear any easier next week either with a matchup looming against the Steelers.
ARIZONA @ KANSAS CITY
CB Bene Benwikere, ARI (6 solos, 2 asst)
Benwikere has been one of the most consistent cornerback options in the league since replacing Jamar Taylor in the Cardinals defense. Playing opposite Patrick Peterson ensures a steady dose of targets and he’s now been credited with 16 solo tackles with 3 assists over his last 3 games.
S Daniel Sorensen, KC (2 solos, 3 asst)
The Chiefs eased Sorensen into game action this week and limited him to just 32 snaps (44%), but he showed off his efficiency while contributing to 5 tackles despite the low workload. As his snap count continues to rise in the weeks ahead, he should make a very strong fantasy option. Edge rusher Justin Houston also returned this week and played 49 snaps so the Chiefs are getting some key defensive reinforcements.
LB Anthony Hitchens, KC (0 tackles)
Hitchens was questionable heading into the game but was healthy enough to remain on the active roster, which may have led some fantasy players to start him. Unfortunately, the Chiefs coaches decided to rest him in the game so he never saw the field. Inside linebacker duties were spread out among Reggie Ragland (6 tackles), Dorian O’Daniel (5 tackles), and Ben Niemann (6 tackles). The extra rest should make it easier for Hitchens to play next week in a prime-time matchup against the Rams.
BUFFALO @ N.Y. JETS
DE Shaq Lawson, BUF (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 PD)
Jerry Hughes continues to play at a high level but former 1st round pick Lawson is also starting to really elevate his game. He has seen an increase in playing time due to the injury to Trent Murphy and is making the most of it. While seeing 75% of the defensive snaps over the past two weeks, he’s been credited with 10 combined tackles with a sack and pass deflection.
DE Leonard Williams, NYJ (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 QH)
There was hope that Williams would bounce back from his disappointing 2017 season that saw him collect just 2 sacks. While he showed some flashes earlier this year with 3 sacks over a 2-game stretch, he’s gone ice cold since then. Over his last 5 games, Williams has just 4 solo tackles, 5 assists, and 0 sacks.
WASHINGTON @ TAMPA BAY
DE Carl Nassib, TB (1 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Nassib is starting to emerge as a key edge rusher for Tampa in the absence of Vinny Curry. He’s played at least 75% of the snaps in 3 of the last 4 games and has 4 sacks over that same time period.
DE Jason Pierre-Paul, TB (1 asst)
Despite facing an injury-depleted Washington offensive line this week, Pierre-Paul was not able to generate much pressure up front. He was held without a sack for the second week in a row after ending his 6-game sack streak. Even more troubling is the fact that he’s been credited with just 2 assists over the last two games despite playing 95% of the defensive snaps.
S D.J. Swearinger Sr, WAS (1 solo, 1 asst, 2 PD)
The trade for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix certainly seems to have had a clear negative impact on Swearinger. Over his last two games, since the trade was made, he has been credited with just 2 combined tackles on 137 defensive snaps. Meanwhile, Clinton-Dix (8 tackles), Mason Foster (10 tackles), and Zach Brown (9 tackles) all had extremely productive games this week.
NEW ENGLAND @ TENNESSEE
DE Deatrich Wise Jr, NE (2 solos, 3 asst)
While he didn’t get to the quarterback, Wise did see a significant increase in playing time this week. He was on the field for 43 snaps (66%), which was the 2nd-highest total on the season and the largest workload he’s had since week 2. Adrian Clayborn came into the game with 2.5 sacks over his last 3 games but saw his playing time reduced to just 8 snaps (12%) this week as the team gave Wise more work on base downs.
LB Wesley Woodyard, TEN (7 solos, 3 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QH)
Woodyard missed most of three games earlier this year but he’s been putting up top-10 production whenever he’s been on the field. Over the past two weeks, he’s been credited with 20 combined tackles (12 solos), 2.5 sacks, and a fumble recovery. While the Titans aren’t getting much of a pass rush from their edge rushers, they are generating sacks from blitzing their inside linebackers as Jayon Brown also has 4.5 sacks over his last 6 games.
L.A. CHARGERS @ OAKLAND
DT Maurice Hurst, OAK (4 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Hurst dropped to the 5th round of the draft due to medical concerns but he was considered by many to be a 1st-round talent. He’s been one of the only bright spots on the defensive line for the Raiders this year and added another sack this week to bring him up to 3 on the season. His playing time has remained consistently high each week and given the game scripts the Raiders are facing, he should remain a viable starter in most DT-required leagues.
LB Jatavis Brown, LAC (6 solos, 5 asst)
Brown was credited with 11 combined tackles (7 solos) a week ago despite playing just 63% of the defensive snaps. This week, he once again put up 11 combined tackles but it looks more sustainable since it came on 97% of the snaps. The season-ending injury to Denzel Perryman creates a clear opening for Brown to play a full-time role and he should remain highly productive as long as he can stay healthy.
LB Denzel Perryman, LAC (0 tackles)
Perryman only lasted two snaps in this game before leaving with a knee injury. It was reported on Monday that he was diagnosed with an LCL injury and will also require hamstring surgery, so his season is over. Given that he’s also headed for free agency this offseason, there’s a good chance we may not see him back with the Chargers next season. This should create an opening for Jatavis Brown primarily but Adrian Phillips and Hayed Pullard also figure to see more playing time as a result.
MIAMI @ GREEN BAY
DE Robert Quinn, MIA (2 solos, 1 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QH)
Quinn has been a huge disappointment all season but he finally showed some signs of turning things around this week. He hadn’t posted a sack since week 2 despite seeing 60% or more of the snaps in most games, but he came through with 1.5 sacks in a blowout loss to the Packers.
LB Nick Perry, GB (0 tackles)
Perry averaged 9 sacks per year over the last two seasons but had just .5 sack over his previous 7 games coming into this week. He was still seeing upwards of 50% of the defensive snaps most weeks before leaving this game early with a knee injury. Kyle Fackrell wound up seeing 71% of the snaps in the game as a result and added a sack to give him 5 in his past 6 games.
S Reshad Jones, MIA (3 solos, 1 PD)
After taking himself out of last week’s game for undisclosed reasons, Jones was benched for the first quarter of this week’s game against the Packers. He finished with 3 tackles on 45 snaps while T.J. Mcdonald seemed to get the biggest boost with 15 solos over his last two games.
SEATTLE @ L.A. RAMS
DE Dante Fowler, LAR (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF, 1 FR)
Fowler has averaged close to 70% of the defensive snaps the past two weeks as a member of the Rams after averaging close to 40% of the snaps during his time with the Jaguars. He came up big this week with a strip sack and fumble recovery late in the game to stop a potential game-winning touchdown drive for Seattle.
DT Ndamukong Suh, LAR (5 solos, 4 asst, .5 sack, 3 QH)
Suh has averaged over 90% of the defensive snaps for the Rams but his production has been rather underwhelming of late. Over his previous four games, he had no sacks and had just 8 tackles. He was helped this week by the fact the Seahawks ran the ball 34 times for 273 yards but anytime a defensive tackle is credited with 9 tackles and 3 quarterback hits, it is certainly worth an upgrade.
LB Bobby Wagner, SEA (10 solos, 3 asst, 1 QH)
Wagner wasn’t very productive in the first half of the season but he his production has spiked dramatically since K.J. Wright returned to the lineup. Over his last 3 games, Wagner has been credited with 22 solo tackles and 12 assists for an average of 11 combined tackles per game. He’s also been excellent in coverage and already set a career-high with 9 passes defensed on the year.
LB K.J. Wright, SEA (1 solo, 1 asst)
Wright collected 10 solo tackles while playing 85% of the defensive snaps over the previous two games and looked like he was back to his normal self. This week, however, he came into the game with a knee injury and was held to just 2 combined tackles while playing just 60% of the defensive snaps in the game.
DALLAS @ PHILADELPHIA
LB Leighton Vander Esch, DAL (13 solos, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PD)
The Cowboys have the deepest group of inside linebackers in the league right now and are not likely to suffer any dropoff when Sean Lee is out of the lineup. Vander Esch continues to put up impressive numbers whenever he’s on the field and he now has 61 solo tackles on just 399 snaps. For comparison, Lee has just 15 solo tackles on 191 snaps this year.
CB Ronald Darby, PHI (3 solos, 2 asst)
Darby was on pace to finish with 70+ solo tackles this year and was clearly a #1 fantasy cornerback despite recording just one interception. He left the game with a knee injury that was later confirmed to be a torn ACL, thus ending his season. Unfortunately, it also comes just as he was scheduled to enter free agency this offseason.