After the Week 8 game, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph told us about Haason Reddick had been replaced in the base defense by Joe Walker. Great timing there, coach. We went into Week 9 with Walker as a priority on the watch list, while wondering how the playing time would break down. When Walker racked up eight tackles and three assists, many managers were blinded by the box score. Don’t be one of those managers. Before you overpay for Walker with thoughts that he will be an every-week option going forward, consider the other factors here. Walker played 42 of a possible 74 defensive snaps against the 49ers and his production had a lot to do with San Francisco being a stellar matchup.
With six teams on bye, there will be a lot of us scrounging to fill that last starting spot at the defensive positions this week. From that perspective, Walker could be a good target. Tampa Bay has been a plus matchup for inside linebackers on most weeks. The concern here is snap count if the Buccaneers use a lot of three and four-receiver sets as they often do. If Walker is not working in sub-packages, his opportunity may be limited.
The other thing to think about here is the signing of Zach Brown (who was released on Wednesday). This signing makes me wonder if Walker actually “earned” an opportunity to get on the field as Vance Joseph originally stated, or if the team was simply not satisfied with Reddick’s play versus the run, and is looking for a better option. The other thing that comes to mind; why is Mason Foster’s phone not ringing?
Budda Baker put up huge numbers against San Francisco and it is not hard to figure out why. He shadowed George Kittle much of the game. Bruce Arians is not a coach that will feature the tight end position, so we should not expect a repeat by Baker this week. That said, the Buccaneers have been a hit or miss matchup for safeties, helping a few to post big games.
Corners Byron Murphy and Patrick Peterson are high upside options this week. Murphy has the rookie corner rule in his favor against a Tampa team that passes a lot, and Peterson will likely get matched up with Mike Evans. Over the last three weeks, James Bradberry totaled 10-0 with 2 picks and two other pass breakups in Week 6, Logan Ryan went 6-2-1 with an interception and an additional pass defended in Week 7, and Shaquill Griffin was 7-2 with a pass breakup in Week 9.
Those looking for help at safety may want to consider Damontae Kazee. He has played between 74% and 81% of the snaps in three consecutive games and seemed to have his role changed to that of a more traditional strong safety before the bye week. He had six solo tackles in each of the last two games and has a plus matchup on tap with the Saints.
Patrick Onwuasor had good numbers against the Patriots, going 6-2-1 with a forced fumble, but there are some major red flags. Baltimore played five or six defensive backs on nearly every snap, while no inside linebacker was on the field more than 42% of the time (28 snaps). That and a horrible matchup with the Bengals is more than enough reason to sit Onwuasor this week if at all possible.