The Cardinals release of D.J. Swearinger Sr on Monday was a surprise to many but if you had been watching him play of late, it was not such a shock. He was never a great player and there is a reason he has been a journeyman over the course of his career. For IDP managers this situation may provide an opportunity. The team has not yet confirmed but rookie Deionte Thompson appears to be in line for the job going forward. It is a young team so now is the time to let him gain the experience and for the organization to take an extended look. As the strong safety on a struggling team, Thompson has a lot of fantasy potential.
And the answer is… No one. Damontae Kazee got the start at strong safety in place of the injured Keanu Neal but ended up splitting time with Kemal Ishmael. The snap breakdown was 31 for Kazee which was slightly under half the plays, and 40 for Ishmael which was a few more than half. Neither player made much impact in the box scores.
Adding to the confusion, the Falcons traded linebacker Duke Riley to the Eagles for strong safety Jonathan Cyprien early in the week. Cyprien started in Jacksonville for several years and could end up with the job here as well. His skillset falls far short of Neal’s in terms of playmaking ability and coverage, but Cyprien is a stout, in the box run defender with plenty of experience. IDP managers may want to avoid this entire situation until it sorts itself out some.
Weak-side linebacker De'Vondre Campbell played 91% of the defensive snaps in Week 4 and put up a monster stat line of 7-10-0 with a pair of forced fumbles. Meanwhile, Deion Jones played one more snap in the middle and went 3-5-0. Campbell has been productive early on but simply put, this was as much a fluke and the stat crew awarding 27 solo tackles and 51 assists for the game.
Kenny Young had three tackles and an assist against Cleveland, which is hardly impressive until you consider he played 23 snaps in the game. He and Chris Board continue to share playing time virtually equally. In comparison, however, Board had three assists on his 23 plays. Why the Ravens will not play Youngs all the time is one of the great mysteries of this season. All the guy does is make plays. If you need a Week 5 starter to cover for bye or injury, Young is worthy of consideration. The Steelers are not going to have a wide-open offense like Cleveland did, so Young will have a lot more opportunity.
De'Vondre Campbell had that huge game against Tennessee in Week 4, from the weak-side linebacker position. That could be Matt Milano this week if the Titans game plan is similar. Buffalo has a much better defense so we should not expect the same gaudy numbers, but Milano should have a strong outing.
Shaq Thompson was the only Panther to exceed four solo tackles against Houston. He had a big game at 7-5-1 with a pass breakup but five other players contributed to the sack parade. In all the Panthers got to Deshaun Watkins for six sacks including a pair by Mario Addison who has caught fire with five and a half sacks over the last three games. The Carolina pass rush has a good matchup this week with a Jacksonville offensive line that has allowed for or more sacks in two of the last three games.
Bruce Irvin returned in Week 4 but was on a pitch count. He recorded his first sack and finished 2-0-1 on 27 snaps. Since he came though healthy, it is safe to expect an increased workload in Week 5.
A lot of IDP managers were caught with their shorts down when Roquan Smith was a surprise inactive for Week 4. We still have no definitive explanation as to what happened, beyond it being a personal matter. The important point is that Smith returned to practice on Wednesday and says he will play this week in London.
Nick Kwiatkoski replaced Smith and blew up for 9-1-1 and a forced fumble against the Vikings. His production had IDP managers scrambling to pick him up early this week. Just in case it comes up again down the road, know that Kwiatkoski was a one-week wonder. He is a solid backup on a great defense but he is not going to put up those numbers with any sort of regularity; especially if/when he only plays 55% of the time as he did on Sunday.
Consistent production at the corner position is fairly hard to come by. Dre Kirkpatrick has five solo tackles in every game this season, with an assist in three of them and a sack/turnover in the other one. Next up on the schedule, an Arizona offense that has been a stellar matchup for corners.
In most weeks, I would advise siting your linebackers against the Cardinals, but this Bengals defense is so bad, even Arizona should be able to run on them. The only question is, will Nick Vigil or Preston Brown have better numbers? That one is a coin toss.
Browns have fielded three linebackers on a total of three plays in the last two games. Instead, they have stuck with the big nickel as their base, deploying Jermaine Whitehead and Eric Murray along with Damarious Randall who returned in Week 4. Against Baltimore, Whitehead had the best game of his four year career at 7-1-0 with a pick and a forced fumble, but keep two things in mind before jumping on him this week; He has recorded more than three tackles in a game only three times in his career, and he will return to a part-time role when Morgan Burnett comes back from his quad injury. If you are just in need of a short term guy, Whitehead is a decent target with the San Francisco matchup this week.
Olivier Vernon finally got started in Week 4 with his first sack as a member of the Browns. His 2-0-1 is not going to garner a lot of attention from the masses but keep an eye on him going forward. As I have mentioned before, he is traditionally a slow starter.
One big reason for the Browns going with so much big nickel is their lack of healthy/quality depth at linebacker. Mack Wilson has been adequate as the replacement for Christian Kirksey but has shown no reason to get excited thus far, despite playing every snap in the last two games.
Robert Quinn looks healthy and well-rested. He is 6-0-3 in two games, including a two-sack effort versus the Saints who rarely give up multiple sacks to any opponent, much less to a single player. It is a small body of work but so far he is looking a lot like the player that that had 40 sacks over a three-year span earlier in his career. If he is still available, get Quinn on your roster.
In Week 3, Todd Davis quietly returned to action from the calf injury. In Week 4, the numbers returned as well. Davis played almost every snap against Jacksonville, finishing with seven solo and five assists. He is not going to give us much in the big play columns but on a team that is going to struggle and be on the field a lot, his tackle totals are going to be strong on most weeks.
Josey Jewell is battling a hamstring injury. He played 21 snaps before leaving Sunday’s game. With Davis back, Jewell is going to see a reduced role going forward even when healthy. It is time for us to move on in most situations.
The Broncos broke out for five sacks against Jacksonville but it was bitter-sweet considering they lost Bradley Chubb to a torn ACL. Justin Hollins should move into the starting lineup with Malik Reed serving as the third man. The team also added Jeremy Attochu to replenish their depth.
Quandre Diggs left Sunday’s game with a hamstring issue. He was replaced by Tavon Wilson who blew up for 11 solo tackles. The Lions are off this week so Diggs has some time to heal. Since they are off, it is doubtful there will be much information on the severity of his injury. If he is still down coming out of the bye, Wilson could be a good short term addition.
It is not often we see three defenders on the same team reach double-digit combined tackles but that is what we got with the Texans in Week 4 when Zach Cunningham was 8-6-0, Bernardrick McKinney 5-7-0 with a fumble recovery and a pass breakup, and Justin Reid 9-1-0. It is also not common for one offensive player to log 37 touched like Christian McCaffrey did in this game. The bottom line, this is most likely a fluke.
As anticipated, with Malik Hooker sidelined, Clayton Geathers and played every snap at strong safety, going 6-3-0, with Khari Willis logging every play at free safety and finishing 8-1-0 with a pass breakup. If you have or can pick up one of these guys, get them into your lineup this week against the Chiefs. No opponent has been a better matchup for safeties than Kansas City. The position has averaged 16 solo tackles against them thus far. Be aware that Geathers is currently in concussion protocol, despite finishing last week’s game without missing a snap.
Anthony Walker and Bobby Okereke both turned in strong numbers again, going 7-3-1, and 7-0 respectively. As of Wednesday afternoon, there had been no word on the status of Darius Leonard who remains in protocol. If he is out another week, both Walker and Okereke are quality starts versus the Chiefs
Rookie linebacker E.J. Speed caught my eye during the preseason. He made a lot of plays in those games and would have garnered a lot more attention had the team not been so deep with young talent at the position. Speed found his way onto the field in Week 4, going 4-1-0 on 28 snaps on the strong side. It appears he has replaced Matthew Adams as the starter there.
Jabaal Sheard played 51% of the snaps in his first action of the season. He did not get to the quarterback but was able to record four solo tackles. Shears should see a bigger role as we move forward and is a worthy pickup target in many leagues.
The numbers have not been particularly big but it worth mention that Quincy Williams leads the Jaguars in tackle through four games. At the current pace, he is a decent third starter or quality depth, but I have a feeling he will develop into much more by the end of the season.
Kansas City Chiefs
Alex Okafor left Sunday’s game with a hip injury. If he misses time it could open the door for Emmanuel Ogbah who has played well as the third man in the rotation. Ogbah currently leads the team with two and a half sacks.
Just when everyone was starting to give up on Tyrann Mathieu, he finally came to life with a mark of 5-1-1 against the Lions. With his long history of quality production, it is a good bet we will see more good weeks than bad from him going forward.
Los Angeles Chargers
Melvin Ingram III left Sunday’s contest with a hamstring injury that is expected to keep him out for a few games. To compensate for the loss, Los Angeles moved Uchenna Nwosu from his part-time role at strong-side linebacker to a three-down role at defensive end.
No Chargers linebacker, including Thomas Davis, played more than 79% of the snaps in Week 4. Kyzir White (13), Jatavis Brown (11), Drue Tranquill (10) and Denzel Perryman (28) all received a taste of the action but not enough to have any IDP impact. Keep in mind this was against the hapless Dolphins.
Perryman would have seen a few more snaps had he not been placed in concussion protocol late in the game. He has already been cleared and will play in Week 5.
Roderic Teamer played every snap at strong safety for the second week in a row. The Dolphins did not provide him with much of an opportunity, but that will change this week against Denver.
Los Angeles Rams
IDP managers should not get too excited about the ten tackles and five assists put up by Eric Weddle against the Buccaneers. He is a great player but those inflated numbers were a direct result of the 55 points and all the offense his team gave up. Weddle had ten tackles and nine assists over the first three games combined
Rookie Taylor Rapp has been seeing significant action as the nickel defender but may miss some time with an ankle injury suffered in the first half of Sunday’s contest.
Dolphins opened in a 4-3 this week with Raekwon McMillan at middle linebacker, Jerome Backer and Sam Eguavoen on the outside. Eguavoen has a good Week 3 but was once again invisible in Week 4. At this point, most managers can make better use of the roster spot.
One player that would be a better use for said roster spot, is Taco Charlton. He looked good with the Cowboys during the preseason but somehow found himself buried under the doghouse in Dallas anyway. In two games with the Dolphins, Charlton is 5-3-2 with a sack in each game. He replaced Charles Harris as the starter against the Chargers.
Reshad Jones was back in action Week 4 and led the team with six tackles and three assists. Jones had been battling an injury but came through the Week 4 game healthy. This week’s bye will give him even more time to get healthy. Grab him if you can.
New England Patriots
Ahh, those maddening Patriots. Every week is a crapshoot with this team but if you rolled the dice with either Jamie Collins Sr or Kyle Van Noy, you got a lucky seven. Dont'a Hightower sat out Week 4 with a shoulder injury, so both Collins and Van Noy played every down. Between them, they racked up nine tackles, three assists, three sacks, a pair of forced fumbles and an interception. Van Noy had was may have been the best statistical game of his career while Collins added over 17 fantasy points as well. Van Noy has now played every snap in consecutive games. Dare I say both are worthy of strong consideration as every week starters at this point? I can say for sure that both will be in some of my lineups this week.
John Simon also had a great game against Buffalo, posting five tackles, an assist, a sack, and a batted pass. He was on the field for almost 70% of the plays against the Bills which is by far the most action he has seen in a game this season. That is not enough to trust him as a starter in any but the deepest leagues, but it is enough to land him on the watch list for the next game or two.
New Orleans Saints
Trey Hendrickson went from about 45 snaps per game over the first three weeks to 8 snaps in Week 4. This was mostly due to his suffering a neck injury that has kept him out of practice through Wednesday, but the return of Sheldon Rankins may have been a contributing factor as well. Rankins jumped right in with 66% of the defensive plays. In previous weeks the Saint had shifted one of their starting ends inside on many passing downs with Hendrickson coming on as an edge defender. Rankins stayed on the field in a lot of those situations so both Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport stayed outside.
Managers in tackle required leagues should give David Onyemata a look. He has quietly put up decent numbers on a consistent basis and played one less snap than Rankins in Week 4.
Kiko Alonzo has seen his playing time increase steadily but slowly. He was up to almost 20% against the Cowboys. Unfortunately, at this rate, it will be week 15 before he gets a shot at a three-down role. We will continue to keep an eye on this situation but redraft managers should look at more useful options now that the bye weeks are upon us.
New York Giants
Ryan Connelly was off to a great start in Week 4. He was 3-2-1 with an interception and had the Giants thinking they may finally have found a gem at the position. Then came the knee injury that looked bad and was later confirmed to be an ACL. Dynasty managers will want to stick this young man on IR and hope for a healthy return in 2020.
With Tae Davis still in protocol and Alec Ogletree sidelined by a hamstring injury, the Giants may be starting David Mayo and Nate Stupar in Week 5. Mayo led the team in tackles at 4-4 last week, but neither of these guys is anything to get excited about. That said, get Antone Bethea or Jabril Peppers in your lineup this week against the Vikings and their standout running game.
New York Jets
The Jets will get some reinforcements on offense coming out of the bye week, and Quinnen Williams is expected to return on defense, but C.J. Mosley is still a week or two away as he battles a groin injury. He began running last week but has not yet tried to push off or cut.
The Vontaze Burfict fiasco has been a big story this week. Agree with the suspension length or not, the fact is he will not be back this year. Truth be known, Burfict is not the same player he was a few years ago anyway. His value to the Raiders defense came from his experience in defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's scheme.
Tahir Whitehead now becomes the obvious IDP target and the favorite to lead the team in tackles for the rest of the season, but if you are in need at linebacker, take a look at Nicholas Morrow. He had six tackles and an assist after replacing Burfict and was on the field for almost every snaps after getting into the game. Morrow is a serviceable veteran player in a target-rich environment.
Another side effect of the Burfict suspension may be more big nickel looks. Against the Colts both Karl Joseph and Eric Harris played every down while Lamarcus Joyner was off the field for two snaps. The trio moved around some but most of the time Joseph was at free safety and Harris strong, while Joyner lined up all over the place. Joseph is going to give us some good games, Joyner is probably the best target of the group but Harris has piqued my interest. He was 6-1 with an interception versus the Colts after having five tackles and an assist on 19 snaps the previous week. At the least Harris is a strong watch list guy.
If you are in a highly competitive league and need to be a step or two ahead of the competition on guys, think about adding Kamu Grugier-Hill this week. All reports out of Philadelphia over the offseason had Grugier-Hill as a three-down starter on the weak-side. A knee sprain derailed those plans but he was able to get back on the field for a few plays in Week 4. The expectation is, Grugier-Hill will move back into the every-down role once he has knocked the rust off. Expect his role to increase this week and if all goes well, replace Zach Brown in two linebacker sets by Week 6.
Avonte Maddox is expected to miss a few weeks with a sore neck, leaving the Eagles paper-thin at corner. Ronald Darby’s hamstring is going to keep him out a while and Jalen Mills is on the PUP. That leaves Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones as the starters. Douglas has been quiet so far this season but he has played full time in just one game. When he started down the stretch in 2018, he racked up 32 tackles, 5 assists and a pick in five games. The Jets are not a great matchup but there are several good ones on the schedule over the coming weeks.
How Mark Barron and Devin Bush managed to combine for 15 tackles and five assists against the putrid Cincinnati offense is hard to understand. But if they can put up those numbers with that matchup, imaging what they can do versus the Ravens. Vince Williams returned to practice this week and should be available, but with Bush and Barron playing so well, it will be interesting to see how much time Williams gets.
Another future prospect to start thinking about is Jarran Reed who will return from suspension in Week 7. This guy was a beast in tackle required formats in particular last year and a quality starter in leagues that combine the positions. With the Seahawks getting healthy on defense, Reed will have a lot of talent around him by the time he returns.
Everyone expected the Seahawks to ease Ezekiel Ansah back into action. Instead, he played 61% of the snaps and finished at 5-0-1 against Arizona. Most importantly, he came out of the game healthy. After the long absence and injury struggles, Ansah is going to be available in a lot of leagues. In this scheme, with the talent Seattle has assembled, he could be an every-week must-start going forward.
Mychal Kendricks was back to a nearly full-time role in Week 4, finishing at 5-1-2 on 84% of the snaps, which was two fewer than K.J. Wright. What the first four games tell us about this situation is, the Seahawks will keep all three linebackers on the field most of the time, but when they have to play a lot of nickel, Kendricks will be the odd-man-out. He is certainly roster-worthy in most 12 team leagues starting three linebackers, but we need to pay attention to matchup before starting him.
San Francisco 49ers
Maybe the week off will allow Dee Ford’s sore knee to get better. He was limited to 41 snaps combined in the two games leading up to the team’s bye. With talk of Ford possibly needing offseason surgery to fix the issue permanently, chances are this is a problem he will deal with all season. If you are a redraft league manager still sitting on Ford with some hope, the time has come to move on.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Some managers are concerned with the less than stellar production of Lavonte David so far. Hang in there cause it is about to get a lot better. David has 16 solo stops over four games so far. His four tackles and three assists were supplemented by a sack against the Rams but keep in mind Los Angeles fell behind quickly and abandoned the run early. Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown had 10 rushes between them in that game. In their next four outings, Tampa Bay faces Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, and Chris Carson.
Kevin Minter has played right at 90% of the snaps in three straight games and has been productive, but Devin White is close to getting back on the field. He may return to practice this week and there is some speculation he might be active for Week 5.
Wesley Woodyard returned to action in Week 4. His snap count was limited with most of his 21 plays coming at the expense of Rashaan Evans. With Josh Allen trending toward not playing due to a concussion, we should not expect much from the Bills offense this week. What we do get, however, is likely to be run-heavy. That bodes well for Brown in particular.