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.
CHICAGO @ CAROLINA
LB Danny Trevathan, CHI (6 solos, 4 asst)
Trevathan appears to have recovered from a slow start to the year. Since seeing his snap count drop to 48% back in week two, he has been over 70% for the past month and played 85% of the snaps this week. The Bears defense has helped carry them to a 5-1 record and Trevathan now has 18 combined tackles over his past two games with some favorable matchups coming up on the schedule.
S Juston Burris, CAR (2 solos, 2 asst)
The Panthers moved on from Eric Reid at strong safety after a 97 solo tackle season and gave the job to a converted cornerback in Burris. While he has not been nearly as productive as Reid, Burris was showing signs of progress in his new role. Unfortunately, he left the game early this week (65% of snaps) with a rib injury that leaves his status for next week in doubt. He was replaced in the lineup by an undrafted rookie Sam Franklin (2 solos on 23 snaps).
CINCINNATI @ INDIANAPOLIS
S Vonn Bell, CIN (9 solos, 1 PD)
The Bengals linebackers have struggled this year, which has given both of their safeties plenty of tackle opportunities. Free safety Jessie Bates III is already putting up numbers that rank him among the top options at the position, but Bell is not too far behind. He led the way with 9 solo tackles this week and is averaging just under 8 combined tackles per game. The main knock against him is a lack of big plays as he has just 1 interception over 70 career games played.
S Khari Willis, IND (10 solos, 1 PD)
Willis is a young player so his level of play and production will continue to fluctuate regularly, but he led all players in the game with 10 solo stops. With Justin Blackmon playing well in the deep secondary, Willis is often free to play up in the box and support the run.
Carlos Dunlap, CIN (1 solo)
With Sam Hubbard out on injured reserve, Dunlap once again saw a surprisingly limited role. He played just 28 of 63 snaps (44%) in the game a week after losing his starting spot to Carl Lawson. Amani Bledsoe got the start and wound up seeing a similar workload to Dunlap this week as the team continues to limit Dunlap’s role on early downs.
DETROIT & JACKSONVILLE
LB Joe Schobert, JAX (7 solos, 3 asst, 1 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD)
It may have taken Schobert some time to adjust to his new team but he was highly productive as a starter in Cleveland. He’s been putting up solid tackle numbers but lacked any big plays until this week when he collected an interception. Over his prior three seasons, he had 8 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, and 6 interceptions so more big plays should be on the way.
CB Jeff Okudah, DET (7 solos, 1 asst)
Okudah has been quite productive with 23 solo tackles in just four games, but there’s a chance he could see a reduction in playing time in the weeks ahead. Desmond Trufant is expected to return from a hamstring injury soon, and nickel corner Justin Coleman is also eligible to return from injured reserve. That could create a crowded situation at cornerback for the Lions as Amani Oruwarijye has played at a very high level for them thus far.
ATLANTA @ MINNESOTA
LB Eric Kendricks, MIN (12 solos, 2 asst, 1 QH)
Kendricks has been a starter since joining the Vikings in 2015 and has been remarkably consistent with 60 to 70 solo tackles each year. He’s headed for a huge breakout season in 2020, however, as he’s already posted double-digit combined tackles in 5 of 6 games and is averaging nearly 8 solo tackles per game. The surrounding talent and overall play of the defense have fallen off this year, and he’s taking full advantage of the situation.
DE Dante Fowler Jr, ATL (1 solo)
Fowler got off to a decent start with a half-sack in each of the first two games, but he’s been a non-factor since then. Over his last four games combined, he’s been credited with just 3 solo tackles, 2 assists, and 0 sack. While his playing time has not always been consistent, he did play a season-high 80% of snaps this week after the Falcons got out to a big lead but still came out with limited production.
S Harrison Smith, MIN (2 solos)
Smith missed much of the game in Week 4 due to an ejection but has been surprisingly quiet in the two games since then. Across his last 133 snaps facing the Seahawks and Falcons, Smith has been credited with just 3 solo tackles and one assist. The Vikings have a lot of inexperience at the cornerback position and don’t have the pass rush they used to, which is making it more difficult for Smith to make the same type of impact he’s had in prior years.
DENVER @ NEW ENGLAND
LB Malik Reed, DEN (3 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
The Broncos front seven has been decimated by injuries so Reed has been forced to play a much bigger role than expected. He’s taking over for Jeremiah Attaochu, who was filling in for Von Miller. After playing 74% of the snaps a week ago, Reed was on the field for 49 of 57 snaps (86%) this week and responded with a pair of sacks as the Broncos defense kept Cam Newton in check.
LB Ja'Whaun Bentley, NE (8 solos, 4 asst, .5 sack, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Bentley has played 80+ percent of the defensive snaps in every game this year but had yet to put together this type of breakout performance. The Broncos ran the ball 37 times in the game but only managed to gain 137 yards as Bentley and safety Adrian Phillips combined for 22 tackles. He’ll get a chance to build on this effort with a matchup against the 49ers next week.
CB Michael Ojemudia, DEN (7 solos, 1 PD, 2 FF)
The Broncos picked Ojemudia in the third round of this year’s draft and have relied on him as a starter following the injury to A.J. Bouye in the season-opener. He came up huge this week with 7 solo tackles plus a pair of forced fumbles and has likely played well enough to remain in the lineup after Bouye returns (with Bryce Callahan likely sliding inside to the slot).
WASHINGTON @ NY GIANTS
LB Tae Crowder, NYG (6 solos, 4 asst, 1 FR)
As a rookie seventh-round pick, not much is expected of Crowder but he is starting to carve out a role for himself. He has seen his playing time rise from 3% in week 3 to 58% in week 4 to 85% this week. While he still has plenty of room for improvement, it was encouraging to see him collect 10 combined tackles on his 62 snaps. Apart from Blake Martinez, there isn’t much competition for playing time in this group of linebackers.
S Deshazor Everett, WAS (3 solos, 3 asst, 1 PD)
Everett’s stat line may not stand out but numbers were down across the board as the Giants offense only generated 38 tackle opportunities in the game. Everett had seen very limited playing time earlier this year but he was elevated to the starting lineup in place of a benched Troy Apke. The change seemed to work so we should expect him in the lineup next week against a favorable matchup against the Cowboys.
DE Ryan Kerrigan, WAS (1 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Kerrigan picked up a sack in the game but his role has been significantly reduced of late. After topping out at 65% of the snaps in week 3, he saw just 15% of the snaps this week as Chase Young (92%) and Montez Sweat (79%) got most of the work at defensive end.
BALTIMORE @ PHILADELPHIA
DE Calais Campbell, BAL (4 solos, 1 asst, 3 sacks, 4 TFL, 4 QH)
After posting just 1 sack in his first 5 games this year (and 2 over his last 12 games), it was starting to look like Campbell may not have much left. Even though it came against a very favorable matchup and banged-up offensive line, he put those concerns to rest with a huge 3-sack game this week.
LB Alex Singleton, PHI (4 solos, 5 asst)
Singleton won Defensive Player of the Year in the Canadian Football League back in 2017 and is finally getting a chance to show what he can do in the NFL. He had a pick-6 back in week 4 and saw his playing time increase from 37% of the snaps last week to 89% this week. For an Eagles linebacker group that lacked talent and has been riddled with injuries, it makes sense for them to give Singleton a bigger role after the way he’s played thus far.
CLEVELAND @ PITTSBURGH
LB B.J. Goodson, CLE (5 solos, 5 asst, .5 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Goodson continues to lead all Browns linebackers in playing time and production. He’s played at least 78% of the snaps in every game this year and is averaging 7.5 combined tackles per game while adding in some big plays. Mack Wilson has been slowly taking on a bigger role and was up to a season-high 48% of the snaps this week, but his playing time is coming at the expense of Malcolm Smith so Goodson’s role seems safe as long as he remains healthy.
LB Devin Bush, PIT (2 solos, 3 asst, .5 sack, 1 QH)
Bush wasn’t putting up the type of numbers expected from a linebacker drafted in the top-10, but he was a key piece of this Steelers defense. Unfortunately, the second-year player suffered a torn ACL this week and will miss the rest of the season. This should mean more playing time for Vince Williams and Robert Spillane (5 tackles on 30 snaps).
CB Mike Hilton, PIT (0 tackles)
Hilton has been one of the biggest surprises this year and came into this week with 24 solo tackles (with 2 sacks and an interception) in his last 3 games. Unfortunately, he was limited to just 22 snaps (39%) before leaving the game with a shoulder injury.
HOUSTON @ TENNESSEE
DE J.J. Watt, HOU (4 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF, 1 PD)
Watt had not been playing up to his normal levels this year but he was very disruptive this week. There aren’t any issues with his playing time as he’s often played 90+% of the snaps so it seems likely that we should see more games like this in the weeks to come.
DT Jeffrey Simmons, TEN (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Simmons sat out last week’s game while recovering from Covid but was healthy enough to handle a full workload this week. He played 64 of 72 snaps (89%) and put together another impressive performance to give him 11 tackles and 2 sacks over his last two games.
LB Vic Beasley Jr, TEN (0 tackles)
While many teams prefer to use a rotation of edge rushers, the Titans seem comfortable giving their top options the bulk of playing time. Harold Landry (88%) and Jadeveon Clowney (75%) played most of the game while Beasley was limited to just 11 snaps (15%) after playing 30 (43%) a week ago.
NY JETS @ MIAMI
DE Emmanuel Ogbah, MIA (3 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 4 QH)
Ogbah is quickly emerging as one of the best fantasy defensive ends in the league this year. He has recorded at least a partial sack in five straight games and has five sacks on the year after picking up 2 more against the hapless Jets this week.
LB Avery Williamson, NYJ (11 solos)
With the Jets decision to release Alec Ogletree last week, Williamson’s role as a full-time role now appears safe. He has played nearly every snap the past two weeks and was credited with 17 solo tackles with an interception. Given the Jets should be playing most games from behind, he is likely a strong LB2 option.
LB Andrew Van Ginkel, MIA (2 solos)
Van Ginkel has been playing well but lasted just 17 snaps (24%) this week before being forced to leave the game with a concussion. The Dolphins were already without Kyle Van Noy this week, so Sam Eguavoen received a season-high 49 snaps (69%) but didn’t do much with them.
GREEN BAY @ TAMPA BAY
LB Krys Barnes, GB (7 solos, 3 asst)
With Christian Kirksey sitting out with a shoulder injury, the rookie Barnes started and played 57 of 65 snaps (88%). Tampa ran the ball well with 158 yards on 35 attempts, which kept Barnes busy as he collected 10 tackles in the game.
LB Devin White, TB (9 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 2 QH)
The Packers offense could not do much against a tenacious Tampa front seven and White led the way with 10 tackles on 42 tackle opportunities. As a group, the Buccanneers were credited with 5 sacks and 13 hits on the quarterback but White came up with 3 of the 6 tackles for a loss. White was coming off a couple disappointing games that saw him collect just 1 solo tackle so this was a reassuring sign.
DE Shaq Barrett, TB (0 tackles)
While he’s playing well, Barrett hasn’t been getting to the quarterback nearly as much this year as he did a year ago. In a game that seemed perfect for him this week where the Tampa defensive line dominated, Barrett was kept completely off the stat sheet despite playing 57 of 63 snaps (90%).
LA RAMS @ SAN FRANCISCO
LB Micah Kiser, LAR (7 solos, 6 asst)
Kiser returned to the lineup and picked up where his replacement Troy Reeder left off. At this point, it seems pretty clear whoever the 3-down inside linebacker is for the Rams will put up excellent numbers. Cory Littleton is having trouble replicating his previous success with the Raiders and we’ve seen both Kiser and Reedy post big games in his previous role.
LB Dre Greenlaw, SF (7 solos, 1 TFL)
With Kwon Alexander sitting out due to a high-ankle sprain, Dre Greenlaw moved into a full-time role again. He played all 60 defensive snaps alongside Fred Warner and should see a short-term boost in value.
S Jaquiski Tartt, SF (0 tackles)
Tartt started at his normal strong safety position but exited early with a groin injury that flared up on him. He wound up playing 32 of 60 snaps but was kept entirely off the stat sheet. Marcell Harris replaced him and added 2 solo stops plus a pass defensed on 28 snaps.
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