Eyes of the Guru
Posted 9/15 by John Norton, Exclusive to Footballguys.com
Week 1 is in the books and an exciting week it was. As usual there were a ton
of questions answered and a bunch of new ones created. Now that we finally have
something solid to look at it's time to set about improving our teams. Let me
start this week's report with some brief strategy advice. The first two weeks
of the season are vital. It doesn't matter if you blew out everyone in your
league the first week and you feel unbeatable, if you don't look for any possible
improvement EVERY week you are seriously hurting your chances to go all the
way. There are only a handful of "must have" guys to try and pick
up but I believe it just as, if not more important to make less significant
moves that will improve your depth. We all know the cliché, it's a marathon,
not a sprint. Between injuries and bye weeks you will need every decent player
you can horde at some point. NEVER pass on a potential strong pickup just because
"I don't have a need at that position". If you can get a good player
on your roster do it and use him for trade bait later. This is particularly
useful for you guys in leagues where some of the owners aren't very IDP savvy
and you can load up on defensive talent. Last but not least don't over react
to the first weeks box scores. I once knew a guy who dropped Priest Holmes after
his first game in KC to pick up Tony Richardson just because Richardson had
a few more carries and scored... enough said I hope.
The Cards just keep getting thinner and thinner at linebacker. James Darling
moved inside when Gerald Hayes went down and now it looks like Darling could
be out for a while. Some reports are calling his injury a bruised knee and some
a sprained knee. Either way he will likely miss at least a couple of games and
there is the potential for him to miss several. To compensate the Cards will
reportedly move WLB Orlando Huff into the middle and shift rookie backup SLB
Darryl Blackstock to WLB. This is a very perplexing turn of events considering
the fact they have Lance Mitchell listed as backing up at MLB and the fact that
Blackstock is about as raw and inexperienced as they come. He is basically a
pass rusher who demonstrated very little "linebacker ability" in college.
The general pre-draft consensus of college scouts was that he's a "one
trick pony". This all makes me wonder what Mitchell has done to land in
the dog house and when will he get a chance?
Whatever you do, DON'T panic and cut either Keith Brooking or Ed Hartwell.
The week one box score tells us one very important fact and it comes through
loud and clear. Don't start your linebackers or safeties against the Eagles.
This is nothing new and is the same valuable lesson we have learned in each
of the past few years. Last season the Eagles ran the ball an average of something
like 17 times a game and on Sunday they ran just 13 times. They lack a between
the tackles power back and they make no effort what so ever to run there. Yes
they use the little dump passes as long handoffs often but those are always
to the outside. After you figure in the incomplete passes and so forth, there
were only 37 plays run by Philly that resulted in a tackle being made. The average
per game is usually in the low to mid 50's.
The most important news to come out of the week one loss is the injury to Terrell
Suggs. Suggs missed practice on Wednesday with a bad back and is expected to
be limited this weekend if he does play. If Suggs sits, Jason Jarrett would
likely get the call while Peter Boulware could also see increased action if
he plays. Boulware is also on the injury report with his sore knee. Boulware
did practice on Wednesday and is expected to go... Not that it matter much but
for information's sake Tommy Polley didn't play much against Indy because he
isn't in the nickel package and the Colts use 3 receivers nearly all the time.
Thomas Davis owners got a scare this week when our man was benched during the
second half against the Saints after being eaten up by their tight ends. The
news is good in the end as Davis will retain his starting job going to week
two. This is a scary situation however as he could be pulled again if the problem
continues. On the bright side Thomas racked up a whopping 3-1-0 in the first
two series alone on Sunday. Stay tuned... The Panthers lost Kris Jenkins for
the year to a knee injury in the opener. He will likely be replaced by Kindall
Morehead but Al Wallace is also expected to see an increased role in Jenkins
The Bears SS position has been very productive for many years so it's no big
surprise that Mike Brown got off to a huge start. While he isn't going to put
up 9 tackles every week, it was certainly not a fluke and he will continue to
be very productive. The big news here is that Mike Green has been benched in
favor of rookie 6th round pick Chris Harris. Green was benched against the Redskins
after being flagged for interference and was not heard from again. In the preseason
report I mentioned that Green wasn't exactly cut out to be a FS, maybe the Bears
are thinking the same thing? Todd Johnson and Chris Harris shared the duties
after Green was pulled and apparently that was an audition for them both that
Harris won. Its a position that has some value since the FS position is counted
on to make a lot of big plays in this defense... Corner Charles Tillman made
a strong box score showing in the opener. By the nature of the position he will
be a little bit inconsistent but Tillman (when healthy) is consistently one
of the top tackle producing corners in the league. Adewale Ogunleye has struggled
with injuries over the past couple of years but is as close to 100% as he's
been since joining the Bears, and it showed in his 5-0-1. Keep in mind he was
a top 10 DL the last time he was completely healthy.
I hope everyone caught the heads up on Sean Jones before last weeks games.
Apparently Chris Crocker has claimed the starting SS job. Crocker played a strong
game against Cincy where he not only led the club in tackles with 8 solo stops
but kicked in a sack as well. Crocker started just one game last season but
played very well off the bench several times. Jones is supposed to be the man
here and made some impressive physical plays during camp and preseason action
but he struggled with the mental part of the game. If Crocker continues to play
well Jones will be hard pressed to reclaim the job...
Corner Anthony Henry had the best game of his career against the Chargers who
obviously went into the game intending to pick on him. With 10 solo tackles,
and interception and 5 passes defended, Henry has already proven his worth to
the Cowboys. Chances are slim that Henry will come anywhere near those numbers
again this season but it's very noteworthy that as a rookie in '01 he led the
league with 10 picks and he put up 67 solo stops last season. Terence Newman
has emerged as one of the leagues better corners so teams are likely to try
Henry often all season long. He will likely have several quality games and could
be a solid pickup, especially as a gamble for a bye week fill in... There are
a lot of people who expect Demarcus Ware to be rookie defensive of the year
but for all practical fantasy purposes we need to keep him in perspective. The
kid may be a stud but he is still playing OLB in a 3-4 where he will have his
fair share of 2-0-0 games just like week one... The club hopes to have Kevin
Burnett available for week 2.
The '04 Broncos had trouble getting pressure on the passer and so far it looks
like nothing has changed in '05. The club expects to get DE Courtney Brown back
in action for week 2 which will help until he gets hurt again. Ebenezer Ekuban
made the week 1 start opposite Trevor Pryce but neither of them were any factor
at all... There hasn't been a lot of word on Champ Bailey's shoulder injury.
He has not yet been ruled out for week 2 but if he does play he'll have to wear
a harness and will be far less than 100%. If he doesn't go rookie Darrent Williams
will get the starting nod and could be an interesting fantasy option. The kid
has played well and could use the opportunity to push for Lenny Walls starting
job. The rookie corner rule would apply... SS Nick Ferguson had a huge game
against Miami with a 10-2-0 mark. It's been a long time since a Broncos DB has
held much serious/consistent fantasy value. In fact the last one was Eric Brown
during his first couple of seasons. There is always the chance Ferguson's big
game was the beginning of a trend but more likely it was simply the best of
the 4-5 good games he will have this season. Pick him up if you're thin but
don't expect him to be more than decent depth for you in the long run.
Green Bay Packers
As expected newly acquired Robert Thomas started at WLB for the Packers in
week one and as expected he was one of the teams top tacklers right away. Thomas
didn't play in all situations but will undoubtedly see an expanded role as his
comfort level with the new scheme increases. If you get hosed on the Gary Brackett
and Lemar Marshall types in this weeks transactions, take a shot on Thomas.
It could pay off... Another don't over react warning on SS Mark Roman. In his
three seasons as a starter Roman has never breached the 55 tackle mark and his
season high last year was 7 solo stops. He's an adequate player who will very
likely prove to be a marginal backup over the long haul... Keep an eye on DE
Aaron Kampman. He showed a great deal of improvement last season and seems to
have picked up right where he left off with a 4-1-1 in the opener. His '04 tackle
numbers were a very solid 48-19-4 and he worked diligently over the off season
to improve his pass rush. Kampman is evolving into a very good every down end.
It looks like rookie 6th round pick C.C. Brown has passed Earl Glenn on the
depth chart at SS. His 4-2-0 against Buffalo wasn't particularly impressive
but then the Texans front 7 wasn't very impressive either and there could be
a lot of action for the Houston safeties down the road... One of the off season's
big IDP debates was who would be better Kailee Wong or Morlon Greenwood? And
the answer so far is who cares. Between them they totaled just 5-7-0. If you
can land one of the hot free agent pickups at LB I would strongly consider doing
Again it's only one game and it was against one of last years two worst offenses,
but the Colts defense was impressive against Baltimore. MLB Gary Brackett led
the way with an 8-2-0 and two interceptions. More importantly he played full
time and wasn't a liability against the run. Brackett should be at or very near
the top of every pickup list this week... Larry Tripplett had a career day with
a mark of 7-0-2. If there was no history behind him I would be more excited
but the fact is his two sacks in the opener was twice his 3 year career total
of 1. It's very likely his big day was a fluke. Even if it wasn't, Tripplett
was dinged in the game and is expected to assume a backup role to Corey Simon
this week and likely well beyond... Over the past few years it seems the Colts
could carry 12 defensive backs into the season and still struggle to have 5
healthy ones from week to week. This season looks to be more of the same. Joseph
Jefferson started at SS in the opener but has already been ruled out of week
2 with a toe injury while nickel corner David Macklin was placed on IR with
a hamstring injury. The good news is that Mike Doss and Marlin Jackson are both
ready to return from their injuries and FS Bob Sanders is expected to play even
though he is listed as questionable himself. I was under the impression that
Doss had been suspended for the first two games but the reports out of Indy
claim he will play this weekend.
Mike Peterson only managed a 4-0-0 against Seattle in week one but there is
no reason for concern. Seahawks backs handled the ball just 17 on runs in the
game which simply translates to a lack of opportunity for Peterson... What is
of concern for the Jags is the glaring lack of production from DE Reggie Hayward.
Hayward cashed in on his success in Denver last season with a phat new contract
but has the Jaguars brain trust thinking they may have been scammed. Hayward
was average at best during the preseason and was out produced by backup Bobby
McCray in the opener... LB Daryl Smith didn't set the box score on fire but
his 4-1-0 tied him for second on the club (with Peterson among others) in tackles
for the game and he added a pick. Keep in mind that Smith swapped positions
with Akinola Ayodele over the off season and is now lining up at the weak side
position most of the time. He could be a real pleasant surprise.
Kansas City Chiefs
I may have missed the boat on OLB Derrick Johnson who I just couldn't get excited
about during the preseason melee. He is stuck at left (usually strong side)
linebacker and just didn't look tough enough to me. He sure looks pretty tough
at the top of the KC box score though. It's only one week but the kid sure played
great and I doubt his 8-1-1 was a fluke... Kendrell Bell owners shouldn't panic
because he only tallied 3 tackles. Bell shared time with Keyaron Fox in week
one but keep in mind that like LaVar Arrington, Bell didn't get on the field
until the final preseason game so he simply isn't in shape for a full game.
The shoulder held up and his workload will increase over the next couple of
games until he takes over full time. On that same note, those of use sitting
on Kawika Mitchell aren't sure if his 6-2-0 against the Jets was for real. It
was, at least for now. Not only did Mitchell start in the middle but at this
point he is teamed with Johnson in the nickel package which means he's a full
timer. The question is, does a healthy and well conditioned Bell bump him from
that role? Maybe but I have Mitchell in 3 leagues and personally won't worry
about it until I actually SEE a healthy and conditioned Bell... DT Ryan Sims
won't play in week two and is still trying to determine the extent of his foot
injury. Just the way they are handling this makes it sound serious to me. John
Browning actually made the start at DE in week one ahead of both Jimmy Wilkerson
and Jared Allen but with Sims out he likely slides back inside. Allen worked
mostly in passing situations and still managed to record a solid 3-0-1... It's
only 1 game but I feel somewhat vindicated by the success of Sammy Knight (7-2-1)
in week one. I have taken some flack for being so high on the "old slow
guy". In fact the editors at Fantasy Index magazine thought I was so loony
that they completely changed what I wrote about him for their IDP coverage in
the magazine. I got him very late/cheap in several drafts/auctions this year
and he's likely available in a lot of other leagues. SS in KC has been a fantasy
gold mine for a long time. It wasn't a fluke... One more quick note, the Chiefs
are playing a much more aggressive style of defense this season and concentrating
on making big plays. Their efforts showed up big in week one when they forced
7 Jets fumbles.
There heading into week one there were all sorts of varying reports about what
role rookie Channing Crowder was going to have. A look at the box score suggest
he had a very small one but the game book reveals that he actually started at
WLB while junior Seau moved over to SLB. Crowder's numbers were a long way from
good but then the Broncos had no running game (17 carries) so don't give up
on him to soon... Lance Schulters was a late addition to the starting lineup
at FS. There is little doubt he was the best player for the job and he has a
history of decent fantasy production when healthy. He also has a history of
being injured most of the time. He will be a strong addition for the Dolphins
if he can stay out of the training room and could be a decent addition to a
Even after a real game we can't get a good read on the Vikings LB situation.
Sam Cowart was somewhat disappointing with only a 4-2-0 while those who claim
he is injury prone got another feather for their hat as he came up gimpy with
a calf strain. He was initially reported to have a stinger and cramps but that
somehow evolved into a strained calf which is now expected to keep him out of
week 2. Cowart expected to be ready for week 3. Now for the rest of the story.
The Vikings opened in a nickel defense against the Bucks 3 WR set. The surprise
was that Dontarrious Thomas and Napoleon Harris were the linebackers. This could
spell trouble for those of us sitting on either Cowart or E.J. Henderson. For
this week expect Henderson back in the middle with Thomas playing full time
at WLB. If the injury issues linger for Cowart, don't be surprised if Thomas
emerges as the best fantasy option of the group... First round pick DE Erasmus
James was inactive in week one. So much for the early reports that he was impressing
and could start the opener. He has not caught on as quickly as the team expected
and it could be a while before we see much of him.
New England Patriots
One of the big surprises of week one was the Patriots coming out in a 4-3 for
the second half against Oakland. They looked strong in it and considering the
losses at LB, one has to wonder if we may see a lot more of it down the road?
Point of interest here is that Monty Beisel was at MLB when they made the switch.
I'm not sure who was lining up at WLB but will hopefully get another look this
weekend and pass that along if it look like it could be important... One of
the off season stories in New England camp was the battle for the starting corner
jobs. According to week one the winners are Asante Samuel and Tyrone Poole with
Randall Gay and Chad Scott covering the nickel and dime packages
New Orleans Saints
Darren Howard officially got the start at DE against the Panthers but it was
Will Smith who made the bigger splash. Both these guys are quality players and
if this season is anything like last, you will beat yourself up trying to figure
out which one of them is going to get the numbers from week to week. It's very
noteworthy that 5.5 of Smith's 7.5 sacks last year came after week 10... The
club has moved backup end Willie Whitehead into the starting lineup at tackle
in place of Jonathan Sullivan who is in danger of being declared a bust... Keep
an eye on the Saints SS position. Mel Mitchell was supposed to have taken over
that job a couple of years back before blowing out his knee and may be on the
verge of reclaiming it. He only recorded 2 tackles in week one but that was
more than start Jay Bellamy... Dwight Smith posted meager numbers in the opener
but don't get off the boat until you're sure it's sinking. The Saints coaching
staff was ranting about him during the preseason so unless you can pick up a
Chris Crocker or Kerry Rhodes type to replace him, be patient.
New York Jets
Wasn't the last Jets DB to put up double digit solo tackle Victor Green? Hopefully
many of you were able to pick up rookie SS Kerry Rhodes last week before he
blew up for 10-2-0 in his first pro game. If you didn't it will be tough to
get him unless you're high in the free agent pecking order. They won't see the
Holmes/Johnson battery again and obviously he's not going to put up 10 tackles
every week but the kid really turned some heads during the preseason and he
packs a lot of big play ability as well (3 picks in preseason). The huge numbers
are a little exaggerated by the match up but this kid looks like the real deal...
John Abraham didn't start week one and probably won't start again in week 2.
After holding out all preseason and coming off an injury the club is taking
no chances. There is not chance what so ever that Bryan Thomas will retain the
starting job once Abraham is in shape.
In a theme that has carried over from last season, the Raiders were unable
to generate a pass rush against the Pats. Zero sacks, zero interceptions and
zero chance of beating a quality club like the Patriots. It's going to be a
long season for us Raiders fans I fear. The important story from the box score
is the quality production of rookie LB Kirk Morrison. His 6-4-0 will have a
lot of owners scrambling for the waiver wire but be aware that he hasn't earned
a starting job. He is playing in the nickel package and when the club uses a
3-4 but is not yet a part of the base 4-3 defense.
Brian Dawkins and Michael Lewis are one of the best safety tandems in the league
but rarely will we see them combine for 14 solo stops not to mention 3 sacks.
The ejection of Jeremiah Trotter for the pre-game ruckus stripped the Eagles
of it's run stuffer and team leader. Not only did the Falcons come out ahead
but so did everyone who starter an Eagles safety. Put Trotter in the game and
the safeties drop 4-5 tackles. This is not to downplay the value of these guys.
In fact over the past couple of years Lewis has evolved into an every week fantasy
must start. Dawkins however will have his share of big games but will also vanish
at times... As expected Darwin Walker saw some playing time at DE and had a
very solid game. He's not going to blow up for double digit sacks but could
be a solid pickup for depth down the road when attrition begins to become a
factor... Rookie tackle mike Patterson was impressive, keep an eye on this kid.
Don't over react to Ike Taylor's team leading 7-2-0. He's a backup corner who
took over the nickel position for the dinged up Willie Williams. Williams could
be back as soon as this weekend so basically Taylor is a 1 week wonder.
San Francisco 49ers
Back in the preseason EOTG I pointed out that if everyone could get/stay healthy
the Niners roster had a lot of guys who seemed like a good fit in their new
3-4. So far everything has gone according to plan for them. Ahmed Plummer is
one of the keys to their success and he was nothing short of excellent in his
return from a neck injury. Plummer put up an impressive 9-3-0 in the opener.
He has a history of decent production but in reality the match up had a lot
to do with the big numbers. Plummer could make a decent fantasy option as a
backup or possibly a #3 starter but he is a corner and will be inconsistent.
He very well may come back with a 3-0-0 in week 2... Like Plummer, Julian Peterson
is a key to the success of the Niners defense, like Plummer he made a comeback
from a major injury and like Plummer he made a big impact in the week one upset.
Peterson went 4-4-2 against the Rams and dispelled all concern about his injury.
He is an excellent fit at OLB in their 3-4 and is likely well on his way to
double digit sacks. That said, he is still playing OLB in a 3-4 which is not
a fantasy friendly position. Peterson will have his big games but it remains
to be seen if he can overcome the limitations of the scheme to provide any box
score consistency... More good news for the Niners, Andre Carter is looking
better and better at his new OLB position opposite Peterson. He is now sharing
time with Jamie Winborn and could see his role continue to increase after being
relegated to backup status during the preseason Don't get too excited about
Bryant Young's big day. His 3 sacks against the Rams equaled his total from
last year and it's been several seasons since he was consistently productive.
The Rams are notorious for their lack of commitment to pass protection so Young's
big game is like the rest of the box score, a fluke. There is however some reason
for optimism. Unlike most 3-4 schemes the Niners are willing to let their ends
lineup outside the tackles once in a while which is basically the way a 4-3
end would start. This will allow Young to find single blocking at times and
take advantage of his up field rush skills. Don't expect any more multiple sack
games from him but he could end up with 5-6 more over the course of the season.
D.D. Lewis got the starting nod at WLB for the Seahawks but didn't play full
time. Lewis shared the position with Isaiah Kacyvenski who saw action in the
nickel scheme along with Jamie Sharper. This is also bad news for Lofa Tatupu
owners as he joined Lewis on the bench in passing situations. This could change
as the season progresses as Tatupu actually has solid cover skills. It's likely
the lack of experience that's costing him a few snaps at this early stage.
St. Louis Rams
The Niners managed less than 40 yards rushing against the Rams in the opener
and Adam Archuleta led the club in tackles with just a 3-1-0. Obviously this
is a fluke so we shouldn't put much emphasis on Chris Claiborne and Dexter Coakley
combining for a 4-3-0 mark. What is very interesting however, is that neither
of these guys were part of the nickel package on Sunday. Those duties were handled
by Pisa Tinoisamoa and Brandon Chillar. Stay tuned for next week's episode...
As anticipated Michael Hawthorn got the start at FS but he shared the position
with rookie Oshiomogho Atogwe. This could be an ongoing battle for a while but
eventually the rookie is expected to emerge with the job... After a very down
year in '04 DE Leonard Little exploded with a 3-3-2 in the opener. This was
not an apparition. Little posted 12 or more sacks for three straight years prior
to last season. His career best fantasy numbers were 41-6-12.5 which came just
season before last.
Linebacker is a thin position in Tennessee right now so the coaching staff
had to be holding it's collective breath when both MLB Brad Kassell and WLB
Keith Bulluck missed time against the Steelers. Kassell eventually returned
to the game while Bulluck was replaced by Rocky Boiman. Nothing more has been
reported about Kassell's injury and Bulluck has a "slight" calf strain.
Both are expected to go in week 2. Kassell is another linebacker who went undrafted
in a lot of leagues. He led the Titans in tackles with a 7-1-0 mark and is another
name that should be on the pickup list if you have room or need... SS Tank Williams
didn't put up flashy numbers in week one but 5-2-0 from a DB is good production
for a #3 DB in any league. Williams was coming on last year before the season
ending injury and seems to have picked up right where he left off. The Tennessee
defense is not exactly stellar in the front 7 so Williams should continue to
I was not real high on MLB Lemar Marshall during the preseason but I am starting
to see why the Skins decided not to invest the big bucks in Antonio Pierce.
Marshall saw some playing time last year at WLB and wasn't very impressive but
he sure looked strong in the middle against the Bears. The Washington MLB position
is a traditionally fantasy friendly one and there is no one left on the active
roster (McCune is on the practice squad) to contend for playing time. Marshall
went undrafted in a lot of leagues so be sure to put him on your pickup list
if he available... Those who are sitting on LaVar Arrington shouldn't panic.
At least not yet. Keep in mind that he didn't play much through camp or the
preseason. He's not in game shape yet and they don't want to take any chances
with his knee. If he stays healthy Arrington should be full time by week 3 or
so. The downside to this for us is that we can't really tell if he is healthy
of if the injury has affected his game... SS Matt Bowen was not on the injury
report and did see a little action on Sunday but Pierson Prioleau got the start
at the position anyway. Bowen is recovering from a bruised chest and may not
be completely healthy. Expect either Bowen or Ryan Clark to eventually lay claim
to that position. Once everything is settled the winner should be very worthy
of a roster spot (as long as its not Prioleau).
That does it for week 2, I hope everyone is off to a good start
Just Win Baby!