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Eyes of the Guru

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.

Arizona Cardinals

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?

Atlanta Falcons

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.

Baltimore Ravens

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.

Carolina Panthers

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 absence.

Chicago Bears

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.

Cleveland Browns

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...

Dallas Cowboys

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.

Denver Broncos

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.

Houston Texans

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 it.

Indianapolis Colts

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.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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.

Miami Dolphins

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 fantasy roster.

Minnesota Vikings

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.

Oakland Raiders

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.

Philadelphia Eagles

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.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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.

Seattle Seahawks

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.

Tennessee Titans

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 be productive.

Washington Redskins

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!

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