Paul Worrilow is this year's midseason IDP darling. And with good reason after running up 32 solos and 22 assists in his past three games. The numbers are undeniably LB1 caliber, but don't anoint Worrilow as the second coming of Luke Kuechly just yet. The Falcons have seen an average of 60 tackle opportunities and 38 rushing attempts faced over the past three weeks. That has given Worrilow 27 more tackle opportunities on 33 more rushing attempts than the average IDP over that time period. The good news is, while that level of opportunity isn't likely to continue, the next four matchups on the schedule are also favorable. And Worrilow was moved to the middle over Akeem Dent and played in the nickel over Joplo Bartu, two things I thought were possible this time last week but weren't confirmed until late Friday (MLB) or during the game Sunday (nickel). There's no denying Worrilow's LB1 status for the remainder of this season. The more interesting question now becomes: How much value will Worrilow retain into 2014? The next six weeks will tell the tale.
Correct process, bad outcome. That's been a common theme for many of my Sunday recommendations this year. Da'Norris Searcy was the latest example. Searcy only played a third of his team's snaps last week. That was a predictable result of his role as the nickel linebacker against a Jets' offense without many spread sets. Searcy didn't make a tackle. Unfortunately, his owners were still disappointed if they benched or released him after his interception returned for a touchdown. Don't rush out and pick him up over the bye week. His role and upside is still limited.
Charles Johnson is the latest elite defensive end to be felled by injury. He has an MCL sprain. That's the same injury that greatly limited Cameron Wake for a month. Expect Johnson to miss or be ineffective against two favorable matchups in Weeks 12 and 13. And the matchups against New Orleans were already a tough bet in Weeks 14 and 16. If you're riding Johnson on a playoff roster, start looking for other options now.
Zack Bowman's nine solo tackle performance was no fluke. He's been a very productive tackler when he sees full time duty and ran off a long stretch of strong numbers in his last extended stint as a starter in 2009. If you didn't move on the recommendation to grab him in CB-required leagues last week, you'll have competition now.
Vincent Rey was around the ball often again last week, but he wasn't quite as impressive on tape. He may be a better fit at outside linebacker than middle linebacker. We'll find out what Mike Zimmer thinks after the Cincinnati bye week, when Rey Maualuga is expected back. At minimum, we'll see Rey continue to have a role in the nickel package. His upside will depend on whether he's performed well enough to push Maualuga to a reserve role. There's no guarantee that happens.
Craig Robertson was hurt last week. That could give an extended opening to Tank Carder, who was briefly on our watch list in past seasons as a quick, but inconsistent outside linebacker talent. Carder put up a 2-5 line in about 40 snaps last week and played every down. Those in deeper, tackle-heavy leagues should consider Carder a possible LB3 against Pittsburgh if Robertson can't go.
I was asleep at the wheel last week. For all the instances we've talked about him on the podcast and the tier watch list this offseason, I completely forgot to include DeVonte Holloman as a viable option with Sean Lee and Justin Durant out with hamstring injuries. Holloman has been out with a neck injury but was back at practice late last week. The Cowboys are looking at getting him back in the lineup immediately with a prospective alignment of Holloman at strong side linebacker, Ernie Sims in the middle and Bruce Carter on the weak side. I think we'll see Sims and Carter as every-down players, but Holloman is quick, instinctive, violent and capable in coverage. He'll be hard to move out of the lineup if he plays to his potential and could threaten for nickel snaps in time.
Brad Jones still wasn't back in every subpackage last week, but he finally looked fully healthy. He's a much better option in coverage than A.J. Hawk and arguably a better A gap blitzer. It won't surprise me to see Jones regain his every-down role this week. If he doesn't, he's going to be hard to start against Detroit the following Thursday.
Joe Mays was inactive last week with multiple injuries. Jeff Tarpinian was productive in his place, but isn't a long term option. Consider him a flex start if Mays isn't practicing this week.
The Vikings flipped Jamarca Sanford into more of a deep coverage role last week, leaving limited-in-coverage Andrew Sendejo at strong safety. The numbers reflected the move, though the entire back seven struggled against Seattle.
Not much new to report on the Patriots out of their bye week. The defensive ends continue to play a brutal every down pace. Brandon Spikes and Dont'a Hightower take turns seeing the bulk of nickel snaps. Though Hightower played every down against Carolina, Spikes continued to be the more productive tackler. Duron Harmon filled in, as expected, for Steve Gregory and was underwhelming.
Cameron Jordan has had three solid efforts in a row and he increased his snap count to near 90% last week. He's over his midseason, injury-related slump. Malcolm Jenkins was back in the lineup full time, but the Saints rotated a mix of Roman Harper, Rafael Bush and Roman Humber through a variety of roles as the other safety / subpackage defender. That rotation will be affected even more if Kenny Vaccaro can return from his Week 10 concussion.
new york giants
Jon Beason bounced back against a better matchup last week. The schedule gets even better for him in the next five weeks. Unfortunately, his upside will be limited by the continued poaching of tackles by Antrel Rolle, Terrell Thomas and Will Hill. Jason Pierre-Paul somehow had his most productive IDP game of the season last week despite not being able to lift his arm over his head early in the week. He's still going to be a limited pass rusher and my concerns about his long term durability after spinal surgery and a recent stinger remain. If you can parlay his INT return for a more consistent lineup option with long term upside, it's a smart move.
new york jets
The Jets signed Ed Reed last week and immediately installed him as an every-down free safety. That tells you how much respect Rex Ryan has for Reed and highlights why Antonio Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett weren't higher draft picks in their respective classes. Neither Allen nor Jarrett have the needed instincts in coverage to handle Ryan's complicated coverages. They can only be hidden so often. If Reed stays healthy, we're not likely to see either Allen or Jarrett much for the rest of the season. Quinton Coples has had two solid efforts in a row on film. He still has work to do to become a consistent pass rusher, but his run defense has improved enough to keep him in the lineup full time and on deep fantasy league radars.
Easy come, easy go. Such is the fantasy value of young strong side linebackers without a consistent snap count. I had hoped that Moore would be used as often in subpackages against Houston as he'd been in recent weeks, but his snap count dropped. There's too much variance in his opportunity against the run to trust him. I'm still getting lots of questions on Tyvon Branch. The Raiders said he was at least a week or two away two weeks ago. You can expect him to need at least two weeks of practice. If he's not practicing this week, don't expect to see him return before Week 14.
Moise Fokou may be back this week and his return will be the final referendum on the IDP value of Colin McCarthy. Fokou was taking practice reps on Tuesday and the general feeling among Titans' beat writers is that the team wants to ease him back into his former starting role. That could mean a split in snaps this week and a trip back to the bench for McCarthy in Week 12 and beyond.
Subscribe to The Audible on iTunes or download our weekly IDP podcast here every Thursday for injury updates, player analysis and matchup discussion. Check my article page on Sunday morning for notes on every team's key injuries, depth chart changes and IDP expectations. Follow and ask questions on Twitter @JeneBramel.