With two weeks in the book we now have a decent sampling of real football to look at, but we still have a lot of unanswered questions. This is the point where we really start questioning some of our high expectation/proven players who have yet to produce, and start giving serious consideration to those guys who had little or no expectations but have been productive in both weeks. This is where we like to say there is a thin line between patience and stupidity. Unfortunately we do not have the luxury of waiting a couple more weeks on these decisions. It matters little if you are a 20 year vet or a beginner, mistakes will be made this week. A close look at some of these players and situations can keep you from kicking yourself in week five, so here we go.
Bacarri Rambo continues to impress in the box scores but his play on the field remains suspect. Heading into week two there was some concern about the effect of Brandon Meriweather's return on Rambo. As it turned out there was none. Rambo had worked at free safety early in camp before Phillip Thomas was lost to injury, while Meriweather had been listed as a strong safety on the team's depth chart. Against the Packers Rambo continued to line up at strong safety with Meriweather at free. The injury prone Meriweather lasted just 25 plays before being knocked out of the game. His most notable play being an illegal hit that earned a considerable fine. The good news for Rambo owners is that Washington has little talent behind him. They seem content to live with his rookie mistakes at this point. The bad news is that if Rambo fails to improve over the next few games, we could eventually see Reed Doughty at strong safety and E.J. Biggers at free. Neither of these guys are playmakers, but they are serviceable veterans. Biggers made the start at free safety in week one but it was Doughty who replaced Meriweather in week two. As of Wednesday afternoon It is anyone's guess who will get the call in week three.
Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has 12 tackles and 3 sacks in two games, and is going to be on a lot of free agent lists this week. Strong as those numbers are, fantasy owners should be careful. Too often we have seen players, and particularly pass rushers, blow up early only to crash hard after offenses beging to game plan against them. You can bet the Lions offensive coaches are looking for ways to stop Kerrigan this week.
To this point in his career I have not been a fan of Zach Brown, simply because I believe that when healthy, Colin McCarthy is the most talented linebacker on that roster. It is beginning to look as if McCarthy may never be the same player he was before the injury, and it appears that have not been giving Brown the love he deserves. The guy is currently on pace for 152 solo tackles. He will obviously come back to earth in coming weeks, but 100+ solo stops are on the horizon for the second year pro.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If you listened to the IDP roundtable edition of the Audible last week, you heard me express some concern about Mason Foster's potential playing time against New Orleans. As it turned out, those concerns were warranted. Foster continues to see time in the nickel sub packages and his big pick six contributed greatly to a second excellent point total, but he was on the field for only 35 of 74 defensive snaps. The Buccaneers elected to go with a dime package (6 defensive backs, 1 linebacker, 4 linemen) as their base defense against the Saints multiple receiver attack. The great news for Foster owners is that he was huge despite the limited opportunity. The bad news is that he may not repeat those lofty numbers if the situation arises again, which is likely to happen. With the state of affairs in New England, they are unlikely to come out in a wide open multi receiver offense, so Foster should be a safe play in week three. Looking further ahead, Tampa Bay has the Eagles, Falcons twice (without Steven Jackson the first time), Lions and a rematch with New Orleans. This is something to keep an eye on for sure.
Owners in corner required leagues should note that it is Leonard Johnson starting at the corner opposite Darrelle Revis and not rookie Johnthan Banks as many expected entering the season. Johnson was surprisingly quiet against the Saints, likely due to the matchup scheme, but he does have 11 solo stops and a pair of passes defended in two games. With the Patriots, Cardinals, Eagles and Falcons on the schedule over the next four games, he could be an excellent addition.
St. Louis Rams
After two weeks Robert Quinn is second in the league with 4 sacks and is on pace to more than double his previous career best of 24 tackles in a season. He is an outstanding player who is heading toward a great season, but there is a trend to be aware of here. When offenses do their film work they are going to be watching the Rams first two games intently. When they see Quinn dominating performance to date, he is going to garner a lot of attention going forward. Look for the thus far quiet Chris Long to step up and take a turn soon.
All through the summer I wrote about T.J. McDonald and his big potential. So far he has not lived up to my expectations but I am not yet ready to give up on him. He continues to play well and is being put in good situations as an in the box run support safety. The lack of box score production can be blamed squarely on the play of Alec Ogletree. Ogletree has been soaking up the tackle opportunities and currently leads the team with 15 solo stops (4 more than James Laurinaitis). Redraft owners may want to go ahead and make a move if there is an attractive option available. Dynasty owners should think twice about throwing McDonald back too quickly.
San Francisco 49ers
In a draft class that was deep at the safety position, Eric Reed was among the most talented. Because he ended up working behind what is arguable the best tandem of inside linebackers to ever line up in a 3-4, Reed's fantasy potential was pretty much written off. After two games his respectable 9 tackles have gotten a big boost from a pair of interceptions. His tackle production and thus his upside are going to be somewhat limited, but his big play production could make Reed much more fantasy friendly than anticipated.
Bobby Wagner has gotten off to a pedestrian start and unless he can land a big play or two, his slump is likely to continue this week against the hapless Jaguars. It is easy to become frustrated if you are 0-2 at this point, but letting go of a top ten linebacker is not going to be the answer. Sit him this week if you have good depth but control any urge to do more than that.
There was a Michael Bennett sighting in week two! After being mysteriously absent in week one, Bennett got the start at end in week two and delivered his first sack as a Seahawk. With Cliff Avril being worked back into the mix and Chris Clemons expected to return in the next week or two, Bennett may soon be seeing most of his playing time at tackle where he was expected to play all along. That said, he should see a lot of snaps at end this week and has a favorable matchup.
San Diego Chargers
After a big statistical game in week one, Bront Bird took only 6 snaps in week two before giving way to a combination of Andrew Gatchkar and Reggie Walker. With Manti T'eo close to returning it may not make a difference, but Reggie Walker is a player to keep an eye on. He was the odd man out in Arizona but has played well and been box score friendly when given an opportunity in the past. He had 4 tackle and an assist in only 36 snaps against the Eagles. If T'eo suffers a set back, Walker could get an opportunity.
The more things change, the more they seem to remain the same with the Eagles defense. Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans have both looked good at times but have not yet shown great consistency. Both players have been fairly productive in the box scores however. Struggles at the safety positions in particular, have shown up big. In week two Philadelphia got rookie Earl Wolff on the field for 50 of 84 snaps. Most of those came in nickel packages but he replaced Nate Allen at free safety in the base defense for about 20 plays. Allen, Wolff and Patrick Chung totaled 19 solo stops between them against San Diego. Keep an eye on this one as it would be no surprise to see Wolff pass Allen for the starting job in the next few weeks.
Trent Cole has made the transition from 4-3 end to 3-4 linebacker surprisingly well. With 7 tackles, a pass defended and a pair of forced fumbles, he is off to a great start. This is particularly interesting for our customers who play in CBS leagues where Cole is still slotted as a defensive end.
Raiders strong safety Tyvon Branch was lost early in week two with what is being called a significant ankle injury. he is likely to miss several weeks and could be a candidate for short term IR. Meanwhile the secondary in Oakland is devastated by the loss. It remains to be seen how the coaching staff will handle the situation. Most are expecting journeyman Usama Young to fill in, but it was unknown youngster Brandion Ross who saw most of the action (60 of 62 snaps) at the position after Branch left. Ross finished with 3 solo stops and a sack in the game. Young is little more than a warm body and has little upside. Ross is a complete unknown at this point and is a player we need to keep a close eye on if he gets the call this week.
Defensive end Jason Hunter has quietly put up 6 tackles, 3 assists and a pair of sacks through two games. The Oakland defense has played fairly well and Hunter has been a big part of it. I have low expectations for any pass rusher who faces the Denver offense, so he is not a sleeper to plug in this week, but Hunter could be a quality second starter for us on most weeks.
Nick Roach vanished in week two but we should not panic here. The Jaguars offense is atrocious even with Maurice Jones-Drew who they lost early on Sunday. The moral to this story is be patient with Roach and sit everyone but your pass rushers when they have the Jaguars matchup.
New York Giants
Spencer Paysinger remains the Giants lone three down linebacker. He has not been particularly impressive on the field but is on pace for 96 solo tackles. This is a team that may have already begun circling the drain and Paysinger has little competition to worry about. Slip him onto your roster as an LB5 with a little upside. He could prove to be valuable bye week depth.
Owners are dumping Antrel Rolle all over the place after two so-so outings. Keep in mind that he has been playing through an ankle injury and is not completely healthy. The safeties on this team are going to have a great deal of opportunity as the season progresses. If Rolle is cut in your league, consider grabbing him if you have room or a need. It may be a couple more weeks before he gets back to 100% but I expect solid numbers from him starting in October.
Ryan Mundy may not be a long term answer and there are reports that the team is going to have a look at Kerry Rhodes, but for now he is putting up numbers similar to those of Stevie Brown last year. Brown was not a great player either. Much of his production was based on the combination of a decent player in a position of great opportunity. until the Giants make an investment at the linebacker positions, whoever lines up at safety is going to post good numbers.
New Orleans Saints
It is a done deal that Kenny Vacarro has replaced Roman Harper as the Saints strong safety. This is a concern for Harper owners but not a reason to panic and let him go. Harper played on 42 of 61 snaps against Tampa Bay, but still managed 6 solo stops. It looks as if the Saints will continue to use a great deal of the so called big nickel look with three safties on the field together. Rob Ryan has been moving Harper around in search of mismatches and opportunities for big plays. This may actually be the best way for the Saints to use him as it will help mask his struggles in coverage, but it could potential hurt Harper's consistency. I am still on the fence about starting him against Arizona this week. It is a risky proposition but could pay off big.
New England Patriots
Apparently the Patriots have seen enough of Brandon Spikes as a three down player. In week two it was Dont'a Hightower's turn to get a look in that role. Hightower quietly posted 4 tackles and 4 assists against a pedestrian Jets offense. If you have a need at the position or an open roster spot to fill, it may be worthwhile to slip him onto your roster for safe keeping this week.
Kansas City Chiefs
Dontari Poe has 9 tackles and 3.5 sacks already. This is unheard of production for a 3-4 nose tackle and as much as I would like to believe in him, it is a mirage. He may prove to be a quality long term starter for owners in tackle required leagues, but do not over react to his early success. It is simply not sustainable.
The Chiefs face Philadelphia and their high speed offense this week, so be sure to get your Kansas City defenders in the lineup for week three. There is going to be a ramped up number of opportunities.
It may still be a little early for most matchup trends but there is little doubt the Seahawks will unleash their power running game on the Jaguars this week. Paul Posluszney could lead the league in tackles for the week but look for Jonathan Cyprien and Geno Hayes to also post quality numbers in this one. On the other side of that coin, consider giving Jason Babin the week off and Russell Wilson is tough to sack and likely will not be throwing much anyway.
The 49ers are still licking their wounds from the week two drubbing in Seattle and will be looking to take it out on someone. It is safe to expect a busy day for the likes of Pat Angerer, Jerrell Freeman, Antoine Bethea and especially LaRon Landry who currently leads the team in tackles. Sitting any of these guys with this matchup would take a really strong better option.
Green Bay Packers
In general it is a good idea to avoid corners in leagues that lump the defensive back positions together, but there are a few exceptions. Sam Shields may be one of those. He is 12-5 in the tackle columns and has 5 passes defended already. Packers corners have a long history of solid production which lends a little extra confidence that his early numbers are not a fluke.
With every passing week I am more impressed with Tyrann Mathieu. In week two he continued in the slot corner role in most situations and was productive once again. Nearly everyone uses a nickel base defense against the Saints. Mathieu will be an every down player this week and could post his best numbers of the season.
After a strong stat line and a near every down role in the opener, Jasper Brinkley was relegated to part time duty in week two. He may continue to be a matchup based option as a bye week fill in but is not going to give us week to week consistency. Brinkley may not see the field at all this week against the Saints.
The Falcons have been hammered by injuries at the linebacker positions. Sean Weatherspoon was placed on short term IR and will miss most of the regular season with a foot injury, and Kroy Biermann is done for the year with an Achilles tear. Middle backer Akeem Dent is the only remaining starter and he had been working in a two down role previously. Former starter Stephen Nicholas will step back into the lineup and may assume a three down role. Weatherspoon's replacement on the weak side will be Joplo Bartu who could ultimately be the player to target here. He was already seeing snaps in nickel packages and finished Sunday's game with 6 tackles and 2 assists. If you are in need of help at the position, it might be a good idea to beat the rush and grab Bartu before everyone sees him in week three. The team added free agents Jamar Chaney and Omar Gaither to replenish the depth chart but neither is much of a threat to start.
The good news for Matt Elam owners is that he finally made the starting lineup. The bad news is that he replaced Michael Huff at free safety, which means he will spend little time in a run support role. Against a marginal Cleveland offense, Elam managed 3 tackles and 2 assists. He should have much more opportunity in this week's matchup against Houston. Elam was cut after week one in a lot of redraft leagues so check your free agent pool. I would be much more optimistic if he were at strong safety, but Elam is worth keeping a sharp eye on at either spot.
In recent years we have seen Barry Church have big games once in a while but he has struggled to do so with any consistency. If not for the changes in Dallas, I would continue to write him off as a fluke. That said, we have a saying among the IDP crew at Footballguys. One week is a fluke, two is a trend. Watching Church in week two I saw a player that may have found his place. As the strong safety in the Cowboys new 4-3 scheme, he looked more decisive, more comfortable and more physical. One thing that is certain, with 14 solo tackles, a forced fumble, recovery and a score, he has been more productive to start this season than in any other two game span of his career. Church was at the top of my free agent list this week in a couple of leagues and is at the least worth stashing and taking one more look.
Once again I have run out of time before getting to everything on my list. Be sure to check out the IDP roundtable on the Audible this week. Best of luck in week three and as always, Just Win Baby!