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Thanks to those of you who have been loyal readers over the years. This feature won't change much this year. If you're new to the inseason columns, welcome. I'll be transitioning from tiers and draft strategy -- though there will still be tiers featured in the coming weeks -- to team-by-team notes, every-down linebacker tables and discussion, and film study of IDP breakouts and disappointments. Those three elements will be a part of the RTD every week. There will also be a healthy dose of the usual metrics -- tackle opportunity, run-pass ratios, stat crew trends -- and more.
When I first began writing this feature years ago, schemes and position were a key part of IDP analysis. They still are. But, back then, there were fewer subpackage snaps and hardly any platoon situations at linebacker. Teams played a base defense -- then usually a 4-3 -- about 65-70% of the time. When they substituted on passing downs, it was almost always to a standard 4-2-5, with a cornerback replacing the strong side linebacker.
That doesn't happen anymore. Teams play a minority of their snaps in the base defense, sometimes as little as 20-25% of their snaps. Those base snaps are multiple fronts, with players switching responsibilities from one snap to the next. The subpackages are more varied than ever. 14-17 defenders may play at least 30-40% of their team's defensive snaps in any given game.
So, over the past few seasons, snap count has become all-important to IDP value. And while there are rotations along every defensive line and substitution patterns of note in the secondary, knowing each team's every-down linebackers has become a key piece of analysis to any successful IDP roster strategy.
I've been producing this table in the IDP Forum for many years. This year, I'm adding it to the weekly RTD. There will be a set of brief notes after the table each week, with extended discussion in the team-by-team notes section to follow.
NOTE: Those listed as every-down in italics are injury replacements who won't be every-down players when injured players return.
|INJ | SUSP
|DARYL SMITH, C.J. MOSLEY
|LUKE KUECHLY, THOMAS DAVIS
|JON BOSTIC, CHRISTIAN JONES
|[LANCE BRIGGS], [D.J. WILLIAMS]
|? EMMANUEL LAMUR, ? VINNY REY
|[SEAN LEE], [JUSTIN DURANT]
|BRANDON MARSHALL, [DANNY TREVATHAN], [NATE IRVING]
|JULIUS PEPPERS, SAM BARRINGTON
|JERRELL FREEMAN, D'QWELL JACKSON
|BJOERN WERNER, ERIK WALDEN
|J.T. THOMAS, TELVIN SMITH
|JUSTIN HOUSTON, TAMBA HALI, JOSH MAUGA
|CHAD GREENWAY, GERALD HODGES
|DONT'A HIGHTOWER, ROB NINKOVICH, JAMIE COLLINS
|CURTIS LOFTON, DAVID HAWTHORNE
|NEW YORK GIANTS
|[JACQUIAN WILLIAMS], [JON BEASON]
|NEW YORK JETS
|DAVID HARRIS, DEMARIO DAVIS
|CALVIN PACE, QUINTON COPLES
|MILES BURRIS, KHALIL MACK
|[SIO MOORE], [NICK ROACH]
|CONNOR BARWIN, BRANDON GRAHAM
|TRENT COLE, [DEMECO RYANS]
|LAWRENCE TIMMONS, JASON WORILDS
|JAMES LAURINAITIS, ALEC OGLETREE
|MICHAEL WILHOITE, NICK MOODY, ALDON SMITH
|[NAVORRO BOWMAN], [PATRICK WILLIS], CHRIS BORLAND
|BOBBY WAGNER, K.J. WRIGHT
|LAVONTE DAVID, DANNY LANSANAH
|WESLEY WOODYARD, DERRICK MORGAN
|PERRY RILEY, WILL COMPTON, RYAN KERRIGAN, TRENT MURPHY
|KEENAN ROBINSON, [BRIAN ORAKPO]
You'll find a little of everything here. Mostly, I'll be noting depth chart changes and analyzing any scheme or role changes from the previous week's games. I'll also use this section to take an in-depth look at why certain players may be over- or under-performing. I'll try to get through every team each week as often as possible.
NOTE 1: There will be no RTD team-by-team section next week. Instead, I'll add some quick tier thoughts to kick off the 2015 planning season. I'll have a set of Gameday Notes on Sunday.
NOTE 2: This is a call -- more of a plea, really -- for feedback.
This column has been through many changes over the nearly 10 years I've written it. Over the past two seasons, it's morphed into a weekly team-by-team review. Unfortunately, there's a trade-off with this. Each team gets a reasonable overview, but it's difficult to do in-depth film study of key situations and players and still give every team its due each week. The in-depth studies on possible waiver pickups, unknowns, and disappointing highly ranked players that had been such a big part of this feature in the past haven't been possible with the team-by-team notes.
So, I'd very much like to hear -- from both long-time RTD readers and newer readers -- what you'd like me to focus on next year. Please email me at email@example.com this week with what you find most helpful and what you'd like to see change. It will be a big help for my 2015 planning.
And my sincere thanks to all of you. This is the feature I've written the longest at Footballguys and I appreciate the IDP community we have here.
Tyrann Mathieu may be back this week, but I expect we'll see him in passing situations only. The splint necessary to protect his broken thumb will hinder his ability to tackle. Coverage is Mathieu's strong suit anyway. This week's matchup against Seattle doesn't fit a coverage-heavy game script. I'd lean toward avoiding Mathieu if he's active.
William Moore may miss another week. That puts Kemal Ishmael in another good spot with the inside linebackers struggling to tackle consistently. Ishmael will be a must start if Moore is inactive again.
Timmy Jernigan had flashed at times earlier in the season, but nagging injuries and the rotational snap count left his stat lines inconsistent. The two sacks last week were a product of the matchup, but the pass rush value is good to see. Jernigan could have another strong day in DT-required leagues this week, but his real fantasy value may not kick in until 2015.
If you survived the past two weeks of painful pass rush matchups and saw the value of Mario Williams (save for one lucky forced fumble on Aaron Rodgers last week) and Jerry Hughes disappear in the time of greatest need, there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel this week. The Raiders were a tough pass rush matchup earlier this season, but have been much more favorable recently. Variance is the way of life with defensive ends, but Williams and Hughes must be in lineups this week. Don't rush to get Bacarri Rambo. There will be more rotation in the Bills' secondary, but Rambo's ball skills aren't as good as last week's numbers suggest and he's not a run support safety.
Charles Johnson has become an elite matchup play at defensive end. That makes this week's decision tough. The Browns are a tough matchup for pass rushers -- but that's primarily because Joe Thomas plays left tackle. Left defensive ends have a much easier road to the Cleveland quarterback. For the most part, Johnson plays on the left side. The best comp may be Carlos Dunlap, who had a sack and multiple pressures last week and good tackle numbers in two games against the Browns. There's variance here, as the Browns will likely look to limit Johnny Manziel's dropbacks, but Johnson has upside.
The dumpster fire in Chicago will continue to leave top 15 upside for both Jon Bostic and Christian Jones. Jones continues to look comfortable with whatever the Bears ask of him. I don't favor one player over the other here; both should be rostered and started this week. Ryan Mundy has been used heavily in the box and on run blitzes for nearly a month. He's been healthy, too, making him an elite safety play again this week.
Add a hamstring injury to Emmanuel Lamur's list of injuries. He didn't return to last week's game after the injury. Vinny Rey also left with a concussion. I've been speculating that we could see Rey Maualuga's playing time increase for two weeks now and this may be the week. Rey and Taylor Mays were the nickel backers after Lamur left. But it was Maualuga after Rey left. Watch the injury reports closely. The Broncos are a great matchup for a between the tackles linebacker who plays in subpackages. The home stat crew blunts the upside some, however.
The Bengals ran all over the Browns last week, rarely spreading the field and giving Chris Kirksey his highest snap percentage of the year and a strong statistical day. That's not likely against Carolina this week, especially with Karlos Dansby on the verge of returning.
Don't expect another mini-sack explosion from the Dallas front this week. The Colts are a solid pass rush matchup, but the Cowboys' defensive linemen aren't a good bet. It was a three-man rotation at linebacker last week, with Rolando McClain, Anthony Hitchens and Bruce Carter all seeing time in all packages. That's likely due to the speed offense of Philadelphia trapping players on the field longer than they ordinarily would. The Colts force teams into nickel packages often, which makes all three linebackers risky this week. But I think we'll see McClain and Hitchens take the majority of snaps here.
Ugh. Danny Trevathan is done for the year with a patella dislocation. He'll finally get the time he needs to heal all his leg injuries and should be at full strength in 2015. Brandon Marshall hasn't been ruled out for the season, but is said to have a low grade Lisfranc sprain. The early word is 1-2 weeks, but I don't see him returning until late in the NFL playoffs. There's no chance he helps your fantasy team.
Unfortunately, I've no idea how the Broncos will replace them. Lamin Barrow, Steven Johnson, Todd Davis, Corey Nelson and others are in the mix. I don't think the Broncos know either. Earlier in the season, Nelson played nickel snaps. Last week, it was Davis, whose only been with the team a month. Johnson has been in and out of the base defense due to the mess of injuries over the past two months. Barrow hasn't taken advantage of any opportunity this year but is in the mix, too. My gut says there'll be no every-down linebacker this week, but I'm watching practice reports closely. I'll have a final call on Sunday morning and will retweet any important news as I see it druing the week.
Ezekiel Ansah disappointed in a strong matchup last week. He wasn't the only one -- Robert Quinn is on the scut list, too. As John Norton has to remind me multiple times a season, "There's a fine line between patience and stupidity." But I'm rolling with Ansah against Chicago this week. Nine solos for Tahir Whitehead last week puts him back on the fantasy radar. But he's still not playing every down and will be a huge risk against the Bears.
The Clay Matthews Experiment may be over. A.J. Hawk and Sam Barrington were the base inside linebackers against Buffalo. Whether that's because the Packers like what Sam Barrington is showing, are disappointed in their base pass rush, or have noticed Matthews freelancing too much inside isn't known, but Matthews played outside last week. Brad Jones continued to be the lone dime backer. That essentially kills the value of all Green Bay linebackers in tackle-heavy and balanced scoring systems. Consider Matthews in balanced leagues this week only if you're a huge underdog. Barrington isn't a great bet against a Tampa Bay team that's likely going to be behind early and often and have the Packers in a dime package much more often than the base.
Mike Mohammed and D.J. Swearinger Sr both played nearly every down last week, but that's mostly due to the Texans' decision to defend the Colts with a nickel defense. Don't count on that against Baltimore this week.
There's no change here. LaRon Landry was ill last week, but I don't think he was on the verge of moving Sergio Brown out of the base defense anyway. It's not a great week to bet on Bjoern Werner to have a high upside day. Dallas won't necessarily have to pass more if DeMarco Murray cannot play and they've protected Tony Romo well lately.
What you see is what you get from Jacksonville. There aren't any meaningful front seven changes and Telvin Smith Sr, J.T. Thomas, and Johnathan Cyprien are your primary targets. Those in deep CB-required dynasty leagues should have a close eye on Aaron Colvin, though. He has a favorable fantasy profile and will play more snaps over the final two weeks after returning from the injured list last week (torn ACL at the Senior Bowl last January).
Roll with Justin Houston against Pittsburgh this week. It's an all-around good matchup for him. Josh Mauga left last week's game with an injury. If he doesn't go this week, James-Michael Johnson might be a strong spot start. I don't think the Chiefs will use Joe Mays in subpackages.
With Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins out, the Dolphins started Phillip Wheeler and Jason Trusnik outside and Kelvin Sheppard inside. Sheppard was the lone every-down player, with Wheeler playing about 80% of the snaps. That tells us a handful of things. First, the Dolphins don't trust Wheeler in the nickel package. Second, Jordan Tripp (who played just five snaps) may not be in the long term mix here. It's a little early to say that with certainty, but I've never been high on Tripp. Third, using Sheppard inside and every down puts him in a position for value this week if Misi and Jenkins are again out.
Anthony Barr is still out and it won't be surprising to see his recovery stretch through Week 16. Continue running Gerald Hodges out there in Barr's absence. Robert Blanton couldn't play through multiple injuries last week. Andrew Sendejo started for Blanton and was okay. He'll be around the ball, however, and the Miami matchup would make him a DB3 if Blanton cannot go.
Chandler Jones played a situational role that expanded a bit as the game progressed. He saw 56 snaps and was effective. The Patriots moved him around the formation in subpackages, using him both as a 5-technique end and a standup pass rusher. I think his role will be the same this week and the home matchup against the Jets is favorable enough to risk him in championship lineups.
Despite the suggestions from both Sean Payton and Rob Ryan that it was the media benching Kenny Vaccaro and not the Saints, Vaccaro was not on the field for the first snap of last week's game. With Marcus Ball injured early, Vaccaro was back in the lineup quickly enough. He looked a little better, but shouldn't be trusted in any lineups this week, even in deeper leagues. Add Cam Jordan to the list of stud defensive ends who busted despite extremely favorable matchups last week. I'd start him at home against a solid Atlanta matchup, but you know I have a short memory on disappointing weeks.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Jason Pierre-Paul and Damontre Moore continue to be bright spots. Odell Beckham is getting the hype -- appropriately so -- but the New York pass rush is very good right now. Both should be in lineups this week. Devon Kennard continues to play well. I'll continue to temper expectations as he's not yet playing every down, but I'm still recommending him as a stash. Jameel McClain is signed for 2015 and Jon Beason is still lurking in the background, but Kennard has a shot to earn a productive every-down role next year.
NEW YORK JETS
Cross your fingers we'll see Muhammad Wilkerson back this week. The pass rush matchup isn't great against New England, but Wilkerson's all-around strong play makes him a must start every week. Jason Babin turned back into a pumpkin in the box score last week despite the good matchup. Calvin Pryor started again last week, but continues to rotate with Dawan Landry.
Sio Moore went on injured reserve with an aggravation of the hip injury that kept him out of action last month. There's not been any specifics reported here and the general sense is that it isn't a long term issue. But we'll see. Ray-Ray Armstrong replaced him and played a very similar role to what Moore was playing. Don't get too excited about Armstrong. He's a marginal talent and a desperation add only.
Teams are going to design blocking schemes to defeat Mychal Kendricks on isolation runs. That, and the continued strong play of Fletcher Cox and the rest of the Eagles' defensive line, is conspiring to hold Kendricks back a bit. It's disappointing, but a little better play from Kendricks would help his numbers. And Brandon Graham is free this week with Trent Cole out with a broken hand. Can't do much better than a matchup against Washington. Go ahead and start Graham in big play leagues this week.
The Steelers weren't kidding when they said Ryan Shazier would play only if he earned his snaps back. He was on the field only briefly when Lawrence Timmons missed a handful of snaps in the middle of the game. If you can still make deals, toss an offer to the Shazier owner. Play up the healthy scratch angle. Shazier will start in 2015 and makes for a solid buy low play right now.
Like Ezekiel Ansah, Robert Quinn busted in a great matchup last week. Like Ansah, I'll have Quinn back in lineups again this week. The Giants offensive line is a good matchup and the Rams generally produce well at home.
Donald Butler was placed on injured reserve with an elbow injury this week. The Chargers used Kavell Conner and Manti Te'o in the base defense and Andrew Gachkar and Te'o in the nickel after Butler left the game. Te'o also looked to be the preferred dime linebacker. We'll see if the dime situation changes this week, but I expect Te'o to get 85% or more of the snaps this week. He's a LB3 with strong upside against San Francisco this week.
Chris Borland isn't expected to play again this season with a bad ankle sprain. Nick Moody will replace him. Moody won't approach Borland's IDP value, but is a decent add in deeper leagues. Michael Wilhoite's expectation goes up a bit. It's also notable that Shayne Skov hasn't been promoted off the practice squad at any point during the Niners injury issues. He doesn't belong on even the deepest of watch lists any more. Vic Fangio has been talking up Tank Carradine a bit in interviews. Though Fangio wouldn't commit to giving Carradine more playing time, he's taken note of the progress made.
Careful on Jordan Hill. He's had a very strong month and has consistently shown flashes of the strong play he showed at the Senior Bowl. But he's still playing less than 50% of the snaps and is a regression waiting to happen. When he earns a starting job, though, he's going to be worth using in most weeks.
We may see Mason Foster back this week, but I think Danny Lansanah has done more than enough to hold an every-down role even if he's shifted back outside to make room for Foster in the base defense. Bradley McDougald has a stranglehold on the safety job now. The Green Bay matchup is solid for all. With Gerald McCoy on injured reserve and Clinton McDonald out with a hamstring injury, the Bucs turned to Da'Quan Bowers at defensive tackle. McDonald may be back this week, but Bowers inside is interesting. Not fantasy interesting, but a good showing on tape might give Bowers an eleventh hour career kickstart.
Avery Williamson stablized a bit after two disappointing weeks. He's still playing every down. Unfortunately, this week's Jacksonville matchup may not be favorable enough to trust. Williamson might have a chance at a sack or two, however, so he's worth floating as a LB2 or LB3.
Will Compton came through with Keenan Robinson out once again. For now, that looks likely to continue in Week 16. Compton's matchup at home against Philadelphia makes him a LB2+ this week.
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.