I'm not much on fancy, well-written introductions and lead-ins during the season. And I doubt many of you read this feature hoping to find flowery prose. That's my way of saying I'm just going to get on with it.
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.
|TEAM||EVERY-DOWN LBs||75-100% SNAPS||INJ | SUSP|
|ARIZONA||LARRY FOOTE||MATT SHAUGHNESSY|
|ATLANTA||PAUL WORRILOW||JOPLO BARTU, KROY BIERMANN|
|BALTIMORE||DARYL SMITH, C.J. MOSLEY, TERRELL SUGGS|
|BUFFALO||NIGEL BRADHAM, ? PRESTON BROWN||BRANDON SPIKES||KEITH RIVERS|
|CAROLINA||LUKE KUECHLY, THOMAS DAVIS|
|CINCINNATI||VONTAZE BURFICT, EMMANUEL LAMUR|
|CLEVELAND||KARLOS DANSBY, BARKEVIOUS MINGO||? CHRIS KIRKSEY|
|DALLAS||JUSTIN DURANT||BRUCE CARTER|
|DENVER||VON MILLER, BRANDON MARSHALL||DANNY TREVATHAN|
|DETROIT||STEPHEN TULLOCH, DEANDRE LEVY|
|GREEN BAY||BRAD JONES, CLAY MATTHEWS||JULIUS PEPPERS, A.J. HAWK|
|HOUSTON||BRIAN CUSHING, BROOKS REED||WHITNEY MERCILUS||JADEVEON CLOWNEY|
|INDIANAPOLIS||JERRELL FREEMAN, D'QWELL JACKSON||ERIK WALDEN|
|KANSAS CITY||JUSTIN HOUSTON, TAMBA HALI, ? JOSH MAUGA v JAMES-MICHAEL JOHNSON||JOE MAYS|
|MIAMI||? JELANI JENKINS||KOA MISI, PHILIP WHEELER|
|MINNESOTA||CHAD GREENWAY, ANTHONY BARR|
|NEW ENGLAND||JEROD MAYO, JAMIE COLLINS|
|NEW ORLEANS||CURTIS LOFTON, DAVID HAWTHORNE, JUNIOR GALETTE|
|NEW YORK GIANTS||JON BEASON, JACQUIAN WILLIAMS|
|NEW YORK JETS||DAVID HARRIS, DEMARIO DAVIS, CALVIN PACE||QUINTON COPLES|
|OAKLAND||SIO MOORE, MILES BURRIS||NICK ROACH|
|PHILADELPHIA||MYCHAL KENDRICKS, DEMECO RYANS||TRENT COLE, CONNOR BARWIN|
|PITTSBURGH||LAWRENCE TIMMONS, RYAN SHAZIER, JASON WORILDS, JARVIS JONES|
|ST. LOUIS||JAMES LAURINAITIS, ALEC OGLETREE|
|SAN DIEGO||DONALD BUTLER||MANTI TE'O|
|SAN FRANCISCO||PATRICK WILLIS, MICHAEL WILHOITE, AHMAD BROOKS||NAVORRO BOWMAN, ALDON SMITH|
|SEATTLE||BOBBY WAGNER||K.J. WRIGHT|
|TAMPA BAY||LAVONTE DAVID, MASON FOSTER|
|TENNESSEE||WESLEY WOODYARD, DERRICK MORGAN|
|WASHINGTON||PERRY RILEY, KEENAN ROBINSON, BRIAN ORAKPO, RYAN KERRIGAN|
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.
What a horrible week for injuries on the defensive side of the ball. Derrick Johnson, Robert Mathis, Zach Brown and Dannell Ellerbe are all done for the year. Koa Misi is out for multiple weeks. Vontaze Burfict, Aaron Williams, and Johnathan Cyprien suffered concussions. Jerrell Freeman and Chris Long left their games with injury, among others. Let's sort through the bloodbath that was Week 1.
My apologies to Larry Foote for referring to him as the dandelion weed of the IDP world. There weren't many inside linebackers who played a better game than he did in Week 1. Kevin Minter saw some snaps in base packages, but Foote isn't giving up his every-down gig anytime soon. Deone Bucannon started, but the Cardinals were in a subpackage on the opening snap. I think we'll see Tyrann Mathieu begin to push Rashad Johnson toward the bench next week, but it may be awhile before Bucannon moves Tony Jefferson aside in base packages.
Paul Worrilow still has his Ronald McKinnon moments, i.e. making a tackle by default not due to any strong stack and shed and finish technique, but he's always around the ball. Last year wasn't a fluke, Week 1's 7-8 line isn't a fluke. He's an elite tier linebacker. I bumped Joplo Bartu down a line on the every-down linebacker depth chart. Prince Shembo took a handful of base snaps in his place. Bartu didn't play poorly and Shembo didn't look like a player ready to bump the veteran out of the lineup, but it's notable. Deep league dynasty owners should consider rostering Shembo. He may never be more than a risk-reward LB3, but it's clear the coaching staff is looking for ways to get him in the lineup.
The Ravens rotated Terrell Suggs out at times and the Bengals frustrated him and kept Andy Dalton clean all afternoon. Suggs has a much better matchup at home against Pittsburgh next week. If he struggles in Week 2, I'll take a closer look at his tape in comparison to 2013. Arthur Brown was a healthy scratch yesterday. That tells you that the coaches do not believe he's good enough in nickel packages or on special teams to give him a roster spot over Albert McClellin or undrafted rookie Zach Orr. Brown is still a hold in deeper dynasty leagues, but he's signed through 2016. There may be no movement in this situation -- barring an injury -- for a long time. Lardarius Webb practiced fully all week but was inactive with a back issue on Sunday.
Preston Brown started for Nigel Bradham. He looked tentative at times, but was the healthiest linebacker on the field. Brandon Spikes is already dealing with his cranky knee and did not start in the nickel packages. Brown and Keith Rivers, who lasted just 40 snaps before leaving with a groin strain, were the nickel backers. After Rivers left, Spikes saw some nickel snaps, but the Bills used lots of dime with any number of safeties in the box. It's not yet known how severe Rivers' groin strain is, but he's missed multiple games with muscle strains nearly every season. If Bradham is available in your league, he's a must add and it's time to grab Brown in redraft leagues and see what develops. Don't worry over Jerry Hughes 0-1-0 day against a usually strong Chicago pass rush matchup. He was inconsistent and rotated more than expected, but had moments of good pressure in his 49 snaps.
Roman Harper played only 19 snaps against Tampa Bay. The rotation, which saw Charles Godfrey play in all passing subpackages, was planned. Harper hinted that it was due to a lack of conditioning after missing so much camp time with a turf toe problem. Ron Rivera, after the game, all but said the rotation would continue in future weeks. Avoid Harper until his snap count increases.
Lamarr Houston (1-0-0) may be dropped in your league this week. If he is, and you're not flush with studs on your defensive line, grab him. His line is disappointing, but his play was not. I thought he was the Bears' most consistent pass rusher. He'll need to prove he can be a consistent tackler in Chicago's scheme, but that's never been an issue for him in the past. Ryan Mundy and Chris Conte started at safety and were the top tacklers. I don't think I'd count on that continuing all season -- the linebackers didn't play too poorly and neither safety is guaranteed a job through Week 17 -- but if you're streaming safeties, both have a strong road matchup against San Francisco in Week 2.
Carlos Dunlap played 74 of a possible 88 defensive snaps against Baltimore. Wallace Gilberry (67), Robert Geathers (59) and Margus Hunt (31) rounded out the rotation. Hunt saw nearly all of his snaps in subpackages. Hunt hasn't yet earned the full trust of the coaching staff against the run, as I wrote last week, and the Bengals aren't going to risk an error, especially in a division game on the road. Gilberry (3-1-1.5) will continue to be a strong, but high variance DL2. Vontaze Burfict suffered a concussion and played only 23 snaps. Vinny Rey, the Bengals' primary backup at all three positions, replaced him and played every down. Burfict had a concussion last year and he'll have to progress through the return to play protocol to be cleared for Week 2. We'll update his status on our podcast this week. If Burfict is out, I'd rather roll with Emmanuel Lamur as a LB3 than Vinny Rey.
Barkevious Mingo didn't play every down this week, but he got the most snaps (79%) of the three headed outside linebacker rotation in Week 1. His stat line was disappointing. Unlike some of the other dud stat lines this week, Mingo's play matched the stat line and he didn't threaten the pocket at all. Don't write him off yet, however.
TAPE REVIEW | CHRIS KIRKSEY: Craig Robertson started against Pittsburgh. We knew Chris Kirksey would rotate in heavily and eventually play most, if not all, of the team's defensive snaps at inside linebacker. That transition may already have happened. According to the Gamebook, Kirksey played 59 snaps to Robertson's 12 in Week 1. Reviewing the game, there was some rotation on base downs, but I think the game script happened to go in favor of the packages Kirksey was scheduled to play. I thought Kirksey looked very fluid and comfortable in coverage, something that was evident in the Senior Bowl drills I witnessed. But it's no fluke that Kirksey made no tackles (other than a third quarter sack). He rarely shed a block, didn't play downhill and missed on three tackles chances because he wasn't physical enough at the point of attack. It's too early to knock him too badly, but he'll have to do better if he wants to be more than a third wheel to Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner.
Speaking of Whitner, he's going to rack up tackles behind this front seven. And given that at least eleven of his games will be in stadiums where stat crews aren't afraid to reward him with assists, we could be looking at an 85-40 season or better.
Barry Church left the game with an injury. I haven't been able to find much information, but I don't believe it's a long term situation. Watch the Wednesday practice participation report to confirm. Justin Durant would've been the team's lone every-down linebacker but he left with an injury.
TAPE REVIEW | ROLANDO MCCLAIN: I was impressed with Rolando McClain. His feet look quicker than I remember and he showed more range than in his final weeks in Oakland. His instincts have never been an issue. Work ethic and foot speed were. If those issues are no longer a concern, McClain will be a very strong matchup play against run-heavy expectations. I also thought he looked comfortable in coverage and the improved foot speed showed there, too. I don't see him as an immediate threat to Bruce Carter in subpackages yet. But this is the rare situation where making a play for a base-only linebacker makes sense. There's a chance McClain will see some nickel snaps soon, either due to improved play or an injury to either brittle outside linebacker. It's also clear that the Cowboys will see a well-above average number of rush attempts. That's an area McClain has always excelled and looks like he may again.
Brandon Johnson didn't play particularly well against the Colts, especially in coverage, but his stat lines show that there's just not going to be much competition for tackles while he's in the lineup. The main takeaway here, however, is to see if you can get Danny Trevathan rostered before any positive news on his rehab comes out. He's going to rack up tackles by the dozen when he returns.
I'm going to give T.J. Ward the benefit of the doubt for now. The Colts only ran the ball nine times (not counting the five scrambles by Andrew Luck) but there were plenty of completed passes to backs and receivers. I still like Ward's role and the Broncos used him frequently as a pass rush option. A home matchup against Kansas City may not be any better but the road matchup against Seattle should be. Give him through Week 3 and reassess.
I thought DeAndre Levy was more right-place, right-time, good scheme last year under Jim Schwartz. That may still prove to be the case, but Levy might have been the most impressive outside linebacker I watched last week. He looked more athletic and quick to the ball than last year and his tackling was much better. If that continues, he'll threaten to be an every-week LB2+.
Cross your fingers that someone in your league drops Ezekiel Ansah this week. His 0-1-0.5 line won't impress, but Ansah is on the verge on breaking out. His first step was better, his bull rush was better and the closing speed on his edge rush was better than last year. If you get time and have Game Rewind, take five minutes and watch every passing attempt by Eli Manning from the Monday night game. You'll be ready to make offers on Ansah, too.
With the possible exception of Mike Daniels, there wasn’t much to like about the Green Bay defense after the first quarter. Brad Jones was the biggest disappointment. The stat crew in Seattle wasn’t going to do him any favors anyway, but Jones 1-3 against 37 rushing attempts is a major red flag.
TAPE REVIEW | BRAD JONES: There were three problems evident with Jones. First, and probably most worrisome, is the Packers defensive line rotation. The Seahawks had no difficulty getting an offensive lineman to Jones whenever they wanted. Second, Jones rarely shed those blocks and he was also beaten regularly on blocks from the fullback on isolation runs. Finally, Jones missed multiple tackles. How much of the latter two issues have to do with his groin strain is yet to be determined. There’s going to be opportunity here, but Jones may not be able to take advantage. I doubt the Packers make a move yet, so give Jones at least one more week before deciding whether to make an early season move.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix put himself in position to make plays. He was too tentative tackling at times, but he’s going to have a nice subpackage role as a robber / blitzer. If and when he replaces Micah Hyde on base downs, he could carve out an Antrel Rolle like existence – assuming his tackling fundamentals improve. Julius Peppers had a solid 3-1 in his first game as an outside linebacker. And Mike Daniels may be on the verge of entering the conversation as a high floor DL2. He’ll need to show more pass rush to be trustworthy as an every-week play.
Jadeveon Clowney has a torn meniscus (and possibly a mid-high grade MCL sprain) and will have surgery this week. The early timetable is 4-6 weeks, but that cannot be confirmed until the surgeon sees inside the knee with a scope. Whitney Mercilus and Brooks Reed will be every-down outside linebackers in Clowney's absence. Justin Tuggle started at inside linebacker next to Brian Cushing. As expected, the Texans used D.J. Swearinger Sr as an inside linebacker in subpackages. Swearinger's 6-2 performance is a taste of what's to come. There's still some kinks to work out in run support, but Swearinger was active and violent (as usual) against Washington.
Surprisingly, it was Mike Mohammed alongside Swearinger in many of those situations. Houston didn't address the linebacker situation after the game and it's possible this rotation will stick as a way to keep Cushing in condition. I'll have updates on the podcast and next Sunday morning if we get new information.
Oh, and don't worry about J.J. Watt's 2-1-1, PD, FF line. The stadium stat crew gave him five quarterback hits and undersold Watt in the process. He was in the pocket on close to ten of Washington's 37 dropbacks.
While away from the team on suspension, Robert Mathis tore his Achilles tendon working out. That's a crippling blow to this defense, which will not see any consistent pass rush from Bjoern Werner or Erik Walden. The Colts are going to have to rely on coverage. I've written about the over-reaction to Achilles tendon injuries before, but it bears repeating. Greg Ellis, Derrick Burgess and Terrell Suggs are three strong examples of edge rushing talents in their 30s who returned to have double digit sack seasons after Achilles' repair. Hopefully, Mathis is the next man in that club.
Keep an eye on the progress of Johnathan Cyprien this week. He left last week's game with a concussion. Andre Branch saw 53 snaps against Philadelphia and played well. Remember, though, that Branch was primarily a subpackage player in the preseason and the Eagles force defenses to away from their base defense and often keep them there with a speed, no-huddle offense. It's a great start for Branch, but don't be too quick to elevate him to every-week starter status yet. That doesn't apply to this week's matchup against Washington. Both Branch and Chris Clemons are high upside starts in Week 2.
Eric Berry had a monster day with 14 solo tackles, an assist and a pass defensed. Unfortunately, part of the reason he was so productive was the season-ending Achilles tendon tear Derrick Johnson suffered 30 snaps into the game. The Chiefs have had very little depth at inside linebacker for the past three seasons and will struggle to replace Johnson. With presumptive regular season starter Joe Mays sidelined by wrist surgery, the Chiefs will likely lean on Josh Mauga and James-Michael Johnson as the starters. Mauga had a solid eight solos and played in all packages against Tennessee. We'll see if that sticks -- Kansas City was using James-Michael Johnson heavily in subpackages during the preseason. Mauga is worth rostering immediately, but don't grow attached just yet. Derrick Johnson will be 33 years old next November. It's an uphill climb for him to return to form, but the track record has been good for Achilles tear recoveries in recent seasons. Dontari Poe had a strong 5-1-0 start to his season. The tackles are there every week, the pass rush stats will be variable.
Oh, hello there, Cameron Wake. Rumors of your demise were much exaggerated.
That GIF should be enough to quell any concerns about Wake's 2013 season, which was due to bad luck in the first month and playing through the residual effects of a MCL sprain for much of the rest of the season. Wake had multiple plays like the one to the right -- quick first step, strong use hands and leverage, and an elite ability to flatten and close -- yesterday. As long as he stays healthy, he'll remain an elite fantasy play.
Unfortunately, the Dolphins' defense is already hard hit by injuries. Koa Misi went down with an ankle injury. The Dolphins initially said he was out indefnitely, though the Miami Herald is now reporting the potential for only a 1-2 week absence. Dannell Ellerbe left early with a hip injury. While there are no specifics yet and it looked as if he just got his foot caught in the turf running in coverage, Ellerbe was put on injured reserve on Monday. Add those injuries to Philip Wheeler's thumb injury and Jordan Tripp's chest injury that kept both inactive and the Dolphins are light at linebacker.
There may be an IDP sliver lining here, however. Jelani Jenkins is very likely to be Ellerbe's replacement at weak side linebacker and will likely be an every-down player, whether Wheeler is ready to return or not. The unknown is how Miami will handle middle linebacker. It's possible Wheeler will move inside. The Dolphins may also use Jason Trusnik or, eventually, Jordan Tripp in a bigger role.
For now, grab Jenkins. Keep an eye on my Twitter feed for any additional information from Miami. And make certain you get Reshad Jones rostered if he's sitting there on your waiver wire while serving his suspension.
Sharrif Floyd looked terrific against the Rams. He was extremely quick off the ball and won with a strong bull rush on more than one occasion. The play to the right stands out as an example of Floyd's day. Floyd beat everyone off the snap and was in the backfield before the trap block could reach him. He stayed low and finished off the elusive Tavon Austin easily. Floyd suffered a shoulder injury, but told reporters after the game that he expects to play this week. Linval Joseph had the splashier stat line, but Floyd was every bit as impressive.
Also impressive was Everson Griffen, who had two sacks and was in the St. Louis pocket all day. I had him as an Upside DL2 and value target this preseason, but I'm not ready to move him any higher yet. He'll need to prove he can play the run consistently enough to give him a chance to hit the 40 solos or more necessary to become an elite fantasy player.
Don't overreact to Chad Greenway's disappointing 2-0 line yet. Greenway wasn't as dynamic as usual, but it's too soon to see this as more than one week aberration. The next two weeks will put Greenway in the middle of the field for a huge number of nickel snaps against New England and New Orleans. If Greenway's numbers don't improve by then, it'll be time to panic. The same goes for Harrison Smith. The corollary to this is that Robert Blanton's value will depend on how Greenway and Smith recover. It wasn't great play from Blanton that bumped his stat line and dropped that of Greenway and Smith.
Jerod Mayo is off to a strong start with a 10-2-1 and a fumble recovery. Jamie Collins Sr was a mess on the field at times, but managed eight solos, a forced fumble and a pass defensed. I expect the strong production of both to continue, particularly at home with a favorable stat crew. But that's where the fun ends in New England.
TAPE REVIEW | CHANDLER JONES: The Patriots showed a base 3-4 frequently in the preseason and I thought it was lucky that Chandler Jones, who was playing an outside linebacker role in the 3-4, wasn't re-classified as a linebacker. Call it karma or chalk it up to another Bill Belichick curveball, but the Patriots played every snap in a 3-4 base front against Miami -- with Jones head up on an offensive tackle as a 3-4 defensive end. That's infuriating. With luck, the Patriots will see how ineffective Jones was against the run and in pass rush on those base downs and make a schematic adjustment. Jones will be adequate in this role, but he's not going to be another Cameron Jordan or Muhammad Wilkerson.
Belichick also threw a curveball in the secondary, starting and giving the bulk of the strong safety snaps to Patrick Chung while Duron Harmon played only five snaps. Wait for a clear and consistent trend to develop before moving on any New England secondary player.
I'm sticking to my guns on Kenny Vaccaro. Pro Football Focus had him with six missed tackles yesterday and they were all legitimate whiffs. Vaccaro broke down well but back on his heels and didn't finish many tackles. He saw quite a few snaps in the slot and around the box, so the opportunity will be there. Last year, in nearly 800 snaps, Vaccaro had three missed tackles. Had he made 2/3 of the tackles he missed yesterday, Vaccaro would have finished with a 8-0 line. Don't cut him yet. And don't worry about Cameron Jordan. There will be variance with any pass rusher and Jordan looked as disruptive as usual. David Hawthorne and Junior Galette both played every down in Week 1. They've been bumped up the every-down linebacker depth chart.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Jason Pierre-Paul put a scare into the IDP community after going down with another injury to his left shoulder early in Monday night's game. X-rays were negative, however, and Pierre-Paul didn't seem to favor the shoulder after his return. Jon Beason returned to start at middle linebacker but his snap count was limited for conditioning purposes. He'll eventually return to an every-down role. Antrel Rolle survived his move to deep safety with his usual aggressive effort, but the 4-0 line will be close to his norm.
While Stevie Brown took some bad angles in the open field and was a liability in coverage at times, his run defense was as good as ever and he'll continue to be around the ball. With the Giants' linebackers underwhelming and Rolle back in coverage, Brown should be a consistent DB2+.
NEW YORK JETS
Not too much of note with the Jets this week. Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson were better than their lines suggest. Demario Davis looks like he's maxed out his potential. Neither note is much of a surprise. Calvin Pryor got the start at strong safety and played every down. He was not used much in pass rush, though. I expect those chances to come in future weeks.
Justin Tuck didn't have a sack against the Jets, but he continued where he left off late last season as a two-way threat, with strong play against the run and a consistent pass rush. Tyvon Branch also had a strong game (6-1-1, PD) and still has DB2+ upside despite two years of injury issues and so-so production.
TAPE REVIEW | SIO MOORE: At various points over the past 18 months, Sigmund Bloom, John Norton and I have sung the praises of Moore. An athletic outside linebacker with projectable talent against the run, in coverage and in pass rush, Moore just hadn't been able to put it together. He was in a stiff competition with veteran Miles Burris this preseason before winning the job. Now playing every down, Moore had a blistering 11-2-1 performance and added two forced fumbles to boot in Week 1. Moore won't be putting up 8+ solos every week, but this performance isn't a fluke. Moore took some false steps at times, but he looked very comfortable in coverage and often shed blocks well. There isn't a ton of range in the Oakland front seven right now, which bodes well for Moore's box score performance.
Nick Roach is still not ready to see the independent neurologist to be cleared for contact after suffering a concussion in the third preseason game. We're now over two weeks since the injury. The Raiders haven't been shy about advancing players through the return to play protocol more quickly than the standard 4-5 days, so Roach's continued absence is a concern. Consider him out indefinitely until we hear progress. Burris, who put up nice numbers but was terrible between the tackles against the Jets, should continue to play middle linebacker.
Mychal Kendricks and Fletcher Cox had good games. And both Connor Barwin and Trent Cole played very well. But, bloody hell, long time readers know what I'm about to write next. Brandon Graham, in just 25 snaps, put up a 3-1-0 line with two TFLs. He also was in the pocket pressuring the quarterback on at least two dropbacks. My psychiatry colleagues would call this perseveration. Maybe. I'll call it common sense.
I'll focus closely on Ryan Shazier next week. At first glance, he looked more in control than not and he was consistent at the point of attack. Shazier did come off the field in some subpackages for Sean Spence. That's something else I'll track again next week. I didn't think much of Lawrence Timmons. He's long been a favorite of mine and this scheme should be perfect for his game. But the play between the tackles is not there and I don't see much hope for a 180 degree change in his statistical trend now.
I watched the Minnesota defense before I focused on St. Louis in their Week 1 game. Although Aaron Donald rotated heavily, he flashed just as impressively as Sharrif Floyd. Donald was more disruptive against the run than the pass, but the sacks will come. They will come to Robert Quinn, too, who hit Matt Cassel four times but didn't earn a sack to show for his play.
Shareece Wright ran up big numbers against Arizona, but don't sell the farm for him on the waiver wire. The Jason Verrett show will premiere soon. Though he's still a slot corner only, the rookie is where you should invest your capital in deeper leagues. The Chargers elected to rest Manti Te'o on passing downs, but it may not be long until he's back in playing condition after his preseason foot sprain. Te'o looked slimmer and quicker, closing on run plays better than I've seen on college or pro tape. He'll be an every-down player shortly.
Michael Wilhoite started and played 68 of 69 snaps. Chris Borland played on special teams only. There's still a chance that Borland will see rotational time before NaVorro Bowman returns, but Wilhoite will be a low ceiling LB3 until that happens. Count me among those very surprised that the Niners deactivated Tank Carradine after his strong preseason. I can't see that becoming a regular trend.
Bobby Wagner got in on 14 plays – most of them were scored as assists, as expected, but it was a great start after he missed most of the preseason with a hamstring injury. The stat crew in Seattle was a little more friendly than usual (36 solos against 23 assists) but the Packers spread the offense out for most of the game and the Seahawks were not able to gang tackle as frequently. It’s still something to watch. I thought both Cliff Avril and O’Brien Schofield looked quick off the edge. File Schofield’s name away in sack-heavy leagues should Avril or Bruce Irvin suffer an injury.
The Buccaneers faced an above average number of tackle opportunities (58) and rush attempts (33) but that shouldn't diminish the strong stat lines of Lavonte David, Mason Foster and Gerald McCoy. It does make the nice 7-2 line of Dashon Goldson a little more suspect, however. I just don't see Goldson averaging more than four solos with a strong front four, Foster, David and Mark Barron competing for tackles. Adrian Clayborn is on my short list of players to reassess next week.
You may look at Wesley Woodyard's 5-0-1 line and wonder whether that's the line of the undervalued, near-elite asset I've been preaching all summer. I'll look at the five solos and a sack and note that the Titans faced only 40 total tackle opportunities and 17 rushing attempts. I'll argue that it's clear Ray Horton trusts Woodyard as a blitzer in subpackages. And with Zach Brown done for the year with a torn pectoral muscle four snaps into the season, there will be even less competition for tackles.
Zaviar Gooden replaced Brown, though in the base defense only, and will be the first man up if Brown misses extended time. Keep an eye on rookie Avery Williamson, however. Akeem Ayers was a healthy scratch. In theory, Ayers should be a good fit at strong outside linebacker in Ray Horton's scheme. Derrick Morgan was drawing rave reviews in the preseason, however, and Ayers' stock went plummeting in the opposite direction.
Keenan Robinson (5-0) and Perry Riley (4-2) both looked better than their box scores might indicate. Robinson was a little stiff in coverage and was very rarely used as a subpackage blitzer, so his upside may not be elite, but he looks comfortable inside and should be a high floor LB2. I held off on adding David Amerson to my rosterable CB tiers this preseason, but he showed enough against the run to add after Week 1. He should see a good number of targets opposite DeAngelo Hall. Jason Hatcher also looked better -- read healthier -- than expected this week. He may hold some value in deeper, tackle-heavy leagues after all.
INSIDE THE METRICS
If you're a long time reader of this column, you know about tackle opportunity and you know about stat crew anomalies. I didn't write about either much last season, but I'm going back to the roots of the RTD and making metrics a regular feature again this year.
The power of the data in this section will grow exponentially as the season progresses and our sample size increases. In time, the tackle opportunity data and pressure metrics and run-pass ratios will be helpful in matchup decisions, waiver wire pulls and more.
***This section will be back soon. Most of my time will be spent reviewing games over the next couple of weeks. Luckily, you have access to a crazy amount of data in Larry Thomas' IDP Matchup Sheet. Make sure you're checking that out every 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.