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This article attempts to immediately highlight defensive players whose production was significantly better or worse than normally expected for the prior week of games. Note there is sometimes limited information available when this article is written, but I will try to give everyone an early look at players who are moving up or down in value among IDP circles. I've also added a section this year called No Change that tries to explain why the stat lines may be misleading for some players. It’s difficult to give waiver advice for IDPs since there is such a wide variety of lineups and scoring systems, but hopefully, the information provided can help inform your waiver, trade, and upcoming lineup decisions. If you have any questions on specific players or situations, feel free to email me or reach out via twitter.
NEW ENGLAND @ TAMPA BAY
DE Deatrich Wise, NE (1 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
His stats thus far (6 solos) may not stand out in most leagues because he doesn't offer much help against the run. Wise is getting a lot of pressure on opposing QBs, however, and picked up his 3rd sack of the year this week. He also had one negated by a penalty in week 4 and looks like he could be a nice find in big-play leagues.
S Justin Evans, TB (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Tampa drafted Evans in the 2nd round this year so they clearly have high hopes for his future. The signing of T.J. Ward before the season didn't help him, but injuries to Ward and Keith Tandy have created an opportunity for him. He got his first career start this week and looked very impressive in a tough matchup. Seems like Tampa would be smart to find more ways to get him into their lineup.
LB Elandon Roberts, NE (3 solos, 1 QH)
Roberts had a nice run of games leading up to this week, but he was only a partial participant in practice and had a short week to recover. Not sure if that is the main reason, but he saw his snap count drop to 23 snaps (32%) in this game while Donta Hightower saw his highest snap count of the year (62). Hightower isn't a picture of durability but he could bump Roberts out of the team's nickel packages.
LB Adarius Glanton, TB (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Glanton has normally been limited to special teams play but was bumped to an every-down role due to the injuries at linebacker. He had 13 combined tackles in the two weeks prior and added 7 more this week along with a sack and forced fumble on Tom Brady. Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David could both be back soon after the bye so he's probably going back to the bench soon, but has shown he can produce if given an opportunity.
BUFFALO @ CINCINNATI
DE Michael Johnson, CIN (4 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Johnson looked like he was in danger of being passed on the depth chart by some of the young pass rushers in Cincinnati, but he responded with a big effort this week. In 49 snaps (70%), he collected 6 tackles with a pair of sacks. That left Chris Smith (18 snaps), Jordan Willis (22 snaps), and Carl Lawson (26 snaps) with limited opportunities although it likely was driven by a matchup against the Bills run-heavy offense.
LB Vontaze Burfict, CIN (10 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Burfict has always been a highly productive fantasy linebacker and he showed this week that little has changed in that regard. With 13 combined tackles and a sack, it's probably safe to consider him a LB1 as long as he stays out of trouble.
DT Kyle Williams, BUF (2 asst)
Williams has been averaging about 50 snaps per game this year but hasn't been as productive as we've known him to be in the past. Over his past two games, he has solo tackles and 3 assists on nearly 100 snaps. Meanwhile, Marcell Dareus posted 2 tackles with a sack in just 22 snaps this week.
DE Carlos Dunlap, CIN (1 asst)
In a game where the Bengals collected 6 sacks and took advantage of a Bills offensive line that is weak at offensive tackle, Dunlap was a no-show despite seeing 55 snaps (79%). With just 1 sack through 5 games, it has certainly been a very underwhelming start for a player who many considered top-10 at his position.
CB Shareece Wright, BUF (8 solos, 3 asst, 2 PD)
It was rookie Tre'Davious White who gave up the long touchdown catch to A.J. Green early on, but the Bengals had a lot more success going to Wright's side of the field. He replaced E.J. Gaines in the starting lineup and gave few reasons for opposing quarterbacks not to keep coming after him. Assuming Gaines is back from his groin injury after the upcoming bye week, Wright's grasp of a starting job probably won't last long.
NY JETS @ CLEVELAND
DE Myles Garrett, CLE (2 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
The rookie #1 overall pick was helped by seeing the Jets in his first career start, but he lived up to the hype with a pair of sacks on just 19 snaps. He should see his playing time increase significantly as he there were 3 other defensive ends with more snaps than him this week.
CB Morris Claiborne, NYJ (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Claiborne has been playing surprisingly well for a Jets team that has been more competitive than many expected. Unfortunately, his tackle numbers haven't shown an increase along with his play since he hasn't been allowing many catches to his side of the field. Look for him to build on this game with the Patriots next on the schedule though.
CB Jason McCourty, CLE (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD, 1 FF)
McCourty has been one of the most consistently productive fantasy corners in the league for many years during his time with the Titans. With the move to Cleveland this year, there was some uncertainty whether it would transfer but he is proving himself all over again. He's a reliable source of tackles who can come up and stop the run, but he's also making plays in coverage with a pair of interceptions and 7 passes defensed through 5 games.
LB Joe Schobert, CLE (2 solos)
Schobert should probably not be downgraded too much but seeing him finish with 2 solo tackles in a game where he played all 53 defensive snaps is disappointing. In fairness to him, the Jets offense only generated 15 rush attempts in this game and gained just 1.9 yards per rush on those so this does look like a game where he had very few opportunities.
LB James Burgess, CLE (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 PD)
Burgess stood out this week with 7 tackles along with a sack and a pass breakup, but he suffered a knee injury. He's also likely to be replaced in the lineup next week by Jamie Collins who was cleared from the concussion protocol.
CAROLINA @ DETROIT
DT Kawann Short, CAR (3 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
Short has a very quiet start to the year but he has woken up with 3 sacks in the last 2 games. The improvement from Cam Newton and the Panthers offense has certainly played a part, but he's also seen a slight uptick in playing time.
S Tavon Wilson, DET (9 solos, 1 asst, 3 TFL)
The Lions opened with 3 safeties in their starting lineup, but Wilson stayed on the field in all situations while Miles Killebrew was limited to just 35 snaps (53%). Wilson spent most of the game up in the box and posted an impressive 10 tackles, including 3 for a loss, on his 66 snaps.
SAN FRANCISCO @ INDIANAPOLIS
DE Elvis Dumervil, SF (1 solo, 2 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Although he's seeing limited snaps as a pass rush specialist, the veteran sack artist is showing he still has gas left in the tank. Over the past 2 games, he has collected 3.5 sacks on just 50 total snaps. While it's unlikely his playing time or tackle numbers will increase much, Dumervil is only 33 years old and not too far removed from his 2014 season when he posted 17 sacks with the Ravens.
CB Dontae Johnson, SF (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
Every week it seems like there's another 49ers secondary player that warrants an upgrade. This defense is having a lot of trouble getting off the field, which is leading to some big numbers across the board. Johnson now has 15 solos and 2 assists in the last 2 games and could be worth a look for teams that need CB help during the byes.
LB Navorro Bowman, SF (5 solos, 5 asst)
Bowman played 83 snaps last week against Arizona so the coaches tried to limit his snaps this week. That meant he was only on the field for 58 snaps (76%) while Brock Coyle saw 25 snaps as part of a rotation. Bowman still finished with 10 combined tackles, but one probably expected more given that this game lasted 5 quarters and the Colts generated over 60 tackle opportunities with 35 rush attempts.
TENNESSEE @ MIAMI
DE Jurrell Casey, TEN (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Casey had another strong outing to give him 9 solos and a pair of sacks over the last 2 weeks. The team is fading around him, but he seems to be coming on and has favorable matchups against the Colts and Browns coming up.
DE Andre Branch, MIA (2 solos, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Branch was kind of the forgotten man in Miami this offseason as they added William Hayes and drafted Charles Harris. Branch outplayed Mario Williams last year though, and it certainly looks like he could emerge once again this year. He's averaging over 40 snaps/game and now has 3 sacks in 4 games, although his tackle numbers (5 solos, 2 asst) are disappointing.
CB Adoree Jackson, TEN (2 solos, 1 PD, 1 FF)
The rookie 1st round pick was thrown directly into the fire for the Titans this year and the rookie corner rule is in full effect. He's being tested each week, and that's leading to some very consistent production from week to week.
LA CHARGERS @ NY GIANTS
DE Melvin Ingram III, LAC (4 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF, 1 FR)
Ingram has been a solid pass-rushing outside linebacker in previous years, but his game and fantasy value have both risen to the elite level as a 4-3 defensive end. Through 5 weeks, he is up to 20 solo tackles and 7.5 sacks and looks like an early contender for defensive player of the year (despite his team sitting at 1-4).
S Darian Thompson, NYG (8 solos, 3 asst, 1 QH, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Landon Collins creates a huge shadow, which often leaves few opportunities for Thompson in the back of the Giants defense. The 2nd year safety had a really impressive showing this week, however, as he did not miss any tackles and picked off a pass.
LB Jonathan Casillas, NYG (1 solo, 1 PD)
Casillas was in the starting lineup at weakside linebacker this week but only wound up playing 35 snaps (45%), while Keenan Robinson saw 59 snaps (76%). Robinson didn't provide much of an improvement in coverage and finished with just 2 assists in the game, so it looks like B.J. Goodson may be the only linebacker with consistent value here.
ARIZONA @ PHILADELPHIA
LB Deone Bucannon, ARI (5 solos, 1 asst)
His numbers could have been better given the Eagles had 33 rush attempts in this game, but it was an encouraging sign to see Bucannon out there for all 67 defensive snaps. Better games are likely ahead for him as he gets back up to speed.
CB Patrick Robinson, PHI (4 solos, 3 PD)
Robinson wasn't in the starting lineup but had been serving as the team's primary nickel corner. The Eagles used safety Malcolm Jenkins in the slot on Larry Fitzgerald this week, and that allowed them to move Robinson outside instead of Rasul Douglas. Robinson now has 7 passes defensed in the past 3 games and appears to be taking on a bigger role as he played 46 snaps this week.
LB Mychal Kendricks, PHI (1 solo)
The Eagles pulled out to a big lead in this game, which means they spent almost the entire game in their nickel package. As a result, Kendricks was only on the field for 28 snaps (47%) while fellow linebackers Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham saw 45 snaps each. This is the 4th time in 5 games that he's played fewer than 30 snaps.
JACKSONVILLE @ PITTSBURGH
DT Javon Hargrave, PIT (4 solos, 6 asst)
Worth noting when a defensive tackle leads his team in tackles, especially when his 10 tackles came on just 33 snaps (61%). While this looks like a clear outlier considering he had just 6 combined tackles in the four games prior, he does have a pair of sacks on the year and looks like a promising young nose tackle.
CB Jalen Ramsey, JAX (7 solos, 1 INT, 4 PD)
Ramsey is quickly establishing himself as one of the truly elite corners in the game. He was instrumental in shutting down the Steelers this week and with A.J. Bouye playing opposite him, quarterbacks won't be able to avoid him as much as they might like to.
S Tashaun Gipson, JAX (5 solos, 1 asst, 2 INT, 2 PD)
The Jaguars are getting contributions from throughout their lineup on defense this year, but Gipson warrants a mention here. He posted 7 solos last week and followed that up with a 5 solo, 2 INT performance this week. His numbers had fallen off the past two years while playing on some bad teams, but he did post 11 interceptions in a 2-year stretch with the Browns from 2013 to 2014.
DT Malik Jackson, JAX (0 tackles)
Jackson has not exactly been able to fulfill the promise expected when he signed as a free agent last year. He was limited in practice last week but was still able to play 55 snaps this week. Unfortunately, he was shut out on the stat sheet and has just 7 solo tackles and 1 assist (with 1.5 sacks) through 5 games.
SEATTLE @ LA RAMS
DE Frank Clark, SEA (3 solos, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF, 1 PD)
Clark played a season-high 57 snaps (77%) this week thanks to the injury to Cliff Avril and it helped lead to his biggest game of the year. Seattle has the bye next week, but Clark should get a chance to add to his sack total against the depleted Giants in week 7.
LB Mark Barron, LAR (12 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Since the opener when he posted just a single tackle against the Colts, Barron has been one of the most productive linebackers in the league. With this huge game, he now has 35 solo tackles in his last 4 games and looking like a LB1. The move to the 3-4 base for the Rams this year appears to suit him well.
LB Connor Barwin, LAR (0 tackles)
Barwin was on the field for 54 snaps (79%) this week and Seattle generated plenty of tackle opportunities, but he was shut out. Definitely a disappointment considering he came into the game with a 2-game sack streak and Seattle had one of the worst offensive lines in the league.
BALTIMORE @ OAKLAND
DT Willie Henry, BAL (3 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 2 PD)
With Brandon Williams out injured, the 2nd year player Henry has started to emerge as a productive player in Baltimore. He had a pair of pass tips last week and did it again this week while also contributing 5 tackles.
LB Cory James, OAK (1 solo, 1 asst)
James was limited to just 34 snaps (52%) this week before leaving with a knee injury. The severity of the injury wasn't immediately known, but middle linebacker Marquel Lee was also carted off the field with an ankle injury so the Raiders linebacker group could be going from bad to terrible in a hurry.
GREEN BAY @ DALLAS
DT David Irving, DAL (3 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
Irving returned from a 4-game suspension and gave a huge boost to the Cowboys up front. He played 45 snaps (75%) and added 2 sacks in the first half as Dallas pulled out to an early lead. With that much playing time and Demarcus Lawrence drawing extra attention outside, Irving could be a nice add in DT-required leagues.
LB Blake Martinez, GB (7 solos, 5 asst, 1 PD)
Martinez was certainly helped by the situation this week as the Cowboys got out to a big lead early on and tried to control things with their running game. That led to a season-high 70 snaps for Martinez and he looked impressive with 12 tackles.
LB Jaylon Smith, DAL (3 solos, 4 asst)
Smith still finished with 7 tackles in the game but there were long stretches when he wasn't on the field. The return of Anthony Hitchens appeared to bump him from the team's nickel packages even though Sean Lee was inactive again. Smith wound up playing just 33 snaps (55%), and it certainly looks like his struggles in coverage could keep him off the field in clear passing situations.
S Morgan Burnett, GB (5 solos, 1 asst)
Burnett was back to his normal strong safety position but had to leave the game after 47 snaps due to a hamstring injury. Josh Jones replaced him and added 3 more solos tackles. The severity of the injury was not clear but the Packers also lost backup safety Kentrell Brice to an ankle injury and rookie corner Kevin King to a concussion in the game leaving them with very little depth in the secondary.
KANSAS CITY @ HOUSTON
LB Zach Cunningham, HOU (4 solos, 5 asst, 1 FF)
The rookie came into this season expecting to back up Brian Cushing and eventually look for a starting role next year. The Cushing suspension created an opening for him, however, and so far he appears to be outplaying Benardrick McKinney. Cunningham still doesn't play every down but he has 26 combined tackles in 210 snaps (12.4%) compared to 29 in 292 tackles for McKinney (9.9%).
DE J.J. Watt, HOU (2 asst)
Watt left the game after just 12 snaps with a broken leg and was scheduled to undergo surgery on Monday to repair it. He'll be placed on injured reserve and will be lost for the rest of the year.
LB Whitney Mercilus, HOU (0 tackles)
Mercilus lasted just 7 snaps in the game before suffering a torn pectoral muscle that will end his season. That's a huge blow to the Texans defense to lose two of their best players from the front seven in the same quarter of the game.