Haason Reddick had five tackles and an assist which is not bad considering he played less than 60% of the snaps in a timeshare with Joe Walker. At this early stage, it is hard to say if this was by design or simply an effect of Reddick not yet being completely healthy. He was questionable leading u0p to the game with a sore knee.
A couple of guys that did live up to expectations were inside linebacker Jordan Hicks and safety Budda Baker who both played every snap. Hicks finished with a team-best eight solo tackles and six assists, while Baker was not far behind at seven solo and one assist. The way Baltimore ran the ball against Miami, Hicks and Baker should give us an encore performance this week.
The Cardinals pass rushers showed up large in the game as well. Chandler Jones finished at 4-0-1 with a forced fumble and a recovery while Terrell Suggs came out on fire at 5-2-2 with a forced fumble. I always like the matchup of a star facing their old teams, so look for Suggs to stand out again this week against the Ravens.
One surprise to come out of the Falcons Week 1 loss was the limited snap count for middle linebacker Deion Jones. He missed time over the summer with a foot issue but was not expected to be limited once the regular season arrived. Jones played 33 snaps against the Vikings while De’Vondre Campbell drew the full-time duties and led the team with six solo tackles. The good news for those that drafted Jones, he managed five tackles despite the limited action. Keep an eye out for word on Jones’ status for Week 2. If he did not suffer a setback, his playing time should increase.
After watching the Falcons defense through the preseason, we anticipated Damontae Kazee having a significant role as the third safety. Instead, he shared that role with Kemal Ishmael with the two seeing 24 snaps between them.
Neither Vic Beasley Jr nor Takkarist McKinley had much of an impact in the box scores but it is worth mention that they both played at least 89% of the defensive snaps. If these guys continue to have that kind of opportunity, they could both be much more significant fantasy factors than previously anticipated.
One of our big watchlist items for Week 1 was the Ravens inside linebacker situation. As expected, Patrick Onwuasor was the three-down centerpiece at inside linebacker. He managed a quality point total on the strength of 5 tackles, a sack, and a pass breakup. Those numbers look much more impressive when considering the Ravens faced only 49 offensive plays by the Dolphins in the blowout.
As to the other ILB position, it was the worst possible situation for IDP managers; a timeshare between Kenny Young, Chris Board, and nickel safety Chuck Clark. None of them logged more than 43% of the playing time.
Tremaine Edmunds took a back seat to weak-side linebacker Matt Milano in the Week 1 box scores. Milano tied with Jordan Poyer for the team tackle lead at 6-3. Milano played and produced well last season and is a player on the rise. He may out produce Edmunds a few more times over the course of the season.
Shaq Thompson played all but two snaps versus the Rams. He turned the opportunity into seven solo tackles, a pair of assists and a pass breakup. Thompson looks like a great fit in the Panthers' new scheme. Make him a priority on your add list this week.
In years past, James Bradberry has provided strong tackle totals but come up a little short in the big play columns. Either it was a fluke, or the new scheme is going to allow more production in those areas. He had both a sack and an interception against the Rams.
Look for Gerald McCoy to step up in his first opportunity to face his old team.
The Bengals defense played much better than anyone expected. They got to Russell Wilson for four sacks including a pair by defensive end Sam Hubbard, who also led the team with six tackles and four assists. Hubbard is a player I have been high on since the final month of last season. He is not going to give us multiple sacks on may weeks but the guy is a must-add if you have the room or a need at the position.
Nick Vigil was as close as the Bengals had to an every-down linebacker. He was on the field for 91% of the team’s defensive plays while Preston Brown played 77%. Cincinnati had three linebackers on the field for only three plays in the game. When they did so, rookie Jermaine Pratt was the third man.
There were several disappointments with the Browns in Week 1. The game was a disaster on the field IDP managers starting Cleveland defenders came out well for the most part. The only fantasy disappointments on defense were defensive end Olivier Vernon and corner Terrance Mitchell. Vernon being shut out can be written off as a fluke. He actually played one more snap than Myles Garrett but was simply not able to get anything going. Vernon has a history of slow starts and strong finishes so we should not give up on him too early.
The box scores from the Cowboys game with the Giants are a little odd considering how the game went. It is generally not a good thing when the safeties combine for 16 tackles and 4 assists, but Dallas was in control of this game from the start. A big contributor to the jacked-up tackle totals by Xavier Woods (9-2) and Jeff Heath (7-2) had a lot to do with New York’s tight ends catching a dozen passes. That will not be an every week thing and neither will the big numbers by Woods and Heath who are likely to be no better than solid depth on most weeks.
With Todd Davis still battling a calf injury, the Broncos went with Josey Jewell as their lead man at inside linebacker. Jewell played every snap and put up strong numbers with seven tackles and seven assists, but he struggled at times, particularly in coverage. Corey Nelson got the call at the other ILB spot and stayed on the field in many sub-packages. Long story short, Denver needs to get Davis back on the field but until they do, Jewell looks like a solid IDP play.
There is no longer any doubt that Kareem Jackson will play safety full time for Denver. With five tackles, two assists and a pair of pass breakups in the opener, there is not much doubt he will be a productive option for fantasy managers as well.
Second-year corner Isaac Yiadom had eight solo tackles versus the Raiders and was a focal point of Oakland’s offensive game plan. He is not a rookie but did not see much action last year, so in essence, this is the rookie corner rule in a nutshell. With Bryce Callahan on the mend from a foot injury, the coaching staff is short on options behind Yiadom so he should continue to start until Callahan returns.
Free safety Tracy Walker had a huge game that included nine solo tackles and an interception. While the numbers are impressive, we should not get too excited just yet. Walker looked good but he is still playing well off the ball on virtually every snap. The high tackle numbers are more likely to be an outlier than the beginning of a trend.
Anyone looking for linebacker help from the Lions will be disappointed to learn there was no linebacker to see every down action. Devon Kennard came closest, playing 81 of 89 snaps while no one else logged more than 64. Jahlani Tavai got the start at middle backer but he, Christian Jones and Jalen Reeves-Maybin all played at least 52 snaps.
The Lions got little from their defensive line in terms of pass rush, but they did get five sacks from the linebackers with Kennard landing three. In several situations, Kennard moved up to rush off the edge in nickel situations. He could have good value going forward in big play based leagues.
Managers expecting big things from tackle Damon Harrison have reason to be concerned after Week 1. He was on the field for just 27 plays against Arizona as part of a three-man rotation at tackle. Both A’Shawn Robinson (39) and Mike Daniels (31) played more. Harrison usually makes a lot of tackles, but then he is used to getting 50+ plays per game.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers’ big nickel base defense was not exactly something new in concept, but there were some new faces that made it look a lot better so far. Adrian Amos turned in a solid Week 1 against his old team with four solo tackles, an assist, and an interception. His role was mostly that of a traditional strong safety, playing up near the line on a good number of snaps. He looks to be in line for a productive season.
One unexpected name that was called a lot in Week 1 was that of Raven Greene. The second-year safety tied for the team lead with five solo tackles, adding an assist and a pass breakup for a good stat line. Greene worked as the third safety, seeing action on about 77% of the plays against Chicago. He often lined up as an inside linebacker which put him in the thick of the action on a regular basis.
The Packers never had fewer than five defensive backs in the game so it is safe to assume this big nickel will be their base defense going forward. It would be nice to see Greene up at around 90% of the snaps, but even with fewer he could still prove useful to IDP managers; especially when the bye weeks hit and we are forced to dig a little deeper.
Big play managers take notice of monster game turned in by Whitney Mercilus. With Jadeveon Clowney gone, Mercilus has returned to the same role he had in 2015 when he had a career-high 11 sacks. Against the Saints, it looked as if Mercilus had turned back time as he finished at 4-1-1 with an interception.
J.J. Watt was shut out by the Saints offense. This is a rare feat and one not likely to be repeated by the Jaguars in Week 2. Watt is simply to0 great a player not to be in our lineups every week.
The Colts were largely a disappointment for IDP managers in Week 1 when none of their defenders recorded more than four tackles. This was a particularly big shock in the case of Darius Leonard, but we should not be overly concerned. The lack of a power run game by the Chargers had a lot to do with the low output across the board. That will not be an issue this week against the Titans who will ride Derrick Henry often.
One situation we will be watching as the season progresses is at middle linebacker. Anthony Walker held off Bobby Okereke for the job coming into the season but Okereke earned enough respect from the coaching staff to have a roll. At the end of the day, Walker had played 56% of the snaps with Okereke on the field 23% of the time. Rookie safety Khari Willis got the remaining snaps as the third safety in some big nickel sets. This is bad news for anyone looking for Walker to be a solid contributor all season.
Justin Houston looked good in his first regular-season action as a 4-3 end. He logged 80% of the snaps and finished at 3-1-1. Maybe most importantly, he came through the game healthy.
Jacksonville opened in their nickel set with Quincy Williams and Myles Jack at linebacker. That did not last long as Jack was ejected in the first quarter for leading with the helmet on a tackle. By halftime, neither starter was in the game because Williams suffered what looked like it could be a serious knee injury. Both players were off to strong starts before leaving the game. Jack will be back on the field for Week 2 pending some intervention from the league office which is unlikely. As for Williams, we are still awaiting an update on the injury though it did not look good as he limped off the field. D.J. Alexander replaced Williams and would be the favorite to start this week if the injury news is not good.
Strong safety Ronnie Harrison played well versus the Chiefs, leading the Jaguars in tackles at 6-1. Houston ran the ball well versus New Orleans, so Harrison could be in for another strong outing.
Kansas City Chiefs
If there were still concerns about Anthony Hitchens having a less than every-down role, they were removed in Week 1 when he did not miss a play. The Chiefs stayed with their nickel base scheme for the entire game, which had Hitchens and Damien Williams at linebacker, rookie Juan Thornhill at free safety, Tyrann Mathieu at strong safety, Bashaud Breeland and Charvarius Ward on the corners, and Kendall Fuller in the slot. Kansas City rotated some guys up front but in the back seven, the only substitutions were Darron Lee playing 10 snaps and Daniel Sorensen 12. Reggie Ragland did not get on the field.
The Kansas City pass rush is off to a slow start with Emmanuel Ogbah landing the only sack in the opener. Chris Jones was a complete non-factor in his first game as a defensive tackle while Frank Clark saved his Week 1 for IDP managers with an interception. This could be a concern against a revamped Oakland offensive line that did a good job against Bradley Chubb and Von Miller.
Los Angeles Chargers
After sitting the entire preseason, Thomas Davis was the only Chargers linebacker to play every snap in Week 1. He lined up on the weak-side as expected, racking up seven tackles and seven assists on the day. Davis is long in the tooth for an NFL player but it looks like he could be gold for fantasy managers this season. The Chargers' weak-side linebacker position has given us a lot of production in recent years.
Kyzir White was not on the field for every snap but he was not too far from it, seeing action on 54 of a possible 63 plays. White was just as impressive in Week 1 as he had been during the preseason, logging a team-high eight solo stops with an assist. This guy is the real deal. Grab him if you can.
Adrian Phillips had a somewhat quiet debut as the starting strong safety but he was an every-down guy. Phillips made a bigger impact on the field than in the box score against the Colts, but he has plenty of solid production ahead of him.
One surprise name near the top of the Chargers tackle list was corner Brandon Facyson who got the start opposite Casey Hayward. Facyson is a second-year former undrafted free agent, who played little as a rookie. This makes him on par with rookie starters at the position. Thus the rookie corner rule comes into play. Providing Facyson continues to start, he will be targeted often.
Los Angeles Rams
Eric Weddle took a hard knee to the helmet and left the game with a concussion. Having seen him take the vicious hit, I expected him to be sidelined for a while, but Sean McVay said on Wednesday that Weddle is expected to play. That said, he has not yet cleared protocol. Christian Marqui stepped in at the position and finished the game. Taylor Rapp also saw a good deal of action as the third safety in nickel situations.
Bryce Hagar worked next to Cory Littleton at inside linebacker, but only on base package downs. Hagar was on the sideline for 63% of the snaps.
Eight defensive backs saw action against Baltimore with neither Minkah Fitzpatrick nor Reshad Jones playing anywhere close to every snap. Some of this may have been due to the score but injuries were the main culprit. Jones was not able to practice Wednesday due to an ankle sprain while Bobby McCain was limited with a sore shoulder. The Dolphins may look to bring T.J. McDonald back at some point.
Neither Jerome Baker nor Sam Eguavoen put up strong numbers versus the Ravens but they were both on the field full time. Bad as the Dolphins looked, both of these guys are going to be fine going forward if only because they will have so much opportunity.
The Falcons were able to move the ball but kept shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers. As a result, Minnesota had five players with at least five solo tackles and a lot of big-play production. We expect this unit to create a lot of pressure and turnovers, but they are not going to have so much tackle opportunity on a regular basis, so we should not overreact to Anthony Barr, Jayon Kearse, or Xavier Rhodes.
New England Patriots
Once again the Patriots prove they are best avoided by fantasy managers, especially on the IDP side. Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins Sr each managed a solid six solo tackles against the Steelers. While that looks alright on the surface, a closer look shows the only New England defender in the front seven to play 70% of the snaps was edge defender Shalique Calhoun. Both Collins and Hightower were on the field for 47 of a possible 68 plays, and that was with Kyle Van Noy away from the team due to the birth of his child. Who knows how the playing time will break down with Van Noy returning for Week 2.
Considering the Patriots generated almost no pass rush (one sack), it is safe to assume they will have a much different look in Week 2.
New Orleans Saints
After joining the team so late, Kiko Alonso was not ready to contribute in Week 1. The Saints stuck with their normal lineup at linebacker which had Demario Davis playing every snap, A.K. Klein in base packaged and some nickel sets and Alex Anzalone as a two-down middle backer. We should see Alonso work somewhere in Week 2, even if not in a significant role.
Safety Von Bell appears to have finally won a full-time job. He played every snap versus Houston, finishing with a team-leading five solo stops.
New York Giants
Jabrill Peppers was a disappointment to fantasy managers during his time with Cleveland. Maybe the move to New York will make a bigger difference than expected. Peppers has looked like a different player since coming to the Giants and kept the trend going by turning in a team-best six tackles and an assist against Dallas.
Tae Davis was a three-down linebacker throughout much of the preseason, but with Alec Ogletree back on the field in the lead role, Davis split time Ryan Conley at the other inside linebacker position.
New York Jets
C.J. Mosley is having an MRI to determine the severity of his groin injury, but it is highly likely he will miss time or at the least be limited for a while. Mosley was replaced by rookie Blake Cashman. The injury came late in the game so it is hard to say what we can expect at the position come Week 2. For what it is worth, Cashman was on the field nearly full time after coming into the game.
Neville Hewitt joined Mosley as a starter and as anticipated, played nearly every snap. His tackle numbers were not particularly impressive but Hewitt scored well for IDP managers with four tackles, four assists, and an interception. He is well worth picking up at this point, especially if Mosley misses significant time.
The Raiders looked great on Monday night but there are a lot of red flags for IDP managers. Corner Daryl Worley was the only defender to play every defensive snap against Denver. No one else saw more than 88% of the playing time. Vontaze Burfict was next closest with 56 of a possible 64 snaps at middle linebacker. Tahir Whitehead played 44 as the Raiders used a lot of big nickel with Lamarcus Joyner joining Karl Joseph and Johnathan Abram. Joseph and Burfict should have enough opportunity going forward to have some value but may not be every week must starters.
Unfortunately, Abram has been lost for the season with a torn rotator cuff. Curtis Riley would be the next man up but the loss of Abram could force the Raiders to change the way they play in the secondary. Riley is a serviceable veteran presence but he does not have the same skillset provided by Abram.
After posting 13 sacks all of last season, the Raiders came up with 3 in their first game of 2019. Rookie Clelin Ferrell got his first while veteran Benson Mayowa recorded two. Ferrell worked in a three-down role, seeing significantly more opportunity than the rest of the team’s defensive ends. Mayowa worked in a rotation, doing all his damage on 25 opportunities. The bottom line here is; Ferrell will have enough opportunity to be a consistently productive option, while Mayowa is more than likely a one week wonder.
The time has come to find a replacement for Zach Brown. Nigel Bradham returned for Week 1, stepping right into a three-down role in the middle. He finished with a team-leading six solo stops on the day and is a solid waiver target going into Week 2. Meanwhile, Brown was limited to fewer than half the team’s defensive snaps on the day. The Eagles instead went with a nickel base defense that had Andrew Sendejo on the field 57% of the time, often lining up at linebacker depth. The good news, if you want to call it such, is that Brown played more than any other linebacker besides Bradham. The bad news is that 29 plays in a game are no help to us.
Ronald Darby was questionable right up to game times but he sure looked fine in the box scores with five tackles and a pair of passes defended. He has a plus matchup this week with the Falcons and is a solid starting option in corner required leagues.
Malcolm Jenkins did not do much but then neither did the Washington offense. Managers should not overreact to his low Week 1 point total.
Malik Jackson left the Eagles team facility in a walking boot and was later diagnosed with a foot injury that will end his season. Timmy Jernigan was the next man up against Washington and should continue as the starter.
When the Steelers drafted Devin Bush in the first round it was widely assumed he would step right in as the centerpiece and of the defense and play every down. Instead, the Steelers are among a growing number of teams with no sure every-down player at linebacker. Bush played 53 of a possible 70 snaps, followed by Mark Barron with 48 and Vince Williams at 22.
Even with the reduced opportunity, Bush managed seven tackles and four assists while Barron totaled six solo stops. This was in a game where the Steelers were dominated. So what happens when they are on the other end of the score? Those that drafted Bush almost have to roll with him for now, even if we keep him as an LB4 until we see him in closer to a full-time role.
The Steelers pass rush was all but non-existent against New England but that was not completely unexpected. They should bounce back strongly against the Seahawks who gave up four sacks to the Bengals in Week 1.
Neither Ezekiel Ansah nor L.J. Collier was able to suit up against Cincinnati so Quinten Jefferson and Reshaan Green started at defensive end. Jefferson had a monster game with a pair of tackles, four assists, two sacks and a couple of batted passes. Those numbers are going to make him a priority free agent add for a lot of managers.
I will not try to talk anyone out of adding Jefferson but will mention that Seattle does not get to play Cincinnati again. He is a good player but not a one that is known for his pass-rush skills. In fact, Jefferson is actually a tackle who will move outside only on some early downs when everyone is healthy. The silver lining with Jefferson being that he is designated as a tackle on most host sites. For managers having to start interior linemen, Jefferson is a strong target to add.
The Seahawks like their three starting linebackers so well, they left them all on the field nearly full time against Cincinnati. It was expected that Mychal Kendricks would serve as a two-down strong -side backer while J.K. Wright stayed on in sub-packages. Instead, both outside linebackers played 69 of a possible 77 snaps. Neither of them had great statistical games but Kendricks managed a solid 5-2-0 with a pass defended. Those are rather respectable numbers considering the Bengals only ran the ball 14 times. If you have a need at the position, slip Kendricks onto your roster before he starts getting a lot more attention.
Tre Flowers led the Seahawks with nine tackles and an assist. He also added a pass breakup and a fumble recovery to finish as the number seven defensive back and the fifth-ranked corner after Week 1. There will not be many nine tackle weeks for Flowers but going back to last year, he is quickly emerging as a dependable starter in corner required leagues
San Francisco 49ers
Kwon Alexander got a little too excited over the opportunity to play his old team. Early in the first quarter, he was ejected for leading with the helmet on a tackle. To get an idea just how productive he is going to be, consider that he had three tackles on 20 plays before getting the boot.
Fred Warner was somewhat overshadowed by Alexander early on but finished the game strong with a mark of 7-2-0, a forced fumble and a pass breakup.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Year after year the Buccaneers are one of the league’s most injury bitten defenses. Edge defender Jason Pierre-Paul may miss the entire season, corner Ryan Smith is not going to be ready anytime soon and the team placed starting free safety Justin Evans on IR this week. Even some of the guys that were available for Week 1 were not completely healthy. Devin White made his NFL debut while battling tonsillitis. White battled through the illness to post respectable tackle totals. Under the circumstances, we should be pretty satisfied with his five solo stops and an assist. He should be healthier and more productive this week against the Panthers.
The one Tampa Bay defender that stood out in the opener is strong safety, Jordan Whitehead. He led the team in tackles at 7-1, making plays all over the field and looks like a player both the Buccaneers and fantasy managers will be able to depend on for a long time to come. Grab him if available.
Darian Stewart filled in at free safety and did an adequate job. With Evans landing on IR, the job is Stewards for the duration.
The Titans led us to believe there would continue to use a three-man rotation at inside linebacker. All three contenders saw action but it was far from an even rotation. Jayon Brown logged 90% of the snaps (66), Rashaan Evans 79% (59) and Wesley Woodyard 18% (13). None of these guys put up big numbers but if you are sitting on Brown or Evans, be patient and remember, Aaron Donald and J.J. Watt combined for one tackle, but no one is thinking about cutting them.
After all the time spent studying Washington’s situation at inside linebacker during the preseason, they came out looking completely different than expected in Week 1. Jon Bostic saw more action than any other Washington inside linebacker but he was far from productive, recording all of two assists on his 66 snaps. Meanwhile, it was rookie Cole Holcomb logging more snaps at the other ILB spot than either Shaun Dion Hamilton or Josh Harvey-Clemons. In fact, Harvey-Clemons did not get on the field at all while Hamilton played 31 of 75 snaps and Holcomb 51. With eight tackles and an assist, Holcomb was by far the most impressive of the lot. It is hard to guess how this will look a few weeks into the season but if you feel like gambling a bit, roll the dice on Holcomb.
Jonathan Allen left the game early with a knee injury that has been confirmed to be a sprain. He is not practicing this week and is unlikely to suit up for Week 2, but is not expected to miss many games.