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We went into week five expecting rookie Deionte Thompson to take over at strong safety. What we got was a timeshare with Jalen Thompson starting and out producing Deionte 5-3 to 2-1 with virtually equal playing time. With seven tackles and four assists between them, it is easy to see there is plenty of potential at the position, but until someone claims a full workload, there is no reason to roster either of them.
Byron Murphy should be a strong start this week against Atlanta. Five of the six starting corners Atlanta has faced over their last three games have recorded at least 5 solo tackles. Four of them have at least one pass defended as well.
Tramaine Brock left Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury. Kevin Peterson took over the starting spot after working as the slot corner early in the game. If Brock is out, Peterson too could be a decent play in deeper leagues starting two corners.
All the NFL prognosticators are trying to figure out what is wrong with the Falcons defense. Whatever the root of their struggles may be the result is standout production for De’Vondre Campbell. This is a guy I have been slow to believe in despite the steady numbers. In years past he has not been consistent in the box scores and has not been able to maintain a three-down role with any regularity. The playing time part has not necessarily changed.
Campbell logged every snap in weeks one and five while averaging 84% in the other three games, with a season-low of 77% in week three. What is different this year, is the play of Deion Jones in the middle. Jones has not been himself, leading me to believe he is not fully recovered from last year’s injury. As a result, Campbell has put up better fantasy production in four of five games thus far.
This trend could swing back the other way later in the year but as we near the halfway point in the fantasy regular season, Campbell has become a player we can trust as an every-week start. He is certainly a player we will want in our lineups this week against Arizona. In the Cardinals’ last three games, Shaq Thompson was 9-2-1, Luke Kuechly 8-2, Bobby Wagner 6-5, Mychal Kendricks 5-1-2, and Nick Vigil 6-7.
Jonathan Cyprien did indeed get the start at strong safety in week five. As much of the season has gone for the Falcons, he lasted 24 plays before suffering a foot injury that landed him on IR this week.
The Ravens are apparently not impressed with Kenny Young, despite his solid production on the field. Nor do they appear happy with Chris Board. Last week’s free-agent addition Josh Bynes got the start over both against the Steelers with Young a surprise inactive and Board getting on the field for one play. Meanwhile, Bynes played 72% of the snaps, finishing with three tackles, two assists, and an interception. He may not see more than 70-80% of the playing time in many games, but Bynes has proven to be a steady IDP contributor in the past. With the first four-team bye week hitting, he could provide decent value as a spot start over the next several games.
Baltimore took a big hit when Tony Jefferson was lost to a knee injury late in Sunday’s game. Chuck Clark has been seeing some action as a nickel safety and should slide into the starting role. Anthony Levine is in line to pick up the nickel snaps going forward, but this could mean a bit more playing time for Bynes as well.
Matt Milano left Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury. The Bills have a bye so he will have some time to heal, but we are not likely to get an update on the severity of the injury until next week when the team returns to practice. If Milano is one of your guys, it might be a good idea to look at plan B for week seven just in case.
Mario Addison now has at least half a sack in four straight games with a total of six and a half since week two. If that is not enough incentive to play him this week, consider that Tampa Bay is giving up over three and a half sacks per game on average and allowed six to the Saints last week.
I have no idea what stat crew worked the game in London, but the NFL needs to have a talk with them before the next game they work. No Chicago defender was awarded an assist in this game while Raiders players were given two. It would sure be nice to get some consistency across the league.
Akiem Hicks is pretty beat up so the bye week could not have come at a better time for him. Hicks was questionable and a game-time decision with a sore knee entering week five then left the game early with an elbow injury. Hopefully the week off will be enough to get him back on the field for week seven.
Quantity often trumps quality when it comes to IDP so give strong consideration to starting Nick Vigil or Preston Brown this week against Baltimore. The Bengals are not able to get off the field and Baltimore has been a stellar matchup for linebackers. Over the last four games, Jordan Hicks, Haason Reddick, Anthony Hitchens, Damien Wilson, Joe Schobert and the Steelers inside linebackers as a position (Mark Barron was injured), have averaged 6.8 solo tackles and 3.7 assists, with 2.5 sacks.
Safety Jermaine Whitehead has played full time since week two and put up good numbers in three of the last four games. That happened to coincide with the injury to Morgan Burnett, but the two are not necessarily related. Burnett returned to action from his quad injury in week five. He is being eased back into action, playing 26 of a possible 76 snaps, but most of his action came at the expense of Eric Murray.
Since the loss of Christian Kirksey in week two, Cleveland has been using a big nickel as their base defense, with Murray as the third safety. Once Burnett is all the way back, which would presumably be this week, Murray is likely to hit the bench with Whitehead slipping into the third safety role. That would cost him a few plays per game but Whitehead should still see around 85% of the action going forward. All things considered, however, it might be a good idea to give him the week off until we get a good look with everyone healthy.
The Jets will get a boost from the return of Sam Darnold but do not let that stop you from starting Demarcus Lawrence or Robert Quinn against them this week. New York still has the same offensive line that has allowed at least four sacks in each game this season and gave up 10 to the Eagles last week.
The injury hits just keep coming for Denver. A week after losing Bradley Chubb to a knee injury, his replacement Justin Hollins suffered one as well. That leaves Malik Reed and recent free-agent addition Jeremy Attaochu to fill out the second and third spots at outside linebacker opposite Von Miller.
The Broncos also lost corner De’Vante Bausby for the season with a neck injury. With Bryce Callahan still not practicing, rookie Duke Dawson is set to start with Davontae Harris and Isaac Yiadom as sub-package options. Dawson is not likely to be a fantasy factor this week against Tennessee, but Denver faces the Chiefs, Colts, and Browns in their next three games. The rookie corner rule could be in play for those contests.
It was not all bad news for Denver in week five. Not only did they get the win, but they also got Kareem Jackson back and may have found an answer at inside linebacker with the play of A.J. Johnson. Jackson had a great game at 8-2-0 with a forced fumble and was instrumental in the win. We have come to expect that kind of play and solid production from Jackson. The surprise was Johnson playing 93% of the snaps and going 6-3-0 with an interception. It was only one game so who knows if Johnson was running on adrenalin, but he sure passed the eyeball test.
When last we saw the Lions, Quandre Diggs was out with a hamstring injury and Tavon Wilson racked up 11 solo tackles against the Chiefs. AS is normally the case with teams on their bye week, there have been no updates on the status of Diggs. Green Bay has been a plus matchup for safeties so keep an eye on this one. Tracy Walker has become an every-week must-play, and if Wilson gets the start, he could be a sneaky solid option as well.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers are expected to be without free safety Darnell Savage for a while as he recovers from a high ankle sprain. Look for them to shift Tramon Williams to that position with some of their quality young depth at corner stepping up on the outside. Kevin King is the probable starter with Will Redmond the favorite to fil the slot.
Za’Darius Smith has been playing great despite battling a sore knee. He was in and out of Sunday’s game so keep an eye on his work in practice this week. Green Bay does not have a bye until week 11, so he will have to manage the injury for several games before getting time to rest it.
Jahleel Addae blew up for 10 tackles and an assist in week five, but there is nothing to see here. He played 35 snaps in his normal role as the third safety.
Darius Leonard returned to practice this week and will be back in action after the bye. That likely means a return to the time-share situation for Anthony Walker and Bobby Okereke who both played well in the absence of Leonard.
Ronnie Harrison was questionable with a sore knee entering week five then left the game in the second half with a neck injury. As of Wednesday afternoon, there have been no updates from the team on the severity of the injury or his status for week six. If Harrison plays he is a solid start against a New Orleans offense that has been a quality matchup for safeties on most weeks. Andrew Wingard finished Sunday’s game and would be the favorite to start if Harrison is not available.
Quincy Williams was not on the field in the fourth quarter against Carolina. There were no signs of an injury, leaving us to assume it was a coaching decision. That is not so hard to believe considering how badly the Jaguars were chewed up by Christian McCaffrey, and the fact Wi8lliams did not play particularly well over the first three quarters. For those sitting on Williams, the good news is Najee Goode replaced him and looked no better. The Saints are a good matchup for linebackers but unless we get some confirmation that Williams will get his job back, starting him will be a major risk.
On a quick note; Myles Jack could have played a lot better versus McCaffrey as well. If you want to know why the Jacksonville defense is struggling in general, look no further than the play at linebacker in general.
Kansas City Chiefs
Defense has been an issue for the Chiefs since last season. They were showing some improvement this year but things got tougher with the loss of both Xavier Williams and Chris Jones in week five. Jones will miss a few weeks with his groin strain while Williams landed on IR with his ankle injury. This makes Derrick Nnadi and Khalen Saunders the starting tackles going forward. Neither of these guys is the caliber of Jones but Nnadi could be an asset for managers in tackle required leagues. He is 7-7-1 with a forced fumble over the last two games. Kansas City signed Terrell McClain to provide some much-needed depth at the position.
Anthony Hitchens lasted 11 snaps before suffering a groin injury against the Colts. He was replaced by Ben Niemann who went on to have a solid game at 6-4-0. As of Wednesday afternoon, there had been no update on Hitchens’ status for week six but there is a strong chance Niemann will get the start versus Houston. He could prove a quality spot start if you have linebackers on bye over the next few weeks.
With Alex Okafor sidelined, Emmanuel Ogbah got the start at end in week five. He did not get to the quarterback in that game but did have six combined tackles and assists on 80% of the snaps. I like his chances of making a bigger impact this week against the Texans who are giving up almost three and a half sacks per game on average and have allowed six in a game twice so far.
Los Angeles Chargers
There has been a Kyzir White sighting in Los Angeles. He started and played 56% of the snaps against Denver. While this is a good sign the team has not given up on the young player, it is nothing for IDP managers to get excited about. In fact, the Chargers' entire linebacking corps gives us nothing to get excited about at this point. The only player to log more than 40 of a possible 61 snaps on Sunday was Uchenna Nwosu and that was only because he is now doubling as a defensive end most of the time while Melvin Ingram III recovers. In all the Chargers used six linebackers in week five with Thomas Davis getting the most playing time at 66%.
Los Angeles Rams
Troy Reeder was a new name in the Rams box score last week. At 8-5-0 he was also the only one to record more than four solo tackles. Reeder replaced Bryce Hagar at inside linebacker and was on the field for 74% of the defensive snaps. This is a development to keep an eye on but it was almost surely a fluke situation.
Look for bounce-back games by Cory Littleton because he is a proven stud, and especially safety John Johnson against San Francisco. Through their first four games, 49ers opponents have had six safeties reach double-digit fantasy points, all recording at least five solo stops. Eric Weddle is a solid play in this one as well.
It is hard to have much confidence in anyone wearing a Dolphins uniform at this point but give Taco Charlton serious consideration this week against Washington. Not only has he been hot since joining the team, but the Redskins have allowed 12 sacks over their last three games and are a hot mess after firing their head coach.
New England Patriots
In week five the Patriots when back to a look we saw from them early in the season. They opened in a 3-4 with Dont’a Hightower and Elandon Robers inside, Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins outside. Just like the last time we saw this approach from them, Kyle Van Noy vanished from the box score despite having plenty of opportunity to at least show up. After playing every snap in the previous two games, Van Noy dropped to 83% versus Washington. He has now been a complete bust in three of four games and is at best, a boom or bust dice roll on any given week.
In true Patriots fashion, it was Donta Hightower who for the first time this season, played every snap in a game. He was 5-3-1.5 with a pass breakup in the game after going 2-4-.5 in his previous two starts combined. When New England uses the 3-4 against Pittsburgh in week one, Hightower had six tackles. So the bottom line is if you can somehow figure out when the Patriots will use a 3-4 base, start Hightower in those games. Otherwise, he is just like Van Noy and is no more than a desperation gamble on any given week.
The only player here that is impervious to the week to week scheme changes is Jamie Collins, who has been equally successful as a 3-4 edge defender or a 4-3 outside linebacker. Getting him back this summer was an absolute coup for the Patriots.
New England’s defensive ends continue to be a moving target as well and should be completely avoided by IDP managers. None of them played more than 18 snaps against Washington on Sunday. In fact, only John Simon has played more than 30 plays in a game since week one. He logged 57 in week four.
New Orleans Saints
It looks like Kiko Alonso may not get a chance to expand his role anytime soon. He has consistently been on the field right around 10 snaps per game since coming to the team. Maybe he will have more opportunity coming out of the team’s week nine bye since that week off would give him an opportunity to get more up to speed with the defense.
New York Giants
Janoris Jenkins should be a busy man on Sunday against the Patriots. Opponents corners as a position have averaged 14.2 tackles against New England, which is the most against any team. Jenkins is a player who puts up solid tackle totals for a corner so he has a high floor even though Tom Brady will not give him much opportunity for big plays.
Alec Ogletree returned to practice this week and should play against New England. With David Mayo likely starting at the other inside backer position, the Giants safeties are also in line for plenty of action in this one.
Managers in tackle required league should take notice of rookie Dexter Lawrence he was 3-2-1 with a forced fumble against the Vikings and has two sacks in the last three games.
New York Jets
Trumaine Johnson may be out of the doghouse. He played all but one snap in week five. This does not necessarily mean he is back in the number one role, however, since both Brian Poole and Darryl Roberts also played virtually every snap. With the Cowboys this week and Patriots in week seven, Johnson could prove a great pickup if things are indeed back to normal.
C. J. Mosley is close to getting back on the field. He has been practicing on a limited basis and there is a possibility he could play against Dallas. It is more likely he will sit one more week and return against New England in week seven. Even if he is cleared and tries to play this week, groin injuries are easily aggravated, so putting him in our lineups would be a major risk.
Henry Anderson suffered a shoulder injury in week five and is considered week to week. He is a longshot to go against Dallas and will likely be replaced by Kyle Phillips. At least the Jets got Quinnen Williams back last week.
As anticipated it was Nicholas Morrow getting the call to replace Vontaze Burfict. Morrow played all but two snaps in the game, posting four tackles and an interception. With 10 tackles, an assist, 2 passes defended and a pick in a little less than two full games of action, Morrow is looking like a solid pickup target at this point.
Once again Oakland opened in a big-nickel with Lamarcus Joyner, Karl Joseph, and Eric Harris all on the field for every snap. Harris has been the most consistent and productive since joining the lineup. In his two starts he is 12-1-0 with a pick, a pair of passes defended and a score. Not to mention he was 5-1 on just 19 snaps in week three. All three of these guys have some value at this point with Harris being the top target for IDP managers.
Although the numbers have not yet come, rookie end Max Crosby is a player on the rise. He has looked much better on the field than his box scores would suggest. Crosby started for the injured Clelin Ferrell in week five and recorded his first career sack. He got close a few other times and was disruptive on a regular basis. With Arden Key expected to miss time with a knee injury, Crosby might be in the lineup for good. If you are a manager that likes to look ahead, Oakland has some juicy matchups coming up after their bye week. Over their next six games, they will see the Texans, Chargers, Bengals, and Jets, all teams that have been giving up a lot of plays to edge defenders.
The Eagles continued to work Kamu Grugier-Hill into the lineup in week five. His playing time nearly doubled from the previous week while that of Zach Brown continued to slip. After playing 34% of the snaps in week five, this could be the week Grugier-hill claims the starting job. His 2-1-0 box score against the Jets does not look like much, but consider he did it on 20 snaps in a game where no one on his team had more than four solo tackles. Slip him onto your roster if you have room.
Let’s not get too excited about Brandon Graham’s three-sack performance against the Jets. Maybe the team’s 10 sacks will help kick start the Eagles defense but they only get to play the Jets once this year.
Mark Barron left Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury. He had an MRI early this week to determine the severity but as of Wednesday afternoon, the Steelers had not disclosed the results. If Barron misses time look for Vince Williams to be the main benefactor. Williams came back from his hamstring injury in time to play last week, going 4-5-1 with a pass breakup. Most of his playing time came after Barron went down, though Williams was seeing a few situational snaps early in the game.
If Williams starts the Steelers will have to alter their game plan a little as his skill set is much different than that of Barron. That said, the Chargers would be a good matchup for what Williams does well, defending the run and rushing the passer.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Devin White was active and available for Sunday’s game but did not play a single snap. There may have been a couple of contributing factors here. Coming off the injury, the coaching staff might have viewed White as an emergency option or had him on a pitch count while wanting to give him one more week to recover. The bigger factor, however, could have been the play of Kevin Minter.
Over the past few years, we have come to know Minter as a marginal NFL starter and a two-down run defender when he does play. That is not what the Buccaneers have seen from him. Minter is playing arguably the best football of his career. He is making a lot of plays all and has not been such a liability in coverage. Had Drew Brees been at quarterback, there may have been a different story, but as it played out there was no rush to get White back on the field. That could change this week, but then again, it may not if the Panthers continue to saddle up Christian McCaffrey and run him into the ground. The moral of this story, sit tight on White until we see him back in his full-time role.
Cole Holcomb has not yet earned an every-down role but he is emerging as Washington’s best inside linebacker just the same. He has now led the team in solo tackles twice over the last three games. With all the changes in Washington, maybe Holcomb will begin to see some sub-package opportunities in the coming weeks.
The Dolphins are probably the worst matchup in the league and are usually a matchup to avoid for tackle producing defenders. Washington is not much better at this point though, so this week’s game could stay close enough to make Holcomb and the Redskins safeties decent starting options. At the least, they are not guys we absolutely have to bench.