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In Week 7 it looked like the Cardinals had decided on a full-time strong safety. In Week 8 they were back to a near equal timeshare between Deionte Thompson and Jalen Thompson. There is going to be no help for us coming from this situation.
Keep a close eye on the Cardinals practice reports this week if Haason Reddick is your guy. He had a sore knee going into the Saints game and ended up playing just under half of the defensive snaps. He may be limited again this week even if he is able to suit up.
Damontae Kazee put up a solid six solo stops in Week 8. He is still not playing full time but has been on the field for at least 74% of the snaps in three straight games. That has been enough opportunity for Kazee to record six solo stops in each of the last two. Atlanta has a bye this week but keep Kazee in mind if you need help down the stretch. Over the next seven games, Atlanta will face the Saints and Panthers twice, finishing with Carolina, San Francisco, and Jacksonville during the fantasy playoffs. That is a great string of matchups.
Neither Deion Jones (2-2-0) nor De’Vondre Campbell (2-5-0) did much in the box scores against Seattle which was a surprise considering the matchup. The good news is, nothing has changed here. Both players saw their normal workload. Chalk it up to random luck, or lack of it if you started one of them.
Ravens defenders have a great matchup this week against the Patriots. The problem is, they have no one with the sure ability to take advantage of it. Patrick Onwuasor is expected to play after missing a couple of games and is the closest thing Baltimore has to an every week IDP starter. He reached double-digit points twice in the first three weeks before going a modest 5-1-0 in the two games before his injury. Starting in Week 4, Tremaine Edmunds was 7-4 against New England, then Cole Holcomb went 8-2 and Jon Bostic 5-2, followed by Alec Ogletree at 9-3-1 and David Mayo 9-4-.5 in Week 6, Blake Cashman 6-2 in Week 7 and Joe Schobert was 8-3 last week. Josh Bynes could also be a decent sleeper to slip in if you are in need.
Jordan Poyer has been a bit inconsistent but is still a player we have to start on most weeks. Meanwhile, Micah Hyde has been producing fairly well in recent weeks. Think twice about playing either of these guys against Washington unless you are rolling the dice on a turnover or two. Only one safety has recorded more than three solo tackles against the Redskins wince Week 3
Eric Reid has been on a roll and is putting up some of the best numbers of his career in 2019. It is hard to sit a guy coming off a 7-1-1 outing but take a look at your other options this week. Roderic Teamer is the only safety with more than four solo stops against the Titans since Week 2.
There has recently been some concern over a potential loss of playing time for Roquan Smith. He did little in the box score against the Chargers but was on the field for 89% of the plays. The culprit here was a horrible offensive game by Los Angeles who ran 29 offensive plays resulting in a tackle being awarded.
Cleveland’s safety situation has been on our watch list over the last couple of games. After missing time with an injury, Morgan Burnett was used in a limited role for a couple of games, leading to speculation and/or assumption that he would no longer be a full-time player. Coming out of the bye week, both Burnett and Jermaine Whitehead played full time with Eric Murry serving as the third safety. What we have to consider, however, is the Browns were without Damarious Randall who is nursing a hamstring injury. If Randall is out again this week, both Burnett and Whitehead become viable starters against Denver.
Early in the season, I suggested patients with Olivier Vernon who is traditionally a slow starter. Olivier Vernon Over the last four games he has averaged almost three solo stops with either a sack or turnover in three of those games. Vernon is coming off his best game of the season at 6-0-1 and the Broncos have allowed 16 sacks in their last four games.
When a player fails to follow the so-called Patriots way, they tend not to be with New England for long. Michael Bennett was suspended for a game by the Patriots and then not surprisingly, traded to Dallas shortly thereafter. Bennett was not happy with his lack of playing time in New England. That is not likely to be a problem with Dallas who is short of quality defensive linemen due largely to a rash of injuries. Look for Bennett to see most of his action on the inside.
After a down week against the Chiefs, Alexander Johnson was back up to 91% of the snaps in Week 8, going 4-4-.5 with a forced fumble. Cleveland has been an inconsistent matchup for linebackers but Johnson’s apparent knack for the big play (two turnovers and three pass breakups in three starts), make him a viable starting option in Week 9.
Consider sitting Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson versus the Browns. No safety has recorded more than three solo tackles against them since Week 4 and we have to go back even further to find a safety with double-digit fantasy points against them
Damon Harrison tried to go in Week 8 but aggravated his groin injury in the first quarter. His availability for Week 9 is in question as of Wednesday. There was some good news for the Lions who had Da’Shawn Hand available for the first time this season. Hand logged 40 snaps, recording four tackles in his season debut. Having allowed one sack in the last four games combined, and none in the last three, the Raiders are a poor matchup for defensive ends that rely on sacks. That said, Hand could post good tackle totals in this one if you are in dire need. He has the potential to be a quality second starter on most weeks.
We went into Week 8 looking to see who would get the playing time at strong safety after the trade of Quandre Diggs. What we got was a real eyebrow-raiser. Both Tavon Wilson (6-1) and rookie Will Harris (3-1) played 82% of the possible 61 snaps, while fantasy standout Tracy Walker played 42. So far I have seen nothing about an injury to Walker, leaving a lot of questions as we head to Week 9. Keep an eye on the Lions practice reports later in the week. Meanwhile, if you need help at safety, give Wilson a long look.
With three or fewer solo tackles in every game this year, Jarrad Davis has been a disappointment, to say the least. If he is going to have a breakout game, it should come this week against the Raiders. It is true that Bernardrick McKinney flopped horribly against Oakland last week but it is hard to overlook the fact that opponents inside linebacker positions are averaging 14 solo tackles versus Oakland since Week 3.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers used a dime base defense with six defensive backs on the field for roughly 90% of the plays in Week 8. That made Blake Martinez the only non-edge rushing linebacker on the field for all but three snaps. It worked against the Chiefs and may have provided the rest of the league with a blueprint for success, but chances are we will not see them use it on a regular basis going forward.
J.J. Watt tore his pectoral and will finish his third season in the last four years on IR. This is a huge blow for a Texans defense that was already short on playmakers.
Seeing Clayton Geathers put up seven tackles and an assist in Week 8 will give a lot of managers the confidence to start him this week. Do not fall into that trap. Geathers played 60% of the defensive snaps against Denver and may not have seen that much action had Khari Willis not left early with a foot injury. Willis was stepped on and may not miss any additional time with the foot. The playing time breakdown at safety was Malik Hooker 62 snaps (of a possible 73), Geathers 44, George Odom 35 and Willis 22. I have to believe the coaching staff is still looking to replace Geathers as a starter at some point. It may have already happened if not for injuries.
The Jaguars signed Malcolm Smith last week but it was Austin Calitro who got the call at weak-side linebacker. Calitro was an undrafted free agent that made the Seahawks final roster last year and played fairly well when called upon to fill in for a few games. He was on the field for 50 snaps which were 82% of the defensive plays against the Jets, recording five tackles and two assists. Calitro is a player to keep an eye on over the next few games.
Ronnie Harrison checked out of Sunday’s game with a neck injury. We are still awaiting word on the severity and his availability for Week 9, but if he is your guy, look into a plan B just in case.
Kansas City Chiefs
After a light workload in Week 7, Anthony Hitchens was back to his normal playing time against the Packers, seeing a little more than 80% of the action. The groin injury still makes me a little nervous since those are so easily aggravated, but it is hard to overlook a matchup with the Vikings.
Los Angeles Chargers
Thomas Davis is still the only Chargers linebacker seeing enough opportunity to provide any consistent value. Even Davis is no longer playing full time which shows in his recent production. There is, however, a Los Angeles player we should keep an eye on going forward, particularly in dynasty formats.
Rookie Drue Tranquil saw his first game action in Week 4 and has seen his playing time increase steadily since that time. He had five tackles and a pair of assists on 20 snaps in Week 5 and showed up with six solo stops and a pass defended on 38 plays against Chicago. Both the snap count and tackle total were his highest to date.
Tranquil played safety for three seasons at Notre Dame before moving to linebacker as a senior, so he has the skill set the Chargers and most other NFL teams are now looking for at linebacker. In 13 games for the Fighting Irish last year, he rolled out a solid stat line of 63-23-3.5 with four pass breakups and takeaway.
We are not getting much from the Chargers linebackers at this point but their safety position has been providing good value. Roderic Teamer now has six games under his belt at strong safety and has produced good numbers in four of them. The two contests he did not show up well in were against the Dolphins and Steelers who have been poor matchups for safeties most of the season. Teamer is coming off his best production of the year with eight tackles and a pass breakup against Chicago. A look at the schedule is another good reason to think about adding Teamer. The Chargers' remaining schedule features a pair of games against Oakland who is a strong matchup, including week 16. Other matchups include the Chiefs, Jaguars, Vikings, and Broncos. All those teams have been plus matchups for safeties.
Los Angeles Rams
Kenny Young has not yet made an impact with the Rams. Against Cincinnati, Los Angeles stayed with a big nickel, playing Taylor Rapp as an every-down strong safety while Marquis Christian logged 75% of the snaps as a third man. Rapp spent a lot of time in the box at linebacker depth which helped him to an impressive nine tackles, three, and a pass breakup in spite of the lousy matchup. This week’s bye could give the coaching staff an opportunity to get Young more involved, but it does not look like he will have a significant role with his new team either.
Taco Charlton has been one of the few bright spots for Miami in an otherwise dismal season. He has a sack in four of five games since landing with the Dolphins, but there is a red flag flying over him heading into Week 9. After playing better than 90% of the snaps in the previous two games, Charlton was on the field less than 40% of the time against Pittsburgh. As of Wednesday afternoon, I have seen nothing to explain the sudden drop in playing time but if he is your guy, keep an eye out for news of an injury, etc.
New England Patriots
For anyone that still does not believe in the extra motivation players have when facing a former team, just look at the day Jamie Collins had against Cleveland. He was 12-1-1.5 while no other Patriots defender recorded more than four tackles.
New Orleans Saints
Over their first six games, the Saints used P.J. Williams as their nickel defensive back. He saw action on around 80% of the plays leading up to the two-game suspension. With Williams out, the team turned to rookie safety Chauncy Gardner-Johnson as their fifth defensive back. He has been nothing short of exceptional in the role both on the field and in the box scores. He played 91% of the snaps in Week 7, recording seven solo tackles and breaking up two passes, then followed up with four tackles, an assist and a pair of pass breakups while playing all but one snap in Week 8.
Gardner-Johnson played both corner and safety at Florida so he has a great skill set for the job. At 6’0” 210 pounds, he has the size and excellent speed as well. The Saints have a bye this week but when they return against Atlanta, it will not be a surprise to see Williams relegated to dime packages.
New York Giants
Deone Bucannon had a marginal role in the Giants Week 8 contest. The team’s most recent linebacker addition was on the field for 11 plays versus Detroit. The organization must have been encouraged with what they saw, as Tae Davis was released on Tuesday. Bucannon is on the watch list this week as we look to see if his role expands and/or he is able to unseat David Mayo as the starter next to Alec Ogletree. Mayo has his playing time cut down to 62% against the Lions and may soon be headed back to the familiar special team role.
The Giants defensive line got a boost with the trade for Leonard Williams, but the front-three was not exactly the team’s biggest need on defense. Unless the change of scenery is enough to re-kindle the flame for Williams, this move may not have much fantasy impact.
New York Jets
If you are in a highly competitive league with deep rosters and are forced to move early on free agents, take a good look at James Burgess this week. With Neville Hewitt possibly sidelined for a while due to knee and neck injuries, and C.J. Mosley looking at another month off with his groin, the Jets turned to Burgess as the replacement next to Blake Cashman. Burgess had a productive stint with Cleveland in 2017 and could make the most of what will be a target-rich environment if Hewitt continues to miss time. Burgess served as a three-down linebacker, playing 96% of the snaps in Week 8.
Trumaine Johnson won his starting job back after a couple of games but could now miss time with injuries to both ankles. Bump the stock of Darryl Roberts and Brian Poole, particularly in corner required leagues.
As an early first-round selection, Clelin Ferrell got most of the attention throughout the summer and into the regular season, but fourth-round pick Maxx Crosby is starting to look like a great value. He has a forced fumble or a sack in four consecutive games and is coming off a six solo tackle performance in Week 8. Crosby had been a bigger factor on the field than in the box scores prior to Sunday’s game but it now looks like the numbers may start matching his in-game impact. Dynasty managers, in particular, should give this guy a look but he could prove a quality addition down the stretch in redraft leagues as well.
The organization is trying to get better play from the middle linebacker position as they hope to be in the playoff mix. Brandon Marshall was brought back after being cut by the Raiders before the season, and Will Compton was also signed. These moves speak volumes about the future of Nicholas Morrow who has been holding down the fort since Vontaze Burfict was suspended. Neither of the new additions is likely to provide much improvement over Morrow but at least both have starting experience
For managers on corner required leagues, Travon Mullen could be a great option versus Detroit this week. The Lions have a strong tendency to avoid an opponent’s top corner and go after their second and/or third guys. With Mullen being a rookie, there is a good chance he will be the focus of the passing attack.
After two games without Nigel Bradham, it has become clear that Nathan Gerry is the Eagles linebacker to have. He has played every snap over the last two games, producing 12 tackles, 5 assists, and a sack. Meanwhile, Kamu Grugier-Hill has done little. In fact, his playing time was reduced in Week 8 when he was on the field for 39 of a possible 62 snaps, recording two tackles for the second straight game.
After a painfully slow start that included eight tackles, two assists and a fumble recovery over the first four games, Brandon Graham has caught fire. In the last four contests, he is a combined 13-6-5 with a forced fumble and a recovery. Philadelphia has a couple of tough matchups with the Patriots and Seahawks in weeks 11 and 12, but heading into the fantasy playoffs in weeks 13 -15, they get the Dolphins, Giants, and Redskins.
Both Fletcher Cox and Malcolm Jenkins are heating up in recent weeks as well. Cox went 4-2-1.5 with a forced fumble against Buffalo, making him 11-6-2.5 with a pair of forced fumbles in the last four games. When he has everything going, Cox is a top-10 interior lineman. The best game Jenkins turned in prior to Week 6, was three tackles and an assist. Over the last three, he has averaged 5-1 with a takeaway and a pair of pass breakups.
Based on the sudden resurgence and a great matchup with the Bears this week, Jenkins is worthy of consideration as a starter. Over Chicago’s last three games, seven safeties have recorded at least five solo tackles against them, with five of them going for six or more.
The Steelers inside linebacker position has now come full circle. When everyone was healthy early in the season, Vince Williams and Mark Barron were splitting time at the position with Barron getting a slight edge in playing time. They took turns suffering injuries as well which allowed the healthy guy to see full-time action for a bit. Both were in action against Miami and they returned to the same rotation we saw in Week 1 with Barron playing 40 of 60 snaps and Williams 34. That is just enough to ruin either of them as a potential starter.
Things are getting complicated at safety in Seattle. They started the season with Bradley McDougald and Tedrick Thompson at the positions. McDougald is a solid, dependable veteran while Thompson is a serviceable option. All was fine for a while until McDougald started having back issues.
With the team already thin at the position, they traded for Quandre Diggs who is also a solid, dependable yet unspectacular veteran. He promptly missed his first game with the team due to an ongoing hamstring issue. McDougald tried to go in Week 8 but lasted only 11 plays before the back flared up, opening the door for rookie Marquise Blair to impress for a second straight game.
In slightly under two full games, Blair is 13-6-0 with a forced fumble and a pass breakup. And yes, he has looked every bit as good on the field as in the box scores. The decision may be made for them this week when health will probably decide who plays, but what happens, say in week 12 when the team returns from bye with everyone healthy? We already know that Seattle is not afraid to play rookies in the secondary, and they have a great matchup with the 49ers in week 10. All we can do for now is watch the injury report and any other news nugget that could lend a clue.
Either Jarran Reed is out of shape and not up to football speed or his huge 2018 season was a one year wonder. He has all of three assists on 116 snaps over two games since returning from suspension. If he is not able to turn on the Jets a little against Tampa Bay this week, it will be time to throw him back into the pool if you have not already done so.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers got Jason Pierre-Paul back in Week 8 and he made an immediate impact. Not only was he 3-0-1, but his presence took some pressure off of Shaq Barrett who also got a mark in the sack column and had another big game. Over the years we have seen Pierre-Paul play nearly full time when healthy, so his 43 snaps which were a 68% piece of the action, might actually be considered easing him back into the game from his perspective. One thing that is for sure, fresh legs at this point in the season can be a big plus for a pass rusher.
Quinton Dunbar got off to a quick start with two tackles and an assist on the first 17 plays against Minnesota. That was where his night ended with a hamstring injury. If this guy could ever stay healthy, he would be a great IDP option for those in corner required leagues. With Josh Norman also banged up, rookie Jimmy Moreland could be back in the starting lineup against Buffalo. Moreland had 12 solo tackles I two starts earlier in the season and could put up decent numbers despite the less than desirable matchup.
Jonathan Allen had another big game against the Vikings, going 3-4 1. That gives him 15 tackles, 7 assists and four sacks in four games. Playing end in a 3-4 is no longer the curse it once was in fantasy terms.