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. When warranted, I'll also call out some players under No Change that tries to explain why the stat lines may be misleading. 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 about specific players or situations, feel free to email me or reach out via twitter.
TAMPA BAY @ CAROLINA
LB Shaquil Barrett, TB (3 solos, 3 sacks, 3 TFL, 4 QH)
Barrett never reached his full potential in Denver, mostly due to the excellent talent ahead of him there. With nearly 60 snaps per game, he’s playing close to a full-time role for the first time in his career. With 4 sacks through 2 games, he is quickly establishing himself as the best pass rush threat in Tampa and appears headed for a breakout year.
LB Luke Kuechly, CAR (8 solos, 9 asst, 2 TFL, 1 PD, 1 safety)
Kuechly has been an elite fantasy linebacker for many years but a 17-tackle effort is worth mentioning here. Cam Newton also hasn’t looked like his normal self so far, which could mean more time on the field for this defense each week and may be enough to push Kuechly back up to the top of the overall IDP rankings.
CB Vernon Hargreaves III, TB (11 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
Hargreaves has often been very productive when he’s on the field as opposing teams have a tendency to target him in the passing game. After missing nearly the entire 2018 season to injury, the former 1st round pick is taking advantage of a fresh start under a new coaching staff. He had a pick-six last week and then added 11 solo stops this week, including a game-saving tackle on Christian McCaffrey at the end of the 4th quarter.
LB Devin White, TB (2 asst)
The 5th overall pick in the draft is having a rough start to his career as he was sick leading up to the opener and then left this week’s game after just 6 snaps on the Panthers first drive of the game. White suffered an MCL sprain in his knee that doesn’t appear to be serious but could still keep him out or limit his effectiveness in week 3. Kevin Minter replaced him and finished with 8 tackles on 73 snaps (92%).
ARIZONA @ BALTIMORE
S Budda Baker, ARI (8 solos, 3 asst, 1 FF)
The Ravens offense generated 59 tackle opportunities in this game after posting 70 a week ago, so the matchup was certainly quite favorable. Baker tied for the team lead in tackles, however, which is a great indicator that we should expect more of the same from him despite the changes to the coaching staff. Although he’s listed as the team’s starting free safety, he lines up closer to the line of scrimmage than you’d expect and is excellent at diagnosing plays and aggressively supporting the run. With 15 solo tackles through 2 games and a high snap count expected each week, Baker could lead all safeties in tackles.
S Earl Thomas, BAL (1 asst)
The Cardinals passed the ball 40 times in this game with a rookie quarterback, which should have provided an excellent matchup for Thomas but he failed to take advantage and finished with just 1 assist. He did pick off a pass last week against Miami, but so far he’s been credited with just 1 solo and 1 assist on over 100 snaps. That’s not a good sign for his fantasy outlook this year so it’s probably time to look elsewhere if you were hoping for a resurgence given the Ravens' weakness at inside linebacker.
SAN FRANCISCO @ CINCINNATI
LB Preston Brown, CIN (4 solos, 10 asst)
Brown isn’t a particularly exciting fantasy option but he is in a great situation as the middle linebacker on a team that is expected to struggle this year. The 49ers generated 42 rush attempts in this game so it’s not surprising Brown piled up a lot of tackles, even though he looked slow and caught out of position at times. What stood out, however, was the fact Brown finished with 14 combined tackles on 62 snaps (86%) compared to just 2 assists in the game for Nick Vigil on 71 snaps (99%). Vigil is off to a very slow start thus far, and one has to wonder if rookie Germaine Pratt will start to get more work at some point.
LB Dee Ford, SF (1 asst)
Ford came into the year with health concerns and it appears his knee injury flared up again during the first half. He sat out the second half and was limited to just 1 assist on 25 snaps (36%) in the game. The 49ers have a lot of talent in their front seven but Ford is their most explosive edge rusher so it wouldn’t be a surprise if they try to limit his workload in the weeks ahead.
LA CHARGERS @ DETROIT
S Tracy Walker, DET (7 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL)
Walker didn’t show much as a rookie last year, but the former 3rd round pick is off to a great start this year. He’s yet to miss a snap through two games and his 19 combined tackles are 6 more than the next highest total on the team (CB Rashaan Melvin). Add in his interception from last week and he’s been one of the biggest IDP surprises through the first two weeks of the season.
S Adrian Phillips, LAC (5 solos, 3 asst)
Injuries continue to pile up for this team as Phillips suffered a broken arm that will send him to injured reserve. He posted 7 tackles on 51 defensive snaps (84%) with another on special teams and had been filling in capably for Derwin James. Now the team will likely have to turn to Jaylen Watkins but nickel back Desmond King should also see more playing time as a result.
MINNESOTA @ GREEN BAY
DE Danielle Hunter, MIN (6 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
Hunter was already considered an elite pass rusher but it’s encouraging to see him put up a game like this. He played 67 snaps (89%) and led his team in tackles while also contributing a sack and 3 quarterback hits. Meanwhile, Everson Griffen was much less productive on his 68 snaps (91%), although he was credited with 3 QB hits as well.
S Darnell Savage, GB (6 solos, 1 FF, 1 PD)
The rookie played all 65 snaps and made his presence felt this week. He finished 2nd on the team in tackles and added several big plays in the game. The first came when he forced a fumble on a Kirk Cousins scramble, although it was recovered by the Vikings. The next came when he tipped a pass into the hands of Preston Smith for an interception.
JACKSONVILLE @ HOUSTON
DE Josh Allen, JAX (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Without Yannick Ngakoue available this week, Allen saw 61 defensive snaps (92%), which was even more than Calais Campbell. While he hasn’t yet been able to capitalize with a breakout game on the stat sheet, that’s not unexpected for a rookie still adjusting to the speed of the pro game. If he continues to see this much playing, the numbers should come soon enough.
LB Whitney Mercilus, HOU (2 solos, 2 sacks, 2 QH, 2 FF)
Mercilus had a very disappointing season in 2018 as he posted just 4 sacks in 16 games, but he is off to a great start this year. The trade of Jadeveon Clowney seemed likely to weaken this defense but Mercilus is picking up the slack with 3 sacks through his first two games. He also added 2 forced fumbles this week, which is the most he’s ever had in a single season since entering the league back in 2012.
S Ronnie Harrison, JAX (4 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack)
With the surprise announcement by Telvin Smith Sr to take the year off, the Jaguars linebacker group took a huge hit. Rookie Quincy Williams is attempting to take his place at weakside linebacker, but that downgrade should allow more plays to reach the secondary than we’ve typically seen from this group. The most likely benefactor there is Harrison, who is built more like a linebacker than a safety and should continue to be very active in run support.
CB Jalen Ramsey, JAX (4 solos, 1 PD)
Things are getting ugly in Jacksonville as Ramsey got into a heated argument with head coach Doug Marrone on the sideline this week and reportedly has asked the team to trade him. While that may not necessarily have a negative impact on his fantasy value, there is a chance he could get a suspension or have some other adverse impact on his playing time if the relationship deteriorates any further.
NEW ENGLAND @ MIAMI
LB Jamie Collins Sr, NE (3 solos, 2 asst, .5 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 2 INT, 2 PD, 1 TD)
The Patriots defense took full advantage of the matchup this week as they collected 7 sacks, 4 interceptions, and 2 touchdowns. Collins was the main standout as he tied for the team lead in tackles while also adding a pair of interceptions (with a 69-yard touchdown) as well as a half-sack. Collins has often been a productive fantasy option but there were some concerns about how he would be used in New England this year. He saw some time as an edge rusher and outside linebacker who could drop into coverage, but also saw time at inside linebacker as a run defender so his versatility will give him plenty of opportunities in a hybrid defense like this.
LB Jerome Baker, MIA (7 solos, 5 asst)
Somebody is going to put up a ton of tackles in Miami this year and it certainly looks like Baker is the leading candidate. Through 2 games, he’s already been credited with 9 solos and 12 assists. The trade of Kiko Alonso created a clear opening for him to take over as the team’s full-time weakside linebacker and the lack of surrounding talent means this defense will be facing a lot of rush attempts just about every week.
BUFFALO @ NY GIANTS
DE Markus Golden, NYG (3 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 2 QH)
Golden posted 12.5 sacks with the Cardinals back in 2016 but struggled through two injury-plagued seasons since then. He got a fresh start with the Giants this year and looks like their only potential impact pass rusher. Despite missing some practice time last week with a hip injury, he managed to play 83% of the defensive snaps and had one of the few standout performances for a poor Giants defense.
S Antoine Bethea, NYG (5 solos, 5 asst)
Bethea is 35 years old but coming off a 100 solo tackle season with the Cardinals. He’s once likely to finish among the league leaders in tackles by a safety as the front seven can’t really stop anybody, and the Giants stat crew is the most generous in the league. Through two games, he’s already put up 9 solos and 8 assists and should continue to post strong tackle numbers just about every week.
S Siran Neal, BUF (6 solos, 2 asst)
With Taron Johnson sitting out, Siran Neal didn’t see a large increase in playing time as Kevin Johnson and Dean Marlowe also rotated in throughout the game. He was still targeted rather often when he was in the game, however, as he collected 5 combined tackles on just 24 snaps. He also added 3 solo tackles on special teams, which were certainly important in the game, but could make his final stat line make it seem like he played a bigger defensive role than he did.
SEATTLE @ PITTSBURGH
DE Stephon Tuitt, PIT (3 solos, 1 asst, 2.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
As a 3-4 defensive end whose primary responsibility is tying up blockers to allow his teammates to make plays, Tuitt doesn’t often get the glory that comes with big sack totals. As a result, he tends to fly under the radar and has had trouble matching his career-best season from 2015 when he registered 39 solos and 6.5 sacks. Unfortunately, the year doesn’t seem to be going the Steelers way with the injury to Ben Roethlisberger, but Tuitt showed this week that he is more than capable of creating pressure and getting to the quarterback.
LB Mark Barron, PIT (2 solos, 4 asst, .5 sack, 1 QH, 1 FR)
Vince Williams saw limited playing time but Barron was one of just 4 Steelers defenders to play all 79 defensive snaps this week. That shows the coaches trust him in all situations, but particularly in coverage. While Barron wasn’t very good with the Rams a year ago, he’s not too far removed from a point when he averaged 70+ solo tackles over the first 6 years of his career. The former safety may not have the same range he used to, but he should put up solid numbers as a 3-down inside linebacker here.
INDIANAPOLIS @ TENNESSEE
DT Denico Autry, IND (4 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
Autry broke out last year when he joined the Colts and posted 9 sacks in just 12 games played. The converted defensive end turned out to be a great fit as a 3-technique and has picked up where he left off with 8 tackles and 2.5 sacks through his first two games of the season.
S Clayton Geathers, IND (2 solos, 1 asst)
Geathers has had a rough start to the season and he’s already losing snaps to 4th round rookie Khari Willis. After seeing 89% of the snaps a week ago, Geathers saw his playing time reduced to just 70% this week with Willis jumping up to 50%. The coaches in Indianapolis have not shown any reluctance when it comes to playing rookies in key roles and Geathers may not have as strong of a hold on his starting job as many suspected. If this trend continues, Willis could surpass him as the team’s starting safety before too long.
CB Adoree' Jackson, TEN (1 solo)
Jackson handled the punt return duties in this game, but also saw a drop in playing time as he was only on the field for 50 defensive snaps (69%). He had a rough game that included a 46-yard pass interference penalty, and it seemed the coaches felt more comfortable with Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler as their top-2 cornerbacks. That could obviously change next week, but it’s worth noting as Jackson seemed to be developing into the Titans top shutdown corner last year.
DALLAS @ WASHINGTON
LB Jaylon Smith, DAL (8 solos, 3 asst)
The Cowboys have two players with clear LB1 fantasy potential, but is there enough opportunity for both to reach their potential? Last week, Leighton Vander Esch led the way with 10 tackles while Smith only contributed 6. This week, it was Smith’s turn to reach double digits with 11 while Vander Esch only contributed 5. They may just need to face some tougher competition but both players are clearly must-start players.
S Landon Collins, WAS (9 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL)
Not a surprise to see Collins putting up big tackle numbers with his new team as he’s one of the game’s very best safeties and an elite run defender. Washington likely has the weakest group of inside linebackers in the league, however, so his numbers could turn out even better than expected. Cole Holcomb might develop into a decent starter down the road but he has no experience and Jon Bostic is clearly below average. Dallas ran the ball 34 times in this game and Collins finished with 12 tackles compared to 13 for both inside linebackers combined.
DE Tyrone Crawford, DAL (1 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Crawford added a sack in the game before leaving early with a hip injury that has been bothering him since late last year. He only saw 18 snaps (29%) in the game and Dallas has enough depth to let him rest for a while given that 6 defensive ends saw at least 10 defensive snaps in the game this week, which didn’t even include Taco Charlton.
KANSAS CITY @ OAKLAND
DE Benson Mayowa, OAK (1 solo, 2 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
The Raiders had the worst pass rush in the league by far last year and hoped to improve it with the addition of Clelin Ferrell at the top of the draft. It’s been Mayowa who has made the bigger impact thus far though as he added 1.5 sacks to bring him up to 3.5 on the year on just 43 defensive snaps. There’s obviously quite a bit of luck on his side to get to the quarterback that much in such a small sample of snaps, but the Raiders also may want to try and find him some more playing time.
DE Alex Okafor, KC (0 tackles)
DE Frank Clark, KC (1 solo, 2 asst, 1 TFL)
Both starting defensive ends in the Chiefs new 4-3 front saw 58 defensive snaps (89%) in this game and the Raiders generated 45 tackle opportunities with 38 pass attempts, but the overall production was disappointing for the second week in a row. Through two games, they have combined for 4 solos, 3 assists, 0 sacks, and 0 QB hits against two offenses that were expected to be vulnerable in Jacksonville and Oakland.
S Karl Joseph, OAK (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
A lot of fantasy managers ran out to pick up Karl Joseph last week when they found that rookie Jonathan Abram was headed to injured reserve. He actually saw a reduction in playing time, however, as he went from 85% of the snaps a week ago to just 63% of the snaps this week. Some of that likely had to do with the matchup as coverage isn’t a strength for Joseph, but Curtis Riley (41%) and Erik Harris (55%) both look like they could eat into his playing time.
CHICAGO @ DENVER
S Eddie Jackson, CHI (6 solos, 4 asst, 2 PD)
What sets Jackson apart is his playmaking ability but he showed that he’s able to pile up tackles when given an opportunity as well. It’s rare you’ll see this Bears defense give up 61 tackle opportunities like they did this week, but Jackson stood out for his ability to chase down plays all over the field and joined both inside linebackers with double-digit tackles.
S Justin Simmons, DEN (8 solos, 1 asst, 2 PD)
The Broncos were without their top inside linebacker in Todd Davis which meant Josey Jewell had to play the full game with Corey Nelson filling in on early downs. That’s a very suspect tandem and contributed to the Bears conservative game plan to focus heavily on their running game. That also appears to favor the Broncos safeties, with Simmons standing out, in particular, this week as he was credited with 9 tackles on 45 tackle opportunities with a pair of pass breakups thrown in.
NEW ORLEANS @ LA RAMS
LB Clay Matthews, LAR (3 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Matthews struggled to make a significant impact during most of his last few years in Green Bay and many probably thought he had little left to offer at age 33. Through 2 games with the Rams, however, he’s been doing just what was expected of him. Although not getting a huge workload as evidenced by his 36 snaps (55%) this week, he has already collected 5 solos and a pair of sacks.
LB Alex Anzalone, NO (2 solos)
Anzalone was limited to just 18 snaps (26%) this week before leaving with an undisclosed injury and the team announced on Monday that he’d be headed to I.R. This should mean an increase in playing time for Kiko Alonso, who was acquired just before the season began and only saw 4 snaps on defense this week as he continues to get acclimated to his new team. Alonso certainly warrants a minor upgrade but will likely need to beat out A.J. Klein for a spot in the nickel package to become a reliable fantasy option.
PHILADELPHIA @ ATLANTA
S Keanu Neal, ATL (8 solos, 1 asst)
Neal had a quiet week 1 with just 1 solo tackle but he looked like his old self against the Eagles as he was credited with 9 tackles on 52 tackle opportunities. Most of his work came in a matchup with Zach Ertz, who finished with 8 catches on 16 targets in the game. While he doesn’t offer much in terms of big plays, Neal should have plenty more games like this and is a must-start fantasy option in most leagues.
DT Fletcher Cox, PHI (1 solo, 1 PD)
Cox is clearly one of the league’s elite defensive tackles and coming off the first 10+ sack season of his career. He seems to be playing well below 100% health, however, as he missed training camp and the preseason with a toe injury and hasn’t looked like himself thus far. Through 2 games, he does have two pass deflections but also just 3 solo tackles and no sacks. With Malik Jackson already out injured and now Timmy Jernigan suffering a broken foot this week, that will likely shift even more attention towards him.