Years ago, when Deone Bucannon introduced himself as a “money linebacker” on Sunday Night Football, the audience had a good laugh. The term was a reference to his defensive responsibilities but conjured images in the minds of viewers of the huge game checks that Bucannon was earning at that time. Memes popped up in the following days of Bucannon on top of piles of money and gold coins. Hopefully, following the guidance given in this column will have your rosters overflowing with a wealth of IDP riches. We will primarily focus on edge rushers but will also hit on some of the other players and situations that are likely to impact teams in big play leagues. We will cover risers and fallers in the format, injury situations about which fantasy general managers need to know, and upcoming matchups to target.
Note: The defensive player injuries covered in this column are not an exhaustive list, but an attempt to cover the situations most likely to impact big play IDP squads. For more extensive coverage of injury situations, see Jene Bramel’s latest Injury Rounds column.
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Defensive end Josh Sweat will get increased work with Vinny Curry out for at least the next couple of weeks and both Derrick Barnett and Brandon Graham banged up. It didn’t hurt that he made the most of his increased opportunity with a brilliant strip-sack of Dwayne Haskins.
Cowboys edge rusher Aldon Smith will be a popular pick-up this week and rightfully so. In his first game since 2015, he logged two quarterback hits, 11 tackles, and one sack.
Any doubts about safety Jamal Adams losing value with his trade to Seattle were put to bed after his dominant stat line against Atlanta. 8 tackles and a sack were an emphatic answer to the question “Is Jamal Adams still the best safety in IDP?”
Baltimore rookie linebacker Patrick Queen played 73% of the snaps and it was Malik Harrison who exited the game in clear passing situations. Queen had a nice day with four tackles, four assists, and a sack. It was the Ravens’ safety Chuck Clark who played every snap. Clark was everywhere, playing in coverage, playing in the box, and even blitzing. Four tackles, two assists, and a forced fumble later, Clark’s managers are smiling if they picked him up off the waiver wire as a sleeper this year.
Philadelphia’s Nate Gerry played 99% of the snaps and Duke Riley came in second with 81% of the snaps played.
After Dru Tranquill’s injury, Kenneth Murray managed 91% of the snaps and will undoubtedly be a big part of the plan going forward.
Seattle linebacker Jordyn Brooks’ usage was surprising, even for those of us who were most pessimistic about his outlook. At 9% of the snaps, its apparent that Brooks will probably not be useful for managers, at least not until a significant ramp-up in snaps occurs.
Not far behind Brooks in terms of disappointing linebacker usage was Arizona’s deployment of Isaiah Simmons at 29% of the snaps. Meanwhile, linebacker De'Vondre Campbell played every down. One has to imagine Simmons will get more usage as the season progresses, but for those who took him in redraft formats, you will need to bench him till further notice.
Brandon Jones of the Dolphins was only a 53% snap player, but had a great game, logging seven tackles and three assists. He’ll be worth rostering in your dynasty leagues, be careful about playing him in redraft until his playing time increases.
Bengals safety Vonn Bell wore the dot and played all the snaps. The linebackers were less fortunate. Germain Pratt and Josh Bynes played 73% and 72% of the plays respectively, with no other linebacker earning more of 30% of the playing time.
Josh Jones of the Jaguars was an every-down player and logged six solo tackles and six assists. He’s worth picking up if your team needs help.
Marcus Maye of the Jets looks like the safety to roster after producing two sacks, a forced fumble, seven tackles, two assists, and two passes defended. He’s also playing 100% of the snaps and should have plenty of opportunity on a bad team.
Raiders safety Johnathan Abram was back from last year’s season-ending injury and played all the snaps. He was used very versatility, which bodes well for his output in big play formats.
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Packers Defensive tackle Kenny Clark hurt his groin against the Vikings and did not return. Monitor his status in DT-required leagues.
Defensive end Danielle Hunter’s injury appears to be more significant than Mike Zimmer let on. We got word late last week that Hunter’s injury is related to his neck. Those are words we never want to hear associated with any player, let alone one that has to contort, bend, and burst in the ways that Hunter is commonly called upon to do.
Philadelphia’s injuries just keep piling up. Defensive ends Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry were both hurt. Curry’s injury was called “significant” and Brandon Graham sustained a concussion and was placed in the protocol.
Chargers’ linebacker Dru Tranquill is done for the year with a broken ankle. Kenneth Murray will have to be relied upon sooner rather than later.
Cleveland’s linebacker group can’t catch a break. Jacob Phillips sustained a knee injury and is out for the foreseeable future. Sione Takitaki and B.J. Goodson will be the linebackers to roster and both should see significant work.
Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch broke his collarbone and will be out 6-8 weeks. Journeyman Joe Thomas will take his place and is no one for fantasy general managers to get excited about picking up and playing.
Jets linebacker Blake Cashman got the start next to Neville Hewitt but exited with a groin injury after the first series. The Jets report he will be out a few weeks. That leaves Harvey Langi starting next to Hewitt until Avery Williamson is recovered from his hamstring injury suffered in camp.
Raiders’ linebacker Nick Kwiatkowski exited the game with a pectoral injury. Cory Littleton took the green dot at that point and Nicholas Morrow played an increased number of snaps from that point on.
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Note: This section will become more extensive as the season progresses and offensive and defensive trends are established. For the first few weeks, it will be limited to pass rush projections.
Cleveland Browns Pass Rushers vs. Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Line
Joe Burrow demonstrated the ability to evade pressure against the Chargers, but he also took a few sacks. This contest should be no different. Myles Garrett, Olivier Vernon, and Larry Ogunjobi are excellent plays as their respective positions this week.
Chicago Bears Pass Rushers vs. New York Giants Offensive Line
New York Giants Pass Rushers vs. Chicago Bears Offensive Line
A bad offensive line and a blind-to-pressure Daniel Jones? Yes, please. I’ll take my chances on Khalil Mack logging his first sack of the year and Akiem Hicks getting another sack to add to the one he got last week. On the other side of the matchup, I also like the chances of Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams to both extend their sack streak this week because of Mitchell Trubisky’s poor play. Lorenzo Carter and Marcus Golden are high-upside options if you need a big play or two to pump up your score this week.
Los Angeles Rams Pass Rushers vs. Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Line
Ordinarily, Philadelphia has one of the best offensive lines in football, but this team has been hit hard by injuries along the line and at other key positions. They gave up a whopping 8 sacks to Washington in game one. Carson Wentz also tends to be reckless with his body, which leads to sacks. That’s why the writer feels that Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd, and Micheal Brockers all have a better shot at a sack or other big play.
San Francisco 49ers Pass Rushers vs. New York Jets Offensive Line
In what promises to be a get-right game, the 49ers will tee off on the imploding New York Jets.
Pittsburgh Steelers Pass Rushers vs. Denver Broncos Offensive Line
The Broncos surprisingly didn’t surrender a sack in their first game but expect that to change against a more potent pass rush. Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, TJ Watt, and Bud Dupree are all candidates to record a sack or other big play this week.
Green Bay Packers Pass Rushers vs. Detroit Lions Offensive Line
The Lions only surrendered one sack last week, but I expect them to give up more than that this week against one of the more aggressive rushes in the league. Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith can be started with confidence.
Washington Football Team Pass Rushers vs. Arizona Cardinals Offensive Line
Montez Sweat, Chase Young, Ryan Kerrigan, and Matt Ioannidis had a bonanza of a day against Philadelphia. While that level of success won’t be repeated here, it’s still a nice matchup in which a sack or two is likely for the players listed above.
Baltimore Ravens Pass Rushers vs. Houston Texans Offensive Line
The Texans surrendered four sacks against the Chiefs and should continue their protection struggles against an aggressive Baltimore attack. Matt Judon and Tyus Bowser are worth throwing into your lineup if you are fishing for a big play. Pernell McPhee and Patrick Ferguson are high-risk-high-reward starts. Patrick Queen is a must-start in this matchup.
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Indianapolis Colts Pass Rushers vs. Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line
Minnesota Vikings Pass Rushers vs. Indianapolis Colts Offensive Line
Both teams have excellent offensive lines that limit sacks. The Vikings in particular are lacking pass-rush punch to start the season. Minnesota not having Danielle Hunter available has hurt them and it doesn’t look like he’ll be available this week. There could be a sack or two here or there but don’t expect many in this contest.
New Orleans Saints Pass Rushers vs. Las Vegas Raiders Offensive Line
Vegas’ line is excellent and despite Derrick Carr’s shortcomings, he’s not taken a sack yet this season. It doesn’t help that New Orleans is missing Marcus Davenport with an elbow injury. Cam Jordan is good enough he could find his way to a sack this week, but don’t bank on it.