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There are always plenty of surprises in Week 1. With no preseason and little helpful press coverage leading up to the games, there is a lot more to cover this week than in a normal year. Get out your notepad and let’s go.
For those that drafted Isaiah Simmons, the worst fears came to life. He was on the field for 18 of a possible 62 snaps against San Francisco. If there is any silver lining, Simmons managed three tackles in the limited action, so when/if his role expands the production should be there. For now, managers have to weigh the upside against the possibility that it may be a long time before Simmons has anything near a full-time role. For dynasty managers the decision is easy. Stick him on the taxi squad and be patient. In re-draft leagues, the decision is much more difficult, especially if there are some good options on the wire.
The other concern heading into the season was the effect of increased competition on Jordan Hicks. Both he and De’Vondre Campbell played every snap against San Francisco. Campbell was the team’s second-leading tackler at 5-2-0 while Hicks was third at 4-2-0. It is only one week so there is no reason to panic, but it might be tough for Hicks to reach triple-digit tackles again.
It was not exactly a breakout game for Tak McKinley but at least he showed signs of life. His 2-3-1 with a batted pass added up to 13.5 points, which was the second-highest one-game total of his career, and the highest since week four of 2018.
Dante Fowler had a mediocre fantasy debut with his new team but he contributed half a sack and was a bigger factor on the field than his 1-3-.5 would suggest.
Deion Jones totaled 6-3-0 and looked a lot like the top-10 linebacker he was in 2017. Meanwhile, Foye Oluokun was stuck in the part-time role we used to see with De’Vondre Campbell prior to 2019. Foye was on the field for roughly 74% of the snaps, falling just short of useful IDP numbers with four tackles and two assists.
A.J. Terrell is one of several rookies to start at corner in Week 1. With five tackles and an assist, his numbers were solid for a corner. He may not make a bunch of big plays but consistent tackle totals from the corner position are hard to come by. The rookie corner rule is in effect here.
Keanu Neal has not played a full season since 2017 so it should not be a big surprise that he posted mediocre numbers (2-4-0) in Week 1. The surprise is that he was on the field for just 82% of the snaps. Maybe this is just the coaching staff easing him back in, but it is something to keep an eye on.
Another guy to keep an eye on is Damontae Kazee who played every snap at free safety. This is a guy that has been productive in the past when given a full-time role. He was 61-20-0 with 7 interceptions in 14 games as a starter in 2018. No one will be looking at him after a four tackle Week 1, but the playing time could mean bigger numbers going forward.
Ricardo Allen played 25 of a possible 62 snaps, seeing mostly sub-package time.
It was widely expected that Patrick Queen would step right in as the Ravens every-down inside linebacker. He played more than anyone else at the position and had a strong fantasy debut at 4-4-1 with a forced fumble, but reminiscent of last season, no inside linebacker was full-time for Baltimore.
Four inside backers saw action with Queen leading the way at 74% of the playing time (54 snaps). L.J. Fort and Makil Harrison played 23 and 21 snaps respectively. Chris Board got on the field for nine plays but that was in garbage time when the game was already decided.
Fort’s six tackles are enough to have some IDP managers looking to add him this week. Don’t be one of those managers. This guy has a history as a tease. It seems like every year he gets into a game or two and has good numbers with limited opportunity, then vanishes for the rest of the season. There is a reason he is with his third team in three years. Look for Harrison, who had four tackles against Cleveland, to get more of the playing time as the season progresses.
The Bills gave us no surprises in Week 1 but they did have some relevant injuries. Tremaine Edmunds left the game early with a shoulder injury and Matt Milano with a hamstring. Neither player is expected to miss much time but both are in question for Week 2.
The shoulder injury is the most concerning here. Sore shoulders tend to linger and are easily aggravated. Guys with these injuries often see their production dip even if they tough it out, and playing through a bad shoulder often keeps it from healing for the entire season. Watch closely if Edmunds is your guy and be prepared to grab someone off waivers if a quality option is there.
A.J. Kline should have a bigger role in the short term with Tyler Matakevich filling in for Edmunds and Tyrel Dodson for Milano if they are not able to go.
Brian Burns didn’t get to the quarterback in Week 1 but he has come a long way since last season. He played on early downs and showed significant improvement versus the run. In all, Burns played 68% of the snaps and posted a respectable 3-1.
The team’s depth chart shows Yetur Gross-Matos as the starter opposite Burns, but Stephen Weatherly held the job in Week 1. He played 60% of the snaps while Gross-Matos was on the field for 16 plays against the Raiders. Neither player made any impact. They had five assists between them.
Donte Jackson played 11 snaps against the Raiders before leaving with an ankle injury. There has been no update on the severity, but his Week 2 is in serious doubt. Fourth-round pick Troy Pride Jr started opposite Jackson in Week 1. He made a good showing on the field and finished with a solid 4-3-0 in the box scores. This is another rookie corner option, on a defense that has been IDP friendly at the position over the years. If you need a starter this week, keep in mind that Tom Brady loves to beat up on rookie corners.
With Justin Burris starting at strong safety, Rasul Douglas could be in line to start against the Buccaneers in Week 2. Douglas was the nickel corner before Jackson was injured. The nickel role could fall to Corn Elder.
We had a good idea that Jeremy Chinn would be used at linebacker when the Panthers released their first depth chart. What we did not know is how the playing time would be split up. Chinn started on the weak-side and played every snap, totaling 7-1-0. Shaq Thompson was on the strong side and also played full-time going 5-7, while Tahir Whitehead played 90% of the snaps from the middle linebacker position going 3-3-0. Chinn’s versatility allowed the team to stay in their base defense on 90% of the plays, so all three linebackers should continue to have good IDP value. Chinn was particularly impressive in his debut, making plays sideline to sideline. It’s early, but he could be in the conversation for defensive rookie of the year if he keeps it up.
Rookie corner rule alert! Jaylon Johnson started opposite Kyle Fuller and played every snap. He was targeted often, ending the game with five tackles, an assist, and a pair of passes defended. Working opposite one of the game’s best in Kyle Fuller means Johnson is going to be a busy man.
Germaine Pratt (7-5-0) and Josh Bynes (4-4-1) were the starting linebackers and saw most of the action in both base and nickel situations, Logan Wilson (3-0-0) was the dime linebacker. He and fellow rookie Akeem Davis-Gaither (3-0) also saw a little action in early down situations. In all, Pratt played 54 of a possible 74 snaps, Bynes 53, Wilson 30, and Davis Gaither 20. The Cincinnati defense will be on the field a lot so there should be enough opportunity to feed Pratt and Bynes, at least for now. We will have to keep an eye on Wilson to see if his playing time increases as expected down the road.
Tackle D.J. Reader was carted off with apparent knee injury. As of Wednesday afternoon, there has been no update on his status. With Geno Atkins banged up and inactive, the Bengals had Mike Daniels and Christian Covington at tackle much of the game. The availability of Atkins for Week 2 is still up in the air as well. So if Reader’s injury is serious, look for Daniels to start at the 3-technique and possibly be a factor in tackle required formats.
With Shawn Williams banged up and inactive, Vonn Bell started at strong safety and played every snap, recording four tackles and four assists. Bell is the clear starter but it remains to be seen what the roles will be once Williams returns.
Cleveland started B.J. Goodson (5-4-0) at middle linebacker, Sione Takitaki (5-2) on the strong side, and Jacob Phillips on the weak side. When Phillips was lost to a knee injury, he was replaced by Malcolm Smith. Takitaki played 54 of a possible 59 snaps with Goodson logging 49 and the combination of Phillips and Smith seeing 31. At this point, it seems Takitaki will be the best IDP target of the group with Goodson a close second. There has been no update on Phillips as of Wednesday afternoon.
Olivier Vernon got the start opposite Myles Garrett at defensive end but Adrian Clayborn (2-0-1) had a big role as the third man in the rotation. Clayborn is a capable three-down option and could see an increased role if Vernon fails to step up over the next few games.
Cleveland went with Karl Joseph at strong safety and Andrew Sendejo at free. Having those guys out of their normal positions was a strange call in itself, but not getting recent trade addition Ronnie Harrison on the field at all in a blowout loss, could be an even bigger head-scratcher. Maybe it was because he has not been with the team for long, but if Harrison does not have a role in Week 2, it would probably be time to move on.
Leighton Vander Esch left the game in the first quarter with a broken collar bone. The good news is the injury is not related to the neck issue that ended his 2019 season. The bad news is Vander Esch will miss at least six weeks and probably more like eight. This would be a great place to grab Sean Lee if he were healthy, but instead, the Cowboys will go with Joe Thomas. Thomas has not been very productive in the past and did little (2-3-0) on 50 snaps against the Rams.
There was a lot of hype surrounding Aldon Smith leading up to Week 1, and he showed us why. Smith not only led all Dallas defensive linemen in snaps and every other measurable statistic, but he also finished 6-5-1 and is the fantasy game’s top defensive lineman after Week 1. If this guy is available, make him your top waiver target.
Jeremiah Attaochu was a great addition to the Broncos last season and has already made his presence felt this year. He is not Von Miller but few teams have a backup the caliber of Attaochu to step in. He went 3-1-1 against the Titans, which is nothing special in IDP terms for an outside linebacker, but there are some league host programs, such as MyFantasyLeague.com, that have him as a defensive end. It is worth taking a look. If he is a defensive end, Attaochu could be a great sneaky add. He has 16 tackles, 6 assists, and 4.5 sacks in seven games since week 12 of last season.
With Todd Davis gone and Mark Barron out with a bad hamstring, Josey Jewell was on the field for nearly every snap Monday night. It remains to be seen if he will keep the sub-package duties once Barron is healthy, but Jewell looked better versus the Titans than when we last saw him in 2019.
A.J. Johnson was 8-4-0 against Tennessee and could be headed for a big season as the centerpiece of Denver’s defense.
A.J. Bouye suffered a shoulder injury in the first half of Monday’s game and did not play in the second half. That left Bryce Callahan, third-round pick Michael Ojemudia, and undrafted free agent Essang Bassey as the top three corners. Callahan and Bassey combined for 11 tackles and 2 assists against the Titans and could be in for a busy night against the Steelers.
The Lions opened with Jarrad Davis at middle linebacker, Jamie Collons on the left outside, and Christian Jones on the right. Collins was 2-1-0 with a pass breakup on 19 plays before getting ejected in a highly questionable officiating move. With Collins gone, Reggie Ragland saw a little action, but it was Jahlani Tavai who led all Lions linebackers in playing time. Tavai played 51 of a possible 65 snaps, followed by Jones with 44, and Davis with 35. Collins will not receive further disciplinary action and remains the only viable IDP target of this group at the moment.
The snap count for Lions safeties was interesting in Week 1. Tracy Walker started right where he left off in the box score with a mark of 8-1-0 and a pass defended, but he was not on the field full-time. Walker played 54 of 65 snaps. Will Harris logged 52 snaps and recorded five solo stops. Duron Harmon was the every-down guy but had the least production at 4-1-0. Harmon was never able to capitalize when playing fulltime as a member of the Patriots so his current role may not translate to IDP value.
Corners Justin Coleman and Desmond Trufant left Sunday’s game with hamstring injuries. The Lions are holding hope that Trufant will be able to play but it is far from a sure thing. Rookie fifth-round pick Amani Oruwariye started opposite Trufant in the opener with Coleman in the slot. The Lions may go with the rookie and Darryl Roberts on the outside and Tony McRae in the slot. Oruwariye had four tackles against Chicago and will be targeted often by Aaron Rodgers this week.
Green Bay Packers
Adrian Amos was a major disappointment in Week 1 but don’t be too quick to throw him out. Packers defenders were only credited with 31 solo stops as a team and 11 of them went to the guys right in front of Amos at inside linebacker. He will have much better games and this week will probably be one of them; especially if the Lions ride Adrian Peterson as they did in the opener.
Krys Barnes started next to Christian Kirksey at inside linebacker and was 5-2-0 in the game. The numbers are not particularly impressive until we consider Barnes only played 15 snaps. Green Bay does not use two inside linebackers often so chances are Barnes will not do much going forward, but it is something to keep an eye on.
The Packers took a big hit when Kenny Clark left the game with a groin injury. As of Wednesday afternoon, there has not been an update on his status for Week 2.
Strong safety Justin Reid had a respectable five tackles and a pass breakup against the Chiefs but was an even bigger impact on the field than the numbers suggest. Reid consistently put up strong numbers last season before suffering a shoulder injury that hampered him much of the season. Against the Chiefs, he looked a lot like the guy that had 29 tackles and 12 assists after five games in 2019. Let’s hope he can stay healthy.
Corner John Reid was a pleasant surprise for the Texans on Thursday night. With Gareon Conley on IR, Houston started Bradley Roby and Vernon Hargreaves on the outside with Reid in the slot. He played 32 of a possible 69 snaps, recording six solo stops, but it was not the numbers that caught my eye, it was his on-field impact. Reid was around the ball often and was flying all over the field. It may be hard for the coaching staff to keep this guy out of a major role even when everyone is available. He has future starter written all over him.
We were not sure what to expect from Colts safeties in Week 1 but we now have a definitive answer. Khari Willis salvaged an otherwise bad fantasy outing with a sack, with the important point being that he played every snap. Chalk his one tackle and two assists up as a Week 1 fluke and don’t hesitate to play him this week against an angry Minnesota team.
Kenny Moore has been a productive corner in the past but as anticipated, he is now relegated to a nickel role. Unless that status changes, his days as a fantasy starter are over. Moore played 38 snaps in Week 1.
One of our watch list situations was the Colts middle linebacker spot. There was some anticipation/hope that Bobby Okereke would move into that spot and swap roles with Anthony Walker. Barring injury, it looks like we may have to wait another year for Okereke to get his shot. Walker logged 86% of the playing time at MLB with Okereke totaling 19 plays, mostly in three linebacker sets.
Denico Autry lined up at defensive end on most early-down snaps and shifted inside in some passing situations. The result was a two-sack outing. If you can grab this guy as an interior lineman where hs is listed by many league host sites, make that move. Autry could even have decent value as a defensive end.
When the Jaguars traded Ronnie Harrison away, it left us wondering who would start at strong safety. Andrew Wingard was the backup last season and seemed like a logical choice, but it was former Packers second-round pick Josh Jones who got the call. We probably should have seen this one coming. At 6’1” 220 pounds, Jones is a linebacker wearing the number of a defensive back and is practically a cheaper clone of Harrison. The Week 1 result for Jones was six tackles, six assists, and 13.5 fantasy points. He should have a lot more strong games going forward and is a priority free-agent target for anyone in need at the position.
As it turns out, C.J. Henderson is not afraid to tackle, and he can get the job done in coverage as well. The report on this rookie coming out of college was that he does not like to tackle. Both he and his college coach tried to tell everyone that he was simply not asked to do so very often. Henderson entered Week 1 with that chip on his shoulder and immediately answered doubters by totaling five tackles while adding an interception and two other pass breakups. This may be the year of the rookie corner rule and Henderson could be the flag carrier.
As many of you know, I have never been much of a Myles Jack fan, but credit is due for his Week 1 performance. He had a great day on the field, making plays all over the field like everyone has expected him too since 2016. He was just as impressive in the box scores with one of the best stat lines of his career at 8-3-1. Jack has shown flashes throughout his career but consistency has been an issue. Let’s see if he can solve that puzzle before getting too excited, but so far so good.
In his Jaguars debut, Joe Schobert was overshadowed by Jack, at least in the box scores. Schobert finished with a respectable 5-3-0 and turned in a solid performance on the field. There will be weeks when Jack is the more productive of the two, but in the end, I still believe strongly that Schobert will have the better fantasy numbers,
Kansas City Chiefs
Despite the second-round selection of Willie Gay Jr, nothing seems to have changed with the Chiefs linebackers. Anthony Hitchins was 3-2-0 in the first 10 minutes of the game but finished 4-3. Dorian O’Daniel was 3-1-1, Gay was credited with one tackle and Ben Nieman did not show up in the box scores at all, despite leading the group in playing time with 36 snaps. With none of their linebackers on the field more than 61% of the time. It is best to stay away from this group until someone starts seeing at least 80% of the action.
Rookie L’Jarius Sneed got the start on the corner opposite Chavarius Ward and made a strong first impression. He was not big in the tackle column but had an interception and another pass defended to go with three tackles. Most importantly, he was quick to react and was around the ball a lot for a corner. Chiefs corners have traditionally put up decent numbers so the rookie could prove a solid contributor in corner required leagues.
Week 1 injuries to Alex Okafor (hamstring), Derrick Nnadi (elbow), and Chavarius Ward (hand) could keep all three players on the sideline for Week 2. Ward probably has the best shot at playing but would have his surgically repaired hand heavily wrapped if he goes.
Las Vegas Raiders
Nick Kwiatkowski was a three-down linebacker and the signal-caller for Las Vegas. The Raiders kept both he and Cory Littleton on the field in virtually all situations until Kwiatkoski suffered a pectoral injury midway through the game. The injury is not as serious as originally feared, but Kwiatkoski will miss some time. Nicholas Morrow started on the strong side against Carolina and saw his role increase after Kwiatkoski was injured. With a week to prepare, we could see recent addition Raekwon McMillan at either middle or strong side in Week 2. Either way, the only IDP target among this group is Cory Littleton for now.
The statistical beneficiary of Kwiatkoski’s injury was Johnathan Abram who went on to have a huge game against the Panthers, totaling nine tackles and four assists. After missing his rookie campaign with injury, Abram was everything the Raiders and IDP managers thought he would be.
Las Vegas was not able to muster much pass rush in Week 1. Second-year defensive ends Clelin Ferrell and Max Crosby record all of four assists between them on the day. I like both players in the long term but the Week 2 matchup with a Saints team that does a great job of protecting Drew Brees is not going to provide a favorable opportunity to bounce back.
Los Angeles Chargers
Drue Tranquill started and looked to be playing on all three-downs before suffering a broken ankle in the first quarter. The injury is not thought to be season-ending but Tranquill will be out for a good while. He was replaced by Nick Vigil who played nearly every snap the rest of the way. With Denzel Perryman and Kyzir White getting 19 snaps between them, it looks like Vigil and Kenneth Murray could both be solid options going forward. Murray was on the field for 62 of a possible 68 snaps in Week 1, removing any concern that he might be a two-down contributor. Neither Vigil nor Murray posted particularly strong numbers in the opener, but then the Bengals did not provide a great deal of opportunity either.
Casey Hayward exploded for 12 solo tackles and a pair of pass breakups against the Bengals. Those numbers have a lot of managers looking to pick him up. Just as there are good players that flop in Week 1, there are guys that land in the perfect storm and go off. Hayward has been in the league for nine seasons. He has reached 50 solo tackles twice and never made it to 55. Let someone else overpay for a guy they will cut in a few weeks.
Los Angeles Rams
Taylor Rapp stepped in for an injured John Johnson and helped a lot of managers win championships last year. Nearly everyone expected him to line up alongside Johnson this season, but that was not the case. In fact, there could be a big shakeup with the IDP value of Rams safeties. Johnson has shifted from strong safety where he and Rapp put up big numbers over the last two seasons, to free safety. Instead of making Rapp the starting strong safety, however, the Los Angeles started sixth-round pick Jordan Fuller at the position. Both Johnson and Jordan were every-down guys with Rapp totaling 15 snaps on the day.
All this is flying under the radar to a large extent because no one blew up for big numbers in Week 1. Johnson had three tackles and an assist while Fuller finished 5-3-0. This turn of events does not necessarily mean that Johnson’s numbers will be bad, but anyone that has Johnson, Rapp, or a need at the position, should be all over Fuller this week. He was productive at Ohio State and we have seen the kind of numbers that can come with this position.
We can now confirm that Micah Kiser is the man to have among the Rams linebackers. He played every snap in Week 1 and put up good numbers at 6-1-0 with a pair of pass breakups. Kenny Young was the other inside linebacker but played just 53% of the snaps, coming off the field in many sub-package situations
With 13 tackles, 3 assists, a sack, and a forced fumble, Jerome Baker is a strong candidate for defensive player of the week and is well on the way to a top-10 fantasy season. He and second-year lineman Christian Wilkins (5-1-1) were the silver lining in an otherwise stormy opener for the Dolphins. After those two, there is a lot of potential but uncertainty among Miami defenders.
The Dolphins told us all along that they were going to run a multi-look hybrid scheme, using a lot of players and moving them around. That is exactly what we got from them in Week 1. Rookie Brandon Jones started at strong safety and put up good numbers (7-3-0), but he played 34 of 62 snaps. He lined up as the deep safety, in the box, and over the slot on those 34 plays. Jones was all over the field making plays and could earn a bigger role in short order, but for now, he remains a risky proposition for IDP managers.
Elandon Roberts got the start next to Baker at inside linebacker but was far less of a factor, going 3-1-0 on 40 plays. Kyle Van Noy played 41 snaps, lining up at multiple positions including inside and as an edge rusher. Kamu Grugier-Hill logged 18 snaps while Andrew Van Ginkel was officially a starter, but played only 8.
Most of us anticipated the Vikings would start a rookie as one of their top-three corners. We had that part right but it was not first-round pick Jeff Gladney as we expected. Instead, it was third-round selection Cameron Dantzler getting the call. Another surprise was the breakdown of playing time. Dantzler, Holton Hill, and Mike Hughes all played at least 74% of the game but none of them saw more than 82% of the action. Hill came away with the best production at seven solo stops but Aaron Rodgers picked the group apart on the field. I have a feeling we will see some change in Week 2 so it may be a good idea to stay away from this group for now.
Minnesota has been known for a great pass rush over the years, but it didn’t show up for Week 1. Granted, they were without Danielle Hunter who is one of the best in the game, but this group rarely got close to Rodgers. Ifeadi Odinegbo is a guy I was high on as a sleeper this summer. He and Jalyn Holmes got the start at defensive end with recent trade addition Yannik Ngakoue coming off the bench and playing a lot. Phillip Rivers is a lot easier to sack than Rodgers, but until they get Hunter back or someone else steps up, put your Vikings pass rush on the shelf.
New England Patriots
Throughout the summer we wondered what the Patriots were going to do at linebacker. The Belichick answer is, who needs linebackers anyway. Ja’Whaun Bentley lined up at middle backer on 51 of 61 snaps. All other linebackers combined for 17 plays. Bentley totaled three tackles and two assists but at least he played enough to consider keeping if he’s on your roster.
Meanwhile, nine defensive backs played at least 44% of the snaps with Adrian Phillips leading the way in the box scores at 8-1-0 and a pick. Even Phillips was well short of an every-down guy but Week 1 leaves little doubt that he will be a focal point for the unit. Outside of Phillips, possibly Bentley, and maybe Chase Winovich, if you’re in a bind, this is a typical Patriots defense where the value is a constantly moving target.
New Orleans Saints
After going 9-1-0 with a pass breakup, Chauncey Gardner-Davis is a high demand free-agent this week. I will not make an argument against adding him but be aware that his situation is the same as last season. Malcolm Jenkins was in the Vonn Bell role as the every-down strong safety against the Buccaneers, and Marcus Williams played every snap as the deep/free safety. Gardner-Johnson was the third safety in the team’s nickel base package. In this particular game, Gardner-Johnson was on the field for 87% of the snaps but that could change from week to week. That said, he should see enough playing time every week to be a contributor and there will be games that he puts up big numbers. Just know what you are buying before you open the box.
I have to wonder why the Saints continue to force the issue with Marcus Davenport. He has fallen way short of expectations and is on the cusp of being declared a first-round bust, yet the coaching staff still has him ahead of Trey Hendrickson who seems to produce whenever they give him a shot. With Davenport nursing an injury and inactive, Hendrickson came through yet again with four tackles and a sack against Tampa Bay.
Alex Anzalone got the start at middle linebacker in Week 1, playing 71% of the snaps alongside Demario Davis. He was not a factor in the box scores largely due to game flow, but it is worth mention for those in deep roster leagues.
New York Giants
Julian Love did not have much of a statistical impact in Week 1 but he did play every snap at free safety. Meanwhile, late addition Logan Ryan had a modest role with 38 plays. The Giants used a lot of five and six defensive back sets against the Steelers, leading to six DBs seeing action on at least 59% of the plays. Jabril Pepper was a virtual no-show but we should not get overly excited about his 1-2-0. He will be fine in the coming weeks.
Marcus Golden was on the field for just 22 snaps against the Steelers but this is almost certainly due to him being sick all last week. He logged some practice time on Friday after missing all prior practices. Golden is the Giants best pass rusher and his role should reflect such in Week 2.
New York Jets
The Jets are experiencing De-Ja-Vu at the inside linebacker positions. They were injury bitten all last year and are already without C.J. Mosley who opted out, Avery Williamson who is struggling to come back from last year’s knee injury, and Blake Cashman who landed on IR after leaving Sunday’s game with a groin injury. Harvey Langi, who is normally an outside linebacker, stepped in for Cashman in Week 1 but keep in mind the team’s recent signing of Alec Ogletree, who is currently on the practice squad. One more injury and we might see James Burgess back on the roster.
Marcus Maye is among the top waiver targets this week. With Jamal Adams gone, Maye’s role has changed dramatically. He is no longer playing center field on every snap. Instead, Maye is seeing some time in the box and appears to have a much different set of responsibilities. That combined with the disaster at inside linebacker, led to an outstanding Week 1 performance with seven tackles, three assists, a pair of sacks, a forced fumble, and two passes defended. We can’t expect that kind of production every week but Maye will be a considerable IDP contributor.
If someone had told me before Week 1 that a Jets corner would have seven tackles against the Bills offense, I would have laughed it off. As it turns out, they had two. Austin Blessuan and Brian Poole were the starters versus Buffalo. They combined for 15-2-1 with a forced fumble and a pass breakup against a team that is not known for a high powered offense. Jets corners put up good numbers last season so it will be interesting to see if they continue to do so with another so-so matchup in Week 2.
The Eagles have been patient wit Nate Gerry and it may finally pay off. His career was derailed by injury in 2017 and 2018. Gerry made it back onto the field with a major role last year but was not impressive. If his Week 1 performance is a good measure, he may have finally gotten over the hump. Gerry played all but one snap at middle linebacker in the loss to Washington, going 5-5-0. The numbers were solid but he was even better on the field. Gerry showed quickness and aggression that we did not see last year, and he did not miss tackles which had been a problem previously. One game does not make a season, but there is a reason for optimism here.
Josh Sweat made the Week 1 start because Derek Barnett was on the shelf with a hamstring. Barnett’s status for Week 2 is in doubt as well, but things have turned for the worse in Philadelphia. Vinny Curry was placed on IR this week with a hamstring injury and Brandon Graham is currently in concussion protocol. Sweat played well in Week 1 going 2-1-1 and forcing a fumble. He is now set to be a starter for at least Week 2 and possibly well beyond.
When Malcolm Jenkins moved on, the Eagles shifted Jalen Mills from corner to safety, but Mills did not simply step into the role Jenkins left. I have not yet had a chance to review this game closely but what I have seen suggests that Rodney McLeod has moved into the strong safety role with Mills taking over center field duties. This would explain McLeod’s mark of 6-2-0 and a pass breakup, which represents his best production since week four of last season. McLeod put up good number early in his career when he was a strong safety for the Rams, but has done little in the box scores since 2016. The change of positions should make him a factor again.
The Steelers have a great defense that confuses a lot of offenses, but at least they are predictable when it comes to IDP production. Week 1 numbers were right in line with expectations, including the 4-4-1 turned in by Vince Williams. The one question entering this season was, would he have a greatly expanded role now that Mark Barron is gone. The answer is yes. Williams was far from an every-down player but he did see 40 snaps which were more than he played in 13 of 16 games last season. He is not a player we want to depend on every week and will not give us big tackle totals, but Williams is an excellent pass rusher. He got home on the blitz eight times in 2017 and is back in the same role year.
The Seahawks started L.J. Collier at defensive end in Week 1 but he played only 38% of the snaps in a timeshare with Rasheem Green and Damontre Moore. Collier could play more in Week 2 with Green nursing a sore shoulder but that would be more out of desperation than desire. Last year’s first-round pick has a total of three tackles and one assist in 17 games so far and was a complete non-factor against Atlanta.
Keep an eye on second-year safety Marquise Blair over the next week or two. He was on the field for 55 snaps against Atlanta as the third safety in a big-nickel base defense and finished 4-3-0 with a forced fumble. Seattle has used a great deal of big nickel in the past so it is hard to say if this is a one-week matchup situation or a new look for the defense in a league that is leaning harder and harder on speed and multiple defensive back looks.
The ripple effect of playing three safeties on 70% of the snaps was less time for every linebacker not named Bobby Wagner. K.J. Wright played 44 of 79 snaps and rookie Jordyn Brooks 7. Wright also lost playing time to Bruce Irvin who lined up as a pass-rushing strong side linebacker several times
Much of Blair’s playing time came at the expense of Tre Flowers. Seattle started Shaquill Most of Blairs Quinton Dunbar 5-1 PD and Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar on the corners, with Flowers barely getting on the field.
San Francisco 49ers
We heard a few weeks ago that Kwon Alexander would start at weakside linebacker. Week 1 verified that he would be on the field in all situations as well. Alexander finished 6-3 on 80 of 82 snaps while Dre Greenlaw made the most of his opportunity, going 3-2 with a pass breakup on 35 plays. We know what Greenlaw is capable of but it is hard to keep a roster spot for him just in case there is an injury to Alexander or Fred Warner.
Arik Armstead was a non-factor in Week 1 but don’t overreact and let him go. This unit will come together quickly after the loss and Armstead is a big part of their plan. He played 52 snaps against Arizona, just five fewer than Nick Bosa. Armstead’s turn will come.
The 49ers drafted Javon Kinlaw to eventually replace DeForest Buckner. The rookie had a solid role in Week 1, logging just under half the snaps, but was rather quiet in terms of production. No one expects him to be Buckner on day one, so be patient.
Kerry Hyder was a bit of a box score surprise in Week 1. He got on the field for 33 plays as part of the rotation and was 3-0-1 in the game. Store that in your memory in case there is an injury to Bosa or Armstead.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
There was not a great deal of production from the Buccaneers safety positions in Week 1 but at least we got a good look at how they will line up. Jordan Whitehead played all but six snaps at strong safety, going 4-2-0, and Antoine Winfield Jr was on the field for every defensive play, finishing at 3-3-0 with a pass breakup. Now that we know their roles, it is safe to expect better production from both players in the coming weeks.
The Titans gave us unexpected numbers in Week 1. Free safety Kevin Byard had a huge game with eight tackles, an assist, a forced fumble, and a pass defended. This equals the second-most tackles in a game of his career. The last time he had more than six was week four of 2018. We are accustomed to Jayon Brown having that kind of production, but the inside linebacker finished 2-3-0 despite Rashaan Evans being ejected for throwing a punch early in the game. I would chalk it up to another abnormality of the year 2020, but in reality, we have something strang happen almost every week in this game.
Jadaveon Clowney has not been with the team for long but was still on the field for 80% of the snaps. He cashed a big paycheck so hopefully, he will contribute a lot more than the three sacks he gave Seattle last season. I feel like he is one of the most overrated players in the game. Time will tell.
Washington Football Team
The biggest thing to stand out about Washington’s come from behind victory over the Eagles is their pass rush. Seven of their eight sacks were recorded by defensive linemen with six guys getting credit for at least a half. We could look at who started and snap counts, but it doesn’t really matter because this group is going to rotate relatively evenly throughout a game. Montes Sweat, Chase Young, Ryan Kerrigan, Matt Ioannidis, and Jonathan Allen, are all guys deserving of roster spots in most leagues and starting spots on most fantasy teams.
I would like to give you a breakdown on the linebacker snap counts for Washington, but like everything else this year, some things are just not right. The provider that Footballguys gets that information from has some sort of glitch with the Washington team so the numbers they are showing, are not accurate. What I can pass along is that Cole Holcomb left the game with a knee injury. He was able to get back on the field but had little impact after returning. There has been no update on his availability for Week 2.
I have not reviewed this game closely, but it appears Jon Bostic played full-time at middle linebacker. He was 5-3-1 on the day.
That’s a wrap for this week. Good luck sorting everything out and getting the guys you want off the wire.
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