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Injuries and the ripple effect they cause make up most of the important news this week. Many of us have lost important players but the silver lining is the opportunity for others to step up. How we manage these next few weeks can be the difference between a championship and a disappointing season.
The Cardinals will probably be without both starting safeties this weekend. Budda Baker is dealing with a thumb injury and Chis Banjo a hamstring. There is a reasonable chance that Baker will only miss a week or two while we are still awaiting an update on Banjo.
Deionte Thomas took over for Banjo on Sunday and is the favorite to start at that position in Week 4. The Cardinals have some options when it comes to Baker, who only missed a few plays against the Lions. Curtis Riley and Charles Washington could see some action but the most interesting option is Isaiah Simmons. He has been working at linebacker but has seen little playing time through three games. Simmons played plenty of safety at Clemson so he is more than capable of stepping in. This is a great opportunity for the team to get some return from their first-round pick and could be a great opportunity for IDP managers to stream a guy with big upside.
The Falcons defense is short-handed going into Week 4. The secondary will be missing corners A.J. Terrell (COVID) and Darqueze Dennard who was placed on IR with a hamstring. They are also without safety Ricardo Allen (elbow) and Kendall Sheffield (foot).
Isaiah Oliver and Blidi-Wreh-Wilson are the likely starters at corner with Damontae Kazee and Keanu Neal at safety. Rookie safety Jaylinn Hawkins saw some time at the fifth defensive back last week and is in line to do so again. If there is anything good that can come from this in IDP terms, it is the likelihood that Neal will play closer to 100% of the snaps. So far he has not seen action on more than 83% of the snaps in any game.
The Falcons were without Foyesade Oluokun against the Bears. Oluokun was limited in practice last week, suggesting he is close to getting back on the field. Rookie Mychal Walker got the start versus Chicago and played well, going 6-2-0 with a forced fumble in a near every-down role. Whoever gets the start this week against the Packers, should put up solid numbers.
This team could be missing starters at every level if Grady Jarrett is not able to go. He was 3-1-1 against the Bears before leaving with a hip injury late in the game. Rookie Marlon Davidson saw his first game action in Week 3 and would be in line to start if Jarrett is out.
It is hard to argue with the production L.J. Fort has provided despite his limited playing time, but it was still a shock to see him in a virtually equal timeshare with Patrick Queen on Monday night. Queen played 63% of the snaps and Fort 57%. The result was marginal numbers from both players.
Safety Chuck Clark had the most productive game of his four-year career against the Chiefs at 6-4-0 and a forced fumble. Baltimore is not playing Kansas City this week so we probably shouldn’t get too excited.
Every week we see a few corners rack up big numbers. This week it was Bill slot corner, Taron Johnson, with 10 tackles and an assist. Don’t get caught chasing the numbers as many did with Casey Hayward and Emmanuel Mosley in Week 1, or Tavierre Thomas and Amadi Ugo in Week 2.
It has been a while since Micah Hyde was an IDP factor, but it is noteworthy that he has six tackles and two assists in each of the last two games. Hyde left last week’s game with an ankle injury so be careful if you are considering him. Siran Neal would likely get the call if Hyde is not able to go.
A.J. Klein has never been much of an IDP factor but it was a surprise to see him benched in Week 3. Klein played one snap while Tyrel Dodson and Tyler Matakevich combined for 36 at strong-side linebacker.
The Panthers have not been hit as hard by injuries as many other teams, but they will probably be without number one corner Donta Jackson this week. Jackson suffered a toe injury midway through the Week 3 contest. Rookie Troy Pride Jr and veteran Corn Elder are the obvious options to replace him this week, but keep in mind that the Panthers signed Trumaine Johnson about two weeks back. Now that he has some time with the team, Johnson could be in the mix to start.
Brian Burns has been playing well in his three-down role. His snap count has increased every week until he was on the field for 81% of the snaps against the Chargers. His tackle numbers have been solid and Burns got home for a sack and forced fumble versus Los Angeles. The matchup with Arizona is not a particularly good one, but Burns is well-deserving of a roster spot in most leagues
Last week we were trying to figure out why Danny Trevathan only played about half the snaps in Week 2. We still don’t have that answer but at least Trevathan was back up around 80% versus Atlanta. Last year he played at least 84% in every game before an injury ended his season in week nine, and had 100% playing time in five of those seven games. This is a tough call considering his history of quality production, but if you need a roster spot, cutting Trevathan is a reasonable consideration at this point.
Logan Wilson was up to 32% of the defensive snaps in Week 3, which was his highest total to date. If he continues to play as he did against Philadelphia, the playing time should continue to grow. Wilson was on the field for 29 plays versus the Eagles, recording five tackles and an interception. He was just as solid on the field as in the box scores and had a considerable impact. It will be surprising if Wilson is not the starter by mid-season.
Last week we were looking at the reduced role of Carlos Dunlap and wondering if there was a changing of the guard in the works at defensive end for the Bengals. Dunlap put that possibility to rest with nine tackles and a batted pass on 82% of the snaps versus Philadelphia. Carl Lawson was still on the field enough (52%) to make his presence felt. In fact, he was 4-4-2 with a forced fumble. Lawson may prove to be a bit inconsistent week to week, but he is going to have vale more often than not.
Wilson’s slightly increased snap count came mostly at the expense of Germaine Pratt who slipped from better than 70% in each of the first two games, to 57% of the action versus the Eagles.
Mack Wilson was active for Week 3 but played just a handful of snaps. He is expected to have a bigger role in Week 4 but the team is not willing to say he will start just yet. Keep him on the bench until we see some production.
Adrian Clayborn was back on the field in Week 3. With Olivier Vernon out, Clayborn worked in a timeshare with Joe Jackson. It would not be a surprise to see Clayborne’s role increase over the next few weeks.
The rookie corner rule is in full swing with Cowboys corner Trevon Diggs who has 15 tackles, a forced fumble, and two passes defended over the last two games.
Alson Smith continues to impress and could become one of the NFL’sgreatest comeback stories. Through three games he is 12-8-4, leads the league in sacks, and has been a top-five lineman in two of those weeks.
The hits keep coming for Denver. This week’s injury losses include Jurrell Casey who is lost for the season with a torn pectoral and Jeremiah Attaochu who is now nursing a quad injury. Anthony Chickillo is the next man up at defensive end with Malik Reed and Joseph Jones likely seeing increases time at outside linebacker if Attaochu is not able to go.
Last week we were scratching our collective heads to figure out what Tracy Walker only played 40 of a possible 65 snaps. We never found an answer to that question but Walker was back in his usual, every snap, role in Week 3. The result was a 10 tackle and 2 assist outing. We have to keep playing him at this point but there will continue to be a seed of doubt until we see a few consecutive games with every-down action.
If not for the big plays from Jamie Collins we would be getting little production from Detroit’s linebackers, but for anyone keeping track, Jahlani Tavai led Lion’s linebackers with 89% of the snaps in Week 3.
Green Bay Packers
Christian Kirksey left Sunday’s game early with a shoulder injury that is expected to keep him out for multiple games. If you have Kirksey or need help at linebacker, jump on Ty Summers. The second-year pro stepped up admirably against the Saints, recording six tackles and three assists on 44 plays. It was his first significant action as a pro but Summers turned heads during the pre-season in his rookie year. Physically, Summers is a clone of Kirksey with the ability to stay on the field in passing situations. The fact he took over the playcalling duties for the defense is another good sign.
Zach Cunningham missed a few snaps in Sunday’s game with a leg issue. He returned to finish the game with eight tackles and a pair of assists, so it does not appear to be a concern. If he is on your roster, keep an eye on the practice reports this week just to be safe.
The Texans flirted with the idea of bringing in Earl Thomas this week but ultimately decided to cancel the visit. COVID concerns got the blame for the cancelation but that just feels like an excuse. The team’s third safety, A.J. Moore landed on IR this week so there appears to be a need for depth at the position. he meeting Bernardrick McKinney 8-3
There were a couple of situations with the Colts on our Week 3 watch list. The loss of Malik Hooker did indeed get Tavon Wilson on the field but not in a starting role. Instead, he was in an unbalanced timeshare with rookie Julian Blackmon. Blackmon started and was on the field for 41 of a possible 57 plays against the Jets, while Wilson logged 23 total snaps. Jet Jets offense is not a good test, but it is worth mention that Blackmon recorded one tackle while Wilson accounted for four on about half the playing time. We will keep watching this one for a while.
Bobby Okereke was a three-down player once again in Week 3, signaling that the shift we saw in Week 2 is probably permanent. Anthony Walker was slightly more productive against New York, but again, this is not a good measuring stick. This week’s matchup with the Bears should tell us a lot more about Okereke’s IDP value going forward. It would not be a surprise if he were matched up often against Jimmy Graham, who currently leads the Bears passing game in targets.
If anyone could use Earl Thomas it is the Jaguars. Jacksonville lost another safety to injury in Week 3 when Andrew Wingard suffered a groin injury. With Jarrod Wilson already on the shelf, the coaching staff shifted backup corner Brandon Watson to free safety during the game. There has been no update on the severity of Wingard’s injury as of Wednesday morning.
Rookie corner C.J. Henderson did not do much against Miami but don’t let that keep him out of your lineup this week. In Week 1 Casey Hayward had 12 tackles and 2 passes defended against the Bengals. In Week 2 it was Taviere Thomas with nine solo stops. Last week both Avonte Maddox and Darius Slay each accounted for seven tackles and a pass breakup, with Cre’Von LeBlanc adding another 5-2-0. For all their struggles, the Cincinnati offense has been able to move the ball, mostly on the am of Joe Burrow.
Kansas City Chiefs
Heading into Week 3 I touted Chiefs linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson as possible stream starters in their matchup with Baltimore. That game script did not go as expected with the Chiefs getting out to a big lead, forcing the normally run-heavy Ravens out of their comfort zone. Instead of keeping their better run stuffers on the field to counter the three-headed rushing attack, Kansas City deployed more speed. At times they had four safeties on the field to keep Lamar Jackson and Mark Andrews in check. As a result of this approach, both Wilson and Hitchens played just 36 snaps.
Defensive tackle Chris Jones had another huge game in Week 3, going 3-2-2 with a pair of forced fumbles. He is an every-week must start at this point but keep an eye on the Thursday and Friday practice reports. Jones tweaked his groin late in Monday’s game and it could be an issue on a short week.
Las Vegas Raiders
Cory Littleton looked better in Week 3, posting a season-best 4-2-0 in the loss to New England. While those are far from the kind of numbers we expected, it was probably enough to justify keeping him on our rosters for one more game. That said, we should not expect much from any of the Raiders linebackers this week. Littleton has done nothing and Nicholas Morrow has been solid but could go back to a part-time role if Nick Kwiatkoski is able to play. Not to mention that Buffalo has somehow been a horrible matchup for linebackers so far. Harvey Langi’s five solo stops are the most by any linebacker with this matchup while Jerome Baker and Micah Kiser were a combined 2-8-0.
Rookie corner Damon Arnette looked great in Week 2 and put up solid numbers, but we may not be seeing him for a while. He is getting a second opinion on a thumb injury that could keep him out for several weeks.
The Raiders' defensive line finally showed up in Week 3. Maxx Crosby landed a pair of sacks, Clellin Ferrell had four tackles, and Maurice Hurst went 5-1-0. Buffalo only allowed one sack in their first two games but gave up four to the Rams last week. The front-four in Vegas is a talented group. I expect them to build on last week’s performance and have another solid outing. I like Maxx Crosby in particular for Week 4.
Los Angeles Chargers
Kyzir White has 13 tackles and 5 assists in two games as the Chargers starting weakside linebacker, including a mark of 8-3-0 against the Panthers in Week 3. There is still some concern that he could lose playing time once Nick Vigil is healthy but White has certainly done nothing to hurt his chances of keeping the job.
Nasir Adderly (7-2-0) and Rayshawn Jenkins (3-6-1) stepped up for the Chargers in Week 3. Neither player has much of a track record to suggest they are on the rise, but they are players to keep an eye on in the coming weeks. If you are looking for matchups to stream, Jenkins is worth some consideration this week. The Buccaneers could be without Chris Godwin and it looks like Tom Brady may have convinced Bruce Arians that Tight ends can catch passes too. Los Angeles will mix coverage on Rob Gronkowski but Jenkins should see a lot of him when/if they let him run routes.
Los Angeles Rams
Jordan Fuller won the starting job over Taylor Rapp heading into the season but Fuller suffered a shoulder in the first quarter against Buffalo. As of Wednesday morning, there has been no update on Fuller. Even minor shoulder injuries tend to keep guys out a week or two and often lead to several weeks of reduced production. If you are still sitting on Rapp, this could be a good week to play him, even though the matchup is not great.
Micah Kiser was a major disappointment last week but we should not let that affect our decision to start him going forward. What we have quickly learned is the Bills are a poor matchup for linebackers, at least thus far. The Giants are not a great matchup either, but at least Roquan Smith and Fred Warner were able to reach double-digit points against them.
Kamu Grugier-Hill turned in solid numbers nice numbers against Jacksonville at 6-2-1, but we should not get too excited about it since he has yet to play more than 20 snaps in a game.
The Vikings added Todd Davis to the roster last week but we should not expect him to have a large role anytime soon. The move was mostly for depth after rookie Troy Dye (foot) followed Anthony Barr to IR. Davis is a capable player if called upon but does not bring the big-play potential to the field as Eric Wilson does. Wilson did not put up big numbers (4-0-0) in his first game as a three-down starter, but he did play all 75 snaps versus Tennessee. He is not a tackling machine, but Wilson will make his share of impact plays along the way and should be a solid LB3 or quality depth at worst.
New England Patriots
In typical New England fashion, Adrian Phillips has followed a big Week 1 with a pair of near stinkers. The fluctuation in playing for Phillips just adds to the aggravation and frustration for IDP managers. He was on the field for 35 plays against the Raiders, which equaled less than 60% of the snaps and was the lowest percentage of playing time to date for Phillips. He is going to have some big games but at this point, it is hard to argue against dumping him for someone we can count on every week.
We would not be able to tell it from his production, but Ja’Whaun Bentley has played at least 80% of the snaps in all three games so far. The volume is nice and is enough to keep him on rosters in deeper leagues, but there is no reason to believe his numbers will suddenly start matching the playing time.
New Orleans Saints
Alex Anzalone is another linebacker that is not making the best of his opportunity. He has played at least 71% of the time in each game and was on the field for 54 of 62 plays against the Packers in Week 3, yet his season totals are four tackles and eight assists. It is too early to start the Kiko Alonso watch? He is eligible to return from the PUP list in week eight.
Anzelone is not making many plays from the middle linebacker position, so where are all the tackles going? Strong safety Malcolm Jenkins and nickel safety Chauncy Gardner-Johnson have been picking up the slack and are currently 29-11-1 with three pass breakups between them. Jenkins is an every-week must start at this point, and Gardner-Johnson, despite his vanishing act in Week 2, might be as well. At the least, we need to play him against any opponent with a high powered passing attack.
The Saints have been in a big nickel or some other version with five or more defensive backs on 176 of 212 plays to date. In games against the Buccaneers and Packers, Gardner-Johnson was off the field for 11 total plays and has 15 solo stops. There could still be some hiccups along the way, but there are a lot of good passing teams on the Saints schedule.
New York Giants
Julian Love blew up for 10 solo tackles in week 10, which will land him on a lot of waiver lists this week. It would be a lot easier to get on that bandwagon if he had been more productive in the first two weeks. On the other hand, Love’s value and upside get a short term boost because Jabrill Peppers is nursing a sore ankle.
Peppers lasted 10 plays before leaving with what is being called a low ankle sprain. This type of injury heals relatively quickly and does not tend to linger. As of Wednesday, Peppers had not been ruled out for Week 4, but if he plays, Peppers will be somewhat less than 100%. Considering the Rams are a good matchup, Love could be a solid stream in Week 4.
The other adjustment that came with Peppers being out, was an every-down role for Logan Ryan. Ryan’s playing time has steadily grown after joining the team shortly before the opener. He played 85% of the time in Week 2 when all three safeties were healthy, so there is a reasonable possibility his full-time role had nothing to do with Peppers going down. Ryan is 10-4-0 with a forced fumble and two passes defended in the last two games and could be a quality starting option for us the rest of the way regardless of what happens with Love and Peppers.
New York Jets
The Jets are a dumpster fire but at least they finally have one of their starting inside linebackers back. After having a small role in Week 2, Avery Williamson played all but three snaps against the Colts. His numbers were not eyecatching at 5-4-0, but he moved well and looked healthy on the two series I have watched. Williamson is not going to win anyone a championship but he is a solid veteran player in a target-rich environment. That is enough to make him a quality third starter for most of us.
It has been a long time since IDP managers got significant value from any linebacker in an Eagles uniform. Nathan Gerry has been on the field for virtually every snap through three games with marginal results and does not appear to be on the verge of a breakout. There is, however, someone to keep on our radar here.
T.J. Edwards played 20 snaps in Week 1 and 29 in Week 2, before being elevated to 51 against the Bengals. There are people close to the situation that believe Edwards should have been a three-down starter in Week 1. He has not yet shown great production in the box scores, with a season-best of 5-1-0 and a forced fumble, but the second-year former undrafted free agent could be the future of the middle linebacker position in Philadelphia.
Inside linebacker Vincent Williams excels as a run defender and an inside pass rusher. So a matchup with Derrick Henry and the run-heavy Titans could mean a bump in playing time and tackle numbers. Five of the six starting inside/weakside linebackers that have faced Tennessee so far, have recorded at least five tackles and three assists. Three of them have gone 6-4-0 or better.
The Seahawks got a scare when Jamal Adams suffered a groin injury in Week 3. There was good news on Monday when it was diagnosed as a minor strain. He is still in danger of missing a week or two, so be prepared if Adams is your guy. Seattle signed Damarious Randall to their practice squad as an insurance policy. He was released by the Raiders just before the beginning of the season, so Randall should be in shape to play right away if needed.
Bruce Irvin and Rasheem Green joined Branden Jackson, and second-round pick Darrell Taylor on IR last week. Between that and second-year man L.J. Collier showing no sign of stepping up, the Seahawks found themselves in a bad place at defensive end heading into Week 3. They have to feel a little better about the situation after rookie fifth-round pick Alton Robinson’s debut. He got on the field for 30 snaps, coming up with three tackles and one of the team’s two sacks against Dallas. The rookie had 19 sacks as a three-year starter at Syracuse, so we know he can play. We will have to see if the solid play nets more opportunity in the coming weeks.
San Francisco 49ers
No San Francisco defender managed more than three solo stops against the Giants in Week 3. This is not a reflection on the 49ers players, but rather a result of how poorly the Giants played offensively. Unfortunately, this week’s matchup with the Eagles is not looking all that much better. Most managers that have Fred Warner will have to play him, so hopefully, he will chip in a splash play or two if the tackle totals are lacking.
Poor as the matchup is for the back seven, this is a good week to play your 49ers pass rushers, including Kerry Hyder. Philadelphia has already allowed 11 sacks.
Jayon Brown got off to a slow start before going 6-1-0 with a pass breakup in Week 3. The better production showed up just in time for a great matchup against the Steelers this week. Pittsburgh is traditionally a strong matchup for linebackers and this year has been no exception. In Week 1 it was Blake Martines going 8-4-0. In Week 2 it was A.J. Johnson with a solid 6-2-0. Last week Zach Cunningham and Bernardrick McKinney combined for 16 solo and five assists.
Brown has been on the field for every defensive snap so far but there is some concern with Rashaan Evans. He was banged up in Week 1 and left early but has been healthy for the two games since. In those games, Evans has played 84% and 78% of the snaps. That is plenty of opportunity to make him fantasy relevant on most weeks, but it is going to take a toll on his numbers if it continues for the entire season.
Washington Football Team
The Kevin Pierre-Louis rollercoaster may have come to the big down-hill portion of the track. His monster numbers in Week 2 had a lot of managers scrambling to the waiver wire. If you follow us here at Footballguys or listen to the Audible IDP Podcast, you may not have been caught in the rush. Pierre-Louis now has one big game sandwiched between a pair of three solo outings. It gets worse when we consider his playing time took a hit in Week 3, dropping from 99% and 97% in weeks one and two, to 78% in Week 3.
The culprit here is Thomas Davis who saw his first action of the season against Cleveland. What we don’t know yet is if Davis will play even more in Week 4 as he works his way back from a late summer calf injury. It would be a good idea to sit Pierre-Louis this week until we can get a better read on the situation.
Washington will be without both Matt Ioannidis and Chase Young this week. Ioannidis is probably done for the season with a biceps injury, while Young will miss a week or two with a mild groin strain. The good news for Washington is their outstanding depth at both positions. DaRon Payne will absorb most of the playing time at defensive tackle where he and Jonathan Allen will not miss a beat. On the edge, Ryan Kerrigan will move back into the starting role opposite Montez Sweat for a while, with Ryan Anderson seeing more action as the third man.
That’s a wrap for Week 4. Best of luck navigating the injury labyrinth.
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