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With Budda Baker (thumb) and Chris Banjo (hamstring) out, Curtis Riley and Deionte Thompson got the start at safety, with Charles Washington also seeing a fair amount of action. Riley went 5-1 against the Panthera and was promptly released on Monday. This is probably a good sign that at least one of the starters is set to return. The expectation was that Baker would miss one game so we may have him back in our lineups this week, but the decision to let Riley go could also be a reflection of Washington’s solid play.
The Falcons secondary is decimated by injuries. Keanu Neal (hamstring) and Ricardo Allen (elbow) were out for Week 5, Darqueze Dennard (hamstring) is on IR, and A.J. Terrell is out due to COVID. The list got longer when starting safety Damontae Kazee was lost for the season with an Achilles injury and rookie safety Jayln Hawkins left with a concussion. Later in Monday’s game, they were looking at playing with linebackers at safety depth. There is some hope for Neal and Allen to return this week but as of early Wednesday, the jury is still out. At least the Falcons will have Terrell back for Week 5 as he has been cleared to return from quarantine.
This is an important situation to monitor because the Panthers have been a great matchup for safeties. In Week 1 Johnathan Abram scored 16.5 fantasy points against the Panthers. In Week 2 it was Antoine Winfield Jr with 20.75, Week 3 Nasir Adderly had 10.5, and last week Curtis Riley/Charles Washington combined for 14.25. There is risk involved but if Neal can go, there could be a big reward.
Carolina has been a strong matchup for linebackers as well. Devin White, Lavonte David, Kyzir White, and Jordan Hicks have recorded an average of about eight tackles and four assists against them over the last three weeks. Deion Jones is an every-week start for most managers, but Foye Oluokun should also get strong consideration this week.
On the other side of the coin, Carolina is giving up less than one sack per game on average, so we probably want to sit Donte Fowler and any other Atlanta linemen in this one.
The Ravens are among a growing number of defenses with no full-time linebackers. Patrick Queen lit it up against Washington with nine tackles and three assists, but he did it on 80% of the snaps. The good news for those that drafted Queen, the 80% was Queen’s highest percentage of playing time to date, and the Bengals have been a fairly solid matchup for linebackers. The bad news, we never know when he will be back down around 60% of the snaps as he was in Week 3.
L.J. Fort went 5-1-0 on 49% of the snaps in Week 4 and appears to have relegated Malik Harrison to the bench for now. Harrison had one tackle on nine snaps in Week 4 while Chris Board was 2-3-0 on 10 plays.
Their corner position of Bengals opponents has averaged 17 tackles and 3 assists with at least one corner putting up great numbers in each game. It is hard to say for sure who the offense will target this week but it’s safe to say Cincinnati will be throwing a lot. All things considered, I think Marlon Humphry has the best chance of being the guy to start this week.
Levi Wallace left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury that is not thought to be serious. He has not been ruled out for Week 5 but is considered week to week. The bigger threat to Wallace, who put up good numbers in weeks two and three, is the return of Josh Norman who played 67 of a possible 74 snaps after coming off IR earlier in the week. Norman was 3-1-0 with a forced fumble and a recovery versus the Raiders and could continue as the starter going forward.
Micah Hyde is quietly putting together a solid fantasy season and looks more like the player that was a top-12 safety in 2017 than the one that has been outside the top-40 in each of the last two seasons. Hyes was 5-1-0 with a pass breakup against the Raiders, making him 17-7-0 with a pair of passes defended over the last three games. The trend should continue this week versus the Titans who are an excellent matchup for safeties.
Tremaine Edmunds returned to a full role in Week 4 but Matt Milano did not. Milano shared time with Tyler Dodson who poached 26% of the snaps. This may have been a case of the coaching staff wanting to limit the workload of Milano, but it is worth keeping an eye on because Dodson played so well in relief.
Yetur Gross-Matos stepped up in Week 4, going 3-0-1 with a forced fumble. While it is a positive sign for both the Panthers and any IDP (dynasty) manager that may have drafted him, it does not mean the time has come to put him in our lineups. Gross-Matos is still working in a limited role. He played 21 snaps against the Cardinals.
Brian Burns disappointed against Arizona, but we should not give up on him by any stretch. Simply put, the Panthers need someone else to step up and take some of the pressure off Burns. Stephen Weatherly has done a decent job versus the run but has provided nothing as a pass rusher. Maybe Gross-Matos will see his opportunity increase in the coming weeks.
Danny Trevathan went 3-1 on 74% of the snaps in Week 4. He is 13-5-0 with no splash plays through four games and has played 73 fewer snaps than Roquan Smith. Trevathan will undoubtedly have some good games along the way, but he is no longer a player we have to hold onto.
No Cincinnati linebacker played more than 69% of the snaps in Week 4. At this point, there is no reason to believe this situation will change going forward, even when Logan Wilson is back. Instead of spreading Wilson’s playing time between the other three linebackers, Cincinnati has been using, they simply had Jordan Evans fill the part-time role. This is an unfortunate situation considering the strong matchup with Baltimore.
Von Bell was mediocre once again both on the field and in the box scores. Meanwhile, Shawn Williams returned from injury and got on the field for the first time this season, with 17 snaps. We will be watching to see if his role expands going forward.
The Bengals are close to getting Geno Atkins back from his shoulder injury. This might be the time to pick him up in tackle required leagues.
Have the Browns become part of the trend? Five linebackers played at least 17 snaps in Week 4 but no one was on the field for more than 64 of a possible 82. B.J. Goodson led the way, going 5-2-0 on 78% of the playing time while Mack Wilson was 1-0-0 33%, Sione Takitaki played 33% going 1-3-0, Malcolm Smith 4-0 on 48%, and Jacob Phillips had two tackles on 17 plays.
Rookie corner Trevon Diggs continues to produce with a 4-4-1 against the Browns, but it is last year’s sixth-round pick Donovan Wilson we need to look at this week. Wilson replaced Darian Thompson at strong safety against the Browns and put up 6-4-1 on the day. He may not be a long term answer for Dallas, but the Cowboys defense is horrible right now, so even a poor matchup with the struggling Giants could spell good numbers for Wilson if he gets the start in Week 5.
Josey Jewell struggled when he got on the field in previous years. When the team released Todd Davis before the season, it was a surprise. Now that we have seen Jewell for a few games, it is not so hard to understand that move. The light has come on for Jewell who is playing well in all aspects of the game and coming off what was by far the best outing of his three-year career at 8-2-2 with a pass breakup. Denver has a lot of injuries to deal with on both sides of the ball but between the emergence of Alexander Johnson last year and Jewell this season, they are in great shape at inside linebacker.
Belicheck West AKA the Lions, threw us yet another curve in Week 4 when Jahlani Tavai went from almost 90% of the playing time in Week 3, to nine snaps in Week 4. Christian Jones had a solid stat line of 6-1-0 versus the Saints, on just over half the snaps, and there was a Reggie Ragland sighting. Ragland had the second most playing time among Detroit’s linebackers at 63%. The moral of this story; if he’s a Lions linebacker not named Jamie Collins, cut him now and save yourself some frustration.
Tracy Walker did not have a big statistical outing against New Orleans but he did play every down for the second consecutive game and appears to be a relatively safe play going forward.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers inside linebacker situation has become a shell game. When Christian Kirksey went down with a shoulder injury in Week 3, Ty Summers came off the bench and had a solid game. So IDP managers made him a popular waiver target ahead of Week 4. Summers did indeed get the start in Week 4, but for much of the game, it was Krys Barnes in the lead role. Late in the third quarter, Summers was sitting with two solo tackles and was spending a lot of time on the sideline. Then Barnes left the game with a shoulder injury and Summers was back in the lead role. After going 6-3-0 in Week 3, Summers went on to finish the Week 4 game at 6-1-0. If you are among those forced to stream linebackers due to injuries, keep an eye on this situation and try to figure out which shell the production is under when the Packers return from their bye next week.
Justin Reid has been quiet since his Week 2 outing versus the Ravens, but consider him for your lineup this week against Jacksonville. The Jaguars have been a strong matchup for safeties. In Week 2 Kenny Vaccaro piled up 10-1-1 with a pair of pass breakups against them. Miami’s starting safeties combined to go 9-7 versus Jacksonville in Week 3, and Jesse Bates was 6-4-0 with a pair of passes defended last week.
Colts linebackers were hit by the injury bug in Week 4 when Darius Leonard left with a groin strain and Bobby Okereke hurt his thumb. As of early afternoon on Wednesday, we are still awaiting an update on both players. Chances are, the Colts will be without Leonard for a game or two but there was some optimism Okereke might be able to play through his injury. On Monday, Frank Reich said the injury will likely require surgery at some point but he had not ruled Okereke out for Week 5. We will have to see how this plays out but for at least this week, Anthony Walker becomes a solid play against an excellent Cleveland running attack.
Myles Jack has been nothing short of impressive in his new role on the weak side, but IDP managers may need a plan B for a while. Jack was forced out of Sunday’s contest with an ankle injury. No update on the severity has been announced as of Wednesday afternoon but watching him on the sideline after the injury suggests he could miss some time. Jack had a significant limp and was grimacing with pain before going to the locker room.
The injury to Jack is a value boost for Joe Schobert but could also be an opportunity to add a stream option. The Jaguars' weakside linebacker position has been a gold mine of fantasy value for a long time. Telvin Smith Sr was a top-10 guy for three years and some guy named Donald Payne helped many IDP managers win titles with his late-season run last year. On Sunday, Jack was replaced by second-year pro, Dakota Allen, who went on to record two tackles and four assists on 32 plays. The Texans have been a decent matchup for linebackers.
C.J. Henderson is fighting a sore shoulder and D.J. Hayden left Sunday’s game with a hamstring issue. That leaves the Jaguars with Tre Herndon and rookie seventh-round pick Chris Claybrooks as the probable starters with Sidney Jones likely to handle the nickel duties. Claybrooks was a beneficiary of the Bengals offense in Week 4, going 6-2 with a pass breakup. If he gets the call against Houston, expect the rookie to be tested early and often.
Josh Jones had another strong outing in Week 4 and should be on a roster in most IDP leagues at this point. If you need help at the position, take a look at Andrew Wingard. In the two games, he has played full time, Wingard has gone 7-2-0 and 5-5-0 with a pass breakup. He also had an interception in Week 1 after coming on for an injured Jarrod Wilson.
Kansas City Chiefs
Once again I am beating the drum for Taco Charlton who came up with a huge strip-sack against the Patriots. At the very least, the Chiefs need to give this guy a big role as a pass rusher, but he is more than capable as a run defender as well. Meanwhile, Tanoh Kpassagnon has done nothing. Sooner or later the Chiefs coaching staff will catch on. This might be the time to grab Charlton if you are hurting at defensive end.
Las Vegas Raiders
Those of us with Cory Littleton are breathing a little easier this week on the heels of his 6-1-0 against Buffalo. Littleton looked more comfortable, was quicker to react, and cleaned up a lot of the missed tackles that plagued him over the first three games. The Raiders could sure use his speed and cover skills this week against the Chiefs. Littleton should draw a good share of the coverage duties against Travis Kelce, so look for another solid game.
Nic Kwiatkoski did not do much in the box scores last week but then, if you follow us here at Footballguys, you should not have expected much with the Bills being a poor matchup. The important factor here is that Kwiatkoski played 88% of the snaps and came through healthy. The Chiefs have been a mediocre matchup for middle linebackers so there are no grand expectations for Kwiatkoski this week either, but after the Week 6 bye, they have the Buccaneers, Browns, Chargers, and Broncos who are all solid matchups.
Max Crosby has shown some life over the last two games, but keep him on your bench this week. The Chiefs have allowed just three sacks on the season and the Raiders are averaging one per game as a team.
Jonathan Abram was looked at for a possible concussion near the end of the Week 4-game. Keep an eye on his status as we lead up to Week 5. Eric Harris might be a good stand-in should Abram not play. Harris was 7-2-0 against Buffalo and has been on the field for almost 94% of the team’s defensive plays to date.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers have a history of shuffling linebackers so it is hard to feel completely comfortable with Kyzir White, but the confidence in him is on the rise. Nick Vigil was healthy and active in Week 4 but it was still White in the game for every snap and putting up good numbers (8-2-0).
Kenneth Murray has been dependable despite being on the sideline for a few snaps versus the Buccaneers. He played 74 of a possible 76 snaps in that game, which is a great sign.
Los Angeles Rams
Taylor Rapp picked up right where he left off, playing ever snap and going 7-1-0 against the Giants. The Rams certainly do not need to rush Jordan Fuller back from the shoulder injury, but those who are starting Rapp will need to keep looking over his shoulder at the rookie.
Defensive end Morgan Fox went 2-0-1 in Week 3 then followed it up with a mark of 4-0-1 and a forced fumble in Week 4. The raw numbers will have a lot of managers looking at him this week, and rightly so, but be aware that Fox is a part-time player who has not seen more than 41% of the action in any game this season. Working behind Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers, that is not going to change unless there is an injury.
Micah Kaiser left Sunday’s game with a groin injury and may not be able to go in Week 5. If he sits, it could mean a larger role for Kenny Young but it is more likely the Rams will cover for Kaiser with a combination of Troy Reader on early downs and Terrell Burgess in passing situations.
If the Lions are Belichick West, then the Dolphins have become Belichick South. Jerome Baker blew up in Week 1 and played about 95% of the snaps over the first three games. In Week 4 he was down to 70%. Kyle Van Noy was on the field for 66% of the snaps in Week 1 and 79% in Week 3. In Week 2 he saw 97% of the action and he played every down against Seattle.
For Elandon Roberts it was 65% Week 1, out Week 2, 30% Week 3, and 51% against Seattle. That last one is going to bite some people because Roberts was 6-3-o with a forced fumble. Despite seeing barely over half the playing time. Don’t fall for it. Next week it could be Kamu Grugier-Hill that steps up.
The last word on Danielle Hunter was his intention to get a second opinion on his neck injury that has been slow to heal. At this point, there is no reason to expect we will see him anytime soon, but the Vikings defense is finally beginning to play better anyway.
Yannick Ngakoue had his first big game as a Viking, going 5-0-1 in the team’s win over the Texans. Rookie D.J. Wonnum also got his first sack of the young season in that contest. Wonnum is still working as the third man in the rotation so his 2-0-1 is just a good reason to have him on our radar. Ngakoue, however, came with great expectations, to begin with. He has played more than 75% of the snaps since Week 1 and has a plus matchup for Week 5, against a Seattle offense that has allowed more than two sacks per game to defensive ends. Get Ngakoue in your lineup this week.
Many managers in corner required leagues have been leaning on Holton Hill who got off to a hot start. He racked up 19 tackles, 2 assists, a sack, and a pair of passes defended in three games before crashing back to earth in Week 4. Before anyone writes this off as a fluke, be aware that Hill’s role changes in Week 4 when the Vikings started rookies Cameron Dantzler and Jeff Gladney on the outside and had Hill serve as the third corner. Once Mike Hughes returns from his sore neck, Hill could be relegated to dime packages. There are a lot of good targets out there at the position, I suggest you go ahead and make a move.
If you are wondering why Harrison Smith gave you next to nothing last week, he was ejected in the first half for a vicious helmet to helmet hit. The good news is, he will not face suspension and should be back in your lineup this week.
New Orleans Saints
Trey Hendrickson was back in the sack column in Week 4, giving him a sack in three of the four games so far. There has been no word on a possible return of Marcus Davenport, so Hendrickson remains a viable starter for us against the Chargers, who have allowed at least one sack to an edge defender in every game, and five total.
Alex Anzelone played 97% of the snaps in Week 4 but was still able to total only four tackles and an assist. For those in leagues with deep rosters, the sheer volume of opportunity makes Anzalone worthy of a roster spot, but his production has been beyond disappointing.
New York Giants
Julian Love went from an 11 tackle performance in Week 3 to a goose egg against the Rams in Week 4. He was on the injury report with a sore knee all last week and tried to play, but lasted just 17 snaps before leaving the game. With Jabrill Peppers inactive due to his sore ankle, Adrian Colbert got the call at safety. The Giants could have both Peppers and Love in Week 5, but chances are neither will be near 100%. Logan Ryan should have a busy day against a Cowboys offense that has been a plus matchup for Safeties on most weeks.
New York Jets
Avery Williamson played 57 of 60 snaps in Week 3 but only 31 of 70 in Week 4 when he split time with Alec Ogletree. As of Wednesday afternoon, there has been nothing from the organization about this situation so I can only speculate that Williamson is having problems with his surgically repaired knee. Blake Cashman has been designated to return from IR and could be in the mix for this job when activated, especially if Williamson is not healthy. Cashman would all but certainly be ahead of Ogletree in the pecking order.
The Eagles shuffled their secondary in the Week 4 win, Jalen Mills moved back to the corner opposite Darius Slay with Marcus Epps and K’Von Wallace sharing the duties at free safety and Rodney McLeod working mostly at strong. It was the second time this season that McLeod played predominately a strong safety role. In those games, he is a combined 13-3-0 with an interception and two additional pass breakups. Let us hope he stays there going forward.
T.J. Edwards had an increased role in Week 3, playing 71% of the snaps. Early in Week 4, it looked like he might play even more, but he was forced from the game with a hamstring injury that is expected to keep him out a while. Edwards had three tackles on 18 plays before leaving. Duke Riley took over at the position and will likely continue as a two-down starter until Edwards returns.
With injuries to Jamal Adams, marquise Blair, and Lano Hill, the Seahawks turned to practice squad journeyman Ryan Neal at strong safety in Week 4. Judging from the early returns, the team may have found yet another hidden gem. Neal finished the game at 5-1-0 with an interception and an additional pass breakup. He is slated to make a second start against the Vikings. Neal could be a sneaky stream play in this one, especially if the Vikings can keep Dalvin Cook rolling.
San Francisco 49ers
Rookie tackle Javon Kinlaw has not made much of an IDP splash so far but he has received rave reviews for his contribution on the field. He is seeing more action than any of the 49ers other interior linemen, including 76% of the snaps in Week 4. It is only a matter of time before his contribution starts to pay off in the box scores. In fact, it could start this week against the Dolphins who have allowed a sack to interior linemen in two of the last three games and give up a relatively high number of tackles to interior linemen.
As of Wednesday, it remains up in the air if the Titans will play in Week 5 due to the COVID outbreak they are experiencing. If they do play, managers in corner required leagues may want to look hard at Malcolm Butler as a potential starter. Butler has 15 tackles, 3 assists, and 4 pass breakups in three games, and is almost always an option for us. This week’s matchup with the Bills makes him even more enticing. In their four games, opponents corners as a position, have averaged 14.5 tackles, 4.8 assists, half a turnover, and a pass defended, with five corners reaching double-digit fantasy points in those games.
That’s all I have for this round. Best of luck in your Week 5 games.
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