The Cardinals took a major hit in Week 5 when Chandler Jones suffered a season-ending biceps injury. With Devon Kennard recovering from a calf strain, Arizona turned to Kylie Fitts and Haason Riddick as their edge defenders. Kennard did not practice at all last week and may not be ready until after the team’s week eight bye.
A lot is happening at Falcons headquarters this week. It started with Dan Quinn being fired right after the Week 5 loss. It is hard to say what defensive changes we might see when the team takes the field again, but considering the poor defensive play was a major contributor to the coaching change, we can expect to see some things done differently either via scheme or personnel.
One player we are not likely to see for a while is Tak McKinley. His fast start to the season was cut off by a groin injury in Week 2. McKinley tried to return against the Panthers, lasting all of five plays before aggravating the injury.
Hopefully whatever changes are made, will not affect Foye Oluokun, who has been on fire. Oluokun has played 97% of the snaps in each of the last two games. He was solid versus the Packers in Week 4 before exploding with 12 tackles and 2 assists against the Panthers. On 188 plays to date, which amounts to roughly three games worth of action, Oluokun has 26 tackles, 8 assists, and a forced fumble.
Keanu Neal is not putting up the big numbers we were looking for, but he has been rock solid when on the field. In each of his last three games, Neal has recorded at least five tackles and two assists. Maybe the best news for Neal is a relatively clean bill of health coming out of Week 5.
There are a lot of managers that like to stream corners. Some of this may be by design, but a lot of it is due to injuries and matchups. If you are one of those managers, take a look at Isaiah Oliver against the Vikings this week. Oliver had six solo stops in Week 5 and is 19-3-0 with 4 passes defended in his last four games. Over the last three weeks, the corner position of teams playing the Vikings has averaged 14 tackles, 2 assists, and 3 passes defended.
They are not in need of help at linebacker at this point, but the Falcons signed James Burgess Jr to their practice squad this week.
Here is an interesting statistic for you; the Ravens had seven sacks by seven different players against the Bengals, but only one of them was recorded by an edge defender and none by their best pass rusher Matt Judon. Five defensive backs got to Joe Burrow with Patrick Queen and Pernell McPhee getting the other two. Look for Judon to get his this week against the Eagles, who allowed five sacks to the Steelers last week.
Patrick Queen took a below-average matchup and turned in the best IDP production of Week 5 at 6-3-1 with a forced fumble, 2 recoveries, and a return for a score. The guy was everywhere, but somehow he is still only playing around 80% of the time.
Tyrel Dodson got the start for Matt Milano who missed the game with a pectoral injury. Dodson missed some snaps with what looked like cramps but was able to return and had a solid outing. If you need a short term option to fill in, Dodson could give us at least another week or two of decent numbers.
Buccaneers corners were big against the Bears in Week 4 when Charlton Davis had seven tackles, an interception, and an additional pass breakup, while Sean Murphy Bunting added six tackles and an assist. Meanwhile, with Donta Jackson aggravating his toe injury, Rasul Douglass and Tony Pride had 11 tackles, 3 assists, and a pass breakup between them last week against Atlanta. The Chicago offense is a different animal with Nick Foles under center, so either of these guys could make a quality starter this week.
Brian Burns was off to a great start in Week 5, with a line of 3-1-1 and a forced fumble on 16 plays, before suffering a concussion. The Bears allowed three sacks in Foles’ first start last week, so if Burns clears protocol, he is a viable start.
Last week I threw in the towel when it comes to Danny Trevathan. Right on cue, he had the first quality production of his season at 7-1-0 with a pass breakup. Maybe he will get back on track, but nothing has changed in terms of snap counts. He played 55 of a possible 71. We can expect some good games along the way, but I still think there will be more mediocre weeks than good ones.
Logan Wilson has an interception in each of his last two games and nearly had two against Baltimore. His playing time has increased each game since Week 2, and he was up to 48% versus the Ravens. A big part of the Bengals holding Lamar Jackson to a career-low in rushing yards was the assignment of Wilson as a spy on the quarterback. The more we see of Wilson, the better he is looking, and the more he is playing. The future is certainly bright, but it may not get here in time to help us this season.
Just as interesting, if the fact that Akeem Gaither-Davis led the team’s linebackers in snaps, going 3-1-0 with a pass breakup on 0n 50 of 63 plays. Wilson is getting all the attention but it will be no surprise to see both of this year’s rookie linebackers as the full-time starter in 2021, if not earlier.
Against Baltimore, the Cincinnati defense was at full strength for the first time this season, and they played the Ravens tough. The final score was 27-3 with the Ravens scoring a defensive touchdown and getting a short field off a turnover on another. The Bengals got Geno Atkins back from the shoulder injury, but he was limited to fewer than 20 plays.
The good news is that Atkins came out healthy, the bad news is that neither D.J. Reader nor Sam Hubbard did. Reader will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury and Hubbard is expected to miss at least a couple of weeks with an elbow issue. knee, done for the year. Atkins should see his playing time increase significantly going forward and is worthy of waiver consideration in tackle required leagues. Carl Lawson will replace Hubbard and is also worthy of serious consideration
Carlos Dunlap expressed his displeasure about getting less than half of the defensive snaps. Coach Taylor said he lost time due to a lack of effort versus the run. We will have to see how this plays out, but the loss of Hubbard could put Dunlap back in his normal role by default.
Karl Joseph was inactive with a sore hamstring in Week 5, so Ronnie Harrison made a cameo appearance in the lineup. Harrison was heading for a huge game after returning an interception for a score but lasted just 37 plays before suffering his second concussion of the season. The team expects Joseph to play in Week 6 but Harrison may not be available for at least a few weeks. Sedrick Redwine is the next man up if Joseph is not ready.
Looking for help at defensive end? Take a look at Olivier Vernon. The numbers have not yet surfaced, but he is playing well on a talented defensive line that is getting good pressure on quarterbacks. Vernon is finally healthy and has played better than 80% of the snaps over the last two weeks. He had eight pressures in Week 4, was in the face of Philip Rivers a few times in Week 5. If that is not enough to make you look, consider the Browns play the Bengals, Texans, Eagles, and Jaguars among their next six opponents, then they get the Giants and Jets in weeks 15 and 16.
When Mack Wilson played 33% of the snaps in Week 4, many assumed it was the coaching staff easing him back into action. His 34% participation in Week 5 leaves us wondering if that will be his role moving forward.
B.J. Goodson led Cleveland's linebackers in playing time at 84% in Week 5, with Malcolm Smith at 66% and Sione Takitaki at 27%. Smith has played well and should continue to see a significant role. Smith has seen 60% of the playing time twice this season. He has at least five solo stops in each of those games. He could be a decent LB3 option as attrition depletes the position moving forward.
Last week we thought Donovan Wilson might be worth picking up. This week we realize his strong Week 4 numbers were simply a case of a desperate defense trying anything to right the ship. Wilson was 1-1-0 on 44 plays against the Giants before being replaced by Stephen Parker, who had two assists on 24 snaps. Darian Thompson also saw some action but his role was mostly as a third safety in some nickel packages. The Cowboys are hurting at strong safety. I wonder if they still have a phone number for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix?
When Joe Thomas took over for Leighton Vander Esch, I mentioned that Thomas had not shown much success as a full-time linebacker. He has been putting up better numbers than expected and is showing up in a lot of lineups, but be aware that his playing time was reduced to 68% in Week 5.
If Justin Simmons is on your roster, he is probably an every-week starter already. If you have a choice to make and he is one of your options, pick him this week. The Patriots have played four games. In each of them, at least one of their opponent’s safeties has six or more solo tackles, and nine safeties have at least four solo stops. It is a high ceiling, high floor game for Simmons. In deeper formats, Kareem Jackson might be worth a look as well.
Trey Flowers has been quiet since his monster Week 1 but is worthy of serious starting consideration this week. The Jaguars have allowed at least two sacks in every game this season, with three or more in four of the first five.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers were off last week so the news wire was quiet as expected when it comes to injured players. When we last saw them, Christian Kirksey (shoulder) had been replaced by Krys Barnes who was then injured (shoulder) and replaced by Ty Summers. Coming out of the bye week, Kirksey remains on IR and as of Wednesday, there has been no update on Barnes. This is an important situation to watch because in the last two weeks the matchup with Tampa Bay has resulted in Kyzir White going 8-4-0, Kenneth Murray 6-4-0, Danny Trevathan 7-1-0, and a pass breakup, and Roquan Smith 6-1-0 with two passes defended. Whoever lines up as the playcalling linebacker for the Packers, is probably going to be a quality IDP start. is
Bernardrick McKinney sat out Week 5 and was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. He is expected to have season-ending shoulder surgery at some point in the near future. Tyrell Adams got the call against Jacksonville. The Texans changed nothing, simply inserting Adams into McKinney’s role. The result was a strong outing by Adams who performed well on the field and went 7-6-0 on the stats sheet. Adams is a safe bet to continue in the near full-time role and is a good waiver target this week.
Darius Leonard did not practice at all last week so he could have a way to go in the recovery from his groin injury. If you are sitting on either Bobby Okereke or Anthony Walker, ride that wave until it crashes. Both of these guys are good linebackers, and Okereke could be a special one. He was 8-2-0 with a pick in Week 5 while Walker finished 5-2-0 with an interception and an additional pass breakup. Despite their record, Cincinnati has not been a particularly poor matchup for linebackers.
The Bengals gave up seven sacks last week. While it is true that five of them went to defensive backs, the fact is, everyone is invited to the party when they face Cincinnati. They are giving up an average of almost four and a half sacks per game, including a total of 11 to edge defenders. The moral of this story? Start Justin Houston and maybe even Denico Autry this week. Yes, Autry slides inside to tackle in some situations, Cincinnati has given up three and a half sacks to interior linemen as well.
We should not expect to see Malik Hooker as the starting free safety in Indianapolis next year. Julian Blackmon took over when Hooker tore his Achilles in Week 2 and has made an impression. His numbers are nothing special and like Hooker, Blackmon shows no sign of IDP value, but the rookie is getting it done between the lines.
For anyone that might be eying the seven solo stops recorded by safety Daniel Thomas in Week 5, and thinking about picking him up, be aware that he only got into the game after Josh Jones was ejected for an illegal hit. That said, Thomas made an impression, with seven tackles on 28 plays. We will be watching to see if it was enough to get him on the field more going forward. Jacksonville has not used many three safety sets so far but that could be an option, especially if Myles Jack continues to have issues with his ankle.
Jack was limited in practice last week which is a good sign that he is on track to play soon. Dakota Allen replaced Jack in Week 5, playing every down and finishing with a serviceable 5-2-0. Meanwhile, Joe Schobert was disappointing again at 3-1-0. The Lions could be a great matchup this week if they decided to feature Adrian Peterson again, but they have been a below-average matchup for linebackers recently. De’Vondre Campbell, Jordan Hicks, and Demario Davis all had four or fewer solo stops in the last two games versus Detroit.
Kansas City Chiefs
Linebacker Willie Gay Jr’s stock appears to be on the rise. His playing time has steadily increased each week since the openers. He was up to 47% of the snaps in Week 5 with a stat line of 5-1-1. At the very least he needs to be on our watch list going forward.
Las Vegas Raiders
Raiders' linebackers have been a huge disappointment to IDP managers this year. The script didn’t change against Kansas City when Nick Kwiatkoski had two tackles on 64% of the snaps and Cory Littleton was 3-2-0 despite playing all of them. The low snap count for Kwiatkoski adds to the equation and could be a major concern. It could also be a matchup generated anomaly, but then, Kwiatkoski was 2-1-0 on 88% of the snaps against Buffalo in Week 4. As we say, twice is a trend. If there is a waiver target you need, Kwiatkoski is a strong consideration to make room.
I remain optimistic about Littleton who is playing better between the lines in the last couple of games. He did a good job on Travis Kelce in Week 5 when assigned to him, but that is not going to be reflected in the box score. Another point for consideration when it comes to being patient with Littleton, the Chiefs handed the ball to a running back only 11 times in the game, so his opportunity was limited.
After playing virtually every snap over the first four games, Erik Harris found himself sharing time with Jeff Heath against the Chiefs. The playing time was split 41 snaps for Harris to 30 for Heath.
Lamarcus Joyner left the game with a hamstring injury. Las Vegas is on their bye this week so he may not miss any games.
Los Angeles Rams
After missing the previous game with a sore shoulder, Jordan Fuller got back on the field in Week 5. He played every defensive snap but was not as effective or productive as he had been previously. On Monday the Rams reported that Fuller aggravated the shoulder during the game, then on Tuesday, he was placed on IR. It is not clear if the team expects to have Fuller back at some point this season, but for at least the next three games, Taylor Rapp becomes a top-12 DB again.
Corner Troy Hill played through a sore ankle in Week 5 with a reduced role. Instead of working outside on early downs and shifting to the slot in nickel packages, as usual, Hill was limited to mostly nickel duties. The drop in playing time may have been a factor in his near goose egg for IDP managers, but Hill was clearly not 100% which was the bigger reason. Keep an eye out for news on his recovery but it might be a good idea to sit him until he is healthy.
Troy Reeder stood in for Micah Kiser (groin) against Washington and had a huge game. Reeder finished at 8-3-3 on 89% of the snaps. This adds another layer to the question, is it the system that is making IDP studs out of linebackers in this spot?
Kiser practiced on a limited basis last week before being inactive on Sunday. That suggests he may be able to go in Week 6. That said, I always get a little nervous when a backup plays as well as Reeder did against Washington. You never know when a coaching staff might make a change, or at least give a guy like Reeder another game to show off his ability. At the least, it makes it easier to keep the starter out until he is fully healthy.
Jachai Polite showed up with a line of 3-1-1 against Washington, but don’t get excited. It might earn him a bigger piece of the playing time pie, but Polite has only played 12 snaps on the season.
It was Jerome Baker’s turn again in Week 5. For the first time in three games, he played ov90% of the snaps, and for the second time this season Baker turned in good numbers at 7-1-1. The Jets have been a good matchup for linebackers on most weeks but playing any Miami defender remains a crap-shoot at this point.
Rookies Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler both played every snap in the Week 5 loss at Seattle. While veteran Mike Hughes was on the field 80% of the time. When all three were deployed, Gladney lined up in the slot most of the time. Gladney’s numbers in this particular game didn’t bear it out, but corners in these situations are often some of the IDP games better options. Gladney had at least five solo tackles in three consecutive games leading up to Week 5. It remains to be seen if Hughes will go back to a full-time role going forward. He missed a pair of games with a sore neck before playing against Washington.
New York Giants
The Giants’ safety situation has been a moving target starting with the injury to Xavier McKinney before Week 1. Julian Love got the first shot and was looking good from a fantasy perspective with a 10 tackle outing in Week 3. He was questionable leading up to Week 4 with knee and ankle issues and had no stats on 17 plays in that game. Love was not mentioned in any injury reports leading up to Week 5 but was replaced in the lineup by a combination of Adrian Colbert and Jabrill Peppers, who was making his way back from injury. We should see Peppers and Logan Ryan at safety going forward.
Lorenzo Carter suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in Week 5. He joined Oshane Ximines on injured reserve, leaving the Giants with no choice but to start the guy that should have been in their lineup from Week 1, Markus Golden. Golden had half a sack in his first major action of the season and should be a waiver target for anyone in need of a big play linebacker.
New York Jets
The Jets waived Alec Ogletree, which is a good sign that they are comfortable with the health of Avery Williamson as a starter, and Blake Cashman as the top backup at both inside linebacker positions. Williamson played 93% of the snaps in Week 5, going 6-2-0 with an interception. He lacks great upside but Williamson is in an excellent situation.
Over the last two games, Pierre Desir has 15 tackles, 4 assists, two interceptions, and a score. Much of the production comes from the fact that both the Denver and Arizona offenses targeted him, throwing and completing a lot of passes. We never know what approach the next opponent will take, but we do know the Dolphins like to throw a lot. It could be a good week to play Desir.
Bradley McDougald lost 23% of the snaps to rookie Ashtyn Davis in Week 5. I have not yet had time to watch this game and have so far seen nothing to suggest an injury to McDougald, which suggests it was either a case of the coaching staff working the third-round pick into a role, or simply a case of getting the young guy some experience in a lopsided game. Either way, if you have been starting McDougald, this could be a major red flag. Consider sitting him this week if you have another option. On the other side of that coin, Davis becomes a watch list item.
With T.J. Edwards on IR, Duke Riley’s playing time was back to 75% against the Steelers. Riley finished at 7-6-0, which could have some managers looking at him this week. Before making that move, consider that Riley had a similar role in weeks one and two. In those games combined he produced three tackles, three assists, and half a sack. If he has good numbers versus Baltimore this week, we might take another look. But for now, his Week 5 is an outlier.
Devin Bush went 1-2-0 and Vincent Williams 1-1-0 versus the Eagles in Week 5. While those are disappointing numbers, it is not hard to figure out what happened. Tight ends Zach Ertz and Richard Rodgers had each one catch in the game, while Miles Sanders and Boston Scott accounted for all 12 carries by the running game. There was simply not much opportunity for the linebackers. That should not be the case this week against the Browns, who currently lead the league in rushing. In short, don’t let last week’s vanishing act affect your decision on starting these guys in Week 6.
At the start of the season, Seattle used a lot of big nickel looks with Marquise Blair as the third safety. Since their Week 1 game, the Seahawks have lost Blair for the season and have been without both Jamal Adams and Lano Hill for the last two games.
All the injuries led to the team using three linebackers about 60% of the time against Minnesota, with Cody Barton as the third man. Barton had a big game, going 9-5-0 on 59 of a possible 87 plays. So the question is, does Barton have any value going forward? Unless you are in a league with deep rosters, the answer is probably not.
Seattle has a bye this week. When they come back, Adams should be available and it will not be a surprise if their diamond in the rough, Ryan Neal, lands the role of third safety, allowing the team to go back to the big nickel approach. The more significant question might be, will Neal get enough playing time to continue having IDP value? He is currently 15-3-0 with a pair of interceptions and four passes defended on less than two and a half games worth of action.
San Francisco 49ers
One manager’s loss can be another manager’s opportunity. There are not a lot of people talking about it, but Kwon Alexander suffered a high ankle sprain against the Dolphins. These injuries often keep players out for several weeks. We saw last season that Dre Greenlaw is more than capable as a three-down starter. He was 57-20-1 with an interception in nine starts last season. Grab him if you can.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The theme for Week 5, and a general trend league-wide, are offenses virtually abandoning the running game. In Week 5, nine teams handed the ball to running backs 16 or fewer times, including the Bears who rushed 13 times for 36 yards on the day. Unfortunately, this trend means we may see a lot more stats sheets like the one that had Devin White at 1-2-0 against Chicago. Fortunately for those of us who start White every week, the Packers are not part of that trend. Their fourth-ranked running game makes White and his running mate Lavonte David, safe starters for us this week.
Washington Football Team
For those in corner required leagues, finding matchup-proof starters at the position is a challenge. Many of us rely on streaming players. Sometimes we guess right, other times not so much. If you want to avoid the guesswork, grab Kendall Fuller. In 2018 he totaled 64-18-0 with three turnovers and 12 passes defended. Fuller was 22-7-1 with a pair of pass breakups in the first four games last season before suffering an injury. Fuller missed the first two games while recovering from a knee injury, but has at least 15 fantasy points in each of the last two games, including a mark of 4-0-0 with an interception and an additional pass breakup against the Rams. In his next six games, Fuller will face the Giants and Cowboys twice, the Lions and Bengals. All teams that have been plus matchups for corners this season.
That is a wrap for the Week 6 offering. Hopefully, we will get a week without having to scramble due to COVID. Best of luck to you as we approach the halfway point.
Enjoy this article? Find more from John here.