He is not Chandler Jones but the Cardinals were able to bolster their pass rush before the trade deadline by making a deal for Markus Golden. This is a player they are very familiar with. Golden was drafted by the Cardinals in 2015 and had 19 sacks in 45 games for them over four seasons. The best season of his career was 2016 when Golden went 39-10-12.5 with 4 forced fumbles and a recovery. He will undoubtedly be thrilled to escape from New York, where he was underused and under-appreciated. Golden could be a starter when Arizona returns from the bye. At the very least he will have a significant role.
Keanu Neal was solid through Week 6, reaching at least five solo tackles in four of the five games he played, but he was still not the same fantasy stud we saw over his first two seasons. Has he managed to avoid serious injury so far and his 10-1-1 in Week 7 represents the highest fantasy score for Neal since Week 9 of the 2017 season. The man is back!
Atlanta has a rematch with the Panthers in Week 8. In the first meeting of these teams, FoyeOluokun exploded with the best production of his young career at 12-2-2. That was in Week 5 when the Panthers were without Christian McCaffrey, who has a chance to play some this week.
Isaiah Oliver went 6-1-0 in the first meeting, but be aware that his role has been reduced over the last three games. He was on the field for about 75% of the snaps against the Lions last week.
Patrick Queen has not yet played more than 88% of the snaps in a game, but do not let that keep him out of your lineup this week against the Steelers. That 88% game was in Week 6 when Baltimore last played, but more importantly, Pittsburgh has been an excellent matchup for linebackers. Over their last five games, six inside linebackers have put up at least 12.5 fantasy points against them.
Matt Milano was back in action on Sunday after missing two games with a pectoral injury, but he was far from his normal role. Milano played just 33% of the snaps in a timeshare with A.J. Klein. We have to assume this was a case of Milano being on a pitch count, but unless you are in a pinch, it is not a good idea to assume he will be back in the every-down role in Week 8.
Jerry Hughes had a flashback game in Week 7 that took him back a few years. In fact, the 5-1-2 with a forced fumble and an interception adds up to the highest single-game fantasy output of his 11-year career. The last time he came remotely close was a 5-1-2 performance in Week 1 of 2016. The moral of this story? Don’t get excited and pick him up. Hughes was 6-6-0 with a fumble recovery over the first six games and nothing has changed.
Rasul Douglas was active for Week 7 but did not get on the field for any defensive snaps. He was replaced by a combination of Corn Elder and Eli Apple who returned from a hamstring injury. Apple struggled and was subsequently released on Tuesday. Look for Douglas to be back in the starting role against the Falcons this week.
Sam Franklin replaced the injured Justin Burris at safety and played every snap against the Saints. Franklin had virtually no statistical impact in this game (1-1-0) but with Burris on IR, he will probably get another crack at it.
Danny Trevathan had a couple of strong games but turned back into a pumpkin in Week 7. He was under 80% of the snaps again, which has been the norm all year. This is what Trevathan is going to be in 2020. He will give us some good weeks and some bad ones. Choose wisely when considering him as a possible starter on any given week.
There are a lot of IDP managers and Bengals fans looking for the team to trade some of their talented veteran defenders over the next few days. Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, and Shawn Williams are all good players with plenty of gas in the tank, that could help a contender. As a Cincinnati native, I can tell you there is growing frustration among the fan base with both the play of the defense and some of the personnel decisions leading to those struggles. If you are sitting on any of those players, it might be a good idea to hold them until the trade deadline just in case. That said, this is an organization with a long history of wasting talent and not getting the most out of their assets.
UPDATE: The Bengals told Dunlap to stay home on Wednesday while they looked to trade him. He was then shipped to Seattle for next to nothing.
Ronnie Harrison (concussion) got the start over Karl Joseph (hamstring) in Week 7 but there is some mystery to be solved here. Both players returned from injuries and were available, so on the surface, this appears to have been a coaching decision as opposed to a case of Joseph not being 100%. On the other hand, we have heard nothing from the team to confirm this.
If the coaching staff planned to put Joseph back on the field in Week 8, the play of Harrison versus the Bengals might have them second-guessing the decision. Harrison made plays all over the field on Sunday, finishing at 6-3-1 with a fumble recovery and a pass breakup on 84% of the snaps. His impact on the field was every bit as big as the numbers suggest. Sticking him into our lineups this week would be a risk, but he should be a waiver target for any manager in need at the position.
One guy we probably do want in our lineups this week is B.J. Goodson. He has averaged roughly 85% of the snaps on the season but played every snap in Week 7, for just the second time on the year. Even at 85%, the Raiders matchup should be enough to make Goodson a solid LB3. In Week 4 Tremaine Edmunds was 8-5-0 against Las Vegas. In Week 5 it was Anthony Hitchens at 6-4-0 and Willie Gay Jr 5-1-1. The Raiders were off in Week 6 but on Sunday we saw Devin White go 9-2-3 with a forced fumble, and Lavonte David 7-1-0.
Leighton Vander Esch returned in Week 6 and gave us a little scare when he was seen wincing on the sideline while someone was working under his shoulder pads in the area of his broken collar bone. It turned out he was just adjusting the additional padding. If there were any concerns left, they were removed with his 12 combined tackles (9 solos) in Week 7. Vander Esch is healthy and should be up for another strong game against the Eagles this week.
With the resurgence of Aldon Smith, the presence of Demarcus Lawrence, and the return of Randy Gregory from suspension, the Cowboys had a log jamb at defensive end that led to the trade of Everson Griffen to Detroit. Smith returned to last week’s contest after banging up his knee and is thought to be fine. It is too early to start Gregory who will likely serve as the third man on the edge, but both Smith and Lawrence should be in our lineups this week against an Eagles team giving up 3.8 sacks per game, including 2.6 to edge defenders.
Dallas spread the strong safety snaps between three players in Week 7. Donovan Wilson saw the most action at 64% of the snaps with Darian Thompson and Steven Parker splitting the rest. As we have learned over the last four weeks, this position has a ton of potential, but there is no one we can count on to have any consistency.
Once is a fluke but twice is a trend. With a mark of 4-2-2 against the Chiefs, Malik Reed is 7-3-4 over the last two games. Jeremiah Attaochu was also productive at the position before being injured, so we have to start looking at Bradly Chubb and whoever starts opposite him as solid starters in big play based leagues.
A glance at the Lions Week 7 box scores might suggest that something has changed with the Lions' safety situation. Jayron Kearse was 6-1-0, Tracy Walker 3-2-0, and Duron Harmon 3-0-0. A closer look reveals no change in playing time with both Walker and Harmon on the field full time while Kearse played 31 of 70 snaps as the fifth defensive back in nickel situations.
Romeo Okwarastepped up big in the Week 7-win, with three tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble, but that was not enough to keep the team from trading for Everson Griffen. It remains to be seen if Griffen will step in as a starter or serve as the third man in the rotation at the position. Either way, keep all your Detroit pass rushers on the bench this week against a Colts offense that has allowed three sacks over the past four games.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers inside linebacker position is an IDP goldmine, but it is also a moving target. Against the Texans, four players saw action at the positions. Kamal Martin was 6-1-0 on 29 plays, Krys Barnes 4-4-1 on 27 snaps, Ty Summers 2-1-0 on 18, and Oren Burks 1-1-0 on 5. The Packers seem to take a different approach each week, so plugging any of these guys into a lineup is a crapshoot.
Sit Kenny Moore II and the rest of the Colts corners this week versus Detroit. Matthew Stafford has thrown two picks in the last four games but only one of them to a corner and no corner has more than four solo tackles against the Lions since Week 1.
On the other hand, start Khari Willis in this one. In their last four games, six safeties have recorded at least five solo tackles against the Lions. Three of them had at least eight.
Kansas City Chiefs
The good news for anyone sitting on Willy Gay is that he was up to a season-high 57% of the playing time in Week 7. The bad news is, he did little with the opportunity. Gay had two tackles, an assist, and a pass defended on the first two or three series, then vanished for the rest of the game. He is getting the much-needed experience that will help in 2021, but it does not look like there will be any consistent value before that.
Managers in big play based formats might want to consider BashaudBreeland or Chavarius Ward this week against the Jets. This is not a great matchup for tackles, but New York quarterbacks have thrown five interceptions to corners over their last five games, and those quarterbacks have been feeling a lot of heat from the pass rush, which leads to mistakes.
Las Vegas Raiders
Eric Harris had a solid Week 7, going 6-1-0 with a forced fumble, but the Raider will get Johnathan Abram back for Week 8. He was activated from the COVID list on Monday.
Trayvon Mullen also turned in a big game against the Buccaneers with nine tackles and a pair of passes defended, but don’t look for a repeat against the Browns. The corner position has combined for an average of 7.6 tackles and 2.6 assists per game against Cleveland, and there have not been enough big plays to make up much ground.
Los Angeles Chargers
Melvin Ingram III was back on the field in Week 7, playing 68% of the snaps in his first game back from IR. That is nearly a full workload for him, which is a good sign, but Ingram was clearly not yet 100%. He limped off after one play, which did not look promising but was able to return a short time later. The good news is that Ingram made it through without aggravating the injury. He should continue to get healthier over the next few games and should be 100% soon.
Rayshawn Jenkins moved to strong safety when Derwin James was lost. He was rather quiet in the box scores at first but has produced 12 or more points in three of the last four games and is 14-3-0 over the past two. With the Broncos, Raiders, and Dolphins as the next three on the schedule, Jenkins has a good shot at extending the streak.
Los Angeles Rams
In terms of tackle production, Rams defenders were relatively quiet in Week 7. No one had more than four solo solo stops in the game but that is more of a reflection on the inept Chicago offense than anything we should worry about with the players. The Bears ran the ball 17 times for 49 yards in that game. It is a safe bet the Seahawks will be much better when the teams meet in Week 9.
Danielle Hunter had surgery on the herniated disc in his neck this week, removing any question about a possible return in 2020. With the Vikings shipping Yannick Ngakoue to Baltimore, Minnesota is left with IfeadiOdenigbo and rookie D.J. Wonnum as their starting defensive ends. Odenigbo has been stepping up in recent weeks and is on the verge of becoming a solid DL2. Wonnum had his first sack as a pro in Week 4 and is a player the coaching staff has been high on since the draft. Eddie Yarbrough projects as the top backup at the position but tackles Jalyn Holmes and James Lynch could also see snaps on the edge.
New England Patriots
Early in the season, the Bills were a strong matchup for corners but not so much for linebackers or safeties. In recent weeks we have seen a completely different Buffalo offense that has struggled to move the ball through the air. As a result, tackle numbers are up for opposing linebackers and safeties over the last few games while corner production has leveled off. In Week 4 Ja'Whaun Bentley would have been a player to avoid in this matchup. He has come on over the last two weeks and could be a solid starting option for us going forward, starting with this week's matchup against Buffalo.
After seeing his playing time fluctuate over the first month of the season, Adrian Phillips has been on the field for at least 80% of the plays in both games after the Patriots bye week. We never know what is coming with New England, so he could have a sub 50% snap count on any given week. That said, Phillips has been solid in four of six games thus far, including the last two. With a solid matchup on the schedule, he is probably worth the risk.
Chase Winovich played at least 54% of the snaps in each of the first four games averaging almost 40 per outing. He has logged 35 total plays in the last two games combined. Winovich collected 13 snaps in Week 7 while Nick Thurman, Derek Rivers, and Tashawn Bower combined for 60 in Week 7.
Brandon Copeland suffered a torn pectoral early in Week 7 and will miss the rest of the season. Rookie Anfernee Jennings replaced him and played virtually every snaps from that point on, totaling 4-2-0 on the day.
New Orleans Saints
Trey Hendrickson had four and a half sacks heading into last week’s bye. Over the first five games, he played roughly 60% of the snaps, but the return of Marcus Davenport relegates Hendrickson to no more than a bye week flier. The two split playing time evenly against the Panthers, which is about what we should see regularly going forward. Unfortunately, this situation will probably render both players useless to IDP managers.
Both Malcolm Jenkins (1-1) and Demario Davis (2-0) may as well have taken Week 7 off, but we can’t blame their lack of production on anything other than a stagnant Panthers running game that totaled just nine attempts. I am seeing Jenkins hit the waiver wire in a few leagues this week. Don’t be the manager that makes this mistake and if someone else does, pick him up. The Saints still have Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Denver, Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Minnesota between now and week 16. There are several double-digit scores for Jenkins among those games. That said, we might want to sit Jenkins and Davis this week against the Bears. Chicago has struggled to run the ball. Only one safety and no linebacker has more than 4 solo tackles against them since Week 4.
Zach Baun has seen a few snaps over the last two games, taking a little bite out of Alex Anzalone’s playing time. Anzalone has not been particularly productive either in the box score or on the field, so the Saints are probably looking for someone to provide an upgrade there. Keep an eye out for Kiko Alonso who was activated from the PUP last week but has not yet joined the active roster. He can be a quality three-down middle linebacker if he is anywhere near healthy.
New York Giants
Julian Love was back up to 93% of the playing time at strong safety in Week 7. His production was well short of the 10 solo stops we got from him in Week 3, but the volume of opportunity (75 snaps last week) should add up to solid numbers against the Buccaneers combination of running and passes to the tight ends.
New York Jets
For the second time in three games, rookie Ashtyn Davis ate into the playing time of Bradley McDougald at strong safety. It is becoming clear that the Jets do not see McDougald as a long term answer. Davis logged about a third of the snaps in Week 7 and could see that number grow going forward. The one sure point here is that McDougald is no longer roster worthy.
Both Nathan Gerry (4-4-1) and Alex Singleton (5-1-0) put up respectable numbers on Sunday, even with the return of Duke Riley (2-1-0). Gerry should continue as the lead man at linebacker for the Eagles for the foreseeable future, but keep a close eye on T.J. Edwards who was just activated from IR. Edwards’ playing time was on the rise before the hamstring injury. He logged 70% of the snaps against Cincinnati in Week 3 and was headed for an even bigger share early in Week 4 before leaving the game. There are people in and around the organization that believe he is the best linebacker on the roster.
Coach Tomlin told us last week that Robert Spillane would be the guy replacing Devin Bush. The way he said it led us to believe it meant that Spillane would assume the full role of Bush. On Sunday we learned there was an exception clause. Spillane was on the field for 75% of the defensive plays, giving way to Ulysees Gilbert on a quarter of the plays. The result was a ho-hum 2-1-0 for Spillane in a game where the matchup was outstanding. There is some speculation that Spillane’s role will expand as he gets some game time under his belt, but we will have to see it before I can believe it.
Vince Williams maintained the same steady role of about 80% playing time against the Titans but he was able to take full advantage of the matchup with a stat line of 9-1-1 which is his best production of the season by far. Williams has another excellent matchup this week when Pittsburgh faces the run-heavy Ravens. In the six games they have played, seven opponents linebackers have recorded at least seven combined tackles and assists.
Get Williams into this week’s lineup, but keep your Pittsburgh corners on the bench. No corner has produced more than three tackles solo against Baltimore since Week 2.
The Seahawks have nine sacks on the season and were in dire need of a pass-rushing defensive end when Carlos Dunlap landed in their lap for a song. Dunlap is a proven three-down defensive end that should step right into the starting lineup this week. After losing his starting job a few weeks back, a lot of IDP managers threw him back into the pool. This is a player that still has plenty of gas in the tank and could be a quality DL2 the rest of the way.
With the emergence of Ryan Neal at strong safety and the return of first-round pick Jordyn Brooks, Seattle will soon have a different problem in the back seven. As of Wednesday afternoon, Jamal Adams is trending the wrong way for a Week 8 return, but he is getting close. Adams is arguably the best safety in the league so there is no doubt he will play full time when healthy enough, but Neal has been a pleasant surprise and may/should have earned a role. Brooks returned from injury in Week 7 when he played 38 snaps. There are suddenly a lot of mouths to feed here, so someone is going to be hungry. Could it be K.J. Wright?
San Francisco 49ers
For all their offensive prowess, the Seahawks are mediocre when it comes to protecting Russell Wilson, who has been sacked nearly three times a game on average. Meanwhile, injuries and free agency have robbed some of the potency from a 49ers pass rush that is averaging just over a sack and a half per game. Someone has to come out on top in this matchup. Kerry Hyder Jr has been San Francisco’s best pass rush threat and is worthy of consideration as a solid DL2 in this one. Arik Armstead has been a major disappointment, but if you are in a pinch, we know he has the potential.
Washington Football Team
Washington thumped the Cowboys on Sunday but they took some heavy losses on the injury front in the process. Landon Collins hit IR the week with an Achilles injury and Montez Sweat may miss some time due to a concussion. Depth at defensive end is a strength for this team, so they should not miss a beat with Ryan Kerrigan filling in off the edge. Collins will be harder to replace, however.
Safety Kamren Curl is a rookie seventh-round pick that had already carved out a sub-package role that had him averaging around 24 snaps per game. He took over full time when Collins was lost and is set to continue as the starter. Curl was a productive, three-year starter at Arkansas where he totaled 76 tackles, 2 sacks, and 4 takeaways for the Razorbacks as a junior last year. He is not Landon Collins but is a good player in a highly productive situation. No one will know who he is when you pick him up on waivers, but they may know his name well by the end of the season.
After going 5-1-0 on 65% of the snaps in Week 6, Cole Holcomb was 4-1-1 with an interception on 70% of the playing time in Week 7. It is hard to tell if his uptick in playing time was by design or a ripple from the ejection of Jon Bostic. With Washington on a bye, we will have to wait until Week 9 to get the next hint. What we do know is that the coaching staff likes Holcomb and he is productive when he plays enough.
That is all I have for this week’s offering. Best of luck as we are over the hump and headed toward the finish line.
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