As the season progresses it is hard to find those diamonds in the rough or that guy that no one has heard of. This week we are going to examine the plethora of injuries across the league and who the most likely successor is to that starting job as well as highlight some prime matchups as well as surprising performers to this point. This article will also highlight a few long-term and speculative players that could see their value rise over the course of the season.
OLB Andrew Van Ginkel (MIA):
It has been a very up and down season for Ginkel so far, but one thing he has done well is get after the quarterback. He has at least half a sack in 3 of his last 4 games and saw his snap count jump significantly last week. Ginkel played 72% of defensive snaps and has a prime matchup against the Jets next week. His playing time is trending in the right direction and the Miami defense has a great matchup this week. The Jets offensive line ranks 23rd in the league and has allowed 15 sacks already this season.
LB A.J. Johnson (DEN):
The Broncos defense has been on the field a lot so far this season. Even with the potential return of Drew Lock, Johnson should see the field a lot. He has a sack and 29 total tackles so far this year. Miami has been playing better overall and committed to running the ball with Myles Gaskin. Johnson had some very productive tackle numbers early in the season and should get back on track this week against a New England team that is committed to running the ball.
OLB Kamu Grugier-Hill (MIA):
The Miami offensive line has not done very much well so far this year and that includes run blocking. They rank 28th in the category and opposing linebackers have feasted against them. Gruiger-Hill has seen his defensive snap count increase every week so far this year and has 18 total tackles, a sack, and a tackle for loss. There is a lot of break out potential this week against a poor run-blocking offensive line. Look for a solid tackling day by Gruiger-Hill this week.
DE Jaylon Ferguson (BAL):
The Baltimore defense has been great so far this season and while not a lot of that has been Ferguson, he is trending in the right direction for percentage of defensive snaps played. He came away with his first sack of the season 2 weeks ago and had a season-high 6 total tackles last week. Ferguson will take on a beat-up Philadelphia offensive line that ranks 22nd in pass protection and has seen Carson Wentz sacked 19 times already. It should be a good day for the Baltimore defense.
DE Dawuane Smoot (JAX):
Smoot is coming off his first sack of the season and his highest % of defensive snaps played last week. He also chipped in 2 solo tackles and 3 QB hits on Deshaun Watson. Detroit’s offensive line ranks 26th in pass protection and has allowed 12 sacks so far this season. The Jacksonville offense has struggled to keep drives alive and has put the defense on the field a lot this year. Look for Smoot to build on his success from last week against the Lions in week 6.
DE Al-Quadin Muhammad (IND):
Muhammad had his best game of the season last week against the Browns. He had a sack and a forced fumble in the loss. The biggest draw this week is the opponent. The Bengals rank 32nd in pass protection and Joe Burrow has been sacked a league-leading 23 times already this season. The rookie likes to hold on to the ball and the Colts defense should be able to take full advantage. Look for Muhammad to build on his momentum from last week, even if he is only playing roughly more than half the defensive snaps.
S Marcus Epps (PHI):
The numbers can be a little misleading with Epps. He only had 2 total tackles last week against Pittsburgh, but what is most important is that he saw his defensive snaps played jump to 72% and he got his second start of the year. Baltimore loves to run the ball and Epps is going to have to come up and play the line if they want any chance of winning this week. Expect much better tackling numbers overall for Epps this week.
S Eric Murray (HOU):
Murray has played 100% of defensive snaps over the past 2 games and over 90% in each game so far this season. He has yet to reach double-digit tackles this year but has a good shot this week. He has a forced fumble and a pass defended to add to his resume this year and walks into a great matchup this week against Tennessee. The Texans are going to have to bring the house to stop Derek Henry. Look for Murray to be up near the line helping to stop the run.
CB Jamel Dean (TB):
Dean has been a very solid tackling corner so far this year. The Tampa Bay defense has looked much better than most expected and Dean has done a great job on the outside. He has 26 total tackles and 5 passes defended so far this year. The Green Bay Packers will pose a difficult challenge this week but should also give Dean plenty of opportunities for tackles. Aaron Rodgers and company have been airing the ball out. Look for Dean to answer the call this week and add to his impressive tackle total for a corner.
- LB Krys Barnes (GB): Bye-week, long-term pick-up
- LB Tyrel Dodson (BUF): 2 assists, 26% defensive snaps
- LB Kwon Alexander (SF): 4 solos, 1 assist, 1 sack, 99% defensive snaps
- DT Tyson Alualu (PIT): 2 assists, 36% defensive snaps
- DT Michael Brockers (LAR): 6 assists, 57% defensive snaps
- DT Raekwon Davis (MIA): 17% defensive snaps
- S Deionte Thompson (ARI): 3 solos, 1 assist, 1 pass defended, 99% defensive snaps
- S Juston Burris (CAR): 3 assists, 1 interception, 1 pass defended, 100% defensive snaps
- S Andrew Wingard (JAX): 1 assist, landed on IR