This article attempts to immediately highlight defensive players whose production was significantly better or worse than normally expected for the prior week of games. Note there is sometimes limited information available when this article is written, but I will try to give everyone an early look at players who are moving up or down in value among IDP circles. When warranted, I'll also call out some players under No Change that tries to explain why the stat lines may be misleading. It’s difficult to give waiver advice for IDPs since there is such a wide variety of lineups and scoring systems, but hopefully, the information provided can help inform your waiver, trade, and upcoming lineup decisions. If you have any questions about specific players or situations, feel free to email me or reach out via Twitter.
GREEN BAY @ SAN FRANCISCO
DE Arik Armstead, SF (0 tackles)
Armstead is finding it very difficult to repeat his 10-sack breakout season from a year ago. He was completely shutout this week on 44 snaps and now has just 13 solo tackles and 1.5 sacks in nine games with no sacks in his last five games. With a tough matchup against the Saints and a bye week coming up, he’s quickly running out of time.
LB Krys Barnes, GB (1 solo, 2 asst)
Barnes got the start at inside linebacker this week but left after just 23 snaps (40%) due to a calf injury. To make matters worse, he reportedly tested positive for Covid-19 over the weekend and will be placed on short-term IR. Oren Burks (five tackles) and Ty Summers (four tackles) both played 60% of the snaps in this game but Christian Kirksey will likely return next week.
CB Jaire Alexander, GB (1 solo)
Alexander had been trending down in terms of his production already, but he lasted just 18 snaps (32%) this week. He was diagnosed with a concussion on Thursday night so may clear in time for the week 10 matchup with Jacksonville, yet he’s mostly been a below-average fantasy option since week 1 while playing shutdown defense.
DENVER @ ATLANTA
LB Josey Jewell, DEN (9 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Jewell is a three-down linebacker who has played at least 86% of the defensive snaps in every game this year. While his production dipped in Week 6 and Week 7, those weeks also saw the Broncos defense face a limited number of tackle opportunities. As the defense spent much more time on the field in the past two weeks, however, he has bounced back as expected with 15 solo stops and 5 assists. Big plays are still lacking but he’s on pace for 80 solo tackles and 36 assists at the midpoint.
LB Foye Oluokun, ATL (7 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 4 QH, 1 PD)
While Deion Jones gets most of the attention in the middle of the Falcons defense, Oluokun continues to outshine him in a breakout season. He had another huge game this week with 10 tackles plus a sack and now the 25-year-old from Yale ranks among the top-10 linebackers in terms of fantasy points per game.
SEATTLE @ BUFFALO
DE Carlos Dunlap, SEA (3 solo, 2 asst, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 2 QH)
Dunlap has been a top-10 fantasy defensive end for much of his career in Cincinnati but he was being phased out as they begin their rebuilding process. In his first game with the Seahawks, he played 68% of the snaps and looked rejuvenated with 5 tackles plus a sack. This pass rush also got 2.5 sacks from DT Jarran Reed and 1.5 sacks from S Jamal Adams and should be more effective going forward given their explosive offense.
LB A.J. Klein, BUF (5 solos, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 4 QH, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 PD)
Many observers thought Klein should be benched due to his ineffective play over the past few weeks but he put together a statement game this week. With Matt Milano placed on I.R., Klein showed that he could hold up in passing situations with two sacks (including a strip and recovery), four quarterback hits, and an all-around strong game while playing 62 of 65 (95%) snaps.
DT Ed Oliver, BUF (0 tackles)
It looks like we may need to wait another year for the potential breakout of Oliver. He still shows some promise at times but has been forced to play more of a run-plugging role than expected this year. Oliver hasn’t recorded a sack since Week 2 and has just six solo tackles with two assists over his last five games.
S Ryan Neal, SEA (0 tackles)
As expected, Neal was reduced to a clear backup role following the return of Jamal Adams to the lineup his week. Neal wound up playing just three snaps on defense this week after playing 70+ snaps for the past four games in a row.
BALTIMORE @ INDIANAPOLIS
LB Darius Leonard, IND (13 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL, 1 FR)
Leonard returned to the lineup last week but another big game this week puts him back in contention for the most valuable IDP in the league. He came back to the pack since posting 160+ tackles and 7 sacks as a rookie in 2018 but now has 20 solos, 4 assists, plus a sack, forced fumble, and fumble recovery in his last two games. The upcoming schedule also looks very favorable with matchups looming against strong running teams like the Titans and Packers.
LB Malik Harrison, BAL (6 solos, 5 asst)
Harrison had a very productive game while playing a season-high 49% of the defensive snaps with 6 combined tackles. His numbers were improved even further with five tackles he collected on 19 special teams snaps in the game. Patrick Queen remains the best option here but he’s seen a dropoff of late with just eight solo tackles and two assists over his last three games.
DE Calais Campbell, BAL (1 asst)
Campbell only played 3 snaps in the game before leaving with a calf injury. Reports on Monday indicated he was likely to miss multiple weeks, which could see him wind up on short-term IR depending on how serious the injury is.
HOUSTON @ JACKSONVILLE
LB Tyrell Adams, HOU (6 solos, 6 asst)
Adams has played the vast majority of snaps for the past four games since Benardrick McKinney went on season-ending IR with a shoulder injury. In that span, he has posted 23 solo tackles and 20 assists while being remarkably consistent with at least five solos and eight tackles in every game.
LB Myles Jack, JAX (6 solos, 5 asst, 1 TFL, 1 FF, 1 PD)
Jack was limited in practice with an ankle injury after not playing in three of the last four weeks but he held up for all 64 defensive snaps and nearly doubled up Joe Schobert with 11 combined tackles to 6. While he’s been inconsistent since being drafted in 2016, Jack is still just 25-years-old and appears to be playing up to his potential.
DE K'Lavon Chaisson, JAX (0 tackles)
The Jaguars selected Chaisson with the 20th pick in the first round and hoped he would be able to offset some of the pass-rush they lost with the departures of Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue. He did play a season-high 81% of the snaps back in Week 5 when Josh Allen was out of the lineup but has played more of a specialist role the past two weeks with just 30% of the snaps. With just five solos, four assists, and one sack through eight games, he’s not likely to contribute much until next year.
S Josh Jones, JAX (3 solos, 2 asst)
Jones has been very productive this year with 42 solos and 19 assists through 8 games. It looks like the coaches are starting to give Daniel Thomas an audition at strong safety, however. The two players rotated at strong safety this week with Jones only seeing 42 snaps (66%) while Thomas played 22 (34%).
CAROLINA @ KANSAS CITY
S Sam Franklin, CAR (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
The rookie was promoted to the starting lineup in Week 7 following an injury to Juston Burris. He hadn’t done much until this week, however, when he posted his best game as a pro with seven tackles plus a sack. With Jeremy Chinn sitting out but expected back next week, Franklin likely saw more opportunities this week than usual but he looked impressive against perhaps the best team in the league.
LB Willie Gay Jr, KC (1 asst)
After Gay played 57% of the snaps in Week 7, it looked like the rookie was going to become a key piece of this defense moving forward. In the two weeks since then, however, he’s played less than 20% of the defensive snaps. The Chiefs appear quite comfortable with three safeties out there for most of the game and some combination of Anthony Hitchens (52%), Ben Niemann (49%), and Damien Wilson (46%) at linebacker. Gay remains an intriguing long-term hold but a team with Super Bowl aspirations may feel more comfortable with the veteran options.
DETROIT @ MINNESOTA
LB Eric Wilson, MIN (8 solos, 5 asst, .5 sack, 1 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Wilson has played 100% of the defensive snaps alongside Eric Kendricks since Anthony Barr was injured back in Week 2. While his numbers haven’t been consistent from week to week, he enjoyed a huge game this week with 13 tackles plus an interception and partial sack.
CB Desmond Trufant, DET (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Trufant was a key free-agent signing for the Lions this year was expected to help offset the loss of Darius Slay. Due to injuries, however, he had only played in two of the first seven games and therefore the Lions had to rely more heavily on some of their younger players. Trufant returned to the lineup this week, however, and led all Lions cornerbacks with 86% of the snaps. Jeff Okudah (45%) left early with an ankle injury but it’s likely those two and Amani Oruwariye will be the Top 3 when everybody is healthy.
CB Kris Boyd, MIN (8 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL, 1 FF, 1 PD)
The Vikings are banged up at cornerback and were missing Cameron Dantzler, Mike Hughes, and Holton Hill this week. Boyd has also missed time with injuries this year but he was forced to start and was picked on by the Lions throughout the game. He’s likely worthy of a short-term bump but could head back to the bench as other players return to health.
CHICAGO @ TENNESSEE
LB Jayon Brown, TEN (6 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF, 1 PD)
Brown and Rashaan Evans both handled a full-time role for the Titans in 2019 but Evans was often the more productive player. Things have changed this year, however, as Brown has often played more and done more with those snaps. With 10 tackles this week, he now 24 solos and 16 assists over his last four games for an average of 10 combined tackles/game while also adding in a sack, interception, forced fumble, and five passes defensed. Meanwhile, Evans saw his lowest snap count (69%) this week since the opener and has averaged just over 5 combined tackles/game in the same time (with a partial sack).
CB Breon Borders, TEN (7 solos, 2 asst, 1 PD)
Borders had only played 7 defensive snaps all season before this week but he was forced into the starting lineup due to injuries and acquitted himself well while playing all 77 snaps. Newcomer Desmond King also played a big role as the team’s primary slot corner. With Jonathan Joseph released and Kristian Fulton expected to miss a few weeks, Borders could be relied upon again next week in a divisional matchup against the Colts.
LB Robert Quinn, CHI (1 solo, 1 asst)
Quinn signed a $75 million contract to join the Bears but he has only provided one sack in eight games and it came back during his Week 2 debut. His playing time was capped for much of the year as he’s been playing at less than 100% apparently but he did handle 75% of the snaps this week and still produced very little. Meanwhile, a player like Mario Edwards Jr has two sacks in his last four games while typically playing only 25% of the snaps each week.
NY GIANTS @ WASHINGTON
S Kamren Curl, WAS (6 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
In the first game without Landon Collins in the lineup, a rookie seventh-round pick outdid him on the stat sheet. Collins had mostly been underwhelming this year despite a very favorable situation and Curl showed the potential with 11 tackles and a sack. The Giants offense did generate a remarkable 63 tackle opportunities in this game, but that could become a normal occurrence for this Washington defense.
CB James Bradberry, NYG (0 tackles)
The Giants have been very happy with the play of their new No. 1 corner this year, but perhaps he’s playing too well. Washington only targeted him once this week and made a clear effort to target Isaac Yiadom (4 solos, 2 asst, 0.5 sack) instead. That left Bradberry shut out on the box score this week, which is consistent with some other low-tackle games he’s been posting over the past month.
LAS VEGAS @ LA CHARGERS
LB Nick Kwiatkoski, LVR (10 solos, 3 asst)
Since posting six tackles on just 22 snaps in the opener, Kwiatkoski missed some time with an injury and had trouble making an impact. He was showing signs of progress lately, however, as he posted seven tackles in Week 7 and added five plus a forced fumble in Week 8. He took things to a new level this week though as he made plays all over the field and was credited with 10 solo tackles and 13 stops overall. Although he doesn’t play in every situation, he does often see 75+% of the snaps and should be considered a solid LB4.
CB Casey Hayward, LAC (1 solo)
Hayward opened the 2020 season with 12 solo tackles but has been credited with just 10 solo tackles (with 5 assists) in the 7 games since then. The shutdown specialist hasn’t hit 50 solo tackles since 2016 and posted just 28 last year so that Week 1 outlier is almost certainly a fluke.
S Lamarcus Joyner, LVR (6 solos, 6 asst)
Joyner finished second on the Raiders in tackles with 12 but this feels like an outlier game for him. He plays primarily as the team’s nickel back so he’s not an every-down safety and his playing time and production has been somewhat erratic.
MIAMI @ ARIZONA
DE Emmanuel Ogbah, MIA (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF, 1 PD)
Ogbah has been a solid pass rusher in the league since joining the Browns as a second-round pick in 2016 but he never posted six sacks in a single season. Written off by many, he’s becoming a core player for a Dolphins team on the rise. With another sack this week, Ogbah now has seven sacks in his last seven games with at least a partial sack in all seven games, and his three forced fumbles are already more than he had in his entire career pre-2020.
LB Markus Golden ARI (2 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD)
The Cardinals traded for Golden to help offset the loss of Chandler Jones and he did his best in his debut. While playing just 34 snaps (56%), Golden collected five tackles and a sack as well as a tipped pass. Rookie Isaiah Simmons also got a start at linebacker and posted three solo tackles on a season-high 32 snaps (52%).
PITTSBURGH @ DALLAS
S Minkah Fitzpatrick, PIT (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 FR, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Fitzpatrick helped spark the Steelers defense last year with many big plays after they acquired him from Miami via trade. After a slow start to the 2020 season, it appears his knack for making plays on the ball has returned. Over his past four games, he has two interceptions, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown. With matchups coming up against the Bengals and Jaguars as well as Washington in week 13, he appears set up well for a strong finish to the fantasy season.
LB Leighton Vander Esch, DAL (3 solos, 3 asst)
Vander Esch has shown that he can be productive when he’s healthy, but he’s only played 14 of the Cowboys past 25 games. He played nearly every snap in weeks 7 and 8 and showed some improved play before seeing his playing time drop to just 55% of defensive snaps this week. Fortunately, he has a bye week coming up to recover but his health is definitely a concern.
NEW ORLEANS @ TAMPA BAY
DE Trey Hendrickson, NO (2 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Hendrickson had an incredible string of plays late in the third quarter of an easy win. He had a strip-sack and fumble recovery negated by a defensive holding penalty in the secondary, and then followed that up with back-to-back sacks on the next two plays. Those two sacks bring him up to 7.5 sacks in 8 games this year and rank just behind the league leaders in Aaron Donald and Myles Garrett.
DE Cameron Jordan, NO (1 QH)
Jordan has not been playing like himself this year as he hits the halfway point of the season with just 2.5 sacks after averaging 13.5 sacks/year over the past three seasons. While the matchup this week looked difficult, there were plenty of opportunities to rush the passer and the Saints did collect 9 quarterback hits with three sacks of Tom Brady in a blowout win. Unfortunately, Jordan was held without a tackle and only credited with one of those hits while fellow pass rusher Marcus Davenport posted a very similar stat line. In his defense, the Saints defense has played fewer than 50 snaps in two of their past three games so there haven’t been a lot of opportunities to compile stats lately.