Here we are at that moment in every fantasy season where we have to make personnel decisions based on one round of games. As always, there were plenty of unexpected happenings and some busted expectations as well. The challenge is to determine the difference between reality and one-week false flags. Here is what I am seeing and thinking.
The Cardinals threw us a major curve at linebacker. After telling and showing us Zaven Collins and Isaiah Simmons as their starting inside linebackers since draft day, they played Jordan Hicks over Collins in week one. Arizona opened the game with all three of those guys on the field, along with Chandler Jones as their fourth linebacker, but it was Hicks that played every snap while Collins saw action on 22 of 61 plays. I have to believe Collins will eventually take over the every-down role, but for now, we should not trust either of them.
Simmons played virtually every snap and had the kind of production we expected from the former first-round pick, going 7-2-0 with an interception. That was a big sigh of relief for all those dynasty owners that sat on him for a year and for those of us that rolled the dice in this year’s drafts. He should be a safe, every-week start the rest of the way.
Simmons gave us good numbers but it was Chandler Jones who stole the show with a week one record of five sacks. At 6-0-5 with a pair of forced fumbles, he is a lock for defensive player of the week. Jones is one of the few 3-4 outside linebackers that transcend scheme and can be started regularly in virtually any format.
Simmons and Jones are the real deal but don’t be tricked by DE Michael Dogbe who went 3-0-1 on the day despite playing just 13 snaps.
I would advise patience with J.J. Watt who was a quiet 2-0-0. Opponents will watch the game film of Jones and adjust blocking schemes accordingly. Watt will get his share in the long run.
The Falcons were manhandled by the Eagles, on both sides of the ball. Linebackers Deion Jones and Foye Oluokun were not horrible statistically, but they were a bit of a disappointment. The good news is, they both played every snap so there is nothing to be concerned about going forward.
The interesting news here is at safety where Duron Harmon totaled 6-1-0 and Erik Harris 5-1-0. Harmon has a long history of underwhelming on the stat sheet but his week one numbers show some hope. Not enough to throw him right into your lineup, but enough to consider him a waiver target if you are in need. That said, be aware that Harmon played 79% of the snaps. Harris was on the field for 65 of 71 plays and might be the safer target.
The inside linebacker rotation is alive and well in Baltimore. Patrick Queen played 84%, Malik Harrison 51%, and Chris Board 33%. As we have come to expect, Queen made the most of his opportunity, racking up 6-3-1 on the day. Unfortunately, any hope of Harrison providing good value appears out of the question.
The Ravens are getting killed by injuries with 13 players already on IR, including star corner Marcus Peters. Anthony Averett started opposite Marlon Humphry with Chris Westry seeing a lot of action as the fifth defensive back. If Humphrey is your guy, keep an eye on the injury report later in the week. He was not forced to miss time against the Raiders, but he played a very physical game and was slow to get up a few times.
There was not a lot of excitement in the defensive box score for Buffalo, but it is worth mention that Greg Rosseau started ahead of Mario Addison, though the two, along with Jerry Hughes, all played between 26 and 33 snaps, which is not enough to be a serious factor. Their other high upside rookie, Carlos Basham Jr, was inactive.
Slot defender Taron Johnson started right where he left off last year, leading the team with seven solo tackles and adding two pass breakups. After his production last season, it is safe to assume this is not a fluke.
If you are looking for help at defensive tackle, see if Derrick Brown is available. The 2020 seventh overall pick is a quick, powerful, and athletic big man that was expected to make an impact against both pass and run. He was underwhelming as a rookie but is off to a good start in year two, going 2-2-1 in the opener.
Shaq Thompson had a solid week one with five solo stops, five assists, and an interception. He is not going to be available in many leagues, but Jermaine Carter might be. Carter won the starting job as the middle linebacker and was on the field for 95% of the snaps in the opener. At 1-4-0, his numbers were not impressive but the opportunity is there. The quiet week one might just be the calm before the storm and enough to keep the spotlight off Carter so we can pick him up cheap.
There was nothing quiet about Haason Reddick’s debut with the Panthers. As anticipated, he worked as both outside linebacker and edge defender depending on the situation. The result was a line of 3-1-1.5 and a forced fumble. We could see a lot of weeks like that from Reddick this year.
Jeremy Chinn was high on the watch list for week one. What we learned is not going to make IDP his managers happy. Chinn moved around some but lined up deep often against the Jets. His four tackle day was well below expectations of those that drafted him. Maybe he will pick it up against better opponents, but it’s not as if the Jets were a walkover for Carolina.
With Danny Trevathan on the shelf, Alec Ogletree got the start at inside linebacker next to Roquan Smith. Ogletree was far less impressive than he had been during the preseason, finishing with two tackles and three assists on 79% of the snaps versus the Rams. It is only one game, but this looked more like the same Ogletree that was sent packing by both New York teams in recent years.
Khalil Mack is off to a slow start. He was nearly shut out by the Rams, with a single assist to show for the game. It is hard to put a guy back in your lineup after such an outing, but keep in mind this week’s opponent is the Bengals who have struggled to protect their quarterback in recent years. Cincinnati gave up five sacks to the Vikings in week one.
Germaine Pratt put up eye-catching numbers against the Vikings and made some excellent plays against the run. At 8-1-0 with a forced fumble and a recovery, he will be on the waiver list of many. If you are thinking about adding him, be aware that he played 37 of a possible 83 snaps in week one. He will have some solid games along the way but expect him to vanish in some weeks as well.
Logan Wilson’s numbers were far less impressive at 4-3-0, but at least he was on the field 87% of the time. Wilson played in base and nickel sets but came off the field in most dime personnel packages, in favor of Akeem Davis-Gaither. This is probably a case of the coaching staff wanting to keep Davis-Gaither involved more than an indictment of Wilson’s coverage skills. Wilson played much better than the numbers suggest and should have a better outing versus the Bears.
Recently acquired defensive tackle B.J. Hill made an immediate impact, going 3-0-2 against Minnesota. That will land him on a lot of waiver lists but we might want to let someone else take that leap. Hill worked as the third man in the rotation with Larry Ogunjobi and D.J. Reader starting. He did all that damage on 24 plays and is unlikely to see an increased opportunity unless one of the starters is injured.
If you need help at the position, see if Ogunjobi is available. He was 3-3-.5 on 59 plays (71%) against the Vikings. The Bengals’ defense is looking vastly improved against both pass and run, and Ogunjobi is a big part of the turnaround.
Anthony Walker gave us everything we could have expected, going 8-1-0 and playing 98% of the defensive snaps in the opener. The rest of the linebacking corps, not so much. Four other players split the rest of the LB snaps nearly evenly, with no one seeing the field on more than 25 plays. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah 25 plays (40%) Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson 22 snaps each, and Malcolm Smith 17. We will have to keep an eye on Owusu-Koramora to see if his time increases going forward, but for now, it is Walker or bust.
Ronnie Harrison started fast with a tackle and an assist on the first eight plays, but his day ended early with an ejection for pushing a coach in a sideline scuffle. With Grant Delpit still on the shelf, M.J. Stewart filled in at safety. There has been no word from the league on further punishment, so Harrison should be back for week two.
Greg Newsome II and Denzel Ward started on the corners with Troy Hill in the nickel/slot role. Hill was limited to 68% of the snaps, recording one tackle and one assist. All the signs suggest he is not going to be the guy we saw last year. Cut your losses now and grab a hot hand at the position.
In week one the Cowboys gave us exactly what they showed during the preseason, a platoon situation at linebacker. The defense was on the field for 65 plays with Micah Parsons coming the closest to playing full time at 51. Keanu Neal played 50 with Jaylon Smith getting 16 and Leighton Vander Esch 14. What it came down to for the most part was Smith and Vander Esch in early-down run situations while Parsons and Neal played in nickel packages. The result was sub-par production from all four players with none of them exceeding three solo stops. We never wish injury on anyone, but it would seem the only way any of these guys has more than marginal, hit-or-miss value in the near future, is if someone is banged up.
Vander Esch is in the final year of his contract so there is at least some light at the end of a long tunnel for those in dynasty formats. We already know Parsons and Neal will get the sub-package snaps so managers in re-draft leagues should consider moving on from Smith and/or Vander Esch.
While the situation at linebacker was not unexpected, a box score goose egg from Donovan Wilson was a shocker. What makes this even more puzzling, Wilson was on the field for 85% of the snaps and looked to be in his normal strong safety role. Damontae Kazee played 80% of the snaps at free safety while Jayon Kearse logged 62% of the playing time and was the Cowboys’ second-leading tackler at 5-6-0 while working either in relief or as a third safety in sub-packages.
The knee-jerk reaction for anyone with Wilson will be to dump him. I would not argue against that course of action, but I would not be surprised to see him put up good numbers in week two either.
The Cowboys took a big hit when Demarcus Lawrence suffered a broken foot in practice on Wednesday. He is out indefinitely and is a candidate for IR. It could be a long and tumultuous ride for all of us with Dallas defenders this year.
Broncos’ inside linebackers Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson combined for a meager six tackles versus the Giants. No one should be expecting great numbers from this duo anyway, but considering Jewell played every snap and Alexander saw action on 84% of them, we should be able to count on more production. That said, it was not all the player’s fault. The Giants had no running game, totaling 33 yards on 14 carries. Daniel Jones led the team in rushing with 27 yards on six scrambles. Jacksonville is not an offensive powerhouse, but we should see better numbers from Alexander for sure, and probably Jewell as well.
Corners Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller each recorded six solo stops and tied for the team lead in week one, but the most interesting note is the limited playing time for first-round pick Patrick Surtain II II who was fourth in the pecking order behind Bryce Callahan. Surtain logged 16 plays in the game.
It is week two and the Lions’ defense is already a dumpster fire. Their best corner, Jeff Okudah, suffered a season-ending foot injury, Alex Anzalone is terrible yet he played every snap at inside linebacker, while Jamie Collins Sr, who is by far the better player of the two, was limited to 67% of the playing time. Both edge defenders, Romeo Okwara and Trey Flowers, played nearly 90% of the snaps but the Lions’ only sack came from free safety Tracy Walker who also led the team in tackles with seven solos, which, by the way, was three more than anyone else on the team. All that and they are already last in the league in points allowed after giving up 41 to San Francisco.
From a fantasy perspective, Flowers managed four solo stops and forced a fumble, Collins salvaged the game with three tackles, two assists, and recovered the fumble. The only must start here for IDP managers is Walker who seems in line for big numbers this year
Green Bay Packers
In recent years, the Packers have used mostly a nickel base defense with three safeties and one inside linebacker. Their approach changed, at least in the opener, when they turned a more traditional base 3-4 with Krys Barnes seeing 78% of the action and De'Vondre Campbell playing 93% of the snaps. The question for week two is, after getting spanked 38-3 by the Saints, will we see more of the old defense going forward? My guess would be no, but only because they are lacking the depth at safety that has been there in the past and might be without starter Darnell Savage who hurt his shoulder in week one.
Production-wise, strong safety Adrian Amos led the team in tackles at 7-2 with Barnes second at 7-1 and Campbell third at 5-1. If things remain the same in terms of playing time, these three could take turns putting up the better numbers all season.
Henry Black was the third safety to see action against New Orleans and would be the presumed starter if Savage is not able to go.
No matter how talent starved and bad a defense looks on paper, there is always an offense that will make them look better somewhere along the line. I give you Jacksonville at Houston. It is not that the Texans were particularly good in this game. They gave up over 400 yards of offense, but they managed to take advantage of the rookie quarterback for three picks. Jacksonville ran the ball well but fell behind early and was forced to throw 51 times.
The game scrip skewed the numbers but this is what we learned. Zach Cunningham was rather quiet, going 3-3-0 while Christian Kirksey had a strong debut with the team, finishing 5-1-0 with 2 tackles for loss and a pick. Both played 100% of the snaps and a lot of good games ahead.
Texans defenders had 51 opportunities to rush the passer but Whitney Mercilus was the only one to get home for a sack. His 2-1-1 leaves me cautiously optimistic that he can have some value going forward, at least when the matchup is good. This week’s matchup with the Browns is not. Charles Omenihu got the start opposite Mercilus with both players seeing 65% of the snaps. Omenihu did not do much with the opportunity but is a player to keep an eye on.
Vernon Hargraves and Terrence Mitchell started on the corners with Desmond King in the slot and Tavierre Thomas seeing some passing-down snaps.
There were no surprises from the Colts in week one. Bobby Okereke played every snap at middle linebacker going 5-2-0, DeForest Buckner had a good game at 5-1-1, as did Khari Willis at 6-1-.5. Darius Leonard was a little quiet for Darius Leonard, but still managed five tackles and a forced fumble. Kwitty Paye did not get a sack but was able to pressure the quarterback and recover a fumble. He came up a little lame late in the game so keep an eye on the practice reports this week if he is your guy.
We all know the Jaguars are in rebuilding mode. One way to go about that process is to get a look at a lot of players and see who stands out. There were 22 players on Jacksonville’s defensive stat sheet in week one.
As for players of interest to IDP managers; Damien Wilson finished with a disappointing 1-6 on 60 of 71 snaps (77%). Wilson was on the field in most nickel situations so we should not write him off too quickly. Myles Jack looked pretty good in his new role, going 6-3-0 on 71 plays (91%). Rayshawn Jenkins did indeed line up at strong safety most of the time and also posted solid numbers with six tackles. He was on the field for every defensive play.
One guy we have not heard much about is defensive tackle, Malcolm Brown. He played 65% of the snaps in week one, two plays fewer than DE/OLB Josh Allen. For managers in tackle-required leagues, Brown’s 4-3-0 is an attention-getter and enough to land him on the waiver list at a thin position.
Kansas City Chiefs
Tyron Matthieu returned from an extended COVID absence ahead of week one but was a late scratch for the opener. With another week to get his strength and endurance back, he should be a go against Baltimore. With Mathieu out, Juan Thornhill’s role was expanded, resulting in a solid 5-2-o and a forced fumble. With Mathieu back, look for Thornhill to return to his deep safety/centerfield role where he is not likely to make much box score impact.
L'Jarius Sneed picked up right where he left off last season. He played every snap and finished with seven solo stops. This guy is a poor man’s Jalen Ramsey. He is excellent in coverage, is a playmaker, and is as physical as a strong safety.
After trimming down to a sleek 298 pounds, Chris Jones came up with a pair of sacks in his first start as a defensive end. He is going to be a factor both on the field and in the fantasy game. With Frank Clark nursing a hamstring injury, Mike Danna got the call at the other defensive end spot. Danna had a slow day at the office with one tackle and an assist, but it is noteworthy that he started ahead of Alex Okafor. Danna showed signs of a bright future during the 2020 season and is a player to keep on the radar.
Not surprisingly, Nick Bolton led Chiefs linebackers in the box scores with four tackles and two assists on 76% of the plays. Anthony Hitchens played 80% and was 2-2 with Ben Niemann going 2-1 and recovering a fumble on 68%. The numbers were not eye-catching, but Bolton’s on-field contribution was more impressive. It will be interesting to see who goes to the bench when/if Willie Gay Jr comes back later in the season.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders pulled off the upset and their defense looked much improved overall against Baltimore, but their linebackers were not impressive. K.J. Wright played 37 of 68 snaps and finished 1-1 he looked old and slow, Nick Kwiatkoski was only on the field for 16 plays but managed 3-2. The numbers are better than his play. Denzel Perryman made some nice plays but was not consistent. He played 52 snaps going 5-5 with a fumble recovery. He should have decent value until/unless Nick Morrow comes back. Cory Littleton was also inconsistent but seemed much better in general than he did last season. Littleton seemed to play better as the game wore on, finishing with a solid 5-5 on 57 plays. He may never be the IDP star he was with the Rams, but Littleton could be an impact player for us this year.
Maxx Crosby is healthy and he is back! He was a beast in 2019 but everyone gave up on him when he slumped last year. Crosby was dealing with a bum shoulder on the field and some off-field demons as well. He is healthy both physically and mentally, opening the season with a 4-2-2 performance against Baltimore. He is a physical freak that played 91% of the snaps and would never come off the field if it were up to him. Crosby has a huge wingspan and reminds me a lot of former NFL greats like Jason Taylor and Julius Peppers. Make Crosby a priority pickup if he is available.
Yannik Ngakoue did not get to the quarterback but was disruptive nonetheless. He left the game late with a hamstring issue that is not believed to be serious but is something to keep tabs on if he is your guy. Carl Nassib and Darius Philon would see more action if Ngakoue misses time. Philon is also a candidate to play some tackle after the Raiders lost Gerald McCoy to a season-ending knee injury.
Rookie Trevor Moehrig got the start and played full time at free safety. His statistical impact was minimal in this game at 2-3. He was drafted to be a playmaker so look for more big-play impact than big tackle totals in the weeks to come.
Los Angeles Chargers
Kenneth Murray was a round peg in a square hole as a rookie but the new defensive scheme is a much better fit. He played every snap in week one, going 6-4 with a forced fumble.
One of the situations on the watch list for week one was the other Chargers inside linebacker. Kyzir White came out on top of the competition for the moment, but hold off on picking him up. He was 3-2 with a forced fumble against Washington but played less than 70% of the snaps. Drue Tranquill could eventually make another push for the job once he is 100% healthy from last year’s broken leg.
Nasir Adderly left Sunday’s game with what was reported to be a shoulder injury. On Wednesday’s practice report he was listed as DNP with a groin. Whatever it is that ails him, Adderly’s availability for week two is in question. Look for Aholi Gilman to get the call if Adderly is not able to go
Los Angeles Rams
If Jalen Ramsey is available in your league, stop right now and put him at the top of your defensive backs waiver list. His total of 7-2 with a pass breakup in week one was strong enough but it was how he got there that has me excited. We all know he is a great cover man and a major big-play threat as an outside corner. You may have heard that he claims to get bored when lining up at the same position all the time because it allows opponents to avoid him. The Rams coaching staff has heard him and they appear to agree that he could use a change.
Remember the role played by Troy Hill last year? He lined up on the outside when there were two corners on the field but moved around when there was a third. That role made Hill the fantasy game’s number two corner and number seven defensive back overall. If a good but not great player like Hill was that productive, imagine what a stud like Ramsey could do in that role. Now hurry up and put him on your waiver list, because that is what they did with Ramsey against Chicago.
Another Ram that should be high on the priority list is inside linebacker Kenny Young. While we were watching to see if it would be Troy Reeder or Micah Kiser in the lead role, the Los Angeles coaching staff slipped Young into the job. He played snap against Chicago, going 5-5 with a pass breakup and a fumble recovery. Meanwhile, Reeder played 19 snaps.
There was a lot of speculation that Eric Rowe would lose playing time this year. So far that has not been the case. Rowe played 87% of the snaps in week one and had one of the more productive games of his career at 6-3 with a forced fumble. While the numbers are enough to gain our attention, keep in mind that Rowe has been rather inconsistent on a week-to-week basis throughout his career. Jason McCourty played every snap at free safety
Jerome Baker had a lot of big games in 2020 and opened 2021 with a bang, going 8-4. He too has a history of week-to-week inconsistency, largely due to erratic playing time in the Dolphins’ ever-changing game plans. Baker played virtually every snap against the Patriots and was the only player in Miami’s front seven to play more than 71% of the snaps.
Eric Kendricks had a strong game against Cincinnati but that is not unexpected. What was a surprise to some extent was Nick Vigil blowing up for 8-2-1 and playing every snap in the game. This could change when/if Anthony Barr can come back, but for now, Vigil is this year’s version of Eric Wilson.
Michael Pierce had a huge week one going 3-4-2. He is a quick and athletic big man and a solid waiver add in tackle required leagues but temper your expectations.
Sheldon Richardson was the third wheel with the Vikings in 2018. After a pair of highly productive years with the Browns, he returns to Minnesota and is back in the same role as the third wheel. Richardson played a disappointing 22 snaps against Cincinnati. With defensive tackle being such a thin position in general, we probably need to sit on Richardson for at least one more game, but get him out of your lineup this week.
Danielle Hunter went 3-3-1 and did not look like a guy that missed all of last season. D.J. Wonnum started opposite Hunter with Everson Griffen working as the third man in the rotation. Neither Wonnum nor Griffin did much. Between them, they were 1-1-0 against a Bengals offense that gave up five sacks.
Bashaud Breeland looked good and was productive with five tackles and a pair of assists. If you are thinking about adding or playing him this week, be aware that he was in and out of the game with what looked like a bum shoulder. Keep an eye on the practice reports.
New England Patriots
Patriots came out in a big-nickel base defense with three down linemen and Matt Judon playing a stand-up defensive end/outside linebackers. Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bentley were the inside linebackers to start with Kyle Van Noy also having a big role. Unfortunately, none of them were on the field anywhere near full-time. The breakdown was Hightower 78%, Van Noy 65%, Bentley 72%.
Kyle Dugger might be the top target among Patriots safeties this year, After working in a part-time role as a rookie, he lined up for 93% of the snaps against Miami, going 6-2 on the day. Meanwhile, last year’s top prospect, Adrian Phillips, went 2-1 on 61% of the snaps. Phillips will still have his share of productive games but will all their linebacker back, his role may be reduced considerably on some weeks.
Pro Football Focus tells us Chase Winovich was the Patriots' best pass rusher in 2020. Bill Belichick seems to disagree completely. Winovich saw the field for 12 plays against Miami. So much for analytics.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints rested starters in the fourth quarter of their blowout win, so snap counts are going to be skewed, as are stat lines. The important points here are injuries. Marcus Davenport is likely to miss at least one game with a pectoral strain and Marshon Lattimore is week to week after having thumb surgery on Monday. Carl Granderson and Tanoh Kpassagnon are likely to share the duties at defensive end with Desmond Trufant the favorite to start opposite rookie Paulson Adebo on the corners. Bradley Roby could also factor in after serving his one-game suspension.
New York Giants
The Giants’ safety situation was high on the watch list for week one. The results will make some happy managers and some that will be kicking things and cursing. Those that picked Logan Ryan won the lottery here. He played nearly full-time at strong safety, piling up 8-2 with a forced fumble and a recovery.
The consolation prize goes to Xavier McKinney who lined up at free safety and played virtually every snap. The perfect fit for McKinney would have been a rover role as a full-time third safety/nickel linebacker. With his big-play upside and ability to make plays all over the field, he should be able to make lemonade out of the lemons.
The loser here is Jabril Peppers who was on the field 45% of the time and was not much of a factor in the box scores. It might be a good idea to sit tight for a week and get another look, but if you need a roster spot to add someone, Peppers might be expendable.
New York Jets
Marcus Maye worked mostly at strong safety in week one and finished a respectable 5-3. The concern here is the elbow injury that will take Lamarcus Joyner out of the picture for the foreseeable future. There is some chance Maye will move back to free safety but he is probably safe. Look for Sheldrick Redwine and/or Adrian Colbert to fill in at the other safety spot until/unless Ashtyn Davis returns.
The hits keep coming for the Jets at linebacker as well. Jamien Sherwood started on the weak side but lasted three plays before going down with a foot injury. Hamsah Nasirldeen started on the strong side and kept to his part-time role, playing 48% of the snaps while DelShawn Phillips came on to replace Sherwood. Phillips logged 57 of a possible 64 snaps and went on to finish 3-9 on the game. It is hard to say how long it will last, but Phillips has the potential to be this year’s Neville Hewitt.
C.J. Mosley was quiet and looked rusty after not playing for two years. He was a meager 2-2 on the day but this is not a guy to give up on after one game.
The Jets have been raving about John Franklin-Myers all summer. He was 2-1-1 against the Panthers and had an even bigger impact on the field than in the box scores. It does not hurt that he played nearly 70% of the snaps which was the most of any Jets defensive lineman.
The first thing to catch my eye in the Eagles box score was not a player, but a stats crew. Philadelphia defenders were awarded 28 tackles and 52 assists in this game. It would be nice if the NFL would get involved and create some consistency in the way defensive stats are recorded, but that is not going to happen.
The second thing to catch my eye was that Alex Singleton did not start. He played 60% of the snaps going 3-5 on the day. I am not sure if there was some sort of underlying reason for this but if the coaching staff watched the same game I did, Singleton will be a starter in week two.
Eric Wilson started in the middle and played virtually every snap until late in the game when the score got out of hand. Genard Avery started and played 31% with T.J. Edwards filling out the card at 40%. Wilson is the only linebacker we can trust here as a week two starter for us.
Devin Bush won round one of the matchup with Joe Schobert. Bush went 6-4 with a forced fumble on 86% of the plays while Joe Schobert finished 2-4 on 78%. I fully expect this to be a week-to-week battle with both players getting their share of wins.
Unless he is banged up and I have not heard about it yet, it was interesting that Robert Spillane was declared inactive.
San Francisco 49ers
Jaquiski Tartt went from the PUP to the starting lineup in just a few days. He played 80% of the snaps at strong safety, going 5-2. If he can stay healthy, Tartt can put up decent numbers for us. The issue is his chronically sore shoulder. Tavon Wilson poached the other 20% of the strong safety action and would be the replacement if/when Tartt is hurt again.
Dre Greenlaw had a huge game going with four tackles, two assists, and a pick-six on 41 plays before leaving with a groin injury. Azeez Al-Shaair started in a two-down role but played full time after Greenlaw went down, finishing at 4-3 with 2 passes defended on 72 plays. Al-Shaair put up solid numbers in a relief role last season and is worth an add in deeper drafted leagues.
One of the watch-list players for week one was Arik Armstead. We wanted to see if getting Nick Bosa back at the other defensive end spot would rekindle Armstead’s 2019 production. It did not. He recorded a single tackle and was virtually invisible. 1-0, Nick Bosa 4-0-1
Javon Kinlaw was not able to go against Detroit as he makes his way back from a sore knee. Kentavius Street got the start in his place, finishing with three combined tackles and a sack. Kinlaw is questionable for week two but we should not count on him for at least a couple of games once he is back. Guys with sore knees are rarely 100% when they return and are prone to aggravating the injury.
Rookie fifth-round pick Deommodore Lenoir started and played every snap at corner with K'Waun Williams, Jason Verrett filling out the top-three, and Dontae Johnson seeing time in some sub-packages. Verrett suffered a torn ACL in the game and is done for the year. San Francisco signed Dre Kirkpatrick to take his place on the roster.
Kerry Hyder Jr and Carlos Dunlap started at defensive end, but the Seahawks returned to their old way of rotating too many players. Dunlap and Hyder each played barely half of the snaps while Benson Mayowa and Darrell Taylor also had significant roles. Rasheem Green was the only defensive lineman to get enough playing time to matter. Green saw time at end on early downs, sliding inside in passing situations. With the double duty, he managed 3-1-1 and knocked down a pair of passes on 70% of the snaps.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers came out in a funky 3-5-3 alignment on Thursday night, with three outside linebackers on the field together. Shaquille Barrett, Joe Tryon, and Jason Pierre-Paul all lined up wide as pass rushers. It is hard to say if this is something we will see regularly or they were just throwing it out there so future opponents will have to prepare for it.
Sean Murphy-Bunting suffered an elbow injury that may be season-ending. He was placed on IR early in the week. Jamel Dean will step into the starting role with Ross Cockrell likely to be the third corner going forward.
Amani Hooker’s 5-1 looks solid in the box score but don’t get too excited. He worked in virtually an even split timeshare with Bradley McDougald at strong safety. From my perspective, Hooker outplayed McDougald but we will have to see what the coaching staff thinks.
After piling up tackles but making fewer big plays in 2020, Kevin Byard moved back to his comfort zone at free safety. It did not take long for the big plays to come back as Byard landed his first pick of the new season.
Washington Football Team
Cole Holcomb led the way at linebacker for the Football Team. He was on the field for every defensive play and topped Washington’s box score at 8-3-0. Jon Bostic went 5-3 on 84% of the snaps with Jamin Davis going 2-0 on 56%. We are seeing a growing number of teams treat the linebacker position like they used to treat rookie quarterbacks, having them play a limited role in year one. We will be watching closely over the next few weeks to see if Davis has a growing role.
Washington gave us an ugly rotation at safety with Kamren Curl going 3-0 on 46%, Landon Collins 0-2 on 80%, and Bobby McCain 7-3 on 85%. I have not watched all of this game as closely as I would like, but from what I did see, it looked like Collins was working deep with McCain in the strong safety role and Curl bouncing around when he was on the field, giving both Collins and McCain a breather here and there.
That does it for this week’s offering. Best of luck to you in week two.
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