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The rush to pick up those unexpectedly productive free agents is over. Now it is time to settle in and micromanage matchups as we navigate injuries and bye weeks. With the Saints, Jets, Falcons, and 49ers off, we have some big names missing from our week six lineups.
Zach Allen had a big game in week five, going 4-1-1, but he is probably not the guy you want to target. He had one big game last year as well but has not been able to sustain any serious production. One interesting side note with Allen, he lined up at outside linebacker for at least part of the game. With Chandler Jones on COVID IR, Allen could see more playing time on the edge again this week.
Zaven Collins had an increased role against San Francisco. His 34 snaps were the most he has seen in any game this season and were playing 52% of the team’s total. While that is interesting, it is not significant as Jordan Hicks and Isaiah Simmons did not lose snaps to him. It was simply a case of the game script leading to more three-linebacker situations.
Jaylinn Hawkins got the start for an injured Erik Harris against the Jets. He did little in the tackle columns, largely due to the horrible matchup, but managed an interception. Rookie Grant Delpit saw his first significant action of the season, playing half the snaps. Harris has not been placed on IR so far and will likely be back when the team returns in week seven.
Dante Fowler Jr may have been banged up against the Jets. His snap count was down and he was seen walking gingerly on the sideline with what looked like a hip issue. This might be something to watch when the team returns to practice next week.
Rookie Brandon Stephens stood in for the injured DeShon Elliott at free safety on Monday night. He looked pretty good, accounting for 12 total tackles with six solo. Stephens was seeing action as the third safety even when Elliott was healthy. The coaching staff is high on the third-round pick, so there is at least some chance he could replace Elliott as the starter.
The Bills have joined the ranks of those teams using too many players in their defensive line rotation. Jerry Hughes played 54 of a possible 86 snaps in week five with five other players logging at least 28. Gregory Rosseau has so far managed to stand out despite having his snap percentage fall well below 50% in each of the last two games.
Julian Stafford saw some time with Shaq Thompson out, but it was Jermaine Carter in the full-time role at linebacker. Carter did little with the additional playing time in week five, going 2-1 with a pass breakup against the Eagles on 67 plays. Philadelphia has been a horrible matchup in general for tackle-producing linebackers, which was undoubtedly a factor, but the fact remains that Carter is not getting it done in the box scores.
Morgan Fox continues to be a factor on the field, but the numbers are not materializing. If you get points for pressures, he might be worth hanging onto for another week, otherwise, find someone more worthy of the roster spot.
Danny Trevathan was activated from IR last week and played 10 snaps against the Raiders. Chances are, his playing time will increase quickly until he is back to his normal full-time role. For those that have been playing Alec Ogletree, that ship has probably sailed, at least for now. Ogletree saw 52% of the snaps in week five with Trevathan and Christian Jones getting the rest.
The Bengals defensive line played well again. It did not show up so much in the box score, but there was pressure on Aaron Rodgers all game. After being questionable with a sore knee, Larry Ogunjobi was active versus the Packers, which is a great sign, but he was not as effective as in previous games. Another week of recovery and a string of matchups that includes the Lions, Ravens, and Jets over the next three weeks, are a plus, leading up the matchup with his former team in week nine.
The Browns seem to have changed their approach at the linebacker positions. Anthony Walker returned from injured reserve in week five. He did not play every down, which should come as no surprise since he has been out a month, but Walker saw action on 73% of the snaps in the shootout with Los Angeles. He came through healthy and could/should return to the every-down role in week six.
Those of us sitting on Walker are happy to see him back on the field, but there is more to the story. After getting on the field for little more than half of the snaps in any of the previous games, rookie Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah played 91% in week five. His totals were modest at 3-1 with a forced fumble, but the jump in playing time is significant. Could we see the Brown go back to a defense featuring two full-time linebackers? It was not all that long ago when Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey were both racking up strong numbers here.
Greg Newsome II did not suit up for week five and the Browns lost Denzel Ward to a neck injury early in the game. The next man up was second-year pro, A.J. Green. He is a step down from the talent perspective, but Green did an admirable job under the circumstances, including a solid 5-1 with a pair of passes defended. If neither Newsome nor Ward is available, it is safe to bet the Cardinals will test Green often.
My condolences to anyone that got excited, thinking Leighton Vander Esch or Keanu Neal would get back to a three-down role after the team let Jaylon Smith go. Indeed, nothing changed here at all. Micah Parsons went 6-2 on93% of the snaps versus the Giants. Vander Eschfinished 4-1 while splitting time nearly equally with Keanu Neal who was 3-2.
Dating back to last year, Trevon Diggs now has an interception in six consecutive games. A matchup with rookie quarterback Mac Jones is a golden opportunity to add to his streak. Even if the streak is broken, Diggs should give us good numbers in this one. Eight corners have recorded at least five solo stops against the Patriots so far.
Alexander Johnson has stepped up both on the field and in the box scores in recent weeks. He was 6-2 with a fumble recovery and a pass breakup against the Steelers and had double-digit fantasy points in three consecutive games. With Las Vegas, Cleveland, Washington, and Dallas on the schedule over the next month, Johnson is a solid LB3. On the other hand, Justin Strnad has not done much with his opportunity in the wake of Joesy Jewell being lost. We need to keep an eye on Micah Kiser who got on the field for 17 snaps in week five and could see his role expand in the coming weeks.
Alex Anzalone has double-digit fantasy points in three of the last four games, but his tackle totals have fallen steadily since his 8-2 in week two. If you have to play Anzalone against the Bengals this week, keep your fingers crossed for a big play or two. No linebacker has had more than five solo stops against the Bengals since week one. The list includes Roquan Smith, Joe Schobert, Devin Bush, Myles Jack, and De'Vondre Campbell.
Trey Flowers returned to action in week five and picked up right where he left off, going 4-1-1. Flowers has double-digit points in all three of the games he has played and the Bengals have been a steady matchup for edge defenders. Charles Harris added another sack to his total against the Vikings, making it four games in a row that he has delivered. He has not fallen short of eight points in a game since taking over the job in week two. Cincinnati is giving up over two and a half sacks per week on average, including an average of 1.6 per game to edge defenders.
Tracy Walker’s numbers bounced back in week five when he was 7-2 on 56 of 67 snaps. There has never been any doubt about his production, but the fluctuation in playing time is a problem. This makes starting Walker a game of Russian Roulette. Adding to the risk, the Bengals have been an inconsistent matchup for safeties.
Green Bay Packers
If De'Vondre Campbell is your guy, be aware that he missed a few snaps on Sunday to have his shoulder checked out. Campbell returned to the game and looked fine, but a linebacker with a sore shoulder is not a good thing. Not to mention these injuries are sometimes worse with a day or two for the soreness to set in.
Jayon Smith was inactive against the Bengals, which was expected considering he had been with the team for less than a week. It was interesting to hear that the Cowboys' reason for parting ways with Smith was attributed completely to performance, as he had graded out poorly over the first four games. There is no doubt money was part of the decision as well, but the bottom line here is Smith has a lot to prove. Maybe the change of scenery was just what he needed.
We keep hearing about how the Packers need to upgrade at linebacker. Krys Barnes is a great example of a player that puts up numbers but is much less successful on the field. Barnes was 3-3-1 against Cincinnati. Those numbers are fairly impressive considering he was on the field for 23 of a possible 67 plays.
Jaire Alexander landed on short-term IR ahead of week five, but there are concerns he might miss the rest of the season with the shoulder injury. They are going to see how it responds to treatment but surgery has not been ruled out.
If Zach Cunningham is your guy, the time has come to be concerned. He has fallen well short of expectations in three of the four games he has played, including going 2-1 with a pass breakup in week five. The marginal production over the first two games was puzzling and largely overlooks as the early result of a scheme change. This time, there is a bigger issue, Cunningham played just 33 of 64 snaps against the Patriots while KamuGrugier-Hill logged every snap. Granted, this could be an aftereffect of Cunningham missing week four, but it is still a concern.
The coaching staff stuck with corner Desmond King and strong safety Lonnie Johnson as starters, despite the ugly blowout loss in week four. Both players responded by playing well against the Patriots. King totaled ten combined tackles, giving him an impressive mark of 14-5 with a forced fumble. With the Colts, Cardinals, and Rams as the next three opponents, King has a good shot at extending his streak of production.
Johnson was 5-3 with an interception in week four. His week five was less productive in the tackle columns, but he picked up another interception while playing all but a handful of snaps. The Colts, Cardinals, and Rams are all solid matchups for safeties, making Johnson a good waiver target this week.
It has only been three games and he still has a lot to prove, but Jonathan Greenardis showing a lot of promise. In two games as a starter, Greenard is 5-2-2 with a forced fumble.
Khari Willis was back in action against Baltimore, albeit in a limited role. Willis finished 1-3 on 19 snaps, but the most important point is he came through without aggravating his groin injury. With another week to recover, he should be back at full speed for this week’s matchup with Houston.
Despite the stellar matchup with Tennessee, Myles Jack was not having a great statistical game even before leaving with an oblique injury. He was replaced by Dakota Allen who lasted seven plays before leaving with a shoulder injury. If Jack is not able to go in week six, look for Shaquille Quarterman to get the start with Damien Wilson likely handling the three-down duties.
Between not being able to win a game and a coach that doesn’t seem to understand the commitment it takes to coach in the NFL, Jacksonville is quickly becoming a dumpster fire. Nothing exemplifies this more than the apparent benching of rookie corner Tyson Campbell. After starting the first four games, Campbell did not get on the field at all in week five. Chris Claybrook and Tre Herndon filled out the top three opposite Shaquill Griffin with Nevin Lawson picking up the rest of the playing time. I get the feeling this coaching staff will be out long before the end of the season.
Kansas City Chiefs
Willie Gay Jr was activated ahead of week five and played 25 snaps in the game. He appeared to suffer no setback from the turf toe injury and should see a bigger slice of the action against Washington. That said, there could still be some issues with Gay. It was reported last week that he is also dealing with mental health concerns. The Chiefs have Washington this week, Tennessee in week seven. If Gay can get healthy, he could prove a great mid-season addition.
Frank Clark was active so Michael Danna slid to the other side and started for Chris Jones who was out with a wrist injury. Danna failed to land a sack in this one but it is hard to hold that against him. The Bills have don’t give up many, allowing one over their last three games. With the emergence of Danna, it will be interesting to see what the coaching staff does when both Jones and Clark are available. Might they consider mobbing Jones back inside? Or will Danna be pushed down the depth chart again, serving as the third man in the rotation?
Las Vegas Raiders
Denzel Perryman went 10-2 in week five and is the established centerpiece of the Raiders defense. He is not the only linebacker with value here though. The numbers from week five can be a little misleading, however. Cory Littleton finished at 4-2 while Nick Kwiatkoski was 5-2. What we need to know is Littleton played 88% of the snaps. His total of 56 were four more than Perryman even. Meanwhile, Kwiatkoski did all his damage on 12 plays. Littleton has been a bit inconsistent, with three strong games and two poor ones, but he is the closest thing Las Vegas has to an every-down linebacker.
Maxx Crosby has vanished since putting up two sacks in the opener. Managers in re-draft leagues have probably moved on already. For those in dynasty leagues, however, I suggest patience if you have the luxury of roster space. This is a highly talented guy that continues to be disruptive week in and week out. Eventually, that has to show up in the numbers again. That said, I want to share an interesting trend with the Raiders defensive linemen. Their sacks continue to come in pairs. In week one it was Crosby with two, Solomon Thomas had a pair in week two. In week four it was Darius Philon getting home twice, and last week it was YannikNgakoue’s turn. The other thing all these guys have in common so far, is none of them have done squat since their two-sack game.
Los Angeles Chargers
With 17 combined tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble, Derwin James is a candidate for defensive player of the week. That is all good but no one needs to be told to start him. There are three other Chargers defenders not named Bosa who are worthy of strong consideration this week, and some of them might still be available for pickup.
Drue Tranquillwent 7-4 against the Browns, Kyzir White was 5-1, and safety Nasir Adderly 7-1. The Chargers have not had a linebacker play more than 89% of the snaps in a game since Kenneth Murray in week one, but Tranquill and White are both seeing 75-80% of the action each week. Tranquill has a slight edge in terms of production and upside.
Adderlyhad a ho-hum outing versus the Raiders in week four. In the other three games since week one, he is 23-4 with a pass defended, scoring at least 11 fantasy points in each of them. All three of these players have the potential to put up solid numbers every week and they have a great matchup with the Ravens.
Los Angeles Rams
Anyone that started a Rams defender other than Aaron Donald or maybe Sebastian Joseph-Day in week five, was very disappointed. No one besides Donald recorded more than three solo stops, Taylor Rapp had one tackle, and Kenny Young and Troy Reader combined to go 1-6-0 at inside linebacker.
For the most part, we can write this one off as a fluke, but there is an interesting side note. After playing 150 of a possible 151 snaps in weeks three and four, Young logged 42 of 65 on Thursday night. No one played full time at inside linebacker but Troy Reeder was on the field for 51 plays after playing 43 over the two previous games. It is hard to say what this means for these players in week six, but it is also worth note that we saw a similar breakdown in week two when both Young and Reeder played 43 of 67 snaps. Until/unless we get some sort of clarity here, it might be a good idea to keep both of these players on the bench this week. That decision should be made easier by the matchup with a Giants squad that is hurting and will be without Saquan Barkley, several receivers, and possibly their quarterback.
I have to wonder if the Dolphins will eventually realize their approach to defensive personnel is not working. When guys have drastically different roles each week, it is hard to get into any sort of rhythm or comfort zone. The result is players thinking instead of reacting, blown coverages, and a general lack of continuity. They would be much better off to pick their starters and stick with them for the most part.
So what triggered that rant? The team’s merry-go-round at the safety position. Jason McCourty (99%) and Eric Rowe (86%) played the most in week four, while second-round pick Jevon Holland played 27 snaps and Brandon Jones 2. In week five, McCourty saw action on 27 of 72 plays and Rowe on 22, while Holland played every down and Jones 76%. There comes a time when you have to stop outsmarting yourself. The Dolphins coaching staff has not figured that out yet.
We got three strong games out of Nick Vigil to start the season but that carriage has turned back into a pumpkin. Vigil has played the last two games on a sore ankle, but the issue here is the return of Anthony Barr who bumped Vigil from the three-down role in week five. The result was Vigil going 3-3 on 25 of 68 snaps. Unfortunately, that is likely to become the norm for Vigil who is now relegated to a two-down role on the weak side.
So we can just pick up Barr then, right? Well, not really. The issue here is that Barr lined up on the strong side on early downs against Detroit and will likely continue to do so. Thus, he is handicapped on early downs because offenses generally account for the strong side backer in their blocking scheme. The result we will see most of the time is Vigil making a lot of early-down plays but not having significant value because he comes off the field too much, while Barr gets the snaps but is not able to take full advantage of them due to his early-down alignment and responsibilities.
It did not take long for Everson Griffin to win back his starting job. He recorded a sack in his first game back with the team in week three. In week four his playing time grew considerably and he went 3-0-1. Griffen started and played 72% of the snaps against the Lions, adding two more sacks. And forcing a fumble. The matchups get a lot tougher over the next several weeks, but Griffen is a solid DL2 option every week going forward.
New England Patriots
The Patriots have a lot of bodies at the linebacker and safety positions, so it is hard to say if Jamie Collins Sr will end up with a big enough role to be a consistent IDP factor. What we do know, is that he will put up the numbers if he gets on the field enough. Collins played three snaps in his first game with the team and finished the day with a stat line of 1-1-1. If you find yourself in need at linebacker, scoop him up and see what happens this week.
Despite all the linebackers they have to work with now, New England fielded three safeties on about 70% of the defensive plays in week five. Devin McCourty remains a non-factor in IDP terms because he plays deep center field all the time. Both Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips have been on the field at least 75% of the time in each of the last four games, so there is at least the potential for either of them to put up decent numbers every week. Against Houston, Dugger finished 5-5 and Phillips 5-3. If you need someone to plugin this week, these guys have a plus matchup with the Cowboys.
Matt Judon is having the best statistical year of his career. His career-best of 9.5 sacks came with the Ravens in 2019. Judon has 6.5 sacks over the last four games. He is still a bit light in the tackle columns, as most 3-4 edge defenders tend to be, but for managers in big-play-based formats, Judon is a pleasant surprise.
New Orleans Saints
This one will not help anyone in week six, but go out and grab Pete Werner if he is still available. After seeing action on six plays over the first two games, Werner’s play share has grown each week. He was at 49% in week three, went 6-4 on 63% in week four, and totaled 8-5 on 82 of 83 snaps in week five.
For those in tackle-required leagues, keep in mind David Onyemata has one remaining on his six-game suspension. The Saints are on bye this week, so he will be eligible to return in week eight.
New York Giants
Tae Crowder logged every defensive snap again in week five. His solo tackle numbers could be better but Crowder has no fewer than eight combined stops in any of his three games with the lead role. Crowder is not going to be available in most leagues, so if you need to dig a little deeper, check out Reggie Ragland. He has seen just short of 80% play share in each of the last two games with eight combined tackles in week four, and seven plus a fumble recovery in week five. Ragland has limited upside because he doesn’t get a lot of sub-package reps, but he can be a serviceable fill-in to get you through the bye weeks or an injury crisis.
Austin Johnson did not make much noise over his first five seasons in the league, but managers in tackle-required formats need to be familiar with him now. Through five weeks Johnson is 12-12-3 and currently sits as the number four interior lineman in the game. He has three sacks on the year and has at least four combined tackles and assists in every game so far. Johnson will be hard-pressed to keep up the current pace but is certainly worth the gamble.
New York Jets
The Jets have just one win to show for all their effort, but they have been more competitive week in and week out than many thought they could be. A big part of that has been the strong play of their defense. New York is off this week and will be looking to get some reinforcements back on the defensive side after the bye. Coach Saleh said Jarrad Davis and Marcus Maye might be available when the Jets return in week seven, and Blake Cashman saw 19 snaps after returning this past week. That is great news for the Jets and their fans, but it could throw a wrench into the gears for those of us starting to rely on Quincy Williams. Now we need to see if Williams has made as much impact on the coaching staff as he has in-the-box scores recently. The tough part here is we probably won’t know anything until the team hits the field for week seven.
Over the last two games, Josh Sweat and Derek Barnett have seen the lion’s share of playing time at defensive. Both players were on the field for at least 70% of the snaps against Carolina with Milton Williams and Ryan Kerriganeach limited to 21 snaps.
Devin Bush left Sunday’s game with what was initially tagged a leg injury. On Tuesday his status was updated to a groin issue that has his availability for week six in question. This does not sound like a long-term situation, but if Bush misses time, Robert Spillane will be the replacement. We know Spillane is a capable backup and a guy that gives us good numbers when he gets on the field.
James Pierre stepped in for an injured Cameron Sutton in week five and put up solid numbers of 6-0 with a pick and two passes defended. Pierre had six tackles in the opener on 36 snaps and six more in Week two when he started for Joe Haden. Pierre is a second-year undrafted free agent with very limited experience, which tends to get the attention of opposing play-callers. Sutton is dealing with a groin injury and is in doubt for week six, So Pierre could be in line for his third start of the season.
Bobby Wagner gave us a dismal box score of 1-3 on Thursday night. He played every snap in the game so there was no reason to believe this was anything other than an outlier. On Wednesday we learned that he is dealing with a sore knee that may have been a factor. Coach Carroll said Wagner banged his knee during the game and that there is no concern about Wagner’s availability for this week.
It was a different story for Jordyn Brooks who recorded a solid 11 combined tackles and saw over 90% participation for the first time. Brooks is emerging as a rock-solid LB3 and should have another good game this week against a Steelers offense that is finally getting their running attack going.
Seattle used 10 defensive linemen against the Rams with nine of them playing at least 19 snaps. Rasheem Green was the only one to see action on more than 39 plays. None of these guys are viable as every week starters, but Green is the best option of the group based on opportunity.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Lavonte David left the week five contest with what looked like a potentially serious injury. The buccaneers dodged the bullet when it was determined to be a low ankle sprain. David is likely to miss Thursday’s game and possibly one or two more but should be back in action no later than week ten when the team returns from their bye. Kevin Minter will get the call while David recovers. Minter is a big step down in talent but is a capable backup that can put up decent numbers.
Jason Pierre-Paul suffered a broken Finger in week five. His status for the Thursday game is in question as he was listed as a limited participant on Tuesday. Look for rookie Joe Tryon to step up again.
Jayon Brown landed on IR this week with a knee injury. There has been no update on the severity, or his potential to return at some point, but the addition of Avery Williamson is not a good sign. Williamson was signed off Denver’s practice squad and is a player the Titans are very familiar with. Williamson should provide needed depth while David Long Jr is expected to continue as the full-time starter. Long showed the ability to be productive over a five-game stint as the starter at the end of 2020. He reminded us by going 10-2 against Jacksonville in week five.
Some managers might be concerned that Williamson could take the starting job. While that is a possibility, it seems more likely that Williamson would replace Rashaan Evans, who the organization seems to have soured on. Evans played fewer than half the snaps in week five.
After totaling 11 combined tackles, an interception, and a fumble recovery for a score, Kevin Byard is the lead candidate for defensive player of the week. Lining up as the deep/free safety most of the time has led to marginal tackle totals and a bit of inconsistency this year, but he is capable of big numbers on any given week, making him a player worth the gamble.
Strong safety Dane Cruikshank lacks the explosiveness and upside but has quietly provided solid numbers since taking over the starting job. He has 18 combined tackles and a forced fumble over three games, despite a couple of less than stellar matchups with the Jets and Jaguars.
Washington Football Team
Even with Jon Bostic on IR, the Football Team did not expand the role of Jamin Davis. Surprisingly, his mere 13 snaps were by far the fewest in any game to date. Instead, Washington lined up with Cole Holcomb as their one full-time linebacker and had Landon Collins, Bobby McCain, and Kamren Curl on the field together almost 90% of the time. If this trend continues, it should be good for Collins who is working at strong safety and slid up to linebacker depth more often in week five.
That is it for week six. Best of luck with your matchups as we approach the midway point in the fantasy season.
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