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.
Last Week’s Picks:
- LB Nick Bolton (KC vs NYG): 4 solos, 7 assists, 1 QB hit, 72% defensive snaps
- LB Troy Reeder (LAR vs HOU): 3 solos, 4 assists, 64% defensive snaps
- LB Markus Golden (ARZ vs GB): 2 solos, 3 assists, 2 QB hits, 59% defensive snaps
- DE Montez Sweat (WFT vs DEN): 2 QB hits, 58% defensive snaps
- DE Julian Okwara (DET vs PHI): 3 solos, 1 tackle for loss, 55% defensive snaps
- DE Azeez Ojulari (NYG vs KC): 2 solos, 1 tackle for loss, 81% defensive snaps
- S Marcus Maye (NYJ vs CIN): 5 solos, 1 tackle for loss, 100% defensive snaps
- S Andrew Wingard (JAX vs SEA): 2 assists, 91% defensive snaps
- S Lonnie Johnson (HOU vs LAR): 4 solos, 1 assist, 94% defensive snaps
This Week’s Linebackers
LB Ernest Jones (LAR vs TEN)
With Kenny Young sent off to Denver it was Jones who saw the biggest bump in playing time for the Rams. He exploded for 9 total tackles, 0.5 sack, a tackle for loss, an interception, and a pass defended. This linebacker group has always been tough to predict, but with 89% of defensive snaps played last week and the results on the field, Jones should be an easy play this week and the rest of the season. Without Derrick Henry, the Titans are going to struggle, and Jones should have a field day against their inexperienced backups.
LB Shaq Thompson (CAR vs NE)
There was some concern coming off a foot injury, but Thompson came back with a bang in week 8 racking up 8 solos,2 tackles for loss, an interception, and a pass defended. He will be taking on a New England team that likes to run the ball and has an inexperienced passer in Mac Jones. He may not reach the highs of last week, but he is squarely in the LB2 conversation this week with a solid matchup against the Patriots.
LB Willie Gay Jr (KC vs GB)
After highlighting Nick Bolton last week, Gay was also thrust into the spotlight with the injury to Anthony Hitchens. He has overtaken Ben Niemann on the depth chart and had a strong showing with 9 total tackles, a pass defended, and an interception last week. Gay has the talent to be a starting linebacker on most teams in the NFL and should get a chance to prove that as long as Hitchens remains sidelined. Gay is a great bye week filler this week and could provide a solid return the rest of the season if he is given more opportunity.
This Week’s Defensive Linemen
DE Jonathan Greenard (HOU vs Mia)
The hot streak continues for Greenard who now has a sack in all but 1 game this season. He saw his largest defensive snap percentage last week against the Rams and added 3 solos, a tackle for loss, and pass defended to his stat line. This week he has a great matchup against a poor Miami offensive line before heading into a Week 10 bye. Greenard does not have a high tackle ceiling, but the big play sack streak is enough to roll with him again this week in a great matchup against the Dolphins.
DE Trey Hendrickson (CIN vs CLE)
Much like Greenard above, all Hendrickson has done is get sacks for the Bengals. He has at least a sack in all but 2 games this season and has a sack in his past 4. Hendrickson is well on his way to double-digit sacks this season and has a great matchup against the Browns this week. Baker Mayfield is notorious for holding the ball too long and this rivalry game is a great spot for Hendrickson to continue his streak. With a defensive snap percentage average in the 70s, the opportunity this week is too good to pass up.
DE Zach Allen (ARZ vs SF)
Allen has been in and out of the lineup but is coming off sacks in his 2 previous games. Allen and the Cardinals took on the 49ers back in week 5 and Allen had 5 total tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and a sack in the victory. Look for another solid performance this week as Allen looks healthy and has a great matchup against a divisional rival.
This Week’s Defensive Backs
S Nasir Adderley (LAC vs PHI)
Despite the loss, Adderley is coming off a big week against the Patriots. He had 7 total tackles, a pass defended, and a fumble recovery in week 8. He is playing extremely well this season, has already had his bye week, and has a great matchup against a Philadelphia offense that has struggled in the passing game. Add Adderley where possible and start him with confidence this week.
S Erik Harris (ATL vs NO)
Harris has not done anything overly impressive this season but has a solid tackle floor and has a great matchup during another big week of byes. The Saints will be without Jameis Winston for the rest of the season and the offense is going to lean on Taysom Hill and Alvin Kamara running the ball. Look for another solid week of tackles from Harris as the Falcons try and keep up with the Saints.
S Talanoa Hufanga (SF vs ARZ)
There is a lot going in favor of Hufanga this week. Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward are both out for the 49ers and Hufanga should see the biggest bump in playing time because of it. He is coming off a 5 total tackle and 1 tackle for loss game against the Bears and should see a better matchup against Kyler Murray and the Cardinals. Both Tartt and Ward should be back in a few weeks, and Hufanga should just be viewed as an injury filler right now.