This article immediately highlights 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 to explain why the stat lines may be misleading. It isn’t easy 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, please email me or reach out via Twitter.
NY GIANTS @ WASHINGTON
DT Jonathan Allen, WAS (5 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 3 QH)
Allen had a quiet season in 2020 with just 2 sacks but he’s often been one of the players just outside the elites at the defensive tackle position. While he recorded a sack in week 1, it came on a light workload of just 47 snaps (58%). This week, however, he was on the field for 81% of the snaps and dominated the Giants while collecting 6 tackles and a pair of sacks. This is a talented defensive front that should continue to put up strong numbers all year.
CB Kendall Fuller, WAS (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Washington upgraded their secondary with the addition of a shutdown corner in William Jackson III and that should help funnel more plays to Fuller this year. This position doesn’t typically provide a lot of reliable options, but he’s a solid tackler who can also make plays. Given the talented defensive line, he has a chance for a breakout-type season after failing to hit 40 solo tackles in the past two seasons.
DT Dexter Lawrence, NYG (1 asst)
Through two games, the former 1st round pick has just 1 assisted tackle on 88 snaps. He did generate some pressure last week but was mostly invisible against Washington.
S Xavier McKinney, NYG (1 solo, 2 asst)
Jabrill Peppers saw his workload increase from 45% in week 1 to 80% of the snaps this week. That left fewer opportunities for McKinney, who saw his workload plummet from 95% of the snaps in week 1 to just 55% this week. If McKinney continues to play primarily in dime packages, he may have to wait for an injury to become fantasy relevant.
S Bobby McCain, WAS (2 solos)
Washington has three safeties they feel comfortable with and so we may continue to see fluctuations in playing time each week depending on the opponent and game plan. Last week, Kamren Curl only saw 46% of the snaps but he was up to 74% this week. Meanwhile, McCain went from playing 85% of the snaps a week ago to just 54% this week. The only constant was Landon Collins at 80% and 75%, but that type of variance makes all of them somewhat risky.
NEW ORLEANS @ CAROLINA
DE Haason Reddick, CAR (1 solo, 2 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Reddick was a key free-agent addition to the Panthers defense this year and he’s proving that last year’s breakout 12.5-sack season was not a fluke. Through 2 games this year, he’s been on the field for nearly 80% of the defensive snaps and already has 3 sacks.
S Jeremy Chinn, CAR (3 solos, 1 QH)
While it is still too early to downgrade him significantly, Chinn is off to a slow start. The team played him primarily at linebacker as a rookie last year and he finished with nearly 120 combined tackles. He’s moved back to safety and has just 7 tackles through two weeks. Part of the problem has been a lack of opportunities though as the Covid-depleted Saints this week only generated 32 tackle opportunities and the Jets last week only created 43. Things may not improve much this week either as they play the Texans on Thursday night who will likely be starting a rookie quarterback.
CINCINNATI @ CHICAGO
LB Logan Wilson, CIN (3 solos, 6 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Wilson was a 3rd-round pick a year ago who needed some time to develop but he looks like the only full-time linebacker the Bengals have right now. He played 87% of the snaps a week ago and 95% this week, while the next highest was Germaine Pratt with 60%. That should provide him with plenty of tackle opportunities each week as he now has 16 combined tackles through 2 games and has also proven to be a playmaker with 3 interceptions on fewer than 500 career snaps.
LB Roquan Smith, CHI (5 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 TD)
Smith was a top-10 draft pick in 2018 and was held back at times but he is incredibly talented and capable of finishing as the top overall fantasy linebacker. After being credited with 11 tackles in week 1, he dominated the Bengals with an all-around performance this week that included 8 tackles plus a sack and 53-yard interception return for a touchdown.
HOUSTON @ CLEVELAND
LB Kamu Grugier-Hill, HOU (6 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Grugier-Hill has been in the league since 2016 but has primarily been a special-teams player. Zach Cunningham was held out of the first quarter for disciplinary reasons, and Grugier-Hill took full advantage of his opportunity as he was credited with 9 tackles plus a sack and forced fumble on 44 snaps (72%). That effort could lead to more playing time for him in the future, but he’s likely still behind Cunningham and Christian Kirksey.
LB Malcolm Smith, CLE (4 solos, 4 asst, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Smith got the start at middle linebacker in place of Anthony Walker, who sat out with a hamstring injury suffered in practice last week. Smith is likely past his prime at this point but he showed that he can still fill up the box score with 8 tackles and an interception while playing 95% of the snaps.
Zach Cunningham, HOU (1 solo, 5 asst)
This looked like a great matchup for Cunningham but he sat out the first quarter for punishment and then was outplayed by Kamu Grugier-Hill. He still wound up playing 43 snaps (70%) but was held to just 1 solo tackle and 6 overall. As one of the highest-paid linebackers in the league, it should be safe to assume he’ll bounce back from this and reclaim his full-time role next week.
LA RAMS @ INDIANAPOLIS
DT Sebastian Joseph-Day, LAR (6 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Joseph-Day has played 70% of the snaps in both games this year so his role on the team appears safe. Playing alongside Aaron Donald also tends to bring out the best in players, and we saw that from Joseph-Day this week as he was credited with 9 tackles plus a sack. Don’t expect him to replicate those numbers but he could provide some short-term depth at defensive tackle if needed.
S Taylor Rapp, LAR (7 solos, 2 asst, .5 sack, 1 QH)
Rapp was stuck behind Jordan Fuller and John Johnson III last year but has a clear grasp on a starting safety job now that Johnson has moved on. After posting 10 tackles last week against Chicago, he added 9 more plus a half-sack this week to make him one of the most productive safeties in the league thus far. There was some concern that he might be stuck playing a deep free safety role but that doesn’t seem to be the case, and he’s seeing plenty of opportunity behind a questionable group of inside linebackers.
LB Kenny Young, LAR (4 solos, 1 asst)
Young played 100% of the snaps in week 1 but was limited to just 64% this week after being ejected for making contact with an official. The league announced that no suspension would be forthcoming so he should return to his full-time role next week. Troy Reeder saw an increase in playing time this week and posted 4 solo tackles on 43 snaps (64%).
DENVER @ JACKSONVILLE
DE Josh Allen, JAX (1 solo, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Allen struggled to get to the quarterback last year and finished with just 2.5 sacks in 10 games after reaching double-digits the year prior. The former 7th overall pick may not generate enough pressure to be considered a top-10 player at the position but he’s better than he showed in 2020. Even though Jacksonville is still early in their rebuilding process, he’s proving to be a fantasy asset once again with a sack in consecutive games to open the season.
LB Justin Strnad, DEN (4 solo, 2 asst)
Strnad was drafted in the fifth round a year ago and could have gone higher if he hadn’t suffered an injury during his senior year. Reports indicated he was pushing Josey Jewell for a starting job in camp and should now be in line to replace him after Jewell suffered a season-ending injury this week. Strand has excellent quickness and athleticism and has some intriguing upside playing alongside Alexander Johnson in the middle of the Broncos defense.
LB Josey Jewell, DEN (2 solo, 1 asst, 2 TFL)
Jewell suffered a torn pectoral muscle on Sunday and will be lost for the rest of the season. He was off to a solid start in this game with 4 tackles on just 21 snaps before leaving the game. He’ll most likely be replaced by second-year player Justin Strnad, who added 5 tackles on 23 snaps himself.
BUFFALO @ MIAMI
DE Gregory Rousseau, BUF (3 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
The rookie has quickly established himself as an integral part of the Bills defense through the first two games. Despite being part of a deep rotation at defensive end, Rousseau played 49 snaps (73%) this week, which was 15 more than Jerry Hughes. Miami had no answers for the Bills pass rush, which piled up 6 sacks and 11 quarterback hits on their way to a shutout.
S Eric Rowe, MIA (1 solo, 1 asst)
After playing 87% of the snaps last week, Rowe saw his playing time cut dramatically this week. He only saw 41% of the snaps while rookie Jevon Holland (79%) and Brandon Jones (65%) both saw a significant increase. If playing time among the safeties continues to fluctuate that much each week it will be difficult to rely on any of them for fantasy purposes.
NEW ENGLAND @ NY JETS
LB Josh Uche, NE (3 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
With Kyle Van Noy sitting out this week due to a throat injury, Uche saw an increase in playing time. While he only played 35 snaps (48%) primarily as a pass-rush specialist, he made them count and collected a pair of sacks as the Patriots harassed rookie quarterback Zach Wilson into a miserable day with 4 interceptions.
LB Quincy Williams, NYJ (3 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL)
DelShawn Phillips returned to a special teams role this week as he saw just 2 snaps on defense, while Williams wound up playing a remarkable 53 of 58 snaps at linebacker. The older brother of defensive tackle Quinnen Williams was cut by the Jaguars at the end of camp and now finds himself as a full-time player with the Jets. Anyone with that type of workload at linebacker has some value but he didn’t particularly stand out and will need to play better if he hopes to hold onto his role in the weeks ahead.
SAN FRANCISCO @ PHILADELPHIA
DE Nick Bosa, SF (2 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
The 49ers defense was not the same without Bosa in the lineup last year. He posted 9 sacks in 2019 as a rookie and should improve on that this year as he already has 3 sacks in the first two games. It was also encouraging to see his playing time increase from just 57% of the snaps in week 1 to 76% in week 2.
LB Alex Singleton, PHI (5 solos, 6 asst)
The Eagles had three different players reach double-digits in combined tackles this week but Singleton stands out as he returned to the 3-down role that was expected of him. There was still a heavy rotation going on at linebacker but he led the way with 81% of the snaps, followed by Eric Wilson (69%), and Genard Avery (56%). After seeing Singleton play just 60% of the snaps a week ago, this was reassuring and we should expect to see him and Wilson remain viable fantasy options.
DE Brandon Graham, PHI (0 tackles)
The Eagles’ best pass rusher lasted just 15 snaps (21%) this game before being carted off with a torn Achilles that will end his season. Derek Barnett (64%) handled the heaviest workload this week but we should also see increases for Josh Sweat (40%) and Ryan Kerrigan (46%) in the weeks ahead.
DE Arik Armstead, SF (2 asst)
Armstead enjoyed a breakout season with 10 sacks in 2019 playing opposite Nick Bosa but finished with just 3.5 in 2020. There was some hope that the return of Bosa would help him return to his prior form but he’s not off to a great start with just 3 tackles and 0 sacks through the first two games while playing 67% of the snaps in each.
LAS VEGAS @ PITTSBURGH
LB Denzel Perryman, LV (6 solos, 6 asst)
Perryman has always been a very good run defender but his struggles in coverage have often limited him to a 2-down role. The Raiders are giving him a chance to prove otherwise, however, as he was on the field for 75% of the snaps this week against a Steelers offense that relies heavily on 3-WR sets. Even more impressive is that he was on the field more than Cory Littleton (70%) and K.J. Wright (39%) and now has 22 combined tackles through just 2 games.
LB Devin Bush, PIT (DNP)
Bush had a strong week 1 but picked up a groin injury in practice last week that kept him out of the game. Robert Spillane filled in for him and collected 10 tackles on 53 snaps (80%), so it’s probably worth slightly downgrading Bush who was already returning from a torn ACL that wiped out most of the 2020 season.
MINNESOTA @ ARIZONA
DE Danielle Hunter, MIN (5 solos, 2 asst, 3 sacks, 3 TFL, 3 QH)
A week after Chandler Jones collected 5 sacks, the Cardinals saw an opponent have a similar game against them as Hunter did his best to contain Kyler Murray with 7 tackles and 3 sacks. With 4 sacks through two games, it seems safe to say that Hunter is back to being one of the very best pass rushers in the league.
LB Nick Vigil, MIN (4 solos, 4 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 TD)
Vigil is proving to be one of the biggest breakout IDPs in the league thus far after a relatively quiet year with the Chargers in 2020. He was credited with 10 tackles and a sack last week and then followed that up with another huge game that included a 38-yard interception return for a touchdown. He’s played every snap so far and gives the Vikings one of the most productive linebacker tandems in the league with Eric Kendricks.
DE J.J. Watt, ARI (2 solos)
This has been a very underwhelming start for Watt, who figured to spark the Cardinals defense but has provided just 4 solo tackles and 0 sacks through two games while playing 83% of the snaps thus far.
LB Chandler Jones, ARI (3 QH)
We knew last week’s huge game was not repeatable but it was still a surprise to see Jones held without a tackle in this game. He was credited with 3 quarterback hits, but the lack of production in the run game was disappointing when you consider that he was on the field for all 61 defensive snaps and the Vikings offense generated 50 tackle opportunities.
ATLANTA @ TAMPA BAY
S Mike Edwards, TB (4 solos, 2 INT, 3 PD, 2 TD)
Edwards returned two interceptions for touchdowns in a single quarter and was the first player to do it in the league since 2012. Unfortunately, he’s not even a full-time player for Tampa and saw a reduction in playing time this week (54%) with the return of Jordan Whitehead to the lineup.
CB A.J. Terrell, ATL (2 asst, 2 PD)
Terrell is one of the better fantasy corners in the league, but he had an underwhelming box score despite what looked like a great matchup against the Tampa receivers and Tom Brady. He also left the game early with a concussion so was limited to just 44 snaps (70%) and that could leave his status in doubt for next week against the Giants.
DALLAS @ LA CHARGERS
LB Jaylon Smith, DAL (6 solos, 3 asst)
The Cowboys lost Demarcus Lawrence to a broken foot in practice last week so they decided to shift rookie linebacker Micah Parsons to defensive end. That created an opening in their linebacker group and it looks like Smith was the main beneficiary. His playing time increased from 25% in week 1 to 76% in week 2 while Leighton Vander Esch also saw his playing time increase from 22% to 52%. Smith may not be the player he was just a couple of years ago, but he’s been productive when on the field and we saw that again this week as he led the team with 9 tackles. Vander Esch also had a strong game with 7 tackles plus a sack while playing just about half the game.
S Nasir Adderley, LAC (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
The former 2nd round pick could be headed for a 3rd-year breakout after missing his entire rookie year with an injury and then struggling with inconsistency in 2020. He’s not a prototypical box safety but the return of Derwin James should allow him up to be more aggressive and play close to the line of scrimmage. This game gave us a glimpse of his potential as led the Chargers with 9 tackles and a pass defensed while playing all 62 snaps.
TENNESSEE @ SEATTLE
DT Denico Autry, TEN (2 solos, 1 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Autry was a very productive interior pass rusher during his time with the Colts and he showed that he can provide similar contributions to his new team. He played 69% of the defensive snaps this week and added 1.5 sacks in a comeback overtime win.
LB Bobby Wagner, SEA (16 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Wagner may be losing a step now that he’s in his thirties but he remains one of the best all-around linebackers in the league. He was credited with 13 tackles in week 1 yet still managed to top that number this week when he posted 16 solo stops and a sack. The matchup helped as the Titans offense generated 70 tackle opportunities with 40 rush attempts, but Wagner took advantage and finished with twice as many tackles as anyone else on his team.
LB Rashaan Evans, TEN (1 solo, 3 asst)
With Jayon Brown sitting out this week with an injury, Evans seemed likely to take on a bigger role but instead, he saw his playing time reduced to just 57% of the defensive snaps. David Long Jr filled in for Brown and added 6 tackles on 53 snaps (98%) after not playing any a week ago. Evans seems limited to a 2-down role here, which limits his upside considerably.
KANSAS CITY @ BALTIMORE
S Tyrann Mathieu, KC (6 solos, 2 INT, 3 PD, 1 TD)
Mathieu wound up missing week 1 due to Covid but he made his presence felt on Sunday night against the Ravens as he opened the scoring with a 34-yard pick-six. He added another interception later in the first quarter and also finished with 6 solo tackles. With his return to the lineup, Juan Thornhill returned to a backup role and saw just 11 snaps against a run-heavy Ravens offense.
LB Justin Houston, BAL (2 solos, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Houston was signed to help offset the loss of Matt Judon, who is now in New England. While Houston still has some juice left as a pass rusher after posting 19 sacks over the past two years with the Colts, he doesn’t offer much else from a fantasy perspective. Over the first two games, he’s played about 60% of the snaps but has just 2 solos and 2 assists to show for it.