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Krys Barnes was questionable leading up to week four. He was active for the game but did not play. Ezekiel Turner stepped in and produced Barnes-like numbers at 4-6-0, on a Barnes-like snap count of about 70%. The Bengals have been a mediocre matchup for linebackers so far, but if you're in a pinch, Turner might be a decent stream if Barnes misses more time. One thing this situation tells us clearly is that Owen Pappoe, who was a deep dynasty sleeper for some of us, is probably nowhere close to getting on the field.
When Nate Landman stepped in for Troy Andersen in week two, he played 49 of 50 defensive snaps. His role was reduced a bit in the week four start when Landman played 54 of 66 snaps. The 82% play share was enough to make him the team's second-leading tackler at 8-2. Landman impressed as a run defender but gave up a few snaps to safety DeMarcco Hellams in obvious passing situations. There are not going to be many three-down linebackers showing up on the waiver wire going forward, so Landman is a priority target in many leagues.
It was a slow week on the stat sheet for Kaden Ellis at 2-2, but nothing has changed with his role.
Both Atlanta safeties put up good numbers against Jacksonville. For Jessie Bates, 5-3 with a forced fumble is no surprise. Richie Grant's 9-2 was out of character, though. The nine solos were one more than the total from his first three games combined, so this might be an outlier. That said, Grant is going to be on the radar this week with a solid matchup against Houston.
David Onyemata has been playing well, and it finally showed up on the stat sheet at 2-5-1.5. He's been on the field for over half the snaps in all four games and over 60% in each of the last three. Onyemata is no threat to make the top ten at the position, but with productive interior linemen so scarce, he is a solid addition, especially in leagues that start two.
The Bills could be without their top two corners for this week's matchup with Jacksonville. They are sure to be without Tre'Davious White, who tore an Achilles and is lost for the season. Meanwhile, Christian Benford is day-to-day with a sore shoulder. If Benford is not available, Dane Jackson and Cam Lewis will join Taron Johnson as the team's top three corners.
One of my Sunday notes was that both Tyrel Dodds and Dorian Williams had stats against the Dolphins. Those came on special teams, as neither saw defensive action. Matt Milano (8-2 FF), and Terrel Bernard (2-3 FR) both played their normal, every-down roles. It was a slow day for Bernard in the tackle columns, but the fumble recovery salvaged his point total. If you have either of these guys, play them this week against Jacksonville. The Jaguars have been a strong matchup for linebackers. At least one ILB/MLB has ten or more combined stops against them in every game, with an average of 8-5.
Taylor Rapp got the call at safety in relief of Jordan Poyer, who is nursing a sore knee. Rapp was solid against Miami at 5-1 and is capable of good numbers against Jacksonville. The Jaguars are not an elite matchup, but they are a pretty good one. See Richie Grant's 9-2 from last week.
Von Miller returned from IR this week and is pushing to play on Sunday. It is not clear if that will happen, but he should be available for week six at the latest.
What happened to Kamu Grugier-Hill is a question many of us were asking on Sunday. It seems the Panthers got a good look and realized he is not the answer as their starter for the rest of the season. His fluke interception baled out anyone who started him last week, but Grugier-Hill played just 14 snaps. This might have been a matchup situation with the Panthers playing the wide-open passing attack of the Vikings, but I'm not betting on it. Chandler Wooten picked up a few of the snaps next to Frankie Luvu, but Carolina went with three safeties on 65% of their plays.
For anyone thinking the injury to Xavier Woods would mean a bigger role for Jeremy Chinn, sorry. Chinn remained in his part-time role while Sam Franklin came off the bench to cover the free safety position. The 65% play share was good enough to get Chinn a 6-0-1 stat line in this game, but we still shouldn't count on him every week.
Carolina was already without Jaycee Horn, who is on IR. This week, they could be without Donte Jackson as well. Jackson left Sunday's game with a shoulder injury. Surprisingly, he was replaced by D'Shawn Jamison and not Troy Hill. Even with Jackson going down early in the game, Hill saw just 14 snaps.
Frankie Luvu played every snap despite being less than 100%. He was a game-time decision with a sore hip, which probably contributed to his poor production (1-4). With another week to heal, he should bounce back against Detroit, but keep in mind that Luvu has not recorded more than four solo stops in a game yet this season.
Jaquan Brisker and Elijah Hicks were the Bears starting safeties in week four. They combined for six tackles and two assists. Brisker has been a major disappointment and has not reached ten points in a game yet. Don't count on it happening this week, either. The Commanders have been a poor matchup for safeties. Justin Simmons is the only one to reach double-digit points against them so far. Reed Blankenship is second best at 4-4-0 last week.
A few other quick notes; The Bears fielded three linebackers on 65% of the snaps against Denver, which is almost unheard of these days.
Due to the rash of injuries, Tyrique Stevenson and Terrell Smith were the starting corners in week four. With none of their injured guys certain to return, they could get the call again this week.
Chicago signed Duron Harmon off the Ravens practice squad on Tuesday.
Chidobe Awusie's role continued to increase when he logged 85% of the snaps in week four. He should be back to a full-time role in week five. The Bengals need him as they could be without Cam Taylor-Britt, who is currently in concussion protocol. Awuzie is a borderline CB2/CB3 when healthy. If Taylor-Britt is out, rookie DJ Turner would be in line to start opposite Awuzie.
Nick Scott had his most productive game of the season against Tennessee at 9-1. He had poor numbers against his old team in week three and has been a little light in the solo tackle column, but Scott now has at least nine combined stops in three of four games.
The Browns get a bye in week five, and it comes at a good time. Myles Garrett came up gimpy late in the game against Baltimore. With the bye to rest his sore foot, he should be available when Cleveland returns to action in week six.
Za'Darius Smith was supposed to be the bookend to Garrett but has been a huge disappointment so far. Smith has one tackle and five assists on the season to date. Meanwhile, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is 6-4-2.5 over that span, including 2-2-1 in week four. Could we see a lineup change coming out of the bye?
Both Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (6-2) and Anthony Walker (6-3) put up decent numbers versus Baltimore, but nothing has changed with their playing time. Both guys continue to see around 75% of the action each week. We never want a player to get hurt, but it looks like that is the only way anyone will get a full-time role here.
If you read EOTG or the Guru and the Godfather last week, you were not surprised that the Patriots shut down Micah Parsons. Bill Belichick has a way of taking an opponent's best players out of the game. Instead of Parsons, it was Sam Williams and Dante Fowler who got to the quarterback. In the words of Adam Rank, that helps no one! It's not as bad this week, but the 49ers are a tough matchup as well. San Francisco has given up seven sacks on the season and just four over the last three games.
Donovan Wilson has been back in action for two games, but his playing time did not increase in week four. Until/unless we see something change, it is time to accept that Wilson's role may be that of the third safety for the foreseeable future.
Josey Jewell missed the Bears game with a hip injury. As anticipated, Alex Singleton stepped into the lead role with 100% participation and a solid 4-8 in the tackle columns. Rookie Drew Sanders made his first start as a pro and went 5-2 on 79% of the snaps. Before last week, we might have been inclined to write off Denver's linebackers against the Jets. Then, on Sunday night, Zach Wilson put together the best game of his career. Between that and the Broncos struggles. This projects as a close game and a positive matchup for whoever plays linebacker.
Nik Bonitto (3-1-2.5 FF) and Jonathon Cooper (2-3-1 FR) made the best of a golden opportunity against the Bears last week. New York is not as juicy a matchup for pass rushers, but they have allowed almost three sacks per game.
After having his playing time cut in the last two games, Randy Gregory was released Wednesday.
With Justin Simmons out, Delarrin Turner-Yell has been tearing it up. After putting up nine solo stops and a pass breakup against the Bears, he is 19-4 with an average of over 16 fantasy points per game in two starts. Simmons practiced on a limited basis before being inactive on Sunday, so the party might be over for Turner-Yell, at least for now.
Brian Branch hobbled off the field on Thursday night and then left on a cart. It didn't look good when he left, but he tried to return. That didn't last long, either. We now know that the ankle injury is not serious, but Branch is not practicing early in the week and is questionable against the Panthers. The good news for Lions fans is that Kerby Joseph returned to practice this week. He and Tracy Walker will be the starting safeties, so even if Branch can go, he'll be back in the slot, playing about 70% of the snaps.
Jack Campbell continues to gain ground on the starters at linebacker. His playing time has grown every week, reaching 61% in week four. So far, Campbell's growing role has not affected Alex Anzalone or Derrick Barnes, but it has pretty much eaten up the snaps Malcolm Rodriguez was getting. Rodrigues saw a season-low of seven against the Packers.
Green Bay Packers
Over the first couple of games, Rudy Ford was quiet while Darnell Savage was making a lot of plays. Since that time, their roles have flipped, at least in terms of statistical production. The way Green Bay deploys safeties, there are no definitive strong and free positions. Ford and Savage are interchangeable and are being used that way. That said, it is not hard to see that the production trend is moving in Ford's favor. In week two, he was 5-2. In week three, Ford went 6-1 with a pair of pass breakups. Last week, he turned in 7-1 with a pick. At the same time, Savage has seen his fantasy points slip in each of the last two games.
If you are among those waiting for Rashan Gary to return to the 70% play share he was getting before last year's knee injury, it doesn't look like that will happen anytime soon. The Packers had six edge defenders with at least 13 snaps against the Lions, including Gary with 20. Only Preston Smith had more than 30.
Jonathan Greenard is back in the limelight after a big performance versus Pittsburgh. While his stat line of 4-1-2 has a lot of people clamoring to pick him up, be aware that not all the numbers are pointing up for Greenard. After seeing more than 70% of the snaps in the first two games, he has been under 60% in each of the last two, with a season-low 32 snaps in week four. I like the player a lot, but limited opportunity will, at the least, render him inconsistent.
Christian Harris was benched in week two but got a reprieve when Denzel Perryman went down with a hand injury. With Perryman believed to be nearing a return, the question is, has Harris played well enough to keep Perryman on the bench or to bump Henry To'oto'o back to the sideline? Harris played one of his best games in the win over Pittsburgh, and his numbers showed it at 6-7. He played 90% of the snaps against the Steelers, while To'oto'o went 3-4 on 95%. When Perryman returns, it might be a good idea to sit all three of these guys until we get a look. If I were going to gamble on this situation, I'd say Harris goes to the bench.
Jalen Pitre returned to action in week four, but he left the statistical production in his locker. Smart managers did not expect him to repeat last year's stellar production anyway, but we all expected him to be an every-week start for us. While I still feel like he will get there, the fact that this team is playing a better brand of football in a different defensive scheme has me a little concerned.
After watching rookie corner Julius Brents go 4-0 with a forced and recovered fumble in his week three debut, I wondered if he was worth picking up. After he went 8-1 in his second start, the answer is a resounding yes. There is, however, a twist that complicates things. What I thought I saw in week three and confirmed in week four is that Brents was seeing a lot of time in the slot role that is making so many defensive backs into IDP stars these days.
The Colts were in a nickel on 78% of the snaps in week three and about 95% in week four. That's a plus for Brents. The twist is that Dallis Flowers, who was starting on the outside, is done for the year after suffering an Achilles tear. So, how will the Colts handle that loss? It happened near the end of the game, so we got virtually nothing to go on from that little bit of action. I am going ahead and grabbing Brents in every corner required league I can get him, but I'll keep him on the bench this week in most of them.
Kwity Paye had a slow day at the office against the Rams, but it had nothing to do with the concussion he is dealing with now. Paye entered protocol when symptoms showed up after the game. If Paye is out, Samson Ebukam and Dayo Odeyingbo would be the starters versus Tennessee. Odeyingbo exploded in week four, going 5-2-1.5 with a forced fumble and a batted pass on a 59% play share.
DeForest Buckner suited up in week four, but he was limited to 20 snaps. Buckner is dealing with groin and back issues that could continue to be a problem.
Andre Cisco started fast but did nothing in the second half. He finished the game at 4-0 with an interception. Cisco missed a few snaps in the second half, but there has been no mention of an injury. He should stay busy for four quarters against the Bills this week.
The Bills have been an excellent matchup for linebackers. Chad Muma was so-so against the Falcons at 3-4 with a pair of pass breakups, but he did log 98% of the snaps. Devin Lloyd is not expected back for at least one more game, so Muma has a golden opportunity to impress.
Kansas City Chiefs
Trent McDuffie saw most of the work in the slot when the Chiefs had three corners on the field. We know that role is a fantasy-friendly one. It was interesting to see L'Jarius Sneed follow Garrett Wilson much of the night though. If Sneed is consistently going to mirror the opposition's best receiver, that, too, would be a plus for IDP value. The Chiefs have not done that a lot in the past, so it is something we will need to watch.
Las Vegas Raiders
Tyree Wilson moved into the DE2 slot in week four, seeing more playing time than any other Raiders edge defender not named Maxx Crosby. With the release of Chandler Jones, Wilson is set to be their DE2 going forward. He still played a little less than 50% of the snaps, though. We'll have to see if that changes going forward.
Jakorian Bennett was a week four waiver darling who turned into a complete bust for those of us who picked him up. This one hurt, considering the stellar matchup. So what happened? After playing all but three snaps over the first three games, Bennett was virtually benched in week four, logging 26 of a possible 65 snaps. He might not have played that much if not for the injury to David Long. With Nate Hobbs out, it was Amik Robertson getting the start opposite Marcus Peters.
Los Angeles Chargers
Khalil Mack rolled half a season's worth of statistics into one monster game. At 8-5-6 with 2 forced fumbles and a batted pass, it was, by far, the best game of a great career. The question now becomes, where did it come from, and will it kickstart what was otherwise a relatively dismal season for Mack? He was 6-3 with a pass breakup over the first three games, so be reasonable with your expectations. As for me, I'm sticking with the rookie. Tuli Tuipulotu didn't get a sack, but he looked good, applied significant pressure, and made a fair number of stops for an edge defender at 3-1, including a tackle for loss.
Eric Kendricks returned to action, but he was not in his usual full-time role. That should come soon, though, maybe even this week. Kenneth Murray turned back into a pumpkin, going 2-2 with a pass breakup despite playing every snap again.
Los Angeles Rams
The Eagles are a strong matchup for pretty much every position. The problem, looking at the Rams defensive lineup, is figuring out who, other than Ernest Jones and maybe Aaron Donald, is good enough to take advantage of the matchup. The unit is playing pretty well despite being short on standout producers.
With DeShon Elliott gimpy and inactive, Brandon Jones had an opportunity to make an impression. It didn't happen. Jones played every snap but could muster just a pair of solo stops on 58 plays. We might understand if it was a dominating performance for the front seven and the safeties were short on opportunities, but that was not the case in a blowout loss.
Minnesota continues to use the big nickel as their base defense. They had three safeties on the field for 94% of the snaps against the Panthers. It was a flashback game for Harrison Smith, who looked great, especially on the stat sheet, where he finished an impressive 8-6-3 with a forced fumble. Before we overreact to the monster game, keep in mind that those tackle totals equal his output over the first three games combined, and there was nothing different about the roles in the secondary. Camryn Bynum was not far behind at 9-3 with a forced fumble.
Now that the adrenalin has worn off, Ivan Pace Jr is starting to produce more like the two-down LB that he is. He was 11-5-.5 in the first two games and 5-4 in the last two. The Chiefs spread the field with a lot of receivers, so chances are, this week's production from Pace will be closer to the 2-2 he put up against the Chargers.
New England Patriots
The Patriots hope Matt Judon can return late in the season, but chances are, the torn biceps is a season-ender. It is hard to guess how the Patriots will respond to this loss in terms of role changes, but there is one less in the rotation, which means more snaps for someone or everyone. We know that Deatrich Wise is one starter. Does this mean an expanded role for Josh Uche? He exploded over the second half of last season when his playing time increased and has a pair of sacks this year in limited action. If Judon was your guy and you need to take a shot on someone without waiting, Uche could be the best target.
Judon is the biggest but not the only significant injury New England is dealing with this week. They also lost impressive rookie corner Christian Gonzalez to a shoulder injury. The initial diagnosis of Gonzalez was a dislocation, which he could have returned from after a few weeks. On Wednesday, it was revealed that he also tore his labrum and will miss the rest of the season.
With Jonathan Jones and Marcus Jones already on the shelf, the Patriots' depth at the corner position was already being tested. Third-year man Shaun Wade finished the game and could be in line to start week five. On Wednesday, the team added another option by trading for former starter J.C. Jackson who the Chargers recently benched.
Interestingly, versatile rookie Marte Mapu's role increased after the injury to Gonzalez. The 35 snaps he played were the most he has seen to date.
Last week, I talked about how Kyle Dugger had underperformed and might be a cut candidate. Of course, that was his cue to go off with a big game. Time will tell if he is back or if the 12-3 will be an outlier after he totaled 9-6 over the first three games combined.
Dugger had a huge game, at least partly because Ja'Whaun Bentley did not. Despite the great matchup and playing every down until the game was out of hand (90%), Bentley disappointed yet again at 3-3 with a pass breakup. From what we have seen so far, Bentley was more productive as a part-time player.
New Orleans Saints
Marcus Maye has one more game to serve on his suspension. If he was cut because someone needed the roster space, slide him onto your roster this week and beat the rush. Jonathan Abram got the start at Maye's spot in week four with mixed results.
The Saints used a first-round pick on Bryan Bresee because they expect him to be special. It's early, but he is already starting to pay dividends. In the last two games, he is 5-1-1 with three tackles for loss and a batted pass. Managers in tackle-required leagues might want to stick him on their rosters if there is room. At the least, we need to keep him on our radar.
New York Giants
Isaiah Simmons is starting to show up more in the box scores, but his role remains the same so far. He was 4-1 against Seattle on 18 plays.
Micah McFadden - and everyone who picked him up - got a reality check on Monday night. His play share slipped below 70% for the first time this year, and his numbers (3-2 PD) were more like those of a typical two-down linebacker.
New York Jets
Jermaine Johnson was a bigger factor on the field than in the box score, where he was 1-0, but his role was reduced to less than 50% for the first time this year. Carl Lawson is back, and Will McDonald IV was active for the last two games. So there is now a six-man rotation at the Jets' edge positions.
The theme for week four was huge games out of the blue from guys we would not have expected. Add Nick Morrow to that list. He had five tackles and a fumble recovery in two games before piling up 10-2-3 against the Commanders. He may never come near that kind of production again in his career, but Morrow does have a good matchup this week with the Rams.
The Eagles put two players on the list this week with Darius Slay's 10-1. It was Slay's third game with double-digit fantasy points, but it is how he's getting there that makes it highly unlikely that he can sustain it. Slay has one solo tackle in two of the four games. That said, the Rams are the best matchup in the game for corners through four weeks.
Haason Reddick finally showed up with a sack, but it is far too little and way too late for us to get excited about a 1-0-1.
It was the same story with Steelers linebacker in week four but the names have been shuffled a little. This time around, Elandon Roberts put up the best number at 5-5 and he out-snapped Kwon Alexander (1-3) 59% to 38%. Cole Holcomb (4-3 on 89%) still saw the most playing time of the trio. The snap counts and inconsistency here make it a big risk to start any of these guys in week five. On the other hand, the Ravens are a great matchup for the linebacker position. Their opponent's linebacker positions are averaging 22 combined stops and half a sack per game against them.
T.J. Watt gave us a rare whiff (1-1) in week four, but there is nothing to see here. He is not hurt and played his normal role.
Injuries at corner forced a shuffle that landed rookie Devon Witherspoon in the slot on Monday night. His play at the position might make it a permanent move. He was all over the Giants with seven total stops, two sacks, a pick-six, and made several other plays that didn't show up statistically. This kid is good!
Jamal Adams lasted nine plays before leaving with a concussion. Seattle is off this week, so he has a good shot at being cleared for their next game. The other part of the story is his role. Julian Love remained the starting strong safety with Adams working in the box in three-safety personnel packages, which the team was using often. Adams looked healthy and was playing well in the short stint before taking the knee to the head. It's a small sample, but so far, it looks like both Adams and Love should put up good numbers for us.
Jarran Reed was carted off with a shin injury but is expected to be fine when the team returns to action after their bye.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The linebackers sort of took the week off. Devin White finished 2-3 and Lavonte David 0-5 against the Saints, but at least it's easy to determine why. New Orleans struggled offensively and ran the ball just 13 times.
We are still waiting for Azeez Al-Shaair to give us a breakout game, but at least he has been a steady hand. Al-Shaair has at least six combined tackles in every game, and his point total has increased each week. A strong matchup against the Colts could keep that trend going and might be the trigger for his first 15-point output of the season. Al-Shaair has been rock solid on the field. Keep playing him, the numbers will catch up.
If you have any of Washington's defensive linemen on your roster, put them in your lineup this week. Only the Commanders and Giants have allowed more sacks than the Bears through four games. Chicago has given up at least three in every game, with an average of 4.2 per contest. Linemen and edge defenders are putting up good tackle totals against them as well.
That's a wrap for this week's edition. Best of luck in week five!
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