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DE Robert Quinn, STL (5 solos, 3 sacks, 2 FF)
DE Chris Long, STL (2 solos, 1 sack, 1 FR)
DE William Hayes, STL (6 solos, 1 sack, 1 FF)
The Rams dominated the Raiders on Sunday, and that gave their pass rushers plenty of chances to attack rookie Derek Carr. After going sackless in his first 5 games, Quinn is now up to 9 on the year with 4 more games to play. He had also finished the last two games without a tackle so this was a nice sign, and bodes well for him in the weeks ahead. Chris Long returned to the lineup for the first time since week 1 and wound up playing about half the snaps. Hayes also saw a pretty normal workload for him, but was much more productive. Probably can expect him to drop off a little as Long starts to pick up more work.
DE Jared Allen, CHI (4 solos, 2 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR)
The Bears are not getting their money’s worth from Allen this year, but he has started to show signs of life. Over his last 3 games, he has been credited with 11 solo tackles and 3 sacks. He has some tough matchups coming up the next two weeks, however, with the Cowboys and Saints on deck.
DE Cameron Jordan, NO (1 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Jordan is another player who had a slow start this year after breaking out in 2013, but he was dominant on Sunday in a win over the Steelers. He picked up an assist on 5 of his 6 tackles, but also added a sack as well as his first career interception. The 3-4 DE now has 5 sacks in his last 6 games, and the upcoming schedule looks favorable.
DT Sen’Derrick Marks, JAX (3 solos, 2 sacks, 1 FF)
Marks has quietly been putting together a very impressive season for the Jaguars. He posted 2 sacks in a win over the Giants on Sunday to bring him up to 7.5 on the year. He’s also been productive against the run all year with 29 solo tackles.
LB Nigel Bradham, BUF (9 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 PD)
In most balanced scoring systems, Bradham now ranks as a LB1 in terms of his average fantasy points per game. He has played great for the Bills alongside rookie Preston Brown to help offset the loss of Kiko Alonso. While he often benefits from playing in front of a very favorable stats crew and doesn’t quite play in all situations, his numbers are not smoke and mirrors. His play in coverage also appears to be improving in recent weeks as the Bills have been one of the toughest defenses for opposing QBs to play against.
LB Jamie Collins, NE (7 solos, 6 asst, 1 sack, 1 FF)
Collins hasn’t quite reached LB1 status, but he’s not too far off. He was everywhere on Sunday in a matchup with the Packers, finishing with 13 solo tackles and a sack plus forced fumble. Similar to the situation in Buffalo, the Patriots lost their best LB in Jerod Mayo but Collins and Donta Hightower have played great to help minimize the damage.
LB James Thomas, JAX (6 solos, 6 asst, 1 FR, 1 TD)
Thomas was forced into action as the Jaguars full-time middle linebacker when Paul Posluszny was lost for the season in week 7. Since that time, Thomas has averaged about 4 solo tackles and 4 assists per game as well as a handful of big plays. It doesn’t seem like there’s been much of a dropoff so the Jaguars may consider dumping Posluszny and his contract in a cost cutting move.
LB Danny Lansanah, TB (13 solos, 1 asst)
With Lavonte Davis inactive this week, it was Lansanah who picked up the slack as he finished with an impressive 13 solo tackles in a close loss to the Bengals. The unknown player has been a nice find for Tampa this year, but he’s not really startable whenever David (and MLB Mason Foster) is healthy.
S Stevie Brown, NYG (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack)
Last week the Giants appeared to use a rotation with Brown and Quintin Demps, but Brown got the start this week and was on the field for every snap. Demps also saw regular time as part of a 3-safety look, but it appears Brown has surpassed him on the depth chart to reclaim his starting role.
S Jim Leonhard, CLE (5 solos, 1 INT, 2 PD)
The Browns lost starting FS Tashaun Gipson to a season-ending injury last week. It was a tough blow considering that he was leading the league with 6 interceptions, but his replacement picked up right where he left off with an interception on Sunday. Leonhard played every snap in a loss to the Bills, but showed great awareness on his interception in the end zone and could be a decent option in deeper leagues.
CB Greg Toler, IND (5 solos, 1 sack, 1 FF)
Toler sat out a week while going through the league’s concussion protocol, but he came back with a great game this week. With #1 CB Vontae Davis leaving this week’s game with a concussion, that could result in Toler seeing more of Josh Gordon next week. He has been rather beatable this year, which will make him a very inviting target for whoever winds up starting at QB.
CB E.J. Gaines, STL (6 solos, 1 INT, 2 PD)
CB Trumaine Johnson, STL (6 solos, 2 INT, 2 PD, 1 TD)
Gaines has been a great find for the Rams this year as he was taken in the 6th round of the draft but has started every game and played almost every snap. He had a great game against the Raiders this week and has been remarkably consistent with 5 or more solo tackles in 6 of his last 7 games. When the Rams go to a nickel, Trumaine Johnson comes in and he also has looked good with 2 interceptions this week and 3 in his last 3 games. As long as they get pressure up front, the Rams now have corners who can take advantage.
DE Jacquies Smith, TB (0 tackles)
Smith was a very popular free agent pickup in IDP leagues last week after he posted 4 sacks in a 4-game stretch. Unfortunately, he was shut out by the Bengals this week. He still played about 60% of the snaps in the game and was able to generate some pressure, but he’s still improving against the run so will likely be a bit hit or miss. Don’t overreact to one bad outing.
DE Ray McDonald, SF (0 tackles)
McDonald came into the game with sacks in back to back games, but he was forced to leave early with a finger injury so he only played in 22 snaps. Tony Jerod-Eddie and Cornelius Carradine saw an increase in their workloads this week and put up solid numbers. Keep an eye on the injury news to determine if McDonald will miss any time.
DE Robert Ayers, NYG (1 solo)
With Mathias Kiwanuka sitting out with a knee injury, Ayers got the start at defensive end this week. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn pectoral muscle midway through the game and will now be lost for the rest of the season. He had proven to be a quality depth option with 5 sacks in limited playing time. Look for 2nd year pro Damontre Moore to benefit the most in the weeks ahead.
DT Marcell Dareus, BUF (1 solo, 2 asst)
Dareus has been a dominant force all year, but this was his 3rd disappointing outing in a row. He has just 2 solos, 4 assists, and 0 sacks in his last 3 games. What is more concerning, however, is the injury he suffered on Sunday as he limped off the field with what was reported to be a hip injury. The severity the injury wasn’t clear on Monday, but the Bills could certainly use him in their visit to Denver next week.
LB Bjoern Werner, IND (0 tackles)
Werner posted some solid numbers earlier this year, particularly during a stretch that saw him post 4 sacks in 3 games. He was ineffective this week, however, and missed several tackles while being held completely off the stat sheet despite playing 58 snaps. The Colts did pick up veteran Shaun Phillips after he was released by the Titans last week, so he could eat into Werner’s snaps as the Colts search for an upgrade to their pass rush.
LB Alex Okafor, ARI (1 solo)
Okafor has lived up to the next man up philosophy of the Cardinals this year as he came out of seemingly nowhere to post 6 sacks over a 7-game stretch. With the injuries the Cardinals have suffered on offense now taking their toll as well though, he may not be provided with as many pass rush opportunities the rest of the year. He was nearly shut out this week in a loss to the Falcons, and faces some tough matchups in the weeks ahead.
LB A.J. Hawk, GB (1 solo)
With a matchup against the Patriots this weekend, the Packers appeared to prefer Sam Barrington at inside linebacker as Hawk saw just 27 snaps which was a season-low. The Packers have struggled in run defense and appeared to use Harrington as an attempt to slow down the Patriots running game. Barrington also saw snaps in the nickel, and it seems the coaches were happy with his performance. This was a big change for Hawk, but it’s unclear what the roles will be next week.
LB Brian Cushing, HOU (1 solo)
Cushing has missed practice time in recent weeks while he tries to recover from a knee injury. He got the start this week, but it looks like his playing time was reduced and he only wound up with a single tackle. He hasn’t looked like himself for awhile, so if you are still holding onto him it’s likely wise to keep him benched if possible.
S Brandon Meriweather, WAS (1 solo)
Meriweather suffered a toe injury on Sunday that limited him to just 29 snaps. The x-rays were apparently negative, but his status for next week remains uncertain. Although he’s flashed with some big games this year, his production has been pretty disappointing of late so he’s likely not worth holding onto if there are decent options available elsewhere.
S Malcolm Jenkins, PHI (2 solos, 1 asst)
Jenkins had an incredible start to the 2014 season as he picked off 3 passes in his first 4 games while also posting some solid tackle numbers. He hasn’t posted any more big plays in the 8 games since then, however, and has also seen his tackle numbers decline significantly. The Eagles tend to run a lot of plays on offense, which puts pressure on their defense but for whatever reason it hasn’t led to consistent production from Jenkins.
CB Antoine Cason, CAR (1 solo)
Cason was one of the hottest fantasy corners in the league during the first 6 weeks of the season. He was getting victimized in coverage pretty often and that helped him put up some great numbers. With the season slipping away, however, it looks like they are giving more playing time to rookie Bene Benwikere as he saw nearly twice as many snaps as Cason did this week following the Panthers bye week. Looks like Cason is droppable in most leagues if he’s not already on the waiver wire.
CB Vontae Davis, IND (1 solo, 1 asst, 2 PD)
Davis has played like a shutdown corner for much of this year, but he has seen plenty of targets as opponents try to keep pace with the Colts offense. He left early with a concussion this week, however, which puts his status for next week in doubt. With the Browns and Josh Gordon on the schedule, it looked like a very nice matchup, but now we’ll have to wait and see if he’s cleared to play or not.
If you have any additional questions regarding the players above or those not mentioned, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can also find me on twitter at @a_rudnicki.