Quick Hits (Details in individual
Week 2 Injury Report (available
- No byes Week Two
- Updates on key late impact roster changes
- CAR DT Kris Jenkins lost for season with torn ACL
- PHI MLB Jeremiah Trotter kicked out of MNF game
- DT Corey Simon goes to Indy
- AZ MLB James Darling will miss a week or two
- New additions thrive in revamped Chiefs D
- New home, same results for NYG MLB Antonio Pierce
- WAS S Sean Taylor sees work at WR, trial moved to Oct
- IND MLB Gary Brackett proves he deserves job
- TEN rookie CB Pacman Jones a healthy scratch
- SEA rookie Lofa Tatupu wins MLB job
- CLE rotates LBs and DBs, unexpected players emerge
- OAK scheme and rotation a mess
After winning the MLB job in preseason, James Darling had to leave
the opener in the third quarter with a sprained knee. He is expected
to miss at least two weeks with the injury. Orlando Huff will slide
over from WLB to start in the middle in his absence. Another option,
Gerald Hayes, is out at least through September with a knee injury.
Rookies Darryl Blackstock and Lance Mitchell should be the beneficiaries
of more time. Lester Towns was signed for depth at LB while Darling
When he is motivated, you can’t stop TO, you can only hope
to contain him. So although TO caught 7 passes for 112 yards,
CB DeAngelo Hall defensed him about as well as you could and was
frequently doing it mano-a-mano. Hall finished with 5 solo tackles
and a pick.
DE Patrick Kerney picked up where he left off last season, in
the backfield blowing plays up and frustrating offenses. He finished
with 4 solo tackles, including a sack and a forced fumble. He
was also the guy who hurried QB Donovan McNabb on the Eagles second
possession into launching an INT, followed by DT Chad Lavalais
just launch his massive frame into McNabb and almost collapse
his chest. While the Falcons didn’t capitalize on the next
drive after the turnover and McNabb returned to the game, the
momentum of the game swung on that play. Kerney usually lines
up at LDE, but saw a lot of time at RDE in the game. Coming from
the QB’s blindside more often should help his sack totals.
Opposite him, Brady Smith was back after missing most of the preseason
with a neck injury.
OLB Keith Brooking, with the new, less intimidating look that
seems to be out of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, finished with
4 tackles (3 solo) and a fumble recovery. OLB Demorrio Williams
led the team with 6 tackles (4 solo). New MLB Edgerton Hartwell
was mysteriously all but absent from the box score, posting just
1 solo tackle.
The debut of Rex (Buddy’s son) Ryan’s version of the
46 defense fell flat. Although the Ravens held tight through the
first half, Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James systematically dismantled
them in the second half. Granted, it was against the best offense
in the league, but the promised blitzing and disruption the new
defense was supposed to cause, caused no sacks or turnovers. Perhaps
things were made a little too complicated for a squad with enough
talent you just need to wind them up and let them get after people.
If it ain’t broke…
MLB Ray Lewis led the team with 10 tackles (8 solo) and there’s
surprisingly really nothing else of interest to talk about from
Rookie Dan Cody was drafted to replace Peter Boulware, but when
Cody went on the IR with a sprained ACL, Boulware was brought
back. Boulware will be limited to a pass rush specialist role
and won’t be productive enough to still be a fantasy starter.
The return to dominance of the Bills defense continued in Week
One, with all the usual suspects contributing to make Houston
look helpless. MLB London Fletcher led the team with 10 tackles
(5 solo). Takeo Spikes had 5 tackles (3 solo), including a sack
where he forced a fumble. Nate Clements had 7 tackles (6 solo)
and a pass defended, while holding Andre Johnson to 3 catches
for 18 yards. Clements’ job was made easier by the relentless
pressure on David Carr that resulted in 5 sacks, including 2 by
DE Aaron Schobel and 1 by DE Chris Kelsay, who also stripped Domanick
Davis to force a fumble. Takeo Spikes had a sack among his 5 tackles
(3 solo) and also forced a fumble. The team also forced 5 turnovers,
including 3 interceptions by the veteran S tandem of SS Lawyer
Milloy and FS Troy Vincent (who had 2 picks).
Problems for the Panthers defense began last year when DT Kris
Jenkins was put on the shelf with an injury early in the season.
It was déjà vu on Sunday when Jenkins tore his ACL
and is now done for the season. In addition to the loss Jenkins
himself is to the defense, it will be very detrimental to his
fellow linemen, especially DE Mike Rucker. Rucker, who plays next
to Jenkins on the right side, saw a tremendous drop in production
last year without the dominant DT lining up next to him. Downgrade
Rucker significantly for now. Kindal Moorehead, who replaced Rucker
when he was injured last year, was inactive Sunday. DT Jordan
Carstens and Al Wallace were used to replace Jenkins. Wallace,
more of a DE, was overmatched as an interior player, so the team
may need to look outside for more help in replacing Jenkins.
An injury finally straightened out the preseason controversy
of where to play 1st round pick Thomas Davis. After bouncing between
LB and S, he became entrenched at SS when Colin Branch, who started
most of last year at FS, was put on the IR after a knee injury
ended his season before it began. Mike Minter moved to FS and
Brandon Short will round out the LB starters. Davis had an unspectacular
debut, finishing with 5 tackles (4 solo).
OLB Will Witherspoon picked up where he left off with his breakout
season last year. He led the team with 12 tackles (11 solo).
With their key players finally healthy again, the defense showed
flashes of potential, but they were eventually worn down by lack
of help from their offense and were too tired to stop the Washington
running game at the end.
Last year, the effects of holding out the entire preseason and
an early ankle injury plagued DE Adewale Ogunleye. Fully healthy,
he looked like the dominant player he was in 2003 on Sunday, consistently
putting pressure on the QB. He thoroughly dominated Washington’s
second possession, batting down a pass then later sacking Patrick
Ramsey and forcing a fumble the Redskins recovered, but were forced
to punt. He had 4 other solo tackles during the game. Also looking
good were two of the biggest losses last year, MLB Brian Urlacher
and SS Mike Brown. Brown led the team with 9 solo tackles and
Urlacher had 9 tackles (8 solo) and a sack. Brown and Mike Green
swapped spots this year, with Green moving to starting FS. Green,
a top 10 DB in 2003, didn’t have a great start as a FS.
A pass interference call in the first half erased an interception
by CB Nathan Vasher and Green was benched for most of the second
half in favor of Todd Johnson and rookie Chris Harris. Vasher,
who got the start with Jerry Azumah returning from preseason hip
surgery, had another pick that counted and two solo tackles. Azumah
was limited to nickel packages and didn’t appear back at
full speed, finishing with 3 solo tackles and getting burned a
few times by Santana Moss.
One of the few Bears coming off a breakout season last year was
Lance Briggs, who also looked good Sunday. He’ll be looking
at a fine from the NFL for an unintentional clothesline that knocked
Patrick Ramsey out of the game. He had a clear line to the QB
on a blitz from the left side, and just as he leaped to tackle
him, he was knocked slightly off course by Redskin RT Jon Jansen.
His altered course in mid-air resulted in him tackling Ramsey
by the head and driving him to the ground. The ball came out and
was recovered by DT Tommie Harris. There was no flag on the play,
but a fine seems likely.
An elite LB group was the trademark of HC Marvin Lewis’s
Baltimore defenses, but he has struggled to find more playmakers
at LB to compliment Brian Simmons. So he turned to the draft again
this year, adding David Pollack and Odell Thurman in the first
two rounds. They paid immediate dividends in their first game,
with Thurman leading the team with 7 tackles (6 solo) and an interception,
while Pollack had 6 solo tackles. Thurman had some punishing hits
and provided some other flashes of being the playmaking MLB Lewis
has missed since he had another Lewis. Injuries facilitated the
ascension to starter by Thurman. Johnson battled shoulder problems
in the preseason, while Nate Webster and Caleb Miller were done
before they started. Both were put on the PUP and will miss at
least the first the six games. Hannibal Naives, a starter last
year in Green Bay, was signed after the Packers cut him to provide
depth with all the injuries at LB.
The absence of DE Duane Clemons from most of the team’s
off-season program, which resulted in Robert Geathers passing
him as the starter at RDE, became clearer when Clemons received
a four-game suspension for violating the substance abuse policy.
Clemons could be released when he returns, but Geathers did nothing
in the first game to take advantage of the opportunity. He finished
with 2 tackles (1 solo). Pollack also saw time at end and that
could continue to increase if Geathers doesn’t bring more
to the table. Moving Justin Smith back to RDE, after he slid over
to LDE this year, is another possibility, but Smith was moved
there in the first place because his rush skills are mediocre,
but he has been strong against the run.
Stud second-year nomad Madieu Williams starts this year at FS
and the loss of Kim Herring for the season moves Kevin Kaesviharn
to starter at SS. The two safeties each finished with 6 tackles
(4 solo) on defense, Williams added another on special teams and
also broke up a pass. S Ifeanyi Ohalete, a former starter for
the Redskins and Cardinals who was cut by Arizona this preseason,
was added for depth after the loss of Herring. Kaesviharn is better
against the pass, while Ohalete is a stouter run defender and
enforcer. The two could end up rotating regularly at SS during
games, but Ohalete saw limited action in the opener.
HC Romeo Crennel was true to his promise to rotate safeties and
linebackers, but a few players appear to have separated themselves
from the pack. Andra Davis, as expected, was the most productive
ILB. He finished leading the team (tied) with 10 tackles (4 solo).
Ben Taylor started along with Davis, but Orlando Huff, who rotated
primarily with Taylor, was slightly more productive. Huff is the
better run stopper, but Taylor is better in coverage, so the rotation
seems situational. Matt Stewart and Kenard Lang started as OLBs,
but Stewart hurt his knee early in the game and was replaced by
Chaun Thompson. Thompson had 5 tackles (2 solo), including a sack
on which he forced a fumble that Ruff recovered. Lang should still
be able to get to the QB, but Thompson has the most upside of
the group outside. Chris Crocker started at SS and Brian Russell
at FS. Crocker had the biggest day in the secondary, leading the
team (tied) with 10 tackles (8 solo), including a sack. He was
also in the backfield a couple of other times, so in addition
to getting off to a fast start to have the most security in a
secondary-by-committee, he has the potential to have a huge fantasy
season if he’s used that much in blitz packages. Crocker’s
success kept Sean Jones out of the picture, limiting him to mostly
special teams work. Expectations were high for Jones until a knee
injury ruined his rookie season last year. The new regime doesn’t
have the investment in him the previous one did, so he’ll
be stuck if Crocker continues to perform well. Russell had a decent
day, posting 7 tackles (4 solo) and breaking up a pass, but he
was just signed as a stop gap. When the Browns season is fully
in the crapper, there will be no reason to keep playing him over
the promising youth, like Jones and rookie Brodney Pool. After
battling a concussion through most of the preseason, Pool saw
action in nickel and dime sets, as well as special teams. He finished
with 4 tackles (1 solo) and knocking down a Hail Mary at the end
of the first half.
One player who won’t be in the LB rotation is Brant Boyer.
He was released when HC Romeo Crennel felt he didn’t fit
the new 3-4 scheme. Boyer was solid back-up at all the LB spots
and was frequently a good fantasy performer when given a chance
With CB Gary Baxter inactive due to a concussion, Leigh Bodden
started opposite Daylon McCutcheon at corner. Baxter is expected
to be a game-time decision again this week. Bodden took full advantage,
finishing with 7 solo tackles, a forced fumble and an INT. He
had another pick he returned for a TD called back after a questionable
penalty on reserve CB Ray Mickens. McCutcheon was bothered by
migraines throughout the preseason and he had to leave the game
briefly at one point after being shaken up, but without a noticeable
injury. He could be the odd man out when Baxter returns.
After getting 10 interceptions as a rookie with the Browns in
2001, CB Anthony Henry has not been the same fantasy factor. He
had a good start to turning things around in his first game as
a Cowboy. He led the team with 12 tackles (10 solo) and had an
INT. SS Roy Williams is another player looking to recapture the
fantasy production he showed as a rookie, and started with 7 tackles
(5 solo) and a sack he shared with DE Greg Ellis, who still carries
concern about his production slipping in a 3-4. The same is true
for DT La’Roi Glover, who also had a sack, and saw extended
work at the nose while Jason Ferguson continues to recover from
an ankle sprain that plagued him through the preseason. Rookie
DE Marcus Spears was also limited as he returned from a sprained
MCL, ankle sprain, and pulled groin that cut his preseason short.
Perhaps the most hyped addition to this new revamped defense
is OLB DeMarcus Ware. After flashing some huge potential in the
preseason, his debut was a bit anti-climatic as he posted only
2 solo tackles. I’m still a little skeptical about him for
this season, but there’s no question he has the potential
and situation to be one of the top producing rookie IDPs. The
new 3-4 featured Dat Nguyen and Bradie James at ILB. Nguyen wasn’t
hampered from being productive in the new scheme, finishing with
7 tackles (6 solo) and breaking up a pass. James has been lost
in the hype of the rookies, but he remains a nice prospect, as
well. Al Singleton started at the other OLB spot, but his role
will be in question when Scott Fujita and rookie Kevin Burnett
are ready to play. Fujita, acquired in a trade with KC right before
the season started, only saw work on special teams on Sunday,
as he learns the Dallas defense and is eased back from shoulder
problems. Burnett had minor knee surgery right before the season
and was inactive. He may miss another week, but impressed Bill
Parcells in camp and could quickly get a bigger role when healthy.
The Cleveland DLine Experiment was a failure in Week One, as the
Browns retreads failed to be an improvement, providing little
pressure and failing to register a sack. Ebenezer Ekuban started
opposite Trevor Pryce at DE and finished with 1 assist. DT Gerard
Warren had 2 assists. Courtney Brown, who is recovering from a
dislocated elbow in the preseason, was active but did not play.
CB Champ Bailey was the only playmaker, finishing with 7 solo
tackles, an INT, and a forced fumble. However, he dislocated his
shoulder in the third quarter and his status for next week is
unknown. SS Nick Ferguson had a big day, leading the team with
12 tackles (10 solo). Depth at safety came courtesy of division
rival Oakland. The Broncos claimed Marques Anderson off waivers
when the Raiders released him.
DET LB Teddy Lehman, who took the most snaps on defense for the
Lions in 2004, was inactive due to a sprained knee. Despite his
loss, the defense dominated Green Bay. DT Shaun Rogers and DE
James Hall continued to be the playmakers on the DLine, with each
totaling 5 tackles and a sack, Hall also forced a fumble. Ancient
MLB Earl Holmes was a steady run-stopper as always, leading the
tem with 8 tackles (5 solo).
CB Fernando Bryant injured his jaw, but is expected to play in
The Packers cleaned house in the off-season, particularly on defense.
Last year’s starting WLB, Hannibal Navies, was gone. The
stay was also short for Raynoch Thompson, the former Cardinal
they hoped would replace Naives. Eternal project LB Torrance Marshall
was also given up on. The biggest move was the release of DT Cledius
Hunt. After a career year in 2002, he has been a lazy and injury-prone
underachiever since getting paid. That made it all the more important
DT Grady Jackson returned, and he’s joined inside by Cullen
Jenkins, who was a pleasant surprise in 2004.
With SLB Na’il Diggs inactive recovering from a partially
torn PCL, Paris Lenon got the start. Opposite him, former Rams
1st round pick Robert Thomas, who was recently acquired in a trade,
started at WLB. Thomas is an undersized MLB who never fit well
in the Rams scheme, but he could find fantasy success as teams
focus on standout MLB Nick Barnett.
For the second straight draft, it seemed the Packers again reached
for help in rebuilding their secondary. Rookie Nick Collins will
try to replace Darren Sharper at FS and is joined by Mark Roman,
who held on to the SS job. Roman led the team with 10 tackles
(8 solo) and defended a pass on Sunday. Collins finished with
just an assist and was beaten by Mike Williams for the TD that
sealed the game. Last year’s top pick Ahmad Carroll had
a brutal opener, getting flagged four times and has now lost his
starting job to fellow second-year CB (and former sparring partner)
A strong LB group is critical to the success of a 3-4 defense,
and after rebuilding theirs in the off-season, the early returns
weren’t promising. Kailee Wong and Morlon Greenwood are
the new ILBs and they finished with 7 tackles (3 solo) and 5 (2
solo), respectively. Through tenacious special teams play and
a strong finish to last year, Antwan Peek earned a starting role
outside, replacing Wong. The Texans hope Peek can help the pass
rush, but he finished with just 4 tackles (3 solo) and dropped
what should have been an easy pick. In his second year, Jason
Babin still isn’t looking like the pass rush threat the
team hoped for when they brought the college DE in as an OLB.
He had 5 tackles (3 solo). The lack of a pass rush from the edges
is a huge problem. They still don’t have the personnel for
the scheme at LB. The only sack of the day came from back-up S
Defense was the story in the Sunday night game between Indianapolis
and Baltimore, but it surprisingly was the Colts defense that
provided the headlines.
After releasing former starting MLB Rob Morris, he was brought
back to compete with career back-up Gary Brackett. Brackett held
on to the job and led the team in tackles with 10 (8 solo) and
showed a great nose for the ball, picking off 2 passes. An equally
impressive story was DT Larry Tripplett. The former 2nd round
pick was an underachiever with one career sack. Perhaps motivated
by the signing of former Eagles DT Corey Simon, Tripplett had
a career game. He finished with 7 solo tackles and 2 sacks. Don’t
expect many more games like that, but Tripplett is now a nice
option in leagues that require a DT. Simon finished with with
2 tackles (1 solo).
S Michael Doss had his two-game suspension for gun-play reduced
to one. However, he dealt with a groin injury that cost him most
of camp. He would have been inactive for the season opener even
if he wasn’t suspended. He may not be ready for Week Two.
Cato June, who earned the fantasy-friendly WLB spot last year,
looked bigger and more comfortable out there in the first game.
He finished with 9 tackles (7 solo) and two passes defended, including
LB Rocky Calmus was acquired from the Titans for a seventh round
pick, then promptly suffered leg and groin injuries in one of
his first practices and ended up on the IR. Promising rookie CB
Marlin Jackson was inactive as he recovers from a shoulder injury.
DE Reggie Hayward cashed in on a breakout season in Denver, but
he was thoroughly unimpressive in the preseason. He showed little
reason for more confidence Sunday, as he started, but posted just
one assist and a pass defended for the day. Bobby McCray was a
highly-regarded college player who fell off draft boards last
year because of off-field issues. After limited work last year,
he stuck with the Jags again this year, and posted a sack as a
back-up in the season opener. With the absence of talent at end
on this defense, he could see his role expand quickly this year.
Marcellus Wiley and the annual hope that he can regain his All-Pro
form when he was a Charger linger in the background too. The team
might be better off giving Hugh Douglas another shot. They also
decided to release Greg Favors in the preseason, despite him showing
to be a serviceable pass rusher when he was converted from LB
last year. They need to do something, because it’s ridiculous
with the attention DTs John Henderson and Marcus Stroud draw,
the team can’t get production out of their ends.
I expect MLB Mike Peterson to have a big year, but it didn’t
start with Week One, as he finished with just 4 solo tackles and
a fumble recovery. LB Akin Ayodele had 3 solo tackles, including
a sack on which he forced a fumble. If they can’t find a
pass rush from the ends, Ayodele and his tweener skills should
be seeing more blitz work. On the other side, LB Daryl Smith had
5 tackles (4 solo) and an INT.
The first look at the rebuilt Chiefs defense looks like a unit
that can finally compliment the potent offense and, more importantly
for us, is loaded with IDP playmakers. Rookie LB Derrick Johnson
lived up to the hype in his first game, leading the team with
8 solo tackles (9 total), as well as registering his first NFL
sack and forced fumble. A couple veteran newcomers were also immediate
contributors, as SS Sammy Knight and CB Patrick Surtain had big
games. Knight had 9 tackles (7 solo), a sack, a forced fumble,
and broke up a pass. He displayed a nose for the ball that made
him an IDP stud in New Orleans, but he struggled to be as productive
the last few years on a Dolphin team that was falling apart. With
a Chief offense that should force the opposing team to take some
risks to keep up, Knight is a great situation to return to elite
IDP form this year. Surtain had a solo tackle, but also recovered
a fumble and picked off a pass that he returned 53 yards. Unfortunately,
he suffered a concussion when he was tackled on the return and
had to leave the game, but is expected to be fine for Week Two.
Chronically-injured LB Kendrell Bell was not among the new additions
that impressed. He finished with just 3 solo tackles. After speculation
about the LB situation, Bell joined Johnson in flanking MLB Kawika
Mitchell as the starters. Mitchell had a solid game, posting 7
tackles (5 solo), defending a pass, and recovering 2 fumbles.
Mitchell can be expected to post consistent tackle numbers as
long as he starts, but he hasn’t shown to be much of a tendency
to be in on big plays, so the 2 fumble recoveries are promising.
It’s too early to give up on Bell, but he’s not worth
starting until he heats up, especially showing his role involves,
and he still has the skills, to get to the QB regularly. The LB
picture did not become clear until the final Sunday before the
season started. Scott Fujita was traded to the Cowboys and Shawn
Barber was placed on the PUP. Mike Maslowski never recovered from
multiple injuries that cost him 2004 and the team finally gave
up on Quinton Caver, as both players were cut. Until Barber returns,
Keyaron Fox, who worked with the first team much of the preseason,
is the top back-up outside. If Mitchell struggles in the middle,
Bell could move there or Rich Scanlon, who also impressed in the
preseason, could get an opportunity. The additions of Knight and
Surtain in the secondary also squeezed the defensive backfield,
and Shaunard Harts, who started several games when Jerome Woods
broke his leg two years ago, was cut. Greg Wesley beat out Woods
to start at FS. There was only one S spot open for last year’s
two starters due to the addition of Knight.
Usually, losing a starting position will hurt a player’s
value, but DE Jared Allen looks like he’s better suited
to being limited to a pass rush specialist. Last year he had 3
sacks in 5 games before moving into a starting role, then struggled
with the transition and was shut out for 3 straight games. He
finished with 5 sacks in 10 games as a starter, didn’t produce
more tackles per game, and was eventually demoted this preseason.
A bit undersized be playing end against the run, he thrived again
on Sunday working in behind DE starters John Browning and Eric
Hicks on passing downs. He had 3 solo tackles, including a sack
and forced fumble. Similar to players like Lance Johnstone and
Robert Mathis, he could have a nice niche posting numbers worthy
of being a fantasy starter, despite being a role player in real
life. His success also means the rotation is set and back-up DEs
Carlos Hall and Jimmy Wilkerson are downgraded for now. Hall was
another veteran free agent addition expected to contribute immediate
and Wilkerson was briefly elevated to starter in the preseason.
DT Ryan Sims suffered a foot sprain during the game and could
miss some time.
While Death Spiral Dave is taking down another football program,
this time at the collegiate level, the Dolphins wasted no time
bouncing back, especially on defense. They frustrated the Broncos
all day, forcing 3 turnovers and not allowing a TD until the fourth
quarter. Two familiar faces led the way. MLB Zach Thomas led the
team with 15 tackles (8 solo) and DE Jason Taylor tied an NFL
record with his fifth career fumble returned for a TD. Taylor
had a sack and forced the fumble he returned on it, as well as
finishing with 5 tackles (3 solo).
Concerns about his return from injuries and cap space led the
Titans to cut Lance Schulters, but he wasted no time showing he
can still be a force. In a thin Miami secondary, he claimed the
starting FS role soon after joining them, despite Yeremiah Bell
getting impressive preseason reviews. Schulters posted 8 tackles
(5 solo) and a pick in his Dolphin debut.
Rookie Channing Crowder won the starting WLB job in the preseason,
moving Junior Seau over to SLB. CB Will Poole and DT Larry Chester
start the year on the PUP. David Bowens considered retirement,
but resigned in the preseason. However, Kevin Carter started at
DE and Vonnie Holliday actually started at DT. Carter will likely
move back inside as the season progresses and Bowens and rookie
Matt Roth will see more action at DE.
The revamped Viking defense started out nicely, with FS Darren
Sharper returning a pick 88 yards for the first score of the game,
but their inability to stop two Tampa Bay rookies cost them the
game. For all the positive changes to the defense, pass coverage
by their LBs was exposed by two TD receptions by Buc rookie TE
Alex Smith. They contained rookie RB Carnell Williams for most
of the game, but he broke two long runs, including a 71-yard TD
to seal the game. Several new additions contributed well. In addition
to the TD pick, Sharper broke up another pass and had 8 tackles
(6 solo), including several big hits. New DT Pat Williams had
a sack and new CB Fred Smoot had a pick.
None of the LBs were particularly impressive and their roles
seem to constantly be changing, which can’t help. The team
alternated sets frequently, starting the game in their nickel
defense, which had Napolean Harris and Dontarrius Thomas at LB.
Their base set moves Harris to SLB, brings Sam Cowart in the middle,
and replaces Thomas with E.J. Henderson at WLB. They also continued
to work in 3-4 looks. Cowart and Harris led the LBs with 5 tackles
(3 solo) each. Cowart should be the top performer of the group
and seems to have the strongest lock on a job, while Harris’s
value improves as it appears he’ll be on the field the most.
However, Cowart briefly left with a neck injury and later left
for good with a strained calf, but is expected to play in Week
Two. If he doesn’t, Henderson could slide back to MLB, but
Rod Davis is more likely to get a shot, as HC Mike Tice has indicated
he wants Henderson to focus on WLB. Thomas and Henderson both
have good talent and potential, but have struggled with the mental
side of the position and are likely to continue alternating time
in Tice’s doghouse. Keith Newman had only 2 tackles (1 solo),
but was active. The journeyman has started in a couple places
and as injuries and disappointing performances happen, he could
be back in the mix in a larger role.
Rookie 1st round pick DE Erasmus James struggled in preseason
and was inactive Sunday. Darrion Scott lined up opposite Kenechi
Udeze as the starting ends, with Lance Johnstone in his familiar
pass rush specialist role, in which he registered his first sack
of the season.
Tedy Bruschi is expected to be out for the season after suffering
a stroke, Ted Johnson retires, Ty Law is made the latest example
that no one man is more important than the team, and DC Romeo
Crennel departs. The result? Business as usual.
Not many standout fantasy performances. DE Richard Seymour led
the team with 8 tackles (6 solo). Monty Beisel and Chad Brown
were the new ILB starters, as expected. They had 7 and 5 tackles,
respectively, and neither can be expected to be the real and fantasy
stud Tedy Bruschi was. Instead, they should both cannibalize the
other’s stats in classic 3-4 ILB.
The Saints clearly have the best DE rotation in football and while
Will Smith is still not an actual starter, he is one for fantasy
purposes. He out-produced the stellar starting tandem of Charles
Grant and Darren Howard, finishing with 4 solo tackles, including
a sack and a forced fumble. While all are very talented, Grant
has established himself as one of the elite ends in the league,
so it will be Howard and Smith who split more of the time and
cannibalize each others stats.
After battling injuries and moving in and out of HC Jim Haslett’s
doghouse, Courtney Watson retained his starting role at MLB. He
led the team in tackles with 8 (5 solo). Watson’s job security
improved when Cie Grant and Orlando Ruff were released in the
off-season. However, the MLB situation became too sparse when
rookie Alfred Fincher broke his wrist in the preseason. The team
added veteran Ronald McKinnon to add depth in the middle. Sedrick
Hodge also remained one of the starting OLB, while Colby Bockwoldt
is now entrenched at WLB with the injured waiver of Derrick Rodgers
in the preseason. Rodgers was unable to overcome neck and back
problems after season-ending surgery last November.
New York Giants
An older, slimmer DE Michael Strahan showed no signs of slowing
down or being able to be slowed down. He starts off the season
with 7 solo tackles and 1.5 sacks. MLB Antonio Pierce paid immediate
dividends as their main off-season defensive acquisition. He led
the team with 11 tackles (7 solo) and shared a sack with Strahan.
After SS Shaun Williams was lost for the season with a knee injury
in 2004, Gibril Wilson filled in and made a case for DROY. Despite
Williams return, HC Tom Coughlin decided not to upset the apple
cart and left Wilson starting at SS and Brent Alexander at FS.
Alexander is better in pass coverage than Williams, but Shaun
is great in run support.
LB Barrett Green is still recovering from a torn ACL, so he was
inactive, while Carlos Emmons moved to WLB. Converted college
DE Reggie Tobor got the start at SLB. CB Will Peterson was inactive
with a knee injury and Curtis Deloatch started in his place. Apparently,
Peterson made the call that he was not ready to play, which extremely
angered Coughlin. Deloatch got a lot of buzz in the preseason,
where his size and performance both impressed. The second year
UDFA out of North Carolina A&T finished with 7 tackles (5
solo) and broke up a pass. Rookie Corey Webster also contributed
5 solo tackles. With Peterson clearly in Coughlin’s doghouse,
both Deloatch and Webster could see their roles remain significant.
New York Jets
Big things are expected of the Jets defense this year, but they
didn’t show it on Sunday. They posted only one sack and
forced only one turnover, an interception by CB Ty Law. Law also
had 3 tackles (2 solo). There was concern his foot problem was
lingering, but it looks safe to say he’s back and should
be a starter in leagues segregating CB and S. He very well could
be on your waiver wire after a late signing and quiet preseason.
Most impressive was the debut of rookie SS Kerry Rhodes. After
being an unheralded draft pick and locking up the starting job
late, he is another guy to look for on the waiver wire. Rhodes
led the team with 11 tackles (10 solo, including 1 on special
teams). Rookie S Andre Maddox landing on the IR helped Rhodes
lock up the starting job late in the preseason.
Embattled former 1st round pick Bryan Thomas got an opening day
start at DE after a holdout by John Abraham and concerns about
his conditioning not being up to par. Thomas had 5 solo tackles
and broke up a pass, but couldn’t get to the QB. Meanwhile,
Abraham had 2 solo tackles, including a sack. Abraham should be
back in the starting lineup shortly, but has more value than Thomas
even if HC Herm Edwards wants to continue to ease Abraham back
and brings him off the bench for another game or two. Edwards
also seems to believe Thomas has become a better run defender,
but Abraham is an elite playmaker at end and has to be on the
field a lot. DT Dewayne Robertson, another former 1st round pick
who still has a lot to prove, finished with 1 solo tackle. He
battled knee problems throughout the preseason and could struggle
MLB Jonathan Vilma had 8 tackles (7 solo). As the starter from
Week One in his second year, he should easily be among the top
10 producing fantasy LBs this year, and be a regular there for
years to come. Vilma apparently got in an argument with DT James
Reed on the sidelines during the game and walked away from it
with a shiner. Neither play commented much on what happened.
A year later, another revamping, and this defense is still clueless
about what type of scheme fits the personnel, mostly because the
talent is sorely lacking. The biggest hole is at OLB, where the
loss of Napolean Harris in the trade for Randy Moss leaves converted
DEs Tyler Brayton and Grant Irons as starters. The Patriots quickly
picked apart that duo in the short passing game and left the Raiders
scrambling to adjust. The result was utilizing both MLB Danny
Clark and rookie Kirk Morrison, who is Clark’s back-up on
the depth chart, at the same time in the nickel package early
in the game, because they are the only true LBs with decent talent
on the roster. Despite not starting, Morrison led the team in
tackles with 10 (6 solo) and should be seeing a lot more time
the rest of the way. Clark, coming off a breakout 2004, had 9
tackles (6 solo). Sam Williams was supposed to be part of the
solution at OLB, but he continues to be injury-prone and is already
done for this season with a torn ACL.
Then they bring in DE Derrick Burgess as the big free agent signing
to help the pass rush and they don’t even start him? It
looks like little of Buddy Ryan’s defensive acumen rubbed
off on either kid.
CB Charles Woodson will finally be a UFA next year, so he has
motivation to have a big year.
Terrell Owens grabs all the headlines, but there are plenty of
issues on the defensive side of the ball to discuss. For starters,
the defensive end situation is once again a mess. Derrick Burgess
got big money to move to Oakland, Jerome McDougle was shot (he’s
OK, but when he’ll return is unknown), and they still cut
Hugh Douglas, leaving absolutely no depth. This leaves N.D. Kalu,
who has proven he isn’t an every down player, and Jevon
Kearse, who looked awful in their Monday Night opener. Kearse
will eventually be OK, but he appears to either have taken it
easy in his off-season program or his head was somewhere else.
He was being man-handled by TEs and was winded by the second quarter.
He finished with 2 solo tackles.
Despite the loss of Corey Simon, the interior line seems in better
shape. DT Darwin Walker was a monster Monday night and rookie
Mike Patterson had a nice coming out party. Both finished with
6 tackles (5 solo), with Walker adding a sack, forced fumble,
and fumble recovery.
MLB Jeremiah Trotter was kicked out of the game before it even
started for a pre-game altercation with the Falcon’s Kevin
Mathis. Mike Labinjo started in Trotter’s place. There is
unlikely to be any further team or league punishment, so Trotter
should be back in the middle this weekend.
FS Brian Dawkins and SS Michael Lewis showcased why they are
one of the top safety tandems in the league. Lewis led the team
with 9 tackles (8 solo), with a sack, forced fumble, and fumble
recovery, while Dawkins had 2 sacks and a pick.
After allowing an early TD, the Steeler defense slammed the door
on a rebuilding Titan team. The LBs led the way by pressuring
the QB and forcing turnovers. Joey Porter had 4 tackles (2 solo),
a sack, and a forced fumble. James Farrior, who was plagued with
back problems late in the preseason, had 8 tackles (3 solo) and
forced a fumble. Clark Haggans, who was limited after injuring
his groin Friday in practice, added a sack. Haggans playing hurt
resulted in the promising debut of UDFA rookie Andre Frazier.
Activated from the practice squad the morning of the game as insurance
for Haggans, Frazier had 2 solo tackles, including a sack on which
he forced a fumble. Frazier started as a walk-on at Cincinnati
and ended as a first team all-conference DE. Undersized for a
pro LB, much less a DE, he went undrafted and, once again, the
Steelers seem to have found a diamond in the rough to plug-and-play
at LB. At 6’5” with great explosion, he was also has
a knack for blocking punts and kicks, so his special teams value
could keep him on the roster while he puts on some weight and
learns to play with his hand off the ground. He’s been a
favorite of the coaches this preseason, and is a name for dynasty
leaguers to remember, but unless there is an injury, it’s
unlikely we’ll hear much from him this year. His tackles
and sack came in garbage time in the fourth quarter, with the
Titans hopelessly out of it.
DE Leonard Little was one of the few Ram defenders who came to
play in a shocking loss at San Francisco. After a few years plagued
by injury and off-field problems, he started the season strong,
with 6 tackles (3 solo), including a sack on which he forced a
fumble. Tony Hargrove started opposite Little, after being pushed
by Brandon Green in the preseason. Hargrove needs to show development
of football skills to match his impressive measurables to remain
a starter this year. He had 2 tackles (1 solo) and a fumble recovery.
MLB Chris Claiborne was the big free agent acquisition that was
supposed to be the glue in the middle holding this defense strong
that they’ve lacked since London Fletcher left. The early
results were disappointing, as he managed only 3 tackles (2 solo)
and isn’t involved in most passing sets. Granted the 49ers
couldn’t the run the ball effectively and went to the air
a lot, but a player with his athleticism already being looked
at as a two-down MLB is disappointing and will be a big problem
for his fantasy value. Rookie LB Brandon Chillar was in with Pisa
Tinoisamoa in the nickel package and as productive as any of their
LBs. Dexter Coakley replaces Chillar in the base set.
The secondary took a big hit when CB Jerametrius Butler went
down for the year in preseason. DeJuan Groce took his place starting
across from Travis Fisher. The team continues to struggle with
what to do with their safety situation. After debating moving
Piso Tinoisamoa to SS and Adam Archuleta to FS, they left Archuleta
and SS and went with journeyman Michael Hawthorne at FS. Rookies
O.J. Atogwe and Jerome Carter were impressive in the preseason
and there could still be changes on the way. Carter is a vicious
hitter and forced a fumble on his only tackle on Sunday.
OLB Steve Foley will try to prove 2004 wasn’t a fluke and
got off to a fast start Sunday. He posted 6 tackles (4 solo),
including a sack, and defended a pass. Donnie Edwards led the
team with 11 tackles (6 solo), while fellow ILB Randal Godfrey
also posted double-digit tackles.
OLB Shawne Merriman was inactive recovering from a left knee
sprained in a preseason game. He is expected to make his debut
in Week Two.
After holdouts and a season-ending injury early last season, LB
Julian Peterson appears to have come out to have a breakout season.
He posted 8 tackles (5 solo), 2.5 sacks, and broke up a pass.
CB Ahmed Plummer was equally hungry to put a season behind him
where back and neck problems threatened to end his career. He
led the team with 12 tackles (8 solo) and broke up a pass. The
move to the 3-4 must have tapped a fountain of youth for Bryant
Young, as he posted 3 sacks.
The Seahawks completely turned over their LB corps this off-season
and no one in the new group had an impressive debut. Rookie Lofa
Tatupu beat out Niko Koutouvides for the starting MLB job. A starting
MLB is definitely a guy to add to your roster if he’s on
the waiver wire and you have room, but you may want to wait to
start him and not drop Koutouvides completely off your radar,
as Tatupu wasn’t overly impressive, finishing with 5 tackles
(4 solo). There have been some questions regarding whether Jaime
Sharper was simply a cap casualty for the Texans or if he lost
a step. His posting just 6 tackles (5 solo) aren’t making
a case for the former. He is also handling the strongside, which
could contribute to lower production from a guy we are used to
seeing among the top 10 fantasy LBs. D.D. Lewis was a nice role
player, but I was surprised to see him win a starting job, so
I wasn’t surprised to see a stat line with just 4 solo tackles.
On the other hand, secondary is one of the fantasy strengths
of this team. CB Marcus Trufant led the team with 7 solo tackles,
as well as posting a sack, a forced fumble, and a pass defended.
With Terreal Bierria out of the picture, Michael Boulware is locked
in at SS and started off with 6 solo tackles. FS Ken Hamlin had
4 solo tackles. While it was a quiet start, they form one of the
top fantasy S tandems in the league.
No one on the defensive line had a big game, but Bryan Fisher
got started proving the 8.5 sacks he had last season were no fluke.
Fisher had 3 tackles (2 solo), including a sack. DT Rocky Bernard
hasn’t cracked the starting lineup, but he continues to
display the ability to get to the QB. He had a sack and another
solo tackle as a back-up. In very deep leagues that require a
DT, he’s a guy who can get you a sack now and then at a
position with limited and sporadic fantasy production. A surprising
release on the defensive line in the preseason was Antonio Cochran,
who had 6.5 sacks last year and filled in adequately as a starter
when Grant Wistrom was injured.
After struggling through the loss of some key veteran leaders
last year, the Bucs D looked more like the dominant squad we’d
been accustom to in their season opener. DE Simeon Rice, who got
off to a slow start last year, was in mid-season form. He had
3 solo tackles including a sack where he forced a fumble that
Dewayne White recovered. White, who had a breakout season backing
up both DE and DT last year, also had a solo tackle. LB Derrick
Brooks had 4 solo tackles and a pick. CB Brian Kelly flashed his
2002 form, when he intercepted 8 passes, as he had 2 picks, half
as many as he had last season.
After being replaced by Jeff Gooch as a starter, LB Ryan Nece
was back in the starting SLB role on Sunday. Gooch was placed
on IR after a leg injury in the preseason. There was speculation
that rookie Barrett Ruud may get a chance to take the job, but
he didn’t see much action on Sunday, despite Nece doing
little, as well. Last year’s 3rd round pick, Marquis Cooper,
is another guy who could emerge. Ruud is believed to be the MLB
of the future, so the team could also move starting MLB Shelton
Quarles, who has played outside, to SLB and let Ruud man the middle.
However, Quarles does a good job in the middle, and led the team
with 7 solo tackles and 2 forced fumbles, on Sunday.
After a holdout and some off-field problems, then poor preseason
performance, the rocky start to the pro career of 1st round pick
CB Adam “Pacman” Jones continued. He was inactive
for the season opener after struggling as the starting corner
and losing his punt return job in the final preseason game. This
was likely a statement move and the lack of talent at corner in
Tennessee makes his return imminent. Tony Beckham replaced Jones
as a starting CB, paired with Andre Woolfolk.
The Titans have been unable to replace the talent they’ve
lost through free agency and cap casualties, causing a once top
defense to be a shell of recent versions. It starts on the ends,
where youth and a retread need to generate a pass rush. The team
had no sacks or turnovers in Pittsburgh. Antwan Odom and Kyle
Vanden Bosch started at DE, with each only posting 2 tackles.
Travis LaBoy, who missed much of camp after a sports hernia, rotated
in and had 1 tackle. LaBoy was their top pick in 2004, and along
with Odom and Bo Schobel, who was inactive, was supposed to help
bring back pressure from the edges. However, none have been that
impressive into their second year, and it could end up being Vanden
Bosch who ends up the most productive Titan end. He was a promising
player in Arizona before back-to-back ACL tears sidetracked his
career for a few years.
With the release of Lance Schulters, Lamont Thompson keeps the
FS job he took over when Schulters missed last season. He led
the team with 9 tackles (4 solo). The departure of injury-prone
LB Rocky Calmus in a trade to the Colts, locks Brad Kassell into
the starting MLB job.
After Antonio Pierce, a career back-up, was outstanding replacing
Mike Barrow last season, he cashed in on his breakout season and
moved to the division rival Giants. After the team finally officially
gave up on Barrow in the off-season, there was another scramble
to replace Pierce. Ultimately it was another career back-up, Lemar
Marshall, who won the job and the early returns were promising.
Marshall led the team with 8 tackles (6 solo) and had a crucial
pick to end a rare scoring threat by the Bears. Marshall was the
favorite to win the job in the preseason, so it’s unlikely
he’s left on the waiver wire in deep leagues, but he jumps
to the head of the potential veteran breakout class of 2005. Flanking
Marshall was Marcus Washington, who returns as the starter at
SLB, and free agent addition Warrick Holdman at WLB. Holdman got
the start with Lavar Arrington being eased back into action, still
recovering from leg problems that cost him most of 2004. Arrington
saw limited time, finishing with just 1 solo tackle. He’ll
gradually be eased back in and Holdman should return to being
the top back-up for all three LB spots.
FS Sean Taylor had his trial for assault and battery pushed back
to October 24th, but his lawyer is expected to request another
continuance to push the trial until after the season, which the
attorney general’s office apparently will be agreeable to.
It looks like Taylor is in the clear for this season, but his
dynasty league owners still have reason for concern. On the field,
Taylor had 4 solo tackles and broke up a pass. More interestingly,
he was the team’s fourth WR in red zone packages. He didn’t
see a pass, but HC Joe Gibbs indicated it was something the team
could continue to employ to capitalize on Taylor’s talent.
With Matt Bowen banged up (bruised chest) and Ryan Clark inactive
(knee), Pierson Prioleau got the start at SS and had 5 tackles
(4 solo). Bowen did see some time, but it was Omar Stoutmire who
was the most impressive reserve safety. Although he had just 1
solo tackle, he was throwing his body around and had a vicious
hit on Mushin Muhammed, causing him to drop a long third down
pass that would have resulted in a first down. CB Walt Harris
was effective in his return as a starter replacing the departed
Fred Smoot. Harris broke up 3 passes, but he still can’t
hang onto them. Depth at corner is a concern, as Artrell Hawkins
was placed on the IR prior to the season.
DT Cornelius Griffin continues to be the key impact player of
the defense. In addition to drawing double teams and collapsing
the pocket, he had 2 solo tackles, including a sack that sealed
the victory when he forced a fumble that he recovered late in
the game. He is a rare interior lineman of value in leagues that
don’t differentiate DL, and one of the top performers for
leagues requiring a DT.