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IDP Notes
Week 2

Quick Hits (Details in individual team notes)
  • 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
Week 2 Injury Report (available Wednesday PM)

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 is out.

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 the game.

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 to start.

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 Week Two.

Green Bay
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) Joey Thomas.

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 Jason Simmons.

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 an INT.

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.

Kansas City
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.

New England
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.

New Orleans
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 early.

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.

St. Louis
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.

San Diego
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.

San Francisco
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.

Tampa Bay
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.