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IDP Notes
Week 1
9/4/08

Quick Hits (Details in individual team notes)
  • No byes Week One
  • Depth charts updated with final cuts and latest roster moves
  • DE Jason Taylor joins Redskins, debut could be delayed
  • NYG Super Bowl hero DE Umenyiora sidelined for season
  • SD OLB Merriam to play through serious knee problems
  • KC LB situation a mess
  • DEN LB Webster beats out Koutouvides for MLB job
  • CIN LB Jones takes over middle, rookie LB Rivers to WLB
  • PHI LB Bradley new man in middle
  • DET rookie LB Dizon can't beat out vet LB Lenon
Week 1 Injury Report (available Friday PM)

IDP Depth Chart
ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN | CLE
DAL
| DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC
MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | OAK | PHI
PIT | STL | SD | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WAS


Defensive Headset
Beginning this season, the NFL passed a rule allowing the defense to utilize the same helmet communicator that QBs wear to hear their coaches until they shutdown with 15 seconds left on the play clock or the ball is snapped. Each team will have one primary player designated to wear the headset (indicated by a green dot on the helmet, just like the QB). There will also be a backup player designated whose headset will only be activated in the event of injury to the primary player. These are helpful indicators of fantasy value, because teams will want to select a player they use in most of their packages, i.e. someone who will be on the field for most of the snaps. However, this is a game-by-game decision. I’ve tried to mention the players I’ve seen with significant expectations to regularly wear the headset.

Arizona
Travis LaBoy comes over from the Titans and beat out Bert Berry to start at OLB in their 3-4 opposite Chike Okeafor. SS Adrian Wilson should return to be an elite fantasy producer after an injury-plagued 2007. Antrel Rolle moves from CB to starting FS and should put up solid numbers, but has been battling a high ankle sprain in the preseason.

Atlanta
After appearing to be battling former UDFA Tony Taylor for the starting MLB job in the preseason, rookie Curtis Lofton became the obvious winner when Taylor was released in the final cuts. He should be among the top producing rookies on defense. Keith Brooking returns from playing the middle last year to his familiar WLB spot. Brooking is expected to be the primary headset player. Fragile DE John Abraham suffered a right ankle sprain in the first preseason game that limited him, but he is ready for the season.

Baltimore
FS Ed Reed has been limited by a “nerve impingement” in his neck and left shoulder that is likely to cost him at least the season opener. Despite drafting two safeties, the team will lean on veteran Jim Leonhard in Reed’s absence. Leonhard broke out with the Bills last year when injuries hit their defensive backfield.

Buffalo
MLB Paul Posluszny racked up double-digit tackles in his first two games before breaking his left forearm in the third game and missed the rest of the season. Posluszny’s situation further improved this offseason when the team added Marcus Stroud to the interior.

Carolina
MLB Jon Beason looks to build on an impressive rookie season. There was some concern he would move to WLB with the addition of rookie Dan Connor, but Beason appears locked in the middle for the long term with the potential to be the top IDP producer. He is expected to usually wear the defensive headset. Thomas Davis gets a bump as he moves to WLB. DE Julius Peterson moves to the right side and should bounce back after his worst season. On the opposite side, Raiders reject Tyler Brayton won the starting job, but should rotate with Charles Johnson, who has more upside as a pass rusher.

Chicago
Brandon McGowan finished last season as the starting SS, but Kevin Payne has apparently pushed him in practice despite unspectacular performances in the preseason games. The way the front seven tackled in the preseason, the position has a look of potential on the team. McGowan gets the tentative nod as the player to have now. Alex Brown regained the starting job at RDE and Mark Anderson returns to a pass rush specialist role, a move that should benefit both.

Cincinnati
DE Antwan Odom was the significant FA signing on the defensive side of the ball, replacing the departed Justin Smith. HC Marvin Lewis hoping could help their pass rush after his breakout eight-sack season in 2007. However, Odom sprained his foot in the first practice of camp and barely saw any work. Frostee Rucker has been working with the first-team and Odom will likely be eased back in. Despite a holdout, first-round pick Keith Rivers wasted no time taking over the WLB job. He should be among the top producing IDP rookies. Dhani Jones was the surprise selection to take over the middle, but looks to have a lock on the job and potential for 2008. His value gets an additional bump as he will wear the defensive headset, meaning he should be in most packages on defense. Chinedum Ndukwe looked to be a high potential sleeper at SS, but after suffering a leg injury in camp, Dexter Jackson looks to remain the starter to begin the season. Ndukwe could surpass him shortly in to the season.

Cleveland
Andra Davis and Leon Williams rotated next to D’Qwell Jackson at ILB last year and the situation appeared to become more complicated when the team drafted Beau Bell. However, Bell battled tendonitis in his knees early in camp and finally had the right knee scoped. He made the final 53-man roster, so he will play this season, but the rotation of Davis and Williams should start the season. Davis has been wearing the headset, so he appears to slightly have more potential compared to Williams and Bell.

Dallas
CB Adam (formerly Pacman) Jones was officially reinstated, a formality that was expected. He begins the season as the third corner, ahead of first-round pick Mike Jenkins. Jones has some decent value, and big play potential, in that role alone, but is really valuable in leagues that count return stats. He will be the primary punt returner and will see work as a kick returner, as well. ILB Zach Thomas played in a career-low five games last year after a concussion and aggravation of his head and neck problems in a car accident ended his season on the IR, against his will, as he was plagued with migraines and concerns of post-concussion syndrome. However, this offseason Thomas found out a deviated septum had at least contributed to the migraines and after getting it fixed, has reported no ongoing problems. His age, lingering concerns about his head injury, and working in a 3-4 make still make him a high risk/high reward pick. ILB Bradie James is expected to be the primary headset player.

Denver
The early consensus when former Seahawk Niko Koutouvides was signed as a free agent was that he was the future MLB in Denver. However, journeyman Nate Webster, who had some limited starting experience in Tampa Bay, beat out Koutouvides. This battle went down to the wire and Webster may still be available on the waiver wire. However, temper your expectations. Not only was it a close battle, giving Webster little margin for error, but he is expected to be a two-down player. D.J. Williams, who moves from the middle to WLB, will wear the defensive headset and looks to be on the field in most packages.

Detroit
Second-round pick Jordan Dizon failed to immediately wrestle the starting MLB job away from Paris Lenon. Lenon is not an elite producer, but a nice sleeper in deep leagues, as Dizon generated initial excitement and had people discarding Lenon.

Green Bay
WLB A.J. Hawk had a minor sophomore slump, failing to turn in as many big plays as he did as a rookie in 2006. He has been battling a sprained pec and missed most of the preseason. He is questionable for opening weekend and Brandon Chillar would start in Hawk’s place if he can’t go. FS Nick Collins and SS Atari Bigby have little room for error this year as talented Aaron Rouse can play both positions and showed he is a playmaker when Collins was hurt last year. Former UDFA Bigby was the surprise of last year and continues to hold Rouse at bay, so Collins has more pressure on him despite better pedigree and a solid track record. However, Collins has also been the backup on headset to MLB Nick Barnett in the preseason.

Houston
MLB DeMeco Ryans proved he was no fluke last year, while DE Mario Williams emerged as one of the elite ends. Both players are legitimate contenders to be the top fantasy performer at their position. CB Fred Bennett also emerged as a rookie last year, particularly in the second half of the season. The team could have one of the best corner tandems in the league, but it remains to be seen how Dunta Robinson recovers from a serious injury last season. He tore his right ACL and the same hamstring in early November. Robinson will start the season on the PUP list, meaning he is out for at least the first six weeks of the season.

Indianapolis
DE Dwight Freeney worked only briefly in the preseason as he returns from a Lisfranc injury to his left foot. Raheem Brock has passed him as a starter and after two years of a significant decline in performance before the injury last season, Freeney seems a long-shot to return to being an elite performer. Playing like the Tasmanian Devil netted FS Bob Sanders the DPoY Award and made him one of the top fantasy producers last year, but it has also taken a toll on his body. Sanders had shoulder surgery in the offseason for the second straight season and he has been plagued by a number of injuries in his career. He has never played 16 games in his four-year career, twice playing less than six. Clint Session will start at SLB to begin the season as Tyjuan Hagler is on the PUP list with a torn pec. Session flashed some playmaking ability when give the opportunity as a rookie last year.

Jacksonville
Brian Williams moves from CB to SS and becomes a sneaky fantasy pick. MLB Mike Peterson has had his season cut short by injury the last two years. He’ll give you top-20 numbers when healthy, but at 32 and now being considered as injury-prone is a risky pick. He will wear the defensive headset. First-round pick DE Derrick Harvey held out most of the preseason and is now buried on the depth chart. He is a nice dynasty player, but likely ruined his chance to be an impact player this season.

Kansas City
Linebacker has been a disaster this offseason. Demorrio Williams was signed to challenge for a starting job, but instead looked like Kendrell Bell Part 2 before breaking his hand halfway through the preseason. If Williams had immediately panned out, the thought was he would start at one OLB and Donnie Edwards would move to the middle, pushing Napoleon Harris to the bench. Not only has Williams been a disappointment, but Edwards and Harris battled nagging injuries in the preseason. This opened the door for former Jaguar back-up Pat Thomas to claim the starting MLB job to begin the season. Edwards remains outside opposite Derrick Johnson. DE Tamba Hali has underwhelmed moving to the right side to replace the departed Jared Allen. The Chiefs will struggle to put pressure on the QB from the edges unless it comes from blitzes. Seventh-round pick Brian Johnston is one bright spot on the DLine, but his potential may take some time to realize.

Miami
With the departure of Zach Thomas, this becomes Channing Crowder’s defense. He’ll play WILB in their 3-4 and is a good bet to pile up tackle numbers, but has shown little big play ability. After a history of knee problems dating back to high school, he missed his first four games as a pro last year due to a right knee injury. Akin Ayodele comes over from the Cowboys to work next to Crowder inside. OLB Joey Porter had a nice debut with the Dolphins in 2007, but has been plagued by back problems in the preseason. Former first-round pick Jason Allen finally appeared to progress last year with taking over the starting FS job, but he’s failed to impress the new regime and fallen behind Chris Crocker on the depth chart.

Minnesota
The Vikings solved the one glaring weakness in their defense, rushing the passer, by adding the league’s sack leader, DE Jared Allen. Starting LDE Ray Edwards and third DE Brian Robison should benefit from the attention Allen will draw. MLB E.J. Henderson will wear the headset and looks to build on his breakout year last season. On the outside, Chad Greenway and Ben Leber switched roles. Greenway’s value takes a hit with his move to SLB while Leber, who has flashed playmaking ability since coming over to the Vikings, becomes a huge value pick. FS Madieu Williams looked to be a huge addition coming over from the Bengals, but it could be October before he makes an impact. He was not placed on the PUP list, but there are reports he could miss up to six weeks with a neck injury. Second-round pick Tyrell Johnson will be thrown in to the fire in centerfield until Williams returns.

New England
First-round pick LB Jerod Mayo looks set to be an impact rookie next to Tedy Bruschi inside the second level of the defense. The quick progression of Mayo means Adalius Thomas should be spending most of his time on the outside, so expect his sack numbers to spike after seeing extensive use inside last season.

New Orleans
Jonathan Vilma looks to move past his mysterious knee injury and ugly departure from the Jets to take over the middle in the Big Easy. His first time in a true 4-3, Vilma has huge fantasy potential, but carries some risk. After spending his entire career as mostly a back-up in Cinci, Kevin Kaesviharn has taken over the starting FS role from Josh Bullocks.

New York Giants
The retirement of DE Michael Strahan was palatable until DE Osi Umenyiora was lost for the season with a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee. Justin Tuck, coming off a breakout year last season, replaces Strahan on the left side and Mathias Kiwanuka will move from SLB to play with his hand on ground at RDE. Kiwanuka, a collegiate DE, has high upside as a pass rusher. Journeyman Danny Clark takes over at SLB, while Gerris Wilkinson looks to live up to his potential replacing Kawika Mitchell at WLB. First-round pick Kenny Phillips has impressed, but looks to share time in a deep safety group.

New York Jets
With converted DE Bryan Thomas unable to consistently bring pressure from the edge at OLB in the 3-4, the team added another converted DE, Calvin Pace, who comes off a career year last season. ILB David Harris exploded after taking over as a rookie last year and he will team with Eric Barton inside in helping the team and fans try to forget about Jonathan Vilma.

Oakland
The knock on MLB Kirk Morrison and WLB Thomas Howard was that despite being tackle-machines, neither turned in many big plays. That changed last year with four and six interceptions, respectively, by the duo. Both are extremely safe and solid IDP picks who are young enough to still have untapped upside. The two big free agent acquisitions were in the secondary, where SS Gibril Wilson and CB DeAngelo Hall should both be top fantasy performers at their positions (Hall at CB in leagues that segregate).

Philadelphia
MLB Stewart Bradley is a popular breakout pick as takes over the middle and the headset in Philly. He replaces Omar Gaither at MLB, while Gaither moves to WLB. Former NE CB Asante Samuel was the big free agent acquisition. He’ll line up with Sheldon Brown at the corner, pushing Lito Sheppard to the third corner. DE Victor Abiamiri appeared set to take a bigger role before breaking his wrist in the preseason. Quintin Mikell replaced Sean Considine after injury at SS last year and holds on to the role heading in to this season.

Pittsburgh
After battling injury and not living up to expectation in his rookie season, former first-round pick Lawrence Timmons was very impressive at ILB this preseason. Even incumbent ILB Larry Foote has admitted it’s only a matter of time before Timmons replaces him. Expect the two to cannibalize each other’s fantasy value this year, with Timmons having a nice dynasty outlook.

St. Louis
With DE Leonard Little missing most of the season with a toe injury, MLB Will Witherspoon led the team with a career-high seven sacks. That shouldn’t be the case this year, as Little has looked good this preseason and the pass rush gets a boost from first-round pick DE Chris Long. Little turns 34 this year, but could still have one more double-digit sack season left in him. Witherspoon’s sacks will drop, but he should still be a top-15 LB if he can get over a lingering groin injury from the preseason.

San Diego
OLB Shawne Merriman has decided to play through partial tears in his LCL and PCL, which he apparently did last year, despite the recommendation of multiple doctors to shut down the season with surgery. A text book high risk/high reward pick, his owners will have an anxious uneasiness each week. If Merriman doesn’t make it through the season, former UDFA Jyles Tucker is a sleeper who flashed some great potential as a pass rusher in limited opportunities last year and in the preseason. ILB Stephen Cooper is suspended for the first four games, giving veteran Derek Smith a few starts to begin the season next to Matt Wilhelm. Wilhelm comes off a strong showing in his first season as a starter. He should wear the headset, at least until Cooper returns.

San Francisco
OLB Manny Lawson looks to finally be an impact player after suffering a torn ACL early last season and ILB Patrick Willis debuted as the top fantasy producer as a rookie. The team tried to bolster the supporting cast of the former first-round picks by adding another in DE Justin Smith. Smith failed to live up to expectations as a pass rusher, and seems unlikely to improve his fantasy value there in a 3-4. The team has brought in Takeo Spikes and Ahmad Brooks to compete at ILB, but Jeff Ulbrich appears to be holding them off to start the season.

Seattle
Despite a nice showing when given the opportunity last year, the undersized Darryl Tapp looks like he’ll be replaced as a full-time DE by rookie Lawrence Jackson. Tapp could still have some value in leagues that weigh sacks heavily as a pass rush specialist. MLB Lofa Tatupu doesn’t want to wear the headset, so it may be FS Deon Grant who does.

Tampa Bay
After a strong start to the season, MLB Barrett Ruud declined significantly in the second half of the season, especially in the big play department. While it hasn’t been used as an excuse, he may have been bother by knee and other injuries. After a slow start to his rookie season, former first-round pick Gaines Adams flashed his potential throughout the rest of the season. He should be ready to push for double-digit sacks this year.

Tennessee
The big question here is if last year was a fluke for WLB Keith Bulluck or an accelerated decline. I’m betting on a return to form. SLB David Thornton comes off a huge year that saw him return to elite production at LB.

Washington
Fans may have to wait for the debut of DE Jason Taylor. He is a game-time decision, but expected to miss, his first game as a Redskin with a knee sprain. Taylor’s presence should only help RDE Andre Carter, who had his first double-digit sack since his rookie season.