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IDP Notes
Week 2
9/10/08

Quick Hits (Details in individual team notes)
  • No byes Week Two
  • Depth charts updated with final cuts and latest roster moves
  • SD OLB Merriman changes mind, opts for surgery
  • New NYG DE duo dominate opening night
  • PIT OLB tandem terrorize Texans
  • HOU DE Williams picks up where he left off 2007
  • TB WLB Brooks battling hamstring problem
  • ATL DE Abraham opens with three-sack game
  • PHI MLB Bradley starts strong in new position
  • TEN DT Haynesworth leads sack party despite concussion
  • STL DE Little injured early; rookie DE Long underwhelming in debut
  • BUF loses SLB Crowell for a year, but D steps up in big win
Week 2 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


Arizona
Linebacker coach Bill Davis appears to have made another successful transition of a DE to the Cardinals “Predator” OLB tweener job. Travis LaBoy earned the starting job and posted four tackles (three solo), including two sacks. The first sack was a gift, but the second came late in the game with classic grab-and-swat to force a fumble, which he also recovered, to seal the victory. LaBoy has a lot more value if your stat provider and league rules still allow him to be recognized as a DL. Bert Berry, who LaBoy beat for the starting role, came off the bench to get a sack, as well. ILB Gerald Hayes also had a sack among his six tackles (four solo) and WLB Karlos Dansby led the team with seven tackles (five solo) and recovered a fumble. Chike Okeafor replaced the departed Calvin Pace as the SLB. In the “Predator” role, LaBoy plays with both his hand off the ground in 3-4 looks, moving Dansby inside, and as an end in 4-3 looks.

DE Darnell Dockett picked up where his dominating 2007 season left off, posting five solo tackles and forcing a fumble. SS Adrian Wilson got off to a good start after his injury-plagued 2007 season with four tackles (three solo) and an interception.


Atlanta
While it was the new youth on the offense that stole the headlines, it was some cagey vets on defense that ensured victory on opening day. After falling behind 21-0 early, the Lions appeared to have weathered the storm and turned the momentum when they went in to halftime down just seven. Detroit came out in the second half and were marching in Atlanta territory before SS Lawyer Milloy picked off a pass, the only turnover of the game. The offense would kick a FG on the subsequent drive, the eventual difference in the final score. DE John Abraham had three sacks among his four solo tackles, including two sacks on Detroit’s last possession. While mostly playing his normal RDE position, one sack came from the left side in a pass package with normal LDE Jamaal Anderson inside and Chauncey Davis working the right end. Another sack might result in a scoring change, as it looked like Abraham and Anderson both got there at the same time. I was surprised to see they weren’t both credited with a half-sack each in the Game Book after. Anderson is still looking for his first career sacks, after getting none as a rookie last year.

SLB Michael Boley led the team with seven tackles (six solo) and broke up a pass. Rookie MLB Curtis Lofton didn’t put much in the box score, just four tackles (two solo), but had a solid debut. He stood up fellow rookie DET RB Kevin Smith and stopped a first down on a second-and-one when it looked like Smith had it. Lofton’s work was limited as Detroit was mostly behind throughout the game and passing, frequently with three- and four-receiver looks. Lofton isn’t in the Falcon’s nickel and dime packages.

Baltimore
Despite being among the top corners in real NFL terms, Chris McAlister usually isn’t among the top fantasy performers because he doesn’t produce big peripheral numbers and teams avoid targeting him (and he’s only played 16 games once in the last six years). On Sunday, he had turnovers literally falling in to his hands. With the Bengals threatening on their second series, a pass to CIN WR Chad Ocho Cinco inside the red zone was deflected and McAlister grabbed it. The offense had a TD on the subsequent drive for the first score of the game. In the second quarter, a fumbled by CIN RB Chris Perry bounced five yards and to McAlister who scooped it up. A FG on the resulting final drive of the quarter gave the Ravens a 16-0 lead heading in to half time. MLB Ray Lewis knocked the ball loose, but wasn’t credited with the forced fumble in the Game Book. McAlister also had four tackles (three solo). Nickel CB Corey Ivy suffered a right ankle injury in the fourth quarter and left the game. There is concern the injury is serious. The Ravens depth at corner improves this week as Derrick Martin and Fabian Washington return from one-game suspensions by the league.

OLB Jarret Johnson led the team with six tackles (five solo), including a sack. NT Kelly Gregg was inactive after getting a knee cleaned up last month. He was expected to be ready for the season opener, so should return soon. Justin Bannan started in place of Gregg and had a sack. Gregg is expected to try to practice this week and could return for Week Two. FS Ed Reed, who has been limited by a “nerve impingement” in his neck and left shoulder, was questionable, but started and reported feeling well during the game. He tipped the pass that McAlister picked.

Buffalo
Third DE Ryan Denney got it done on both sides of the ball on Sunday. He had one of the team’s five sacks, but also caught a 19-yard TD pass on a fake FG when Seattle left him completely uncovered on the left sideline. RDE Aaron Schobel had a sack, getting off to a good start after underperforming as a pass rusher in 2007. DT Kyle Williams had 1.5 sacks in his first two seasons before adding another sack and a half on Sunday alone, despite being bumped out of the starting lineup by the addition of Marcus Stroud in the offseason. Stroud shared a sack with Williams among his six tackles (three solo). Stroud also batted down two passes. The Bills’ DLine is looking intimidating and deep this year.

Kawika Mitchell was a solid, but unspectacular and anonymous MLB for four years in KC. As a free agent last year, the best he got was a one-year deal with the Giants and with the chance to compete for a starting job. He won the WLB job and became an important piece of a World Champion defense. Finally a commodity, he got a nice deal from the Bills this year and wasted no time paying dividends as their WLB. Mitchell had four tackles (three solo), including a sack and another TFL.

The defense suffered a devastating blow out of nowhere when SLB Angelo Crowell was placed on the IR just before the season started. He opted to have surgery on his left knee for a problem that goes back to last year and for which the swelling hampered him again this camp. The nature of the injury wasn’t disclosed, but it was originally reported he was just having the knee scoped, typically a clean-up procedure that requires no more than a few weeks to return from. The undersized Keith Ellison now takes over at SLB. Ellison had a nice debut as a rookie in 2006 when he filled in for Crowell and former Bill Takeo Spikes at various times. After earning the starting WLB job heading in to 2007, he struggled after an early ankle injury that cost him the first four games. After last season, it was clear the team viewed Ellison as a reserve when they brought in Mitchell to start opposite Crowell. The defense started in a nickel package, so Ellison didn’t officially get a start, but he filled in, as expected, in the base defense for Crowell. MLB Paul Posluszny had six tackles (three solo) and broke up two passes.

Carolina
SS Chris Harris had a strong start as an encore to his breakout 2007 season. Harris led the team with ten tackles (nine solo) and forced a fumble that CB Chris Gamble returned for a TD. De Julius Peppers had a slow start as an encore to his disappointing 2007 season. Peppers had one assist. New LDE Tyler Brayton had three solo tackles, while reserve DE Charles Johnson didn’t appear in the box score. Na’il Diggs held on to the starting SLB job over Landon Johnson and had the only sack for the Panthers among his eight tackles (6 solo). MLB Jon Beason had 7 solo tackles.

Chicago
After battling injuries last year, the Bears were an elite defense again on Sunday night. Not surprisingly, MLB Brian Urlacher (eight solo) and WLB Lance Briggs (five solo) led the way. Briggs also knocked IND RB Joseph Addai out of the game with a vicious hit and returned a fumble forced by CB Charles Tillman for a TD. The key was the improved play of the DLine. Their signature on the game was late in the second quarter when a penalty on a kick return stuck the Colts at their own 12-yard line. On first down, rookie DT Marcus Harrison burst through the middle to sack IND QB Peyton Manning for a 10-yard loss. On the next play, LDE Adewale Ogunleye stopped Addai from getting out of the end zone for the safety. Ogunleye had two other TFL among his six (five solo). On the other side, Alex Brown returned to his starting RDE role and had a sack as well as batting down a pass early in the game on a series deep in Chicago territory that contributed to holding the Colts to a FG.

Kevin Payne started at SS, but Brandon McGowan worked in various roles in the secondary, including rotating with Payne.

Cincinnati
First-round pick WLB Keith Rivers made an immediate impact, he led the team with nine solo tackles and with MLB Dhani Jones (six solo), also led the team with ten total. However, Rivers also blew contain on BAL rookie QB Joe Flacco’s improbably 38-yard TD run. Jones also had a snafu, somehow allowing himself to get blocked out of the play not once, but twice, by Flacco on BAL WR Mark Clayton’s 42-yard TD on a double-reverse. Rashad Jeanty, who narrowly won a hotly contested SLB battle, had six tackles (four solo), including catching BAL RB Ray Rice for a loss and forcing a fumble early in the fourth quarter. CB Johnathan Joseph scooped it up and returned it 65 yards for the Bengals’ first TD of the game.

DE Antwan Odom was active, coming off a foot sprain, but saw limited action, finishing with one solo tackle. Frostee Rucker started at RDE and had six tackles (four solo), including two TFL in his first career start. He also forced a fumble on the first drive of the game that LDE Robert Geathers recovered. Rucker was reportedly on crutches after the game, but I’ve seen no report of an injury. Chinedum Ndukwe was inactive with a knee injury, so Dexter Jackson started at SS.

Cleveland
CB Eric Wright had one of the few highlights for Cleveland in their disappointing performance. He cut in front of DAL WR Terrell Owens for a nice pick in the end zone, the only turnover of the game. ILB D’Qwell Jackson led the team with 11 tackles (eight solo). ILB Andra’ Davis worked more snaps that Leon Williams, posting seven tackles (five solo) to Williams’ two solo tackles. However, Davis also let a sure pick slip through his hands. FS Brodney Pool was inactive with a concussion so Mike Adams got the start in his place and posted eight solo tackles.

Dallas
CB Terence Newman was inactive due to a groin injury, so CB Adam Jones got the start in his first game as a Cowboy. Newman expects to return this week. As Dallas dominated time of possession, Jones didn’t have much of a chance to make an impact. He had a solo tackle and a pass defensed, as well as serving as the punt returner. Also in his Dallas debut, ILB Zach Thomas had five tackles (four solo). OLB Demarcus Ware and FS Ken Hamlin each had five solo tackles each. Ware also had a sack on which he forced a fumble.

Denver
Nate Webster strengthened his hold on the starting MLB job with a solid start on MNF. He led the team with 11 tackles (seven solo). WLB D.J. Williams showed no decline in production in his new role, posting seven tackles (five solo), including a sack. Former first-round pick DE Jarvis Moss was a healthy scratch and has to be considered a bust at this point.

Detroit
DE Dewayne White had the only sack for the team. That ends the highlights from an embarrassing opening day loss at Atlanta. The team had no turnovers. SS Dwight Smith led the team with eight tackles (six solo), as most of the front seven offered little resistance. WLB Ernie Sims was the exception, but he was carted off the field with a right ankle injury late in the second quarter. He did return and finished with six tackles (five solo), including one TFL, so he should be OK for this week. MLB Paris Lenon battled a rib injury in the first half and left in the fourth quarter with a knee injury, so it was hard to evaluate how much of the rotation with second-round pick Jordon Dizon was planned and how much was necessitated. Lenon finished with three solo tackles and dropped a sure pick for a TD deep in Atlanta territory late in the first half that could have tied the score. Dizon debuted with six tackles (four solo, including one on special teams). Lenon said he is “fine”, but regardless of his health, Dizon remains in the picture.

This was supposed to be a breakout season for DE Ikaika Alama-Francis as a pass rush threat in his second year. However, he was a healthy scratch in favor of rookie third-round pick Cliff Avril because Avril plays special teams and Alama-Francis doesn’t. Jared DeVries gets a bump while this situation continues because Alama-Francis is a threat to his playing time.

Green Bay
Concerns about a minor decline in his second year and a sprained pec in the preseason were alleviated as WLB A.J. Hawk led the team with ten tackles (seven solo) on MNF. MLB Nick Barnett had eight solo tackles. DE Aaron Kampman had a sack and SS Atari Bigby had a pick to end the Vikings’ final threat with less than a minute in the game, although he made the kind of dumb decision that could eventually cost him a job when he ran around the field with the ball instead of just going down. FS Nick Collins had to crawl off the field at one point in the game, conveniently right in front of a MNF camera, and appeared writhing in pain. However, somewhat to the dismay of back-up S Aaron Rouse in a way he’d never admit, Collins just had the wind knocked out of him and soon returned to the game.

Houston
DE Mario Williams finished 2007 with ten sacks in his last seven games and began 2008 with two sacks among his six solo tackles. His first sack was huge, forcing a fumble that MLB DeMeco Ryans recovered and it came on the play following a Houston turnover with the team already down 21-0. It led to a field goal and temporarily stemmed Pittsburgh’s tsunami tide. Ryans also had 12 tackles (eight solo). The performances of Williams and Ryans can be expected, the surprise was the work of second-year SLB Zach Diles. He won the job with a strong performance in the preseason, but his game-high 13 tackles (11 solo) were unexpected. On the other hand, WLB Morlon Greenwood was MIA, finishing with just one solo tackle.

Rookie LB Xavier Adibi was inactive with a lingering Achilles’ injury and could push Greenwood later this year, but was unimpressive in pads in the preseason before getting hurt. Reserve DE Stanley McClover suffered a meniscus tear on his left knee. He is expected to have surgery and likely done for the year.

Indianapolis
DE Dwight Freeney was a surprise start, although he still rotated with Raheem Brock, and showed some explosiveness for the first time in while as he returned from a Lisfranc injury. Freeney looked explosive for the first time in a while. He had his first sack in over 11 months and brought some good pressure. If your league gave up on Freeney and he’s sitting on the waiver wire, he is worth taking a chance on. On the other side, DE Robert Mathis also had a sack. FS Bob Sanders also returned from shoulder injury and was flying around the field totaling nine tackles (five solo), including a brutal hit on CHI rookie RB Matt Forte’ that briefly knocked Forte’ out of the game. However, Sanders couldn’t fly fast enough to catch Forte’ from behind, as the rookie raced by Sanders on a 50-yard TD run in the first quarter. WLB Freddie Keiaho led the team with ten tackles (eight solo).

Jacksonville
SS Brian Williams opened in his new role by tying for the team lead with eight tackles (six solo). DT John Henderson also had eight (five solo). First-round pick DE Derrick Harvey made an impact despite his extended holdout and limited snaps. Harvey snagged an attempt by TEN QB Vince Young to flip a ball over him to the flat for his first career interception.

Kansas City
Pat Thomas got just his second career start and posted seven tackles (five solo) in an unimpressive debut as the KC MLB. Napoleon Harris was inactive with continuing soreness in his knee. Thomas did nothing to lock up job security, but the team is clearly disenfranchised with Harris and his current injury situation sounds like it is his call when he will be ready. Donnie Edwards and Demorrio Williams shared time at one OLB, cannibalizing each other’s value as both finished with just two solo tackles. It was interesting that Williams didn’t seem to be in the nickel or dime packages as a pass rusher, where he should be an asset as a pass rusher. It’s hard to read the situation for either Edwards or Williams at this point because both players are dinged up. Thomas joined OLB Derrick Johnson in the nickel, which was played frequently to match up with New England’s packages. Johnson had four tackles (three solo), including a sack.

SS Bernard Pollard will now be known for knocking out Brady, but he looked very good, although he posted just five tackles (four solo).

Miami
ILB Channing Crowder and SS Yeremiah Bell led the team in tackles with ten (seven solo) each. Bell also forced a fumble. OLB Joey Porter had six tackles (two solo), including a sack and another TFL. No surprises there. The marginal surprise was converted DE Matt Roth transitioning nicely to playing with his hand off the ground in the base 3-4. Roth built on a solid preseason with a noteworthy performance in the season opener. He had five solo tackles, including forcing a fumble on a sack that ILB Akin Ayodele recovered to end a scoring threat. However, Roth also had a personal foul for a late hit that erased a fumble forced and recovered by Bell.

Minnesota
DE Jared Allen was supposed to be the missing link of adding an elite pass rush to a strong defense. In his first game, he was one pass deflection away from a goose egg across the box score as he was dominated by GB LT Chad Clifton. In early returns, Chad Greenway appears unfazed, in fantasy terms, by his move to SLB. He led the team with eight tackles (six solo), including one for a loss. As expected, second-round pick Tyrell Johnson got the start at FS for Madieu Williams. Williams is expected to be out until October with a neck injury. Nickel CB Marcus McCauley was inactive with a knee injury.

New England
SS Rodney Harrison led the team with 14 tackles (7 solo) and also brought some pressure. ILB Tedy Bruschi had 12 tackles, but only two were solo. I wouldn’t raise expectations for Bruschi too much based on that game. The KC passing game with dinking and dunking, helping pad tackle stats. First-round pick ILB Jerod Mayo had six solo tackles in his debut, and he’ll start to get there first more often as he learns the defense. OLB Mike Vrabel picked up where he left off after a career-high 12.5 sacks last season. Vrabel had two sacks among his six tackles (four solo) and was frequently applying pressure. Adailus Thomas also slid comfortably back to a predominantly OLB role. Thomas also had a sack among his four solo tackles, the one that knocked KC Brodie Croyle out of the game. Thomas didn’t have his first solo sack until Week 11 last year, as he worked mostly inside much of the year. Expect him to get back to double-digit sacks this year.

With the departure of Asante Samuel, CB Ellis Hobbs will now be counted on as a leader in the secondary and led by example of playing like a top corner on Sunday. Although he was beaten on the Chiefs only TD, he started the fourth quarter with a 51-yard KO return on the subsequent kick, then added an interception and sack, on which he forced a fumble, in later drives to help protect the lead. CB Deltha O’Neal had a solid performance, chasing down KC WR Devard Darling after a big gain to prevent a game-tying TD late in the fourth quarter. On the same drive on fourth-and-five at the NE five-yard line, O’Neal preserved the victory getting between KC WR Dwayne Bowe and the pass. O’Neal finished with three solo tackles and saw extensive, and critical, work despite signing with the team six days earlier. He also saw work returning punts. O’Neal has talent, but inconsistency and attitude wore out his welcome in previous stops at Cincinnati and Denver, who made him a first-round pick in 2000. He is likely to fall in line with the Pats, at least for this year, and now that we know he’ll have opportunity, makes for nice consideration as a bye week filler or acquisition now in deep leagues.

New Orleans
MLB Jonathan Vilma (seven solo) and SLB Scott Fujita (eight solo, including one on special teams) led the team with nine tackles. Fujita also had a pick on the Bucs’ final play of the game to preserve the victory. Vilma was used frequently in blitzes, and although he never closed the deal on Sunday, he could be looking at some nice additional fantasy value this year from that role. LDE Charles Grant and third DE Bobby McCray each had a sack.

New York Giants
The new starting DE tandem of Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka got off to a great start on the opening night of the NFL season. Tuck, who replaces Michael Strahan on the left side, set the tone with a sack on the first play from scrimmage by the Redskins, setting up a three-and-out. It was the only sack of the day for the Giants, who led the league with 53 last season, but they brought solid pressure on an ineffective WAS QB Jason Campbell all night. Tuck totaled six tackles (four solo), including two TFL. Kiwanuka made a seamless transition from SLB to the injured Osi Umenyiora’s starting RDE spot. Kiwanuka finished with six tackles (four solo), including a TFL and gave the team a scare on the last play of the game. As the Washington line tried to buy time for a desperate final pass, Kiwanuka was cut from behind after beating WAS LT Chris Samuel. Samuel was visibly upset at himself while Kiwanuka stayed on his knees and had to be helped off with a ginger left ankle. Kiwanuka immediately had x-rays after the game. They were negative and he declared himself fine to the press in post-game interviews and appears set to play this week, although he was still battling soreness and swelling on Tuesday.

CB Aaron Ross led the team with 8 tackles (7 solo) and also broke up a pass. After a tight preseason competition, James Butler (SS) and Michael Johnson (FS) came out the winners in the middle of the secondary. First-round pick Kenny Phillips rotated in certain packages and finished with four solo tackles (one on special teams). Veteran Sammy Knight was non-factor, playing just on special teams. It looks like Johnson and Phillips will cannibalize each other’s value while splitting time while Butler has the best short-term value. Another emerging job share was WLB, where Gerris Wilkinson started as expected and posted three assists (and one solo on special teams), but rookie Bryan Kehl also saw significant action and posted five solo tackles. Phillips and Kehl will have sporadic value this year while sharing time, but both have nice dynasty potential. A couple other rookies won’t see the field soon. CB Terrell Thomas (hamstring) and LB Jonathan Goff (back - fractured transverse process) are out indefinitely, with Goff expected to miss several weeks.

New York Jets
The team’s top pass rushers all got the job done against their former QB in a win at Miami. OLB Bryan Thomas had two sacks after disappointing with just 2.5 in 2007. It looks like he’ll be holding off first-round pick Vernon Gholston a while longer, although Gholston brought some pressure in limited opportunities. Big FA addition OLB Calvin Pace had his first sack as a Jet. DE Shaun Ellis had a sack among his four solo tackles and also brought good pressure. A big help to the front seven seemed to be the addition of DT Kris Jenkins, who demanded attention in the middle. ILB Eric Barton led the team with six solo tackles.

CB Darrelle Revis sealed the victory with a pick in the end zone with seconds left in the game. Rookie CB Dwight Lowery got the start opposite Revis and had a strong debut, breaking up three passes.

Oakland
A secondary that is supposed to be one of the best in the league was killed by a rookie (DEN WR Eddie Royal) and dissected by DEN QB Jay Cutler. Royal undressed fellow VaTech alum CB DeAngelo Hall and Hall behaved as usual when frustrated, getting stupid penalties and blaming everyone else while arguing with coaches on the sidelines. Did everyone else feel embarrassed for the Raiders watching that game? No sacks and no turnovers by the defense. New SS Gibril Wilson led the team with 11 tackles (six solo), but showed none of the trademark big play ability that made him an asset on the Giants.

Philadelphia
Stewart Bradley looked great in his debut at MLB. He led the team with nine tackles (eight solo), including a sack, and broke up a pass. The whole LB group appeared to work well together, so with Bradley looking locked in at MLB, he has some great fantasy potential and shouldn’t be sitting on the waiver wire. SS Quintin Mikell, who took over the role when Sean Considine was injured last year and never relinquished it, also played well. Mikell had nine tackles (seven solo) and forced a fumble on a sack. He is another player who might have fallen under the radar and should be scooped up in most leagues.

After seeing little work at DE last year, DT Darren Howard was born again now that he’s moved inside. He rotated in regularly and shared a sack with DT Mike Patterson. Most importantly, he looked motivated again. Howard could have some value in deeper leagues that require a DT if he is listed as one. DE Victor Abiamiri was inactive as he continues to recover from a broken wrist. When healthy, he and Chris Clemons will rotate in, but RDE Trent Cole and LDE Juqua Thomas are locked in as starters.

Pittsburgh
OLB James “Deebo” Harrison led the team with nine tackles (seven solo, including one on special teams) and three sacks, forcing a fumble on one. However, the story was on the other side where OLB LaMarr Woodley took over as a starter and showed he’s the next plug-and-play LB stud for the Steelers. Woodley brought good pressure and recorded a sack, which is expected, but had a brilliant all-around game with two other solo tackles, his first career pick (on a play in which Harrison brought the pressure), and recovery of the fumble Harrison forced. The OLB duo looks ready to join Kevin Greene and Greg Lloyd or Joey Porter and Jason Gildon as the next great pass rushing tandem in the Steelers 3-4. Both those pairs are tied with a team record of 24 sacks in a season. Harrison and Woodley are off to a great start in joining or surpassing their mark. Lawrence Timmons, who is coming off a great preseason, saw some work from the edge and shared time with ILB Larry Foote. After failing to record a pick in an injury-plagued season last year, SS Troy Polamalu got his first of the season on the next possession by the Texans after Woodley’s pick led to a TD. Polamalu also had three solo tackles.

St. Louis
First-round pick RDE Chris Long had a disappointing debut on Sunday. In addition to the Rams getting killed, Long was not an immediate impact player, at least against veteran PHI LT Tra Thomas. Thomas, a massive three-time Pro Bowler, had his way with the rookie most of the game. Long finished with two solo tackles and a broken right pinky, which he’ll continue to play through. It didn’t help that LDE Leonard Little left that game four plays in. James Hall replaced Little, who didn’t return after injuring his hamstring. Little is expected to miss a couple weeks, so Hall should get the starting nod. Hall finished leading the team with 10 tackles (eight solo), but he isn’t nearly the pass rush threat that Little is and struggled in playing the left side. Hall could move to his more comfortable right side and Long to the left end while Little is out. The team had no sacks and the front four mustered little pressure on their own.

FS O.J. Atogwe had eight solo tackles and forced a fumble that the Eagles recovered. MLB Will Witherspoon was largely MIA, finishing with just four tackles (one solo), which brings to question how much a groin injury from the preseason is still lingering and impacting his play. While Little is out, if Witherspoon is healthy, we could see him blitzing more like last year to help generate some pass rush.

San Diego
OLB Shawne Merriman’s left knee made it through Week One, but didn’t allow him to be the explosive playmaker he should be, so he has decided to opt for surgery for his torn PCL and LCL. He is expected to be ready for training camp next year. Jyles Tucker, who we discussed last week, will replace Merriman at OLB.

DE Igor Olshansky had the only sack for the Chargers on Sunday. Veteran new addition Derek Smith started at ILB next to Matt Wilhelm. Smith will start until Stephen Cooper returns from a four game suspension. FS Eric Weddle led the team with 11 tackles (7 solo). First-round pick Antoine Cason won the nickel CB job with a strong preseason and showed some nice aggressiveness when he lit up CAR WR D.J. Hackett to force a fumble that OLB Shaun Phillips recovered. Cason also had six tackles (5 solo) and broke up a pass.

San Francisco
Justin Smith was the team’s big off-season free agent acquisition and they looked to immediately get their money’s worth. Smith played every snap on defense, up-and-down the front four and at OLB. Smith (three solo) and SS Michael Lewis (four solo) led the team with seven tackles. Smith also shared a sack with LOLB Parys Haralson. Haralson, who also had two solo sacks, was the team’s big story of Week One. After two non-descript years in the league, the converted DE from Tennessee doubled his career sack total in one game. I wouldn’t overreact to one game, but he becomes someone to keep an eye on.

Seattle
LDE Patrick Kerney picked up where he left off in 2007, getting a sack in the season opener. However, it was about the only highlight in a rough loss in Buffalo. First-round pick Lawrence Jackson started at RDE and rotated with Darryl Tapp. Jackson also works inside, with Tapp at end, in some pass packages. The team had no other sacks and forced no turnovers.

MLB Lofa Tatupu left the first half early and didn’t return after halftime because of a right thumb injury. He eventually returned in the third quarter with it padded and finished the game with eight tackles (five solo) and a pass defensed.

Tampa Bay
Last year MLB Barrett Ruud started hot and ended cold. He is repeating at least the first part this year. Ruud led the team with 10 tackles (9 solo), including a TFL. Ruud also brought the pressure that forced a turnover when he NO QB Drew Brees in the first quarter, redirecting his pass to CB Phillip Buchanon. Buchanon took it 26 yards for a TD to tie the game early. He also had four solo tackles. A former first round pick with Oakland, Buchanon is finally living up to his potential, starting across from Rhonde Barber. Buchanon won’t be returning punts this year as long as explosive rookie WR Dexter Jackson doesn’t have fumbling problems. After a tough preseason, 2007 breakout Greg White got off to a good start as the third DE. He had three tackles (two solo), including the only sack for the Bucs. RDE Gaines Adams brought some pressure, but failed to close the deal or record a tackle.

WLB Derrick Brooks took himself out of the game in the third quarter when he couldn’t play through a right hamstring strain. He tried to return, but was unable to finish. Adam Hayward was first in line to replace him, but fell victim to cramps, so it was Matt McCoy who finished the game. Brooks is questionable for this week and could miss his first game ever. HC Jon Gruden mentioned the team could move SLB Cato June to the weakside and start Quincy Black at SLB if Brooks is out. I’m not sure why Hayward and McCoy got the opportunity on Sunday before Black. Hayward was a sixth-round pick last year who plays mostly special teams and McCoy is a former second-round pick of the Eagles who failed to hold on to a starting job for them when it was handed to him. Black was a third-round pick last year who was expected to be groomed as the eventual replacement for Brooks. The team could be move June there as a short-term answer because of his experience, or perhaps the long-term plan has changed to June move to the weakside when Brooks retires.

Tennessee
The defense went after the JAX QB David Garrard and aided by two injuries to the JAX OLine in the game, rang up seven sacks. The DT tandem of Albert Haynesworth and Tony Brown (DT, CB) led the way with two each. Haynesworth apparently played much of the game with a concussion, sitting out much of the first half before returning. He provided a frightening statement after the game that he couldn’t remember much of it. He is expected to play this week, but monitor his status. In his return to his original team, DE Jevon Kearse was one of the few members of the DLine, on down to back-ups, who didn’t have at least half a sack. Another disappointing 2008 debut was WLB Keith Bulluck. For those hoping for a return to form after a disappointing 2007, it didn’t happen for him in the season opener. Bulluck posted just two tackles (one solo).

The CB tandem of Nick Harper and Cortland Finnegan was the most fantasy-friendly in the league last year, and they are off to a good start this season. Harper led the team with eight solo tackles and Finnegan picked off two passes.

Washington
DE Jason Taylor made his debut opening night and kept his string of 130 consecutive games alive. His first game as a Redskin was in doubt due to a knee sprain suffered in the preseason. He finished with just two solo tackles. Not surprisingly, MLB London Fletcher led the team with 17 tackles (12 solo), including a TFL.

CB Shawn Springs was a surprise scratch due to a shin contusion after getting kicked in the left leg during practice. X-rays were negative, but the swelling prevented Springs from playing. Fred Smoot started in his place and was picked on frequently before leaving in the third quarter with a hip pointer. Smoot posted eight tackles (seven solo) and picked off an errant pass as NYG QB Eli Manning was being hit by DE Andre Carter. Smoot also dropped a potential pick in the end zone. He left the game after bouncing off NYG RB Brandon Jacobs as Smoot tried to stop him, but the injury appeared to come from teammate Chris Horton diving in to him to finish off Jacobs. Both Springs and Smoot are expected to play this week. FS LaRon Landry was absolutely flattened when he tried to tackle Jacobs too high in the first quarter. He finished with five solo tackles and shared a sack with Carter. Landry and CB Carlos Rogers also dropped potential picks.

DE Chris Wilson had the only solo sack for the team, ending a drive in the fourth quarter and keeping the team’s hope briefly alive late in the game. Wilson is working as the third DE. Undrafted out of DII Northwood (Mich.) University, he spent two years in the CFL before getting a contract with the Redskins last year. He flashed some good pass rush ability in his first season in limited action. He had four sacks last year, including two in a victory over the Cowboys in the season finale to clinch a playoff spot. The undersized Wilson has probably hit his ceiling as a pass rush specialist, but is worth tracking of as a bye week waiver gamble in deep leagues that score sacks highly.