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IDP Notes
Week 1
9/9/10

Week 1 Injury Report (available Friday PM)

IDP Depth Chart

Early Game Alert:
Thursday: MIN @ NO 8:20pm EST

Players on PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) are out for at least the first six weeks of the season. Players on the IR (Injured Reserve) are out for the entire season.

Defensive Line

  • A tumultuous offseason for Washington DT Albert Haynesworth began when new HC Mike Shanahan brought in a 3-4 defense and Haynesworth immediately resisted the assumption heíd play nose tackle. He then proceeded to skip the voluntary spring OTAs, which Shanahan made clear his less than voluntary expectations for veterans and a mandatory mini-camp in June, before showing up and failing his conditioning test multiple times at the start of training camp. Haynesworth became further alienated when he felt the organization understated the severity and didnít legitimize his test failures as far as they were due to knee problems and a diagnosis of rhabdomyolysis Ė a rapid breakdown of muscle due to muscle injury and the resulting muscle debris in the bloodstream being particularly dangerous to the kidneys. In the context of athletes, it seems to be triggered by excessive exercise in heat and can be easily treated by rest and rehydration.

    Of course, the counterpoint left unstated by Shanahan is that Haynesworth didnít maintain decent athletic condition in the first place, hence his problems. After finally passing the test and having to work his way up the ladder like everyone else, insult to injury seemed to come when Shanahan left Haynesworth for almost the entire preseason finale, a game that starters typically see little to any action. While the extent of his expected role continues to be debated and rumors still swirl that heíll be traded, expect Haynesworth to play in the season opener and be an impact player. He should see time at both nose tackle and five-technique end. However, be ready to jump ship if the relationship continues to deteriorate and Haynesworth isnít traded. Shanahan has no problem exerting his authority and no fear of job security. A potential outcome of seeing Haynesworth deactivated for the rest of the season, a la Keyshawn Johnson in 2003, isnít out of the question.

  • Former first-round pick Jamaal Anderson has been replaced by Kroy Biermann at starting LDE in Atlanta. A converted LB, Biermann has good upside as a pass rusher, but also will rack up some tackle numbers. Productive DT Jonathan Babineaux is suspended for the first game of the season, but should be back in the starting lineup in the second week of the season.

  • In Philadelphia, rookie Brandon Graham continues to impress non-stop and will start at DE opposite stalwart fantasy producer Trent Cole. After that, it appears Juqua Parker remains the top back-up at end, but donít expect him to meet or exceed the career-high 8.5 sacks he posted last year. The disappointment has been Darryl Tapp, who the Eagles traded Chris Clemons and a 2010 fourth-round pick to Seattle for. Some reports say Tapp was on the roster bubble and might not have made it if they hadnít paid what they did to acquire him. It appears he may be behind rookie Daniel Te'o-Nesheim in the end rotation, so Iíd disregard both for now in redraft leagues. Annual disappointment Victor Abiamiri starts the season the PUP and rookie tweener Ricky Sapp is on the IR, so both can be ignored this year. As for the other side of that trade from a Seattle perspective, I love Clemons as a DE sleeper this year. He is locked in to a starting job for the first time in his career and has shown he can get to the QB.

  • It apparently takes a village to replace DE Julius Peppers in Carolina. It appears Charles Johnson will get the start at LDE, opposite the solid, but unspectacular, Tyler Brayton, who remains the starter at RDE. I like Johnson to capitalize on the opportunity for a starting role, but he might be moved inside in certain pass packages, which will inhibit his sack total. The reason for the move is that Everette Brown and rookie Greg Hardy have both impressed this preseason. Brown, who the team traded their 2010 first-round pick to select in the second round last year, looks improved after a limited situational pass rush role last year and Hardy, who plummeted to the fifth round after a disappointing final season at Mississippi last year, has shown why he was considered a first-round talent this time last year at Mississippi before a disappointing final college season saw him plummet to the fifth round. Both should see plenty of work in pass packages and could claim a larger role before the end of the season. I really like Hardy for dynasty leagues, has the size and talent to be an every-down end if he stays healthy and works hard.

  • I donít get the optimism for St. Louis DE Chris Long now that Leonard Little is gone. Long has not displayed that he has elite pass rushing skills in two full seasons and I donít see him becoming a player capable of double-digit sacks.

  • After much speculation fueled by their off-season moves, it appears the Raiders will remain a base 4-3 defense, but this situation remains influx right up to opening day. The biggest question mark is the personnel and use of the mix of tweeners they have between DE and OLB. Most certain seems to be keeping Kamerion Wimbley at SLB. A converted collegiate DE, Wimbley was groomed at OLB in Cleveland and the team looks comfortable leaving him in that role. On the other side, it appeared for most of the preseason that Trevor Scott would retain the WLB role he moved to from DE by necessity late last year due to injury. Despite his size (that is, too tall for LB) and lack of experience defending the pass, the team seemed happy with his conversion until the last week or so. Scott has now been working in more at both end positions and could replace Matt Shaughnessy as the starting RDE. If Scott moves back to DE, it is reported Quentin Groves, another tweener, has ascended the depth chart and would start at WLB. I donít expect that to last. Unless this team is going to be rushing six people every pass, they need someone capable of defending the pass, and the only LB they have who is decent at it is Thomas Howard. Iím shocked at how far out of favor he has fallen and wonít be surprised to see him ending up with a larger role than expected when all this is sorted out and they realize they donít have the personnel allocated properly.

    At anchor end, rookie Lamarr Houston has impressed enough out of the gate that he also seems to have good job security for now, although he could be replaced or bumped inside on passing downs by Scott or Shaugnessy, if Scott takes over the right side. The interior seems more stable. Richard Seymour has moved back inside to DT, where he has more value as a DT than he would have been as a DE for leagues that segregate between line positions. Tommy Kelly slides over to the nose tackle inside. Impressive young Harvard grad Desmond Bryant, a former UDFA, and John Henderson, who signed after being cut by Jacksonville, provide depth for the interior. Iím still not convinced they donít move more toward a 3-4 front. It makes more sense with their personnel in the front seven.

  • Rocky Bernard has had a strong preseason for the Giants. He once posted 8.5 sacks and appears to have his interior rush mojo back on. He could be a wavier wire gem in leagues that segregate DTs.

  • Look for Minnesota DE Ray Edwards to post double-digit sacks this year. He was a quite top-ten DE without them last year.

Linebacker

  • The loss of WLB Thomas Davis for the season has disrupted Carolinaís plans at linebacker. Stud MLB Jon Beason has moved to WLB, clearing the way for Dan Connor to start at his natural position. Connor looks to be just a two-down LB, with Beason moving back to the middle in their nickel package. While not ideal for Beason from a fantasy perspective, it shouldnít impact his fantasy value much. If Connor struggles, look for versatile back-up Jamar Williams to get more work.

  • With ILB Gerald Hayes on the PUP (back surgery) for Arizona and Karlos Dansby having defected to Miami in free agency, second-round pick Daryl Washington will see plenty of time on the field out of the gate and be counted on to quickly meet his high expectations. BTW, I expect huge statistical output from Dansby in Miami, where he should see more pass rushing opportunities in addition to continuing to pile up tackles.

  • Sleeper alert: Jameel McClain has won the starting ILB job next to Ray Lewis in Baltimore. You may remember the name from 2008, when as an UDFA rookie special teamer, he had a sack for a safety on his first defensive snap ever late in the season and would get in on a couple more sacks before the end of the year. He failed to carry that momentum in to last season, remaining primarily a special teams player, but broke through this preseason, beating out incumbent Dannell Ellerbe and injury-plagued 2008 fourth-round pick Tavares Gooden, who was expected to ease the loss of Bart Scott after that season by becoming Lewisí new partner. McClain probably wonít rack up tackle numbers, but has some appeal in leagues rewarding big plays. However, his hold on the job is tenuous and it could remain a committee situation if he doesnít establish himself early in the season.

  • An interesting situation is building with Cincinnati linebackers. DE Michael Johnson had some brilliant flashes working with hand off the ground and rushing as an OLB in the preseason. With HC Marvin Lewis apparently satisfied with Antwan Odom and Robert Geathers remaining the starters at end, Johnson appeared limited to a situational pass rushing role there, but now he looks set to be part of the LB rotation in certain packages, as well. This initially appears to come at the expense of SLB Rey Maualuga. The team would probably prefer for Maulaluga to have moved Dhani Jones out at MLB by now, and he probably could on strictly a talent basis, but they still appear to want to Jones there quarterbacking the defense and for his leadership. However, it could be Jones bumped out of certain packages with Maualuga staying in the middle and Johnson on the outside. The key things to take away from this: (1) Johnsonís value looks more promising for this year, especially in leagues where he is listed as a DE instead of a LB (since heíll put up good DE numbers, but not good LB numbers), (2) one or both of Maualuga and Jones take a hit this year, watch the situation closely, but Maualuga has the huge upside in dynasty leagues, and (3) Odom and Geathers seem to have more short-term job security.

  • The Jets will be without OLB Calvin Pace to start the season for the second straight year. Pace broke his right foot in a preseason game on 8/27. After originally being projected to be out the standard 4-6 weeks, HC Rex Ryan said he is ahead of schedule. Jason Taylor will see more work until Pace returns.

  • Rookie Sean Weatherspoon will start at the less fantasy-friendly SLB job in Atlanta opposite Mike Peterson, who remains the WLB.

  • After a fine preseason that saw him move from UDFA in 2009 to starting WLB in New Orleans, Jonathan Castillas is now out for the season with a Lisfranc fracture. Scott Shanle moves back to WLB, regaining the value it appeared he would lose by moving to SLB to make way for Castillas. Another former UDFA, Jo-Lonn Dunbar should join the starting lineup, but he will be on a short leash as the team added journeyman Danny Clark for depth and could also look to give Stanley Arnoux, a fourth-round pick last year who missed the season due to injury, an opportunity.

  • The linebacker situation remains a mess in Kansas City. It appears both starting ILBs from last year, Corey Mays and Demorrio Williams, have been replaced by Jovan Belcher and Derrick Johnson. While Iíd avoid this situation as much as possible, I like Johnsonís chances to resurrect his career if heís out of HC Todd Haleyís doghouse. He has the most talent and could easily bounce back if he plays consistently. Look for Williams to get more opportunities outside, where he was has been mistakenly ignored in the new regime, to take advantage of his pass rushing skills. On the outside, Tamba Hali is the only lock and their best pass rusher. Aging veteran Mike Vrabel is being pushed by Andy Studebaker for a starting role and, as mentioned, could lose time to Williams in passing situations.

  • After St. Louis added former Dallas LB Bobby Carpenter, he was expected to be the starting WLB. A disappointing preseason resulted in Carpenter being cut and Larry Grant winning the job.

  • After exploding on the scene filling in for MLB Lofa Tatupu last year, the future for David Hawthorne seemed unclear with Tatupu back. Both players are too good to keep off the field, but the situation solved itself when WLB Leroy Hill had off-field issues in the offseason. The team wasted no time elevating Hawthorne to the starting WLB role, which heís unlikely to relinquish even once Hill returns from a two-game suspension to start the season. After a disappointing fantasy season as a rookie for SLB Aaron Curry, look for his numbers to improve under new HC Pete Carroll and his creative defensive mind.

  • Two vets coming off significant injuries have looked good back in the middle this preseason and should be competing for top-25 numbers: Stewart Bradley in Philadelphia and E.J. Henderson in Minnesota.

  • I really like Ernie Sims as the new WLB in Philadelphia. It is a great fit for both the player and the team. He has fallen off the radar of most, but if he can stay healthy, which was really the only problem in Detroit, he will be a tackle-machine.

  • Most seem to be ignoring Jonathan Goff as the MLB for the Giants. He fell off the grid when veteran Keith Bulluck showed up in the preseason and got some work there, but Goff has locked the job up. Bulluck seems to think he will be starting this weekend, which could mean Michael Boley is moved to SLB, where he has experience and Bulluck doesnít, and Clint Sintim is relegated to a situational pass rush role. Iíd be extremely cautious with Bulluck and I still like Boley best of the group, a slight edge over Goff due to more playmaking ability, as long as he remains at WLB.

Defensive Back

  • Veteran FS Darren Sharper will begin the year on the PUP in New Orleans, so former first-round pick Malcolm Jenkins will move to centerfield to start the season. Lacking elite speed, many thought Jenkins would be a better fit at safety than cornerback coming out of college. With a thin linebacker corps, he could be a sleeper who could put up some tackle numbers and should be a ball hawk with teams needing to go to the air early and often against a high-powered Saintsí offense.

  • Injury-prone SS Bob Sanders is as healthy as he gets and the 2007 DPOY for Indianapolis could be a tremendous value this year as he has been falling down draft boards due to risk. Melvin Bullitt remains a quality replacement if (when) Sanders gets hurt again.

  • Former Notre Dame star Tom Zbikowski finally gets chance in Baltimore at FS as Ed Reed starts the year on the PUP. You canít keep a playmaker like Reed out of the lineup when heís healthy, so Tommy Zís value could be short-lived, but knowing he is seen as the heir bumps up his dynasty standing. When Reed comes back, remember he is a complete boom-or-bust performer week-to-week at this stage in his career. If your league is tackle-heavy and doesnít score big plays well, Reed isnít as appealing. The Ravens are also plagued by injuries at corner, where Dominique Foxworth landed on the IR and likely starters Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb both struggle to return from injuries last year. To help their thin depth, the team acquired Josh Wilson from Seattle. Wilson has a huge fantasy season two years ago, but was buried back down last year. He could be a significant fantasy contributor at corner this year.

  • As expected, veteran Al Harris wonít start the season in Green Bay after a gruesome knee injury late last year. Heíll begin the season on the PUP and it likely ends his career if he has any setbacks. The beneficiary is Tramon Williams, who has posted some great numbers as the third corner the last two years and has shown big-play ability. He is also currently their primary punt returner, giving him a significant boost in leagues that count return stats.

  • Patrick Chung appears installed as the SS in New England and has potential for Rodney Harrison numbers if he meets his upside.

  • Chicago looked to address lingering issues at safety when they corrected a mistake from a few years ago Ė trading away Chris Harris. The team re-acquired Harris from Carolina in the offseason and added a player capable of creating the turnovers HC Lovie Smith bases his defense on. Harris is more comfortable at SS, but has been lining up at FS with Danieal Manning at SS, which is odd as Manning is better in coverage. The team also drafted Major Wright and he impressed before breaking a finger during the preseason. Wright is healthy now and the secondary could be shaken up again. I expect Harris to eventually take over FS, moving Harris to SS and bumping Manning to the nickel. Until then, Manning is a sleeper who could put up his best tackle numbers if he can stay as the starter at either position for a whole season.

  • Watch the position battle at safety in San Francisco. Incumbent Michael Lewis has been an extremely consistent producer since rejuvenating his career when he came over from Philadelphia three years ago. A free agent after this season, the writing was on the wall for Lewisí future when the team drafted Taylor Mays in the second round, but Mays is proved ready for prime time now. Also, Reggie Smith, a converted college corner, has shown the chops for either safety position and deserves more playing time. FS Dashon Goldson, who had a break out season last year, seems to have the most job security.

Position Eligibility
The complex and variable defensive schemes employed in the NFL have made identifying the position of a player ambiguous, at best, on some teams. If your league bases position eligibility solely as listed on your stat provider’s website, it is a good time to take stock of your roster and the waiver wire for players who may be recognized at a more beneficial position based on your scoring system. For example, in leagues where sacks are undervalued, a player who is listed as a DE, but will be more often line up as a LB, is likely to have more tackles and be more valuable, even though he may rush the passer less.