Last week we wondered who would take over for S D.J. Swearinger. The answer: every rookie named Thompson.
Jalen Thompson went from no playing time over the first 4 games to 67% of the snaps in the Week 5 win at Cincinnati. Deionte Thompson went from 27 total snaps over the first 4 weeks to 64% playing time against the Bengals.
I didn’t see it before the game, but DC Vance Joseph said late last week that he had packages designed for both players. Jalen Thompson opened the game on the field next to Budda Baker. Deionte Thompson’s 1st tackle came early in the 2nd quarter, on the 3rd defensive drive for Arizona.
The back injury for slot CB Tramaine Brock clouds the read on this, though. Brock entered Week 5 questionable and left the game early. Baker, as a result, spent much more time in the slot than he has at any other point this season. He was back to the role split that he played last season. Jalen Thompson, in turn, spent nearly all of his time at FS. Deionte Thompson split between SS and FS after spending nearly all of his previous playing time at FS.
So what will it mean for the Thompson twins (they’re not related) if Brock is ready to play in Week 6? We probably can’t answer that yet. If Brock sits against the Falcons, though, then all 3 Cardinals safeties could be playable against the league’s most pass-heavy offense so far this season.
Let’s start reading the top of the NFL’s D-line tackle leaders: Sam Hubbard. Danielle Hunter. Grady Jarrett. Joey Bosa, Cameron Heyward, Tyeler Davison … wait.
The 27-year-old, in his 1st year with the Falcons, already sits just 7 total tackles shy of his career high (31 for the Saints in 2017). Davison has topped a 70% snap share 3 times already through 5 weeks. He reached 70% just 4 times over the previous 4 seasons.
Davison still sits outside the top 40 in balanced IDP scoring, but he looks helpful for tackle-heavy scoring.
The Ravens just signed veteran free-agent LB Josh Bynes last Wednesday. They wasted no time, however, in promoting him to the starting job next to Patrick Onwuasor.
Bynes played 72% of the snaps in Sunday’s OT win over the Steelers. Kenny Young was a healthy scratch, meanwhile, and Chris Board (a special-teamer) played just 1 snap on defense.
OLB Lorenzo Alexander played a season-high 69% of the defensive snaps in last Sunday’s win over the Titans. That followed a Week 4 jump in playing time. Here were Alexander’s first 4 shares:
This trend puts Alexander back on the radar for pressure/sack-friendly IDP leagues after the Week 6 bye.
Edge Mario Addison has now delivered 6 sacks over just the past 3 games, and at least a half-sack in 4 straight outings. Only Bucs OLB Shaq Barrett has more sacks for the season. Addison delivered 9 and 11 sacks the previous 2 seasons, his first 2 career turns as a full-time starter.
DL Roy Robertson-Harris played a season-high 73% of the snaps in Sunday’s loss to the Raiders. Nick Williams played 58%, his 2nd highest share behind only the 62% of the previous week. Akiem Hicks’ early departure with an elbow injury factored in. We’ll see about his status for Week 7. Don’t forget about Williams or RRH, though.
SS Morgan Burnett returned to action for Monday night’s loss at San Francisco after missing the previous 2 games with a quad injury. He opened the game on the field but played just 34% of the defensive snaps overall. Jordan Whitehead -- who had filled in for Burnett -- also started and played 95% (72 of 76).
We’ll see whether this is a permanent change at the position, a matter of working Burnett back in slowly, a plan for managing the missing CBs (Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams) or some combo of all those things.
Pro Football Focus has had Whitehead spending most of his time at safety but also working in some slot-CB snaps each game. Not surprisingly, his greatest exposure there (19 snaps) came in Week 4 against Baltimore’s TE-heavy offense.
There’s something up with DE Demarcus Lawrence.
The guy who finished 11th among fantasy D-linemen last year and 4th the year prior (depending on your scoring format) currently sits just 35th. Lawrence has managed just 1 solo tackle and 1.2 total tackles per game after averaging 2.5 and 3.9, respectively, over the past 2 seasons. And he’s on pace for only 8 sacks.
Lawrence has fared solidly in QB hits, tallying 6 through 5 games. That puts him on pace for 19, which would be just 4 short of the 23 last year that ranked him 13th in the league. Lawrence’s Pro Football Focus numbers suggest it’s not just a matter of his pressures being hidden from box-score stats so far, though.
Lawrence ranks 45th among all edge players in overall grade so far; 34th in pass rushing and 48th in run defense. Here’s how he finished in those categories the past couple of years …
And here’s a snapshot of his PFF grades across categories over the past 2 years and so far this season (2019 on top) …
Is the problem just that he’s getting too much blocking attention? Maybe. ESPN’s Seth Welder tweeted last week that Lawrence leads all edge players in the percentage of plays on which he has seen double teams. Here’s the rest of the top 5 and where they rank in PFF pass-rushing grades …
Josh Allen, Jaguars -- 41st
J.J. Watt, Texans -- 3rd
Chase Winovich -- 60th
Za’Darius Smith -- 22nd
Perhaps he’s also still rounding into form. Lawrence had April surgery for a torn labrum in his left shoulder, which had reportedly bothered him over the previous 2 seasons. Lawrence clearly showed he could play through that injury. But the surgery kept him off the active roster until late August. It’s entirely possible he’s still rebuilding strength.
Lawrence does sit tied for 20th among edge players in total pressures for the season. He ranked 15th in that category in 2018. And Lawrence’s average of 3.5 per contest puts him on pace for 58 over a full season. That’s not far from the 63 he generated last season. (It’d fall a pretty good distance short of his 79 in 2017, though.)
What do we do with all of this? Well, Lawrence hasn’t been terrible for fantasy owners so far -- just a bit disappointing. So adjust your expectations down a bit, but don’t quit on him. This week presents an upside matchup with the Jets, followed by a decent matchup with the Eagles. After that comes a bye, which might be a good thing for Lawrence.
With Josey Jewell out nursing a hamstring injury, LB Alexander Johnson stepped in and delivered a terrific IDP outing: 9 tackles (6 solo), 1 tackle for loss, an INT and 2 total passes defensed. We’ll see about Jewell’s Week 6 availability. He entered Sunday questionable. Johnson played 93% of the snaps against the Chargers, which bodes well for Jewell’s playing time upon his return -- as long as Johnson doesn’t push him aside.
DT Damon Harrison’s value has crashed. The veteran has yet to top 51% playing time through 4 games this season. Last time out, he dropped back down from 50% to 34%. Harrison’s 9 total tackles to date put him on pace for just 36 over a full season. That would be less than half of the 79 that made him a top 20 fantasy D-lineman last year. Harrison shouldn’t be on IDP rosters at this point.
Green Bay Packers
CB Kevin King has defensed passes in 2 straight games and 4 of 5 contests for the season. He followed a pair of breakups in the loss to the Eagles with his best fantasy line to date against Dallas: 6 solo tackles, an INT, a forced fumble and 2 total passes defensed.
Fellow Packers CB Jaire Alexander leads all DBs with 9 pass breakups (plus 1 INT) through 5 weeks. Unfortunately for Alexander’s fantasy standing, 90 other DBs have collected more tackles than he has (18 total).
S Jahleel Addae racked up a team-high 10 tackles in Sunday’s win over the Falcons. But it was a lie. Here’s his snap share by week since the beginning of the season:
Sure, it was a season high. But that level of playing time won’t usually pay off in numbers. If there’s a takeaway, it’s that playing your DBs against the Falcons -- the NFL’s most pass-heavy offense this season -- is a good idea. Atlanta has supplied 34.2 tackles per game to DBs. That’s 3.6 more than the next team. That gap is equal to the split between #2 Baltimore and #17 Indianapolis.
DE Jabaal Sheard jumped to 71% playing time against the Chiefs in his 2nd game back from a summer knee operation. He managed half a sack amid an otherwise quiet statistical performance. Better matchups lie ahead, however, vs. Houston and Denver at home after the Week 6 bye.
LB Quincy Williams had missed just 1 snap in 3 games since leaving Week 1 temporarily with knee trouble. But he played just 74% of the snaps in Sunday’s loss to the Panthers, getting pulled in the 4th quarter. Here’s what HC Doug Marrone had to say about it this week:
"We just wanted to get some better fits in there, better run fits. There are a lot of things that happen but we wanted to put Najee (Goode) in there because we thought we would get better run fits out of him and some other things that we wanted to get accomplished that we weren’t getting done. But we still believe in him and love him and all that."
Williams will be risky to play in IDP lineups this week. But it’s not time to panic on him just yet.
Kansas City Chiefs
Ben Niemann led Chiefs LBs in playing time in Sunday night’s loss to the Colts. He stayed on the field for 86% of the snaps, with Damien Wilson playing at his usual level (81%).
Anthony Hitchens left the game with a groin injury, of course. If Hitchens remains out for this Sunday’s game, then Niemann would get the start. Niemann had already begun taking sub-package snaps from Hitchens.
Los Angeles Chargers
DE Melvin Ingram missed Sunday’s game with his hamstring injury (though he hit the weekend questionable after a limited Friday practice). We’ll see whether Ingram is ready to return for Week 6, but fill-in Uchenna Nwosu tallied 7 tackles (5 solo), a sack and a forced fumble. Keep an eye on Ingram’s status en route to Sunday night’s clash with the Steelers.
Los Angeles Rams
Undrafted 25-year-old rookie Troy Reeder got the start at ILB next to Cory Littleton in last Thursday night’s loss to the Seahawks and racked up a team-high 13 tackles. Reeder played 73% of the snaps, working in place of the injured Bryce Hager, but he also played much more than Hager has. The incumbent hasn’t topped his 38% Week 1 snap share.
The absence of S/LB hybrid Taylor Rapp likely accounts for the extra playing time there. For Week 6, both Hager and Rapp put in limited practices Wednesday.
Before the Week 5 bye, S Reshad Jones returned to the lineup and played 66 of 67 defensive snaps against the Chargers. He led the team with 9 tackles and 6 solos and broke up a pass. That followed 4 weeks lost to an ankle injury.
Jones looks like an IDP we can count on once again. Let’s hope nothing changes coming out of the bye.
Remember when CB Xavier Rhodes was a matchup to avoid? Check out his decline in the form of PFF grades:
The change hasn’t manifested in significantly more tackles, though.
New England Patriots
Veteran DL Michael Bennett continues to see his playing time dwindle. He spent just 15% of Sunday’s snaps on the field against Washington, his 4th straight week of decline in snap share.
Rookie EDGE Chase Winovich flashed with a sack for the 2nd straight game and has at least a half-sack in 4 straight contests. But he also played just 29% of the snaps (17 total). That did mark his largest share in the past 3 games, but Winovich won’t be worth IDP usage as a strict situational pass-rusher spending less than one-third of the time on the field.
He is certainly worth a stash in dynasty leagues, however.
DE John Simon, meanwhile, went from trending up -- 58% and 68% playing time the previous 2 weeks -- to spending just 20% of the defensive snaps on the field at Washington. Simon’s not on the Week 6 injury report, so it must have been a matchup thing. We rarely know the explanation with the Patriots. The situation keeps Simon from being a reliable play against the Giants, but we did include him in the Week 6 DL rankings.
New Orleans Saints
It’s pretty impressive that DT Sheldon Rankins is playing at all after suffering a torn Achilles’ tendon in a January playoff game. It’s even more impressive that he might just be an IDP factor. Rankins played 66% of the snaps in his Week 4 return game, but managed just 2 assists and a QB hit.
Rankins then racked up 3 solo tackles (1 for a loss) and a sack in Sunday’s win over the Buccaneers.
I’m not starting Rankins against the Jaguars this week. But matchups with the Cardinals in Week 8, and then the Falcons (twice) and Bucs after the Week 9 bye look attractive.
New York Giants
LB Alec Ogletree put in full practices Tuesday and Wednesday and didn’t appear on the week’s final injury report. He should be good to go for Thursday night against the Patriots.
New York Jets
ILB C.J. Mosley remained out in Week 5 (groin), but Blake Cashman still saw his playing time dip. After playing 100% of the snaps in Mosley’s 1st missed game, Cashman dipped to 89% and 75% in the next 2. We’ll see about Mosley’s status this week. He still wasn’t practicing Wednesday.
I’ve had my eye on Raiders rookie DE Maxx Crosby since back at NFL Draft time. At that point, he won on speed score, 3-cone agility and tackle-for-loss production. I thought he looked good as a long-term bet. But life comes at you fast.
Crosby played 57 of 58 snaps in last week’s win over the Bears. That marked a big jump from 57% playing time the week before and 26% in Week 3. Crosby also notched his 1st career sack, a week after delivering 2 solo tackles, a forced fumble, 2 pass deflections and a QB hit against the Colts.
DT Fletcher Cox has gone 5 games without a sack now this season. Pro Football Focus, however, credits him with 24 total pressures. Just 11 players in the league have more so far, and no other player has more than 17 pressures without a sack.
It’s coming at some point for Cox, and this just might be the week. Of the 60 pressures Minnesota has allowed so far, PFF has charged 33 to the top 3 guards and C Garrett Bradbury. The rookie center has been the biggest culprit. Bradbury grades out worst by far among league centers in pass protection and checks in last in overall grade.
If you own Cox, start him this week.
ILB Mark Barron left last Sunday’s game early with a hamstring injury. In his absence, Vince Williams spent 64% of the snaps on the field in his return from a 2-game hamstring injury. If Barron remains out vs. the Chargers in Week 6, then consider Williams.
San Francisco 49ers
DE Nick Bosa ranks 103rd in pass-rushing snaps so far, according to PFF. He ranks 10th in total pressures -- 13 spots ahead of brother Joey (26-20), who’s had 43 more pass-rushing opportunities. No edge player has generated pressure on a higher percentage of his opportunities.
Jadeveon Clowney is a boom/bust IDP prospect right now, with the Week 4 INT return for a TD making up nearly all of the “boom.” But Pro Football Focus credited him with 11 total pressures over the past 2 games in his 2 highest-graded outings so far this season -- both overall and in the pass-rushing category.
If Clowney doesn’t convert at least 1 sack in this Sunday’s strong matchup with the Browns, then it might be time to knock him significantly down the Rest of the Way rankings.
Elsewhere on the same line: Quinton Jefferson has 0 sacks since delivering 2 against the Bengals in the opener. But he notched 2 QB hits against the Rams last time out, the 2nd time he had done so in the past 3 games. Jefferson’s low tackle numbers make him tough to bet on. But there’s upside if taking the risk makes sense for you -- especially in a DT-required slot.
One more D-line note: DT Jarran Reed should return for Week 7 from his 6-game suspension under the league personal-conduct policy. He’ll start with a solid matchup against the Ravens. We’ll see what Seattle reveals about Reed’s role ahead of that game -- as well as how he might affect others, such as Jefferson. Reed, of course, racked up 10.5 sacks last year to finish among the top 20 fantasy linemen.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
MLB Devin White was not on the final injury report for Week 5 after putting in full practices Thursday and Friday in his return from a Week 2 knee sprain. But the rookie didn’t play a snap in the loss to the Saints. Instead, veteran Kevin Minter continued to start in the middle and led Tampa with 10 tackles and 9 solos.
HC Bruce Arians revealed in his Monday press conference that White was active only as an emergency option, with Tampa down to 3 ILBs for the game. Arians also said White would be ready for Sunday morning’s game against the Panthers in London.
Don’t be alarmed by DE Jurrell Casey’s empty game against Buffalo in Week 5. He endured a rough outing, but he played his 2nd largest snap share of the season (85%) and has generated 3+ pressures in 3 straight games. Casey looks fine for this week’s matchup with Denver.
ILB Cole Holcomb played 78% of the snaps in Sunday’s loss to the Patriots. That marked his largest share since the rookie played 90% back in Week 2. It also marked a significant increase from shares of 48% and 55% the previous 2 games.
We obviously need to see it happen more than just sporadically before we can bet on increased playing time. But a Week 6 meeting with the Dolphins should prove friendly to Holcomb staying on the field. Miami has not, however, proved friendly in supplying tackle volume for opponents. No team in the league is running fewer offensive plays.