S Jalen Thompson and S Deionte Thompson each played about two-thirds of the defensive snaps in Week 5, the 1st game after Arizona released S D.J. Swearinger. Each rookie spent less time on the field in Week 6, though.
Slot CB Tramaine Brock returned after leaving Week 5 early with a shoulder injury. That pushed Budda Baker back to safety after he filled in for Brock in the slot in Week 5. And more safety snaps for Baker meant fewer available for the Thompsons. Deionte Thompson played just 52% of the time against Atlanta, while Jalen Thompson played the other 48%. Neither of those rates is going to help our IDP lineups.
In the 1st game since S Johnathan Cyprien landed on IR, S Kemal Ishmael played 100% of the snaps for the 1st time this year. He posted a solid 6 tackles (5 solo) against the Cardinals, Ishmael's 4th straight game of 6+ total tackles. Those aren't big numbers, especially when you consider that he has collected just 14 solos over that span. But Ishmael could be helpful at times in tackle-heavy formats. He could also be busy against the Rams this week.
CB Maurice Canady posted a team-high 9 solo tackles in last week’s win over the Bengals, tripling the solo tally of any other teammate. He played just 60% of the defensive snaps, though, and doesn’t look like someone to bet on for production going forward.
At ILB, meanwhile, Baltimore started Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort, with Patrick Onwuasor out resting an injured ankle. Bynes led the playing time at 60%, which means the Ravens don’t love what they have at the position. And yet they traded Kenny Young to the Rams.
Onwuasor looks like the only usable guy in this group.
Hughes delivered 1.5 sacks in the season-opening win against the Jets. Since then, he hasn’t registered a single QB hit. Pro Football Focus agrees. All 10 of the pressures PFF has credited to Hughes from Week 10 on were mere hurries. He’s still getting into the backfield some, but Hughes doesn’t appear on the verge of a big sack breakthrough. We’ll see if the Week 7 matchup with Miami can help.
Edge Brian Burns played 41% of the snaps in Sunday’s win over the Buccaneers in London. That followed 45% playing time in Week 5, which had been his low to that point. It looks like we should expect this level of participation going forward.
Burns delivered a sack in each of the past 2 games and has posted at least a half-sack in 5 straight. So he’s certainly capable of producing at less than 50% playing time. The size of his role obviously lowers his floor, though, adding risk to those weeks when he doesn’t get to the QB.
Fellow edge Bruce Irvin, meanwhile, has topped 60% playing time each of the past 2 games.
The IR trip for DL Akiem Hicks means more playing time for Nick Williams and Roy Robertson-Harris.
Williams was already trending up: going from 20% of the defensive snaps in Week 1 to 37% and 47%. Then he played 62% and 58% the past 2 contests, each of which Hicks left early.
Robertson-Harris played 41%, 44% and 39% over the season’s 1st 3 games. Then he hit 60% and 72% the past 2 games.
Is Germaine Pratt time coming?
The rookie LB quietly gained playing time in recent weeks, and Sunday’s loss to the Ravens saw another gain. Pratt stayed on the field for 38% of the snaps, more than doubling his previous high in total snaps (31 vs. 12) and marking a significant boost from his previous high of 21%.
That’s still certainly not enough to make Pratt an IDP factor, but he’s at least moving in the right direction. Stash Pratt in dynasty leagues where he’s available, at least.
On a separate note, DE/OLB Carl Lawson saw a big playing-time boost against Baltimore with DE Carlos Dunlap out. Lawson played 78%, up from 61% in Week 5 and around 40% in his previous 2 outings. He’ll be worth a look vs. Jacksonville in Week 7 if Dunlap remains out.
S Morgan Burnett played just 23% of the snaps in Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks. That marks a drop from the 33% he saw in Week 5’s return from his quad injury. It looks like Burnett is no longer a starter here. Jermaine Whitehead, on the other hand, remains a full-timer.
Whitehead has been a full participant since Week 2. Over those 5 games, he has averaged 5.8 solo tackles. Only 3 other DBs are averaging more right now, and just 6 have more solo tackles than Whitehead for the season to date.
Cowboys MLB Jaylon Smith played just 79% of the snaps in last week’s loss to the Jets. That marked the 3rd time in the past 4 weeks that Smith played 81% or less. OLB Leighton Vander Esch also played a season-low 77% of the snaps against the Jets.
The problem? Each is having performance issues. Pro Football Focus grades Vander Esch 122nd among 139 LBs in run defense so far. Smith rates terrifically there (5th best) but checks in 119th in coverage.
Sean Lee played a season-high 60% of the snaps in Week 6, but it’s hard to see him growing his role much beyond that. Smith and LVE have still been playing enough to score as fantasy starters, but less-than-full time obviously lowers the scoring ceiling for each player.
LB Josey Jewell was back healthy from his hamstring injury for Sunday’s game against the Titans, but he didn’t play a single snap on defense. Instead, Alexander Johnson drew his 2nd straight start and spent 87% of the snaps on the field. Johnson racked up a team-high 9 tackles (6 solo) and 1.5 sacks. That followed a Week 5 performance against the Chargers -- 8 tackles (5 solo), 2 passes defensed and an INT -- that earned him a game ball from HC Vic Fangio.
Jewell looks safe to drop from IDP rosters, while Johnson should be added this week where available.
DT Damon Harrison found Aaron Rodgers on Monday night for his 2nd sack in 3 games. That puts him just 1.5 short of last season’s career high in the category. Harrison’s still sitting at just 13 total tackles for the year, though, well behind the pace of what made him attractive in past IDP campaigns. Detroit clearly doesn’t plan to make him more than a half-time player. Harrison spent 6 of his 10 Lions games over 60% playing time in 2018.
DT Kenny Clark hasn’t delivered so far the way he did last year. He has 9 fewer tackles through 6 games than he did after 6 games last season. The main issue appears to be a decline in run defense.
Pro Football Focus graded Clark elite in that area each of the past 2 seasons. So far this year, he sits just 89th in run-D grade among all interior linemen.
Clark has, at least, continued to generate pressure. PFF counts 26 total pressures for him, which puts Clark ahead of the pace for last year’s 46. That makes it easier to be patient in DT-required leagues and see if he can rebound in run D.
DT D.J. Reader collected 4 total sacks across his first 3 seasons. He’s already up to 2.5 through 5 games of his 4th campaign. Reader added 1 in Sunday’s win over the Falcons. He now has a tackle for loss in 4 straight contests. Reader had 5 of those all last year; 5 combined over the previous 2 seasons.
This could be Jabaal Sheard week. The veteran DE climbed to 70% playing time before the bye and now faces a Houston offense that allowed 17 sacks over the first 4 games. The Texans held their past 2 opponents without a sack, but I’ll chalk that more up to poor pass rushes from the Falcons and Chiefs (who went without DT Chris Jones). Sheard has much more around him in Indy and delivered a half-sack his last time out.
LB Najee Goode started over rookie Quincy Williams in Sunday’s loss to the Saints and played 95% of the snaps. Williams -- a week after being pulled in the 4th quarter -- didn’t play a single snap on defense. That makes Goode a starting fantasy option for a solid Week 7 matchup with the Bengals.
With no Anthony Hitchens against the Texans, Darron Lee led Chiefs LBs with 8 tackles. He played just 49% of the snaps, though, ranking 3rd behind Ben Niemann (98% as Hitchens’ fill-in) and Damien Wilson (87%).
Hitchens put in full practices Tuesday and Wednesday and is off the final injury report for the Thursday night clash with Denver.
LB Thomas Davis rebounded his playing time a bit in Week 6. After dipping to 67% in Week 5, he got back to 78% in the loss to the Steelers. That returned Davis to what he played in Week 4, but it doesn’t look like we can expect the 100% he played over the 1st 3 games.
The veteran easily led this musical-chairs corps in playing time, though. Rookie Drue Tranquill checked in next with a season-high 52% of the snaps. That marked his 3rd straight rise. Tranquill debuted in Week 4 at 19% and then climbed to 33% before Sunday night’s game. We’ll see if he can get beyond that.
Denzel Perryman played his usual 50%, while Kyzir White got a 47% share. That’s better than barely playing, as he did in weeks 3 and 4 after Perryman returned from injury. But it actually marked a downturn from White’s 57% share in Week 5.
Davis is the only guy we can trust here. Tranquill is worth watching -- and stashing in dynasty.
The Rams traded starting CB Marcus Peters to the Ravens for ILB Kenny Young this week -- even with fellow starter Aqib Talib landing on IR. That suggests they view Young as more than just roster filler. Young could see significant time as soon as this week in a defense that started undrafted rookie Troy Reeder and played him near full time the past 2 weeks. Barring some revelation on playing time from the coaching staff, we probably can’t use either in our Week 7 IDP lineups.
LB Raekwon McMillan posted a team-high 9 tackles (6 solo) in Sunday’s loss to Washington. But his playing time actually dipped from 64% before the bye to just 51%.
Jerome Baker remained the playing-time leader at the position, and Vince Biegel jumped ahead of McMillan (69%). Sam Eguavoen crashed to a season-low 32% from his previous low of 73%.
After he earned just decent grades from PFF through his first 4 seasons, MLB Eric Kendricks has earned elite grades in overall performance and run D so far this year. That helps explain why the guy is en route to a career high in solo tackles. Kendricks is also likely to shatter his career high in pass breakups. He has 7 of those through 6 contests. His personal best was 8 back in 2016.
Thursday night’s win over the Giants found LB Dont’a Hightower playing 48% of the snaps, LB Jamie Collins playing 88% and LB Kyle Van Noy playing 92%. Rounding out the playing time at the position were: Ja’Whaun Bentley (36%), Shilique Calhoun (28%) and Elandon Roberts (16%).
That followed Hightower played 89% in his return from a game down with a shoulder injury. Van Noy played 75% in that return game, while Collins played 71%. It’s evident that New England will adjust the playing time among its front 7 for weekly matchups -- which makes sense for them, but can obviously be a pain for fantasy players.
Collins is the only LB that’s an every-week starter for now. If Hightower's bothersome shoulder keeps him out against the Jets, though, we would probably see more playing time for Van Noy.
Up front, DT Lawrence Guy played a season-high 62% of the snaps against the Giants. He had grown his playing time to 46%-49% over the previous 2 weeks but hadn’t hit 50% yet this year.
DE John Simon rebounded from his Week 5 playing-time crash but still spent just 48% of snaps on the field against the Giants. He had hit 58% and 68% the 2 weeks before falling to 20% at Washington.
DE Marcus Davenport topped 70% playing time for the 5th time in 6 games in Sunday’s win over the Jaguars. He had a quiet day statistically, with just 1 of his 5 tackles a solo. But the 2nd-year pass rusher has notched at least 1 QB hit in every game and tallied 3 in 3 of 6 outings. That includes 2 of his past 3 contests.
The Saints head to Chicago for Week 7 to face a Bears offense that has allowed the 12th-highest sack rate so far. Upside matchups lie beyond that as well: Arizona in Week 8, Atlanta twice in 4 weeks after the Week 9 bye and Tampa Bay in Week 11.
ILB David Mayo started and played 71% of the defensive snaps in Thursday’s loss to the Patriots. He did so despite ILBs Alec Ogletree and Tae Davis both returning to health. Ogletree continued to play ahead, but Mayo appears to have passed Davis. He looks like a solid bet for Week 7 against a Cardinals offense that has been a top-5 matchup for fantasy LBs.
Slot CB Brian Poole opened the season playing just 55% of the snaps in the Week 1 loss to Buffalo. Every game since then, however, has found him playing more than 80% of the team. That includes 3 straight games of 90+%.
Poole now gets a rematch with the Patriots, who supplied him with 12 total tackles (10 solo) back in Week 3.
Rookie DE Maxx Crosby played all but 1 snap in the Week 5 win over the Bears. That came with DE Clelin Ferrell out for a concussion, though. Don’t be surprised if Crosby’s playing time dips this week. I will be surprised, though, if he doesn’t remain a key part of the DE rotation after a couple of nice games.
LB Nigel Bradham left Sunday’s loss to the Vikings in the 1st half with a left ankle injury. Nate Gerry took over the green dot, calling plays for the defense. He wound up leading Philly LBs in playing time, spending 87% of the snaps on the field. Gerry hadn’t previously reached 40% playing time in a game this year.
LB Zach Brown also rebounded from 2 straight playing-time dips to top 80% for just the 2nd time this year (82%) ... but then the team dumped him this week. LB Kamu Grugier-Hill increased his share for the 2nd straight game. He has gone from 16% playing time in his 1st game back from the summer knee sprain to 34% and now 49%.
With Bradham sidelined to begin the practice week, we could be looking at full playing time for both Gerry and Grugier-Hill against the Cowboys -- who would figure to attack that area of the Philly D.
ILB Vince Williams still played just 61% of the snaps in Sunday night’s win over the Chargers even with starter Mark Barron out. That was actually down from the week before, when Barron left early. The main culprit might have been a lack of run-D opportunities. The Chargers ran it just 13 times in a game that found them surprisingly behind -- and way behind -- for most of the night.
DE Dee Ford delivered his best fantasy line of the year last time out against the Rams: 1.5 sacks among 4 total tackles, plus a forced fumble. He still played just 22 snaps, though, 42% of the team total. That was in line with his previous 3 games after Ford’s playing time fell from 58% in Week 1.
He entered the season with a left-knee issue that sapped a lot of his summer, and Ford continues to be listed on the weekly injury report with a quad problem. He doesn’t seem likely to be fully healthy at any point this year and might need knee surgery after the season. Combine that with a stacked DL group, and there’s little reason for the 49ers to elevate his playing time beyond the 35-40% range.
That would make Ford extremely volatile for IDP use.
HC Pete Carroll is looking forward to the impact DT Jarran Reed’s return will have on the entire D-line.
“I think we’ll see a difference now that J. Reed is back,” Carroll said on Wednesday. “I think the compliment that he brings, not just what he’ll bring but how he’ll affect the other guys.”
Reed broke out for 10.5 sacks in his 3rd season. He now returns from a 6-game suspension under the league personal-conduct policy. That challenges the playing time for others on the D-line. Quinton Jefferson will be one to watch, given that he plays both inside and outside. But we’ve already seen weeks in which Jefferson spent more than half of his snaps on the edges. And he’s been arguably the line’s most productive player to this point. So I’d bet on him continuing to spend plenty of time on the field.
Jefferson leads Seattle with 25 total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. Perhaps Reed’s return helps to convert more of those into sacks. DE Jadeveon Clowney, similarly, has tied for a decent 27th in the league in total pressures so far and ranks 20th in ESPN’s pass-rushing win rate (how often a player beats his man within 2.5 seconds) but doesn’t have a sack since Week 1. That should change -- especially with Atlanta and Tampa Bay on the other side of this week’s matchup with Baltimore.
DE Ezekiel Ansah tumbled to 39% playing time against the Browns after topping 60% in snap share each of the previous 2 weeks. His pass-rushing grades have stunk the past 2 weeks since Ansah delivered a sack in his 2nd game back. So he’s on IDP benches against the Ravens. Let’s hope the playing time rebounds so we might be able to use him against the Falcons and Bucs … though less time for Ansah could mean more on the edges for Jefferson.
Edge Carl Nassib delivered a sack, 2 QB hits and a season-high 6 tackles in Sunday’s loss to the Panthers. That gives him 5 QB hits over his past 4 games. A Week 7 bye makes it tough to recommend Nassib as a waiver pickup right now, but he and the Bucs will return to find upside matchups with Tennessee, Seattle and Arizona among the next 3 games.
LB Jayon Brown missed practice Wednesday with the groin injury that knocked him out 3 plays into Week 6. He doesn’t seem likely to be ready for this week’s clash with the Chargers.
That would keep Wesley Woodyard in a starting role. We already know the veteran can deliver fantasy points when he’s in the lineup. Woodyard finished among the top 36 in fantasy points last year despite cracking 80% playing time in just 10 games and playing 14 total.
He’ll be a solid play this weekend if Brown’s out.
Weekly Cole Holcomb check: The rookie LB played 59% of the snaps against Washington. His season now looks like this:
Holcomb should be a solid bet for playing time and tackles this week against San Francisco, the league’s most run-heavy offense.