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Week 14 IDP Hits: Chris Jones' Turnaround

By Matt Schauf 11:30pm EST 12/11/21


Have you been sitting on star DT Chris Jones all season, waiting for his production to turn around? Or worse: Did you drop him sometime before that explosion game against Dallas in Week 11?

If so, you were justified. (And I’m not just saying that because I did so as well.) Jones stunk as a fantasy producer through the 1st 10 weeks of the season.

OK, perhaps that’s not fair. He did open the year with a 2-sack outing against the Browns. But he totaled just 1 sack and 9 tackles over his next 8 outings, surrounding a pair of missed games for a wrist injury.

That issue – which he tried to pay through for multiple games – was clearly a problem. But more than the health of Jones’ wrist has changed.

Over the past 4 contests, the 6th-year veteran has returned to playing primarily on the inside. According to Pro Football Focus, Jones spent just 9.9% of his snaps at RB over the 1st 4 games. He then sat out weeks 5 and 6. Jones then started to shift: 30.8% at DT in Week 7; 38.1% in Week 8.

Since Week 9, he has spent 63.1% of his snaps at DT. Jones has registered 7 QB hits over that span, after tallying 6 in his 1st 6 games. He has averaged 6.3 total pressures over the past 4 games, compared with 3.5 over his 1st 6 outings.

So it sure seems that his familiar DT role fits him better than edge work. And it appears DC Steve Spagnuolo has realized that.

Jones looks like a solid-to-strong play the rest of the way in DT-required spots – and an upside option for DL roles in deeper formats.


Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys got DE Demarcus Lawrence back last week for the 1st time since he suffered a foot fracture in practice leading up to Week 2. His 53% snap share came up a little short of his usual level, but was enough to find him a QB hit and 2 pass deflections. Lawrence now gets a nice string of matchups for sack upside: Washington, Giants, Washington.

Lawrence’s return also moved LB Micah Parsons back to mostly a standup LB role. According to PFF, Parsons went from almost exclusively DE the previous 2 games to spending 50 of his 65 Week 13 snaps at LB. Parsons still maintained a significant pass-rushing role, though, tallying 12 reps in that area and notching a sack for the 5th straight game.

Dallas expects to return DE Randy Gregory to the lineup this week as well, after activating him off IR Saturday. Gregory missed the past 4 games with a calf injury.


Houston Texans

DE Jonathan Greenard has been dealing with a foot injury ever since returning from the Week 10 bye, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better. He has returned to play the past 2 games after sitting out Week 11, but Greenard went from a season-high 67% playing time in Week 12 to just 53% last week – his smallest snap share since Week 5. Now, that marked a difference of just 7 total snaps, which might not even be a purposeful shift. Perhaps he got a little more rest late in a 31-0 loss to the Colts, as opposed to a narrower Week 12 loss to the Jets.

But Greenard’s practice participation decreased this week. He sandwiched a missed Thursday practice between limited workouts Wednesday and Thursday. Last week, Greenard put in limited participation every day. Of course, we also can’t necessarily read too much into this. He was a limited participant all 3 days in Week 11 before missing that game. And then he went limited-DNP-limited in Week 12 before the spike in snap share.

Greenard is questionable for the 4th consecutive game. If he plays through it for the 3rd straight week, then he’ll be worth starting in most cases. Seattle arrives allowing pressure at the 3rd-highest rate in the league, according to Pro Football Reference. Only 2 teams have yielded more sacks, even though Seattle ranks 31st in pass attempts.

So I’d rather chase Greenard’s upside this week than worry about the foot risk. If the foot’s OK, that will likely be the case next week at Jacksonville as well. We’ll see where’s at heading into less favorable matchups with the Chargers and 49ers the following 2 weeks.


Pittsburgh Steelers

You might not have noticed because he was never standing close enough to Chase Claypool, but CB Ahkello Witherspoon enjoyed a big game with 2 INTs in the loss to Minnesota on Thursday night. That marked Witherspoon’s 2nd straight start, as he has apparently worked his way ahead of James Pierre on the depth chart (or benefited from Pierre working his way down). Witherspoon figures to fall back out of the lineup, though, once Joe Haden’s ready to return. Cameron Sutton remains the starter on the opposite side, with Arthur Maulet leading the slot work.


Minnesota Vikings

DT Armon Watts had a nice game on the other side, delivering a sack among 2 QB hits. That gives him a sack in 3 of his past 4 games and 4 of the past 6. It’s worth noting, though, that Watts’ playing time has dipped the past 2 weeks with the healthy returns of DTs Michael Pierce and Dalvin Tomlinson. Watts had played 70% snap share or more in 4 straight games and 64%+ in 5 straight before Week 13. Weeks 11 and 12 found his 2 largest snap shares of the season. Watts played 42% in the loss to Detroit, though, followed by 53% against the Steelers. That’s still enough to be usable in DT-required leagues, especially for a Week 15 visit to Chicago. Watts probably won’t be worth starting in most cases against the Rams or Packers the ensuing 2 games, however.


Detroit Lions

Tracy Walker’s deactivation to the COVID list this week makes Dean Marlowe easier to notice, but he had already risen to a starter spot over the past 2 games. That’s because AJ Parker’s Week 11 injury (landing him on IR) moved S Will Harris to the slot CB role. Marlowe then stepped in to start next to Walker the past 2 weeks, playing more “box” snaps than Walker each time. He delivered 10 tackles and a pass breakup against Chicago, then a solid 7 solos against the Vikings. Now comes an upside matchup against the Broncos, who have been kind to DB scoring all year. If you’re a DS Insider, then you’ve already seen Marlowe high in our Week 14 IDP rankings.


Buffalo Bills

This will be our 1st real look at the Bills post-Tre’Davious White injury. The Monday-night Wind Bowl marked the 1st game since White’s season-ending ACL tear, but 3 Patriots pass attempts didn’t really tell us much about how the CBs will align. White tends to move between the 2 outside positions, generally shadowing the opponent’s lead wideout.

CB Dane Jackson is the official fill-in for White, but we’ll have to see whether he and Levi Wallace stick primarily to their sides of the field or whether Wallace spends more time with lead wideouts. This week, of course, brings challenges throughout the Bucs passing game. Mike Evans moves around the formation, spending the most time to the outside left. That would find him facing Wallace most often, based on how they aligned last week. Both corners stand 6-feet tall, and thus neither makes for the better size matchup.

Whoever’s on Evans, don’t be surprised if Tampa Bay attacks the outside in this game, which would improve the tackle outlook or either guy. Slot CB Taron Johnson should see a lot of Chris Godwin as well. Godwin spent more time in the slot last week than he has in any other game this season.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs will run out their healthiest secondary in a while against the Bills this week. Among the corners, Jamel Dean is the only question mark. He’s officially questionable for his concussion but put in full practices the final 2 days and seems on track to be cleared. That should reposition him with Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting as the top 3 CBs. Richard Sherman, back from IR, figures to play a supporting role.

S Jordan Whitehead remains out this week with the calf injury that cost him last week’s game. Andrew Adams replaced him last week, played 82% of the snaps and tied for 3rd on the team with 6 total tackles.


Los Angeles Rams

Don’t ever assume you have the Rams’ ILB situation figured out. Troy Reeder had seen fairly stable playing time for 5 straight games before last week. He played 76-83% snap share in 4 of those 5 contests, with the other dipping only to 64%. But Reeder spent just 49% of last week’s game against the Jaguars on the field. Conversely, rookie LB Ernest Jones played a season-high 95% of the snaps. That marked his 4th game of 54+ snaps among 5 games since joining the lineup. His playing time in that span has gone:

89%
62%
82%
72%
95%

Those 2 highest playing-time weeks have also met with nice stats: 9 tackles, a half-sack and a pass defensed in each (including an INT).

The 2 have spent 5 weeks alternating as the playing-time leader between them, with Week 13 by far the biggest margin over that span. That’s why you’ll find Jones a little higher than Reeder in this week’s LB rankings. Neither looks especially attractive against the league’s 6th-toughest LB-scoring matchup by our adjusted fantasy points allowed.

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