Ezekiel Ansah’s heading into his 3rd game back this weekend from the high-ankle sprain that cost him 3 weeks and most of Week 2. But will he finally, really be back this week?
Each of the past 2 games found Ansah playing 55-56% of the snaps, down about 20% from his usual role. Week 7 provided some promise in his production, though. After a near-silent return game, Ansah notched 3 QB hits against Washington, despite ranking 3rd among Lions DEs in playing time.
This week featured the 1st Ansah-free injury report since the season opener. (Even Week 2 found him questionable with a shoulder issue.) So if he made it through the practice week with no limitations, it seems fair to expect the healthiest Ansah we’ve seen in a while.
He’ll still match up with Houston’s top O-lineman, LT Duane Brown, and we’d like to see the full-strength Ansah before counting on him to the usual degree. But an encouraging game from him this week would set his IDP owners up nicely for upside matchups with Minnesota, Jacksonville and then Minnesota again the next 3 games – surrounding a Week 10 bye.
De’Vondre Campbell and Deion Jones each played 100% of the defensive snaps in Sunday’s loss to the Chargers. Campbell racked up a game-high 10 tackles (6 solo), while Jones contributed 7 tackles (5 solo) and an INT that he nearly return for a TD. I’ll be curious to see if this week’s matchup with the current pass-heavy, spread-it-out Packers offense brings back more of the 3-safety alignment we saw over the previous couple of weeks. But Jones and Campbell should be fine to use as you normally would, albeit in a generally unfriendly scoring matchup. S Kemal Ishmael, meanwhile, looks droppable.
On the other side of that game, don’t let the final stats fool you. Jatavis Brown played 100% of the defensive snaps, while Denzel Perryman played just 52% (including leaving twice with injury trouble). Perryman collected 7 tackles (6 solo) and an INT vs. just 2 tackles for Brown. But the rookie remains the better fantasy bet. San Diego has consistently taken Perryman off the field in passing sub packages. He’s a good player, though, so he’ll deliver usable numbers at times. Perryman can be in play for deep leagues, but the playing time increases his volatility and adds risk for redraft formats.
Karlos Dansby delivered a strong fantasy line against the Browns last Sunday: 11 tackles (9 solo) and a pass breakup. But he played just 69% of the snaps. That marked a bigger share than Week 6 and Week 4 but fell right in line with Week 5. It also comprised just 6 more total snaps than the Week 6 game. So the fantasy numbers look like an outlier. Dansby hadn’t produced that way since the 1st 2 weeks, when Vontaze Burfict was suspended. Dansby collected 1 or 2 solo tackles in each of the previous 4 games. Burfict played 98% of the Bengals’ defensive snaps against Cleveland. He remains the consistent #1 LB for Cincinnati in playing time and the team’s best IDP bet.
Malcolm Smith and Perry Riley started for Oakland in the Week 7 win at Jacksonville, with Riley staying on the field for 100% of the snaps and Smith 94%. Cory James, meanwhile, went from starter to not playing a single snap in what might have been the Raiders’ best defensive performance so far this season. (They did, at least, allow a season-low 344 total yards – with a large portion of that coming in 4th-quarter garbage time.) James was fun for a couple of weeks, but go ahead and drop the rookie if you still have him.
James Laurinaitis was active for Sunday’s game but only saw the field for 3 special-teams plays. Nathan Stupar and Craig Robertson started at LB and played every defensive snap, while LB Michael Mauti mixed in for 6 snaps. We’ll see what happens when/if Dannell Ellerbe actually gets all the way healthy from the quad injury that has cost him the 1st 6 games and nearly every practice. He was supposed to be starting in the spot that Robertson has used to generate surprising tackle numbers. Stephone Anthony, meanwhile, joined the injury report Friday with a hamstring injury that apparently cost him the game. But he had played less than 20% of the snaps in 4 of the 1st 5 games anyway, including 3 outings of 4 total snaps or fewer. Curious case there, for a guy New Orleans traded up into Round 1 to draft just last year.
Tyrann Mathieu, DB, Cardinals
Mathieu and HC Bruce Arians estimate that he is back to about 85% of full strength coming off last December’s ACL tear. The shift from deep safety to his usual slot CB/safety role marked progress, but the brace on his repaired knee is reportedly limiting his agility and frustrating his playmaking a bit. The playing time’s fine, at least, so Mathieu should be a decent IDP in better matchups than Seattle last week and Carolina this week. We’ll see if the big plays return.
Malcolm Butler, CB, Patriots
Butler has defensed 3 passes in 2 straight games, giving him 3 games of 2+ PDs for the season. The Week 8 trip to Buffalo likely won’t present as much volume upside, then comes a Week 9 bye and another unfavorable DB-scoring matchup with the Seahawks. The best remaining spots for Butler in IDP leagues look like the Jets matchups in Week 12 and Week 16, and a Week 14 Monday-night clash with the Ravens.
Cameron Wake, DE, Dolphins
Wake has spent 2 games back in the starting lineup. He has racked up 2 QB hits in each after tallying no more than 1 in any of the 1st 5 games. The 4 hits over the past 2 weeks included 2 sacks, 1.5 of which came Sunday against the Bills. Miami gets a Week 8 bye
Cliff Avril, DE, Seahawks
Avril delivered a monster stat line last Sunday night against the Cardinals: 4 tackles (3 solo), 2.5 sacks, 6 hits and 2 pass deflections. That followed a 2-sack effort against the Falcons and marked his 3rd straight game with at least 1 sack. He belongs in IDP lineups again this week at Carolina.
Bryce Callahan, CB, Bears
Callahan flashed some deep-league IDP value for 3 straight weeks, delivering 5, 5 and 6 solo tackles in consecutive games before suffering a hamstring injury in last week’s loss to the Packers. The slot CB missed practice Thursday and Friday of this week and doesn’t look like he’ll play Monday against the Vikings. We’ll see if he reclaims his role when healthy.
Emmanuel Ogbah, OLB, Browns
After going without a sack and notching just 1 QB hit through his 1st 5 games, Cleveland’s 2nd-round rookie has tallied 3 sacks over the past 2 weeks.
Matt Judon, OLB, Ravens
Dynasty IDP owners – bet you’re not used to being addressed directly – keep an eye on this guy. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah pointed him out in the predraft process for dominating the competition at Division II Grand Valley State, and now we can add some actual production. Judon delivered 2 sacks against the Jets last Sunday with OLB Terrell Suggs out. That marked Judon’s 2nd straight outing of nearly 50% playing time. He had played just less than 30% of the snaps through the 1st 3 weeks, while Elvis Dumervil sat out, before missing the 4th and 5th games when Dumervil returned. Dumervil has since dropped back out of the lineup with continued foot issues, while Suggs plans to play through a torn biceps. Judon figures to see volatile playing time the rest of this year but could be fighting for a starting job by 2017.
Mario Williams, DE, Dolphins
Miami’s still trying to find ways to get Williams going. The latest idea was a spontaneous move by DC Vance Joseph to try Williams at DT late in the win over the Bills. His overall playing time bounced back from a season-low 23.6% of the snaps in Week 6 to 56.1%. That’s still down from the 70+% of the previous 4 games, but we’ll see if he can find relevance going forward. Williams generated 2 tackles for loss and a QB hurry against Buffalo. That’s encouraging but not yet useful for IDP owners.
Malcolm Jenkins, S, Eagles
Eagles CB Ron Brooks suffered a season-ending ruptured quad in Sunday’s win over Minnesota. Brooks has been Philly’s slot CB. S Malcolm Jenkins replaced him in that spot after the injury, with rookie DB Jaylen Watkins sliding into Jenkins’ safety role. Watkins – drafted as a CB – “played well,” according to HC Doug Pederson, who said that alignment would continue. Jenkins, of course, also entered the league as a CB with the Saints before transitioning to safety. He has keyed Philly’s stout coverage against TEs over the past couple of seasons. The move could put him in position for more tackles. We’ll see about Watkins’ numbers, as Jenkins hasn’t scored as well as he did last season from the safety spot.
Gerald Hodges, ILB, 49ers
Hodges replaced Michael Wilhoite in the starting lineup for last week’s loss to the Bucs. He played 81% of the snaps, collected 7 tackles (6 solo) and snagged an INT before leaving with a shoulder injury. We’ll see about Hodges’ Week 9 status after this week’s bye. He’ll be a lower-level IDP prospect if he remains the starter, though Nick Bellore still looks safer. He played all but 1 defensive snap against Tampa.
Brent Grimes, CB, Buccaneers
Grimes has defensed 7 passes over just the past 3 games, with 2+ in each of those contests. He’s also averaging just 3 total tackles per week for the year, so those PDs aren’t particularly useful in terms of making him a fantasy starter. That that’s a run worth mentioning. And he’s in play as a spot starter in deep, CB-required leagues. Oakland – this week’s opponent – hasn’t provided big points to DBs so far, though.
Earl Thomas, S, Seahawks
Thomas has also amassed 7 passes defensed over the past 3 games, including a pair of INTs. He should stay busy at New Orleans this Sunday. Drew Brees’ generally efficient passing at home keeps Thomas in boom/bust IDP territory, though.
Chris Jones, DL, Chiefs
The rookie made his 1st start and played his largest share of snaps to date in Week 7, staying on the field for 52% (39 of 75) of plays in the win over the Saints. The numbers haven’t come yet, but he’ll be interesting to watch in a high-ceiling matchup with the Colts this weekend – and longer term.
Charles Johnson, DE, Panthers
Johnson has tallied 3 QB hits in 2 of his past 3 games. That total of 6 leads the Panthers for the season. He has also collected just 13 tackles through 6 contests, with 1 game of more than 2 solos and 2 games of more than 1 solo. So we’re talking low-floor IDP asset here, with no exciting ceiling displayed yet this year. But don’t be surprised if he flashes for a sack against the Cardinals this weekend.
Oakland’s pass protection
The Raiders have allowed just 7 sacks through 7 games, but 5 of those have come within the past 3 games: 3 by the Chargers and then 2 by the Chiefs. Each game featured a 2-sack edge guy: San Diego’s Joey Bosa and K.C.’s Dee Ford.
Trent Murphy, OLB, Washington
Murphy has quietly delivered at least a half-sack every game since Week 2, with 5.5 total sacks over that span.
Ryan Kerrigan, OLB, Washington
Kerrigan has posted 4 of his 5.5 sacks for the season over just the past 3 games. This pair could make some trouble for Cincinnati in London on Sunday morning.