There’s been a fair amount of movement at the safety position recently, with news of both the good and bad sort.
Let’s get to the bad news first. New England’s Patrick Chung (wrist) is expected to miss the Patriots’ Week 3 matchup with the Bills, though fortunately he isn’t expected to miss much time beyond that. The loss of Green Bay safety Nick Collins (neck) for the season is definitely worse, as he’s one of the league’s best defensive backs, even if his low tackle totals limited his IDP usefulness. Charlie Peprah will be his replacement.
The good news is that LaRon Landry (hamstring) appears to be nearing a return, and he has the potential to be an elite IDP in most systems. If you’re a Packers fan, perhaps you can find a silver lining in the fact that the other Green Bay safety, Morgan Burnett, has shown a lot of progress through the first two games. He’s the top riser this week. The safety position is also getting a bit of a boost in the IDP world thanks to the emergence of Kam Chancellor in Seattle.
Otherwise, keep an eye on the status of the Arizona duo of Daryl Washington (calf) and Paris Lenon (ankle) as Sunday approaches. Both players, especially Washington, have good IDP potential when they’re on the field.
Morgan Burnett, S, GB
Burnett has been an elite IDP option to this point, racing to the 21-tackle mark (14 solo) while posting one sack, one interception, one forced fumble and two passes defensed. His numbers are almost guaranteed to drop off from here—his opponents won’t continue to throw 49 (Drew Brees) and 46 (Cam Newton) passes per game—but Burnett has a reliable history. If you take his per-game averages from his final two years at Georgia Tech and project them over 16 games, you’d get roughly 106 tackles and seven interceptions. He seems to be the real deal, and he won’t even turn 23 until January 13.
Kam Chancellor, S, SEA
Built more like a linebacker than a safety, Chancellor has a chance to emerge as the league’s next Bernard Pollard, though hopefully a bit more successful in coverage. The 6-3, 232-pound Virginia Tech product has 19 tackles (15 solo) through the first two weeks, and with the Seahawks offense being as bad as it is, Chancellor and the Seattle defense figure to stay on the field a long time this year. That means the tackle opportunities should remain consistent.
LaRon Landry, S, WAS
Landry is considered questionable for Monday’s game against Dallas, though Tuesday he said “of course” he’d play against the Cowboys. Even if Landry is out another week, it might be time to start adding him in conventional IDP leagues. He has the potential to average roughly 10 total tackles per game after posting 85 stops (66 solo) in nine games last year.
Ray McDonald, DE, SF
McDonald has quietly been one of the league’s more skilled disruptors on the interior defensive line for a while now, but San Francisco finally started giving him starter’s snaps this year. The result has been seven tackles (all solo) and two sacks through the first two weeks. He’s worth speculating on in plenty of scenarios, as the presence of Patrick Willis and fellow end Justin Smith figure to keep offenses from singling out McDonald too much.
Michael Johnson, DE, CIN
Few players are less trustworthy as far as consistency goes, but the immensely athletic Johnson is finally showing signs of capitalizing on his exceedingly rare potential. He finished Week 1 with one solo stop, three passes defensed and an interception against Cleveland while going off for seven solo tackles, a sack and a forced fumble against Denver in Week 2. He’s a bit of a risk outside of deeper IDP leagues, but he’s one that could nonetheless pay off in a big way if he keeps it up.
Courtney Greene, S, JAC
Greene has never fooled anyone for a standout safety on the playing field, but he was nonetheless a decent low-end IDP option last year. He finished the 2010 season with 78 tackles (58 solo), one interception, one forced fumble and four passes defensed in 14 games (11 starts), and looked like a decent bargain target headed into this year. Unfortunately, his lack of on-field utility got him sent to the bench after Week 2, with Dwight Lowery replacing him in the lineup.
William Moore, S, ATL
Moore’s situation seems to be the opposite of Greene’s—he has job security, but his numbers nonetheless don’t stand out. Unfortunately, plays like his concussion-inducing blitz on Michael Vick from Sunday don’t show up on the stat sheet, and his eight tackles (seven solo) from this season are otherwise next to useless for IDP purposes. He showed playmaking ability in coverage last year, averaging 23.4 yards per return on five interceptions, but his tackle total of 72 (59 solo) indicates that he's unlikely to be much of an IDP option.
Kevin Burnett, LB, MIA
It’s still early, but Burnett has not looked especially promising so far in Miami. The Tennessee product showed good playmaking ability in San Diego last year, finishing with 95 tackles (80 solo), six sacks and two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), but he has only eight tackles (seven solo) through Week 2 with the Dolphins. As someone who never profiled as a triple-digit tackle threat, Burnett needs to start making plays if he’s going to maintain any IDP relevance.
Carlos Dunlap, DE, CIN
Dunlap remains an elite talent, but for some reason he has played only a situational role in the Cincinnati defense so far this year. After posting a rather remarkable 9.5 sacks in just 12 games as a rookie, he has only four tackles through two weeks in 2011, with all four stops coming against the Broncos in Week 2. Fellow super-athletic, often-underachieving defensive end Michael Johnson has been the standout end so far in Cincinnati.
Quincy Black, LB, TB
Black is one of the league’s better linebackers, but his IDP utility is limited. This is especially true in regard to the short term, as Black is currently dealing with some ankle troubles. But it’s probably true in the long run as well, because he’s one of four young and talented linebackers on the Tampa Bay roster. The Florida State tandem of Geno Hayes and Dekoda Watson are both skilled, and third-round 2011 pick Mason Foster started stealing Black’s passing-down work in Week 2. Given that Foster posted 10 tackles (seven solo), a sack and a forced fumble in the second game, it’s possible that Black will only get occasional passing-down work from here.