While there has not been any especially volatile movement in the IDP world since last week, there is nonetheless a subtle changing of the guard occurring in the elite tiers, especially at linebacker.
Players like Patrick Willis, Lawrence Timmons and Ray Lewis generally remain the top options, but young linebackers like Pat Angerer, Mason Foster, Sean Lee and Sean Weatherspoon, and maybe even Daryl Washington and Navorro Bowman, appear to be making a push for the top tier, while former top names like Jon Beason, Paul Posluszny, D.J. Williams, London Fletcher and Barrett Ruud seem to be losing ground.
Meanwhile, it’s looking more and more safe to consider Charles Johnson an elite option on the defensive line. He’s not quite into the top tier, currently inhabited by Trent Cole and Justin Tuck, but he’s right behind them, along with the likes of Jared Allen, Justin Smith and Julius Peppers.
In other news, Steven Gregory will replace Bob Sanders at safety for San Diego - Sanders’ season is over due to a knee injury - and former fourth-overall pick Aaron Curry has landed on the bench in Seattle, with Mississippi State rookie K.J. Wright taking his place. Also, a few lineup changes are set to occur in the NFC East for various reasons.
Pat Angerer, LB, IND
Not only does he have a great name for a linebacker, but Angerer also easily leads the league with 42 total tackles (24 solo). With Gary Brackett (shoulder) landing on IR, Angerer should continue to be the first Colts defender to make plays against ballcarriers. With his divisional opponents combining for an average of 30.6 rushing attempts per game so far this year, a figure that would rank sixth highest in the league, Angerer should consistently get a good number of opportunities to pile up tackles.
Mason Foster, LB, TB
It’s becoming more and more difficult to grasp why Foster fell to the third round of the 2011 draft. He almost immediately earned the starting middle linebacker role in Tampa Bay, and the team announced Thursday that he will be a first-team linebacker in all defensive formations, including passing-down work. He has 22 tackles (16 solo), two sacks and a forced fumble through three games, showing the same playmaking ability that made him great in college.
Sean Lee, LB, DAL
If Lee’s durability was not a question, he’d already be right behind Willis in the IDP rankings. Unfortunately, he still should be considered one of the more injury prone players in the league, which puts a bit of a cloud over his otherwise spectacular performance through three games. He has been a monster both against the run and pass, totaling 31 tackles (23 solo), 3.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries through three games. As long as he can stay on the field, Lee should be an elite player, but he fell into the late second round of his draft because his health is never a given.
Charles Johnson, DE, CAR
Through three games Johnson is doing a pretty good job of living up to his six-year, $76 million contract. He has one sack in each of Carolina's games so far, totaling 11 tackles (all solo) at the same time. It looks like he’s in no danger of disappearing after his breakout 62-tackle, 11.5-sack showing in 2010. He now has 14.5 sacks in his last 17 games, and 11 in his last 10 contests. Moreover, despite being in his fifth NFL season, Johnson just turned 25 in July. He might not be done improving.
Brian Rolle, LB, PHI
Rolle is only a player to keep an eye on, but he’s worth watching as he takes over the starting weak-side linebacker spot in Philadelphia. He had a hold on passing-down work before that, and he now might play as many snaps as any Eagles linebacker. While undersized at just 227 pounds and a bit less than 5-foot-10, Rolle is highly athletic and has the potential to be fairly disruptive.
Kurt Coleman, S, PHI
Coleman struggled against the Giants on Sunday, and he now finds himself on the bench behind 2010 second-round pick Nate Allen. It may be a fluid situation given the questionable condition of Allen’s knee, but Coleman, a former seventh-round pick, might not get the job back given the team’s greater investment in Allen. Allen himself isn’t much of an IDP option due to his low tackle numbers.
Casey Matthews, LB, PHI
Despite getting handed the starting middle, and then weak-side, linebacker roles to start the year, Matthews could not hold his spot. He now finds himself on the bench heading into Week 4 - Rolle’s promotion to the starting lineup was at Matthews’ expense. Given how badly Matthews struggled, it’d probably be a surprise if he started again this year without injuries getting involved.
Reed Doughty, S, WAS
Doughty is an in-the-box safety who posts good tackle numbers when he’s on the field, but those that still own him will need to look elsewhere for a spot starter in the secondary with LaRon Landry (hamstring) back in the lineup. Doughty posted 17 tackles (12 solo) in the two games that Landry missed, but he won't see the field much with Landry healthy.
Prince Amukamara, CB, NYG
It was believed that Amukamara (foot) would be on the field sometime around the start of October after suffering a metatarsal fracture in the first week of August, but his recovery is evidently taking a bit longer than expected. Despite receiving a prognosis of roughly two months around Aug. 6, coach Tom Coughlin said recently Amukamara is still “a ways” from returning. As a rookie who figures to get tested a fair amount by opposing quarterbacks, Amukamara could eventually be a decent IDP option this year, but such a scenario doesn’t seem especially imminent.
Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, NYG
Pierre-Paul is still a (potentially very) valuable IDP option on the defensive line, but his value takes a slight hit with the imminent return of Osi Umenyiora (knee). Pierre-Paul is expected to play off the bench from that point, though he’ll still be a very prominent member of the defensive line rotation. While it would be a disappointment if Pierre-Paul didn’t reach double-digits in the sack column, he was showing 16-sack potential as a full-time starter to this point. It’s not a given that he’ll be able to maintain that when Umenyiora is back.