Luckily, Week 6 has come and gone and there aren’t really any big injuries to report, at least among the IDP-relevant.
Outside of Kyle Williams’ enduring foot issue and ankle trouble slowing down Tampa Bay rookie linebacker Mason Foster, the most important IDP injury news might be of the good sort, in fact – Julius Peppers (knee) played through a doubtful designation to record two sacks in his best game of the year, while Justin Tuck (groin/neck) and Trent Cole (calf) shouldn’t be out much longer.
Beyond those developments, the only real movement among the IDPs lately is performance-related. Jacksonville linebacker Paul Posluszny is showing that he wasn’t a product of the Bills’ defensive scheme, while fellow Penn State product Sean Lee continues his ascent in Dallas. Meanwhile, rookie Aldon Smith, the seventh overall pick, has shown over the last three weeks that he might be emerging as one of the league’s best young pass rushers. Another less-heralded, but still talented rookie, linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, is set to take over as the starting inside linebacker next to Nick Barnett in Buffalo and is a player to monitor in most leagues.
On the flip side, London Fletcher’s disappointing season is showing no signs of life, while both of Houston’s inside linebackers are failing to reach expectations – DeMeco Ryans in particular. Even Patrick Willis – fine as his play has been on the playing field – is failing to live up to his preseason IDP draft status.
Aldon Smith, LB, SF
Smith seemed to struggle a bit initially in his transition to outside linebacker in the 3-4 – certainly understandable when you consider that he spent much of his college career lined up as a defensive tackle in the 4-3. But in the past three weeks, Smith has been a terror for opposing offenses, posting 5.5 sacks without even starting a single game. He’ll almost certainly slow down any second now, but those in leagues that reward heavily for sack production could find significant value with Smith.
Sean Lee, LB, DAL
With each week that passes it becomes clearer that Lee is an elite defender. His durability remains a potential problem, but if Lee keeps playing like he has, he might be able to make a push for the top inside linebacker tier, previously inhabited by basically no one other than Patrick Willis. Through five games he has 47 tackles (32 solo), three interceptions and five passes defensed, and Dallas’ run defense ranks second-best in the league with an average of just 3.3 yards allowed per carry, tied with Cincinnati and Baltimore.
Paul Posluszny, LB, JAC
Although he’s playing in a defense that, between 2006 and 2010, had featured just one triple-digit tackle campaign (Daryl Smith in 2009), Posluszny has still been putting up big numbers this year. Not as big as what he produced in Buffalo, but still big. He heads into Week 7 with 55 total tackles (32 solo), as well as one sack and five passes defensed. Given the history of the Jacksonville defense, that’s much more than any Posluszny owner could have asked for heading into this year. His 2011 average of roughly 5.3 solo tackles per game is significantly lower than the average of 6.6 per game from his last three years in Buffalo, but Posluszny has managed to stay very relevant in the IDP realm.
Jared Allen, DE, MIN
Allen has provided sheer greatness for most of his eight-year career, and 2011 could be his best performance yet. His two forced fumbles this year are double his total from all of last season, while his 9.5 sacks are just 1.5 short of his 2010 total. He now has 19.5 sacks in his last 15 games, and there are no signs of mercy on the horizon. What’s especially impressive is he’s doing this with only half of the Williams Wall remaining in Minnesota, and that remaining half (Kevin Williams) is playing through plantar fasciitis.
Kurt Coleman, S, PHI
Coleman is far from valuable as an IDP – it was only a few weeks ago that he had been benched despite opening the season as a starter – but the man deserves credit for posting seven tackles and three interceptions against the Redskins last week. Bad as the defense as a whole has been, Philadelphia boasts a strong pass rush, so the instinctive (though athletically-limited) Coleman should continue seeing opportunities to make plays. There are worse gambles you could make in deep leagues, as the Jarrad Page experiment appears to be over in Philadelphia.
DeMeco Ryans, LB, HOU
Ryans’ stats through six games are simply awful, as he has just 25 tackles (17 solo). He’s useless in all IDP scenarios if his production doesn’t make a sharp spike upward. Not only is he far short of his 2010 pace, when he had 54 tackles (32 solo) through six weeks, he’s currently on pace to fall short of 80 tackles.
Mason Foster, LB, TB
Foster started the season red-hot, totaling 22 tackles (16 solo), two sacks and a forced fumble in his first three NFL games, but he has just 10 tackles (six solo) in the three games since. He has dealt with an ankle injury for at least two of those three games, so that's one potential influence on the decline in his numbers. Still, IDP owners don’t get bonus points for their players toughing it out through injury. Foster is a risky option until he shows he’s rolling again.
London Fletcher, LB, WAS
Fletcher’s total of 34 tackles through five weeks may appear decent on the surface, but his solo tackle total of just 14 is shockingly weak. In a league that distinguishes solo stops from assists, he basically has been useless all year, and there’s not much reason to expect that to change. He hasn’t exceeded four solo tackles in a single game this year.
Brian Cushing, LB, HOU
Just like Ryans, Cushing’s numbers have been a disappointment so far. His numbers aren't quite as bad as Ryans, as Cushing has a decent total of 41 tackles (27 solo) and one sack through six weeks, but those numbers still fall short of expectations. In both players’ case, production has doubtlessly been limited by Houston’s rather low snap count on defense – the unit’s average of 60 snaps per game ranks fifth-lowest in the league.
Patrick Willis, LB, SF
Like Justin Smith on last week’s list, it’s not especially fair to be criticizing Willis when his team is allowing just 3.6 yards per carry and has yet to surrender a rushing touchdown. However, Willis numbers are falling short of expectations. His 47 tackles (37 solo), seven passes defensed and a forced fumble in six games are far from a shameful showing, but he’s still on pace for a career-low 125 tackles. Meanwhile, teammate Navorro Bowman has 56 stops (43 solo) through six games, leaving him on pace for 149 total tackles.