The biggest news from last week among IDPs is undoubtedly the season-ending ACL tear suffered by Houston inside linebacker Brian Cushing, who's no less than the third-best player in a tough Texans 3-4. Tim Dobbins will replace Cushing in the lineup and is worth keeping an eye on for IDP purposes. A lesser but still problematic injury struck another AFC star Sunday, as Indianapolis pass rusher Robert Mathis suffered a knee injury that figures to cost him 2-to-3 weeks.
The Seattle defense as a whole is on a tear right now, but two rookies are among those leading the charge and find themselves on the Rising list. Despite respectively playing at middle linebacker and defensive end, Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin were two of the draft's fastest players, and in Seattle's amorphous 4-3 the two are proving to be a blur with a penchant for breaking into opposing backfields.
Wagner and Irvin aren't the only rookies on the Rising list, however, as Vontaze Burfict's ascent has continued in Cincinnati, and second-round pick Zach Brown appears to have made his way into the starting lineup in Tennessee. Meanwhile, four NFC east defensive ends - Trent Cole, Jason Pierre-Paul, Jason Babin and Osi Umenyiora - are on the Falling list due to their slow starts.
Vontaze Burfict, OLB, CIN
Burfict is probably the fastest rising linebacker at the moment, as he appears to be safely locked into a three-down role in Cincinnati. Thomas Howard's ACL injury paved the way, but Burfict is holding onto the role on merit, and he played every snap for Cincinnati against Miami on Sunday. Rey Maualuga isn't impressing anyone, and Manny Lawson seems stuck in a part-time role, so it looks as if injury is the only thing that can stop Burfict. He has 15 tackles (11 solo), one sack and a fumble recovery in the last two games. It's a rather shocking ascent given how bleak his career outlook was just a few months ago.
Bobby Wagner, MLB, SEA
Leroy Hill's calf injury let Wagner get his foot in the door two weeks ago, and the rookie made it clear again against the Panthers on Sunday that he's not going anywhere. He played every snap for the Seahawks on Sunday and once again displayed his rare blitzing skills, totaling six tackles (three solo) and 1.5 sacks. Despite sitting out on nickel snaps the first three games, Wagner is up to 29 tackles (20 solo) and five tackles for loss in his first five games. He's fast and aggressive and plays in a defense that makes full use of both of those traits, so it shouldn't surprise anyone if Wagner ends up the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Zach Brown, OLB, TEN
As expected, the ankle injury to Colin McCarthy that allowed Brown to audition as starter at outside linebacker turned out to be the end for Will Witherspoon's time as a starter in Tennessee. Witherspoon previously started outside for the Titans, but moved inside to replace McCarthy, allowing Brown to step in at outside linebacker. When McCarthy returned, it was Witherspoon, not Brown, who saw the bench. Now Brown is up to 34 tackles (21 solo) and a sack in six games, including 31 tackles over the last five games. His upside is limited due to McCarthy and Akeem Ayers holding on to the nickel snaps, but Brown is at least on the deep-league radar.
Bruce Irvin, DE, SEA
His lack of tackle production and role as a part-time pass rush specialist in Seattle limits his utility to deep leagues and leagues that reward disproportionately for sacks, but it nonetheless looks safe to say that Irvin was not the draft reach that most took him for. In a defense with too many other threats for double-teams to be a concern, the 15th overall pick has been a blur on the edge, totaling 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble in five games. Irvin's stock appears especially valuable in dynasty leagues, because if Irvin keeps it up, there's no way Chris Clemons (or someone else, anyway) won't lose snaps to Irvin as time passes.
Danny McCray, S, DAL
He's probably only a deep league consideration given that he's a backup by trade, but McCray is a player to monitor in such formats since he looks like he'll be the starting strong safety for the rest of the year in Dallas. He played 45 of 55 snaps for the Cowboys against the Bears, and he supplements that role with his work on special teams, where he added 12 more plays. In the two games he played prominently on defense this year, McCray has 13 tackles (eight solo), so he's a darkhorse to produce around a 90-tackle 16-game pace since Barry Church (Achilles) is out for the year.
Trent Cole, DE, PHI
It's getting difficult to remain optimistic in Cole as an IDP. The wide-nine formation utilized by defensive line coach Jim Washburn keeps Cole farther away from the traffic in which he previously thrived throughout his career, lowering his tackle opportunities, and the extreme depth Philadelphia possesses across the line means the stats get spread out more than most teams. The result through five games is a total of just nine tackles (six solo) and 1.5 sacks, a pace that would easily project to his worst numbers since his 2005 rookie year. Cole is still worth holding on to since he can catch fire as a pass rusher any second, but his days of producing 70 tackles per year appear gone as long as Washburn is in Philadelphia.
Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, NYG
So much for 30 sacks. Pierre-Paul is producing at a pace well short of the high hopes expressed by teammate Mathias Kiwanuka prior to this year, as he has just 1.5 sacks after five games. And with just 19 tackles, Pierre-Paul is one of the biggest IDP disappointments so far this year. After notching 86 stops (65 solo) and 16.5 sacks as a 12-game starter last year, Pierre-Paul is on pace for just 61 tackles (35 solo) and five sacks. Since he's such a huge disappointment, Pierre-Paul makes a good buy-low target, because he's too talented to not break out in the relatively near future.
Jason Babin, DE, PHI
Like Cole, Babin is struggling to post numbers in the Philadelphia wide nine. His low tackle totals mean he needs to post sacks to be an IDP factor, but through five games he has only 2.5 sacks. It seems like offensive lines have figured out how to slow Babin after his 18-sack season in 2011, so while it's still reasonable to expect double-digit sacks from Babin, he looks liable to do it in a feast-or-famine fashion, potentially leaving his owners with goose eggs much of the time.
Osi Umenyiora, DE, NYG
Most of the Giants defensive line is struggling to post numbers, and Umenyiora is no exception, as he has just 12 tackles and two sacks through five games. Unlike Pierre-Paul, Umenyiora is a one-dimensional edge rusher who has little or no IDP value if he isn't getting to the quarterback. He was a fine option when he had nine sacks in nine games last year, but two for every five games isn't going to cut it. He's primarily a bench IDP outside of deep leagues.
Kamerion Wimbley, DE, TEN
He's seeing a big snap count for the Titans, but Wimbley has been just awful as an IDP through six games, which is a surprise given how he was generally a reliable producer in the six previous seasons. To be fair, much of the time prior to this year was spent at outside linebacker, but after averaging roughly 62 tackles and seven sacks per season in the rest of his career, Wimbley started off this season with just 10 tackles (four solo) and one sack in six games. It's difficult to imagine a format where those numbers have any utility.