There once again was little movement among IDP values this week, with most of the shifts primarily resulting from injury news, both of the good and bad sort.
The highlight in either regard certainly was the dominant return of Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison, who posted eight solo stops and three sacks against Baltimore after missing four games with an orbital bone fracture. Two other promising developments on the injury front are the expected returns of linebackers Rey Maualuga (high ankle sprain) and Sean Lee (dislocated wrist), both of whom were on pace to zoom past triple-digit tackles before their injuries.
Meanwhile, past injuries continue to trouble safeties LaRon Landry (Achilles') and Kerry Rhodes (foot), while Cleveland safety T.J. Ward emerged from Sunday's game against Houston with hand and foot issues. Both Landry and Ward were on last week's Fallers list due to production issues, so their injuries are especially ill-timed for IDP owners. Two other notable injury news items are that Buffalo nose tackle Kyle Williams (foot) was added to IR, while New England linebacker Brandon Spikes (knee) has an uncertain immediate future.
It looks safe to say that Harrison is not only over his orbital bone injury but also the back issue that appeared to be so ominous in preseason. He returned from his four-game absence Monday to terrorize the Ravens to the tune of eight solo stops and three sacks, as well as a forced fumble. That gives him 31 tackles (26 solo), five sacks and two forced fumbles in five games this year -- a near mirror-image of the production he showed in his spectacular 2008 season when he totaled 101 tackles (76 solo), 16 sacks and seven forced fumbles in 15 games. It seems that as long as he's healthy, Harrison isn't likely to slow down in the foreseeable future.
Maualuga is expected to return this week after missing four games with an ankle injury. His 16 solo tackles in the first four weeks wasn't impressive, but the 16 assists that went along with it at least indicated that Maualuga is a good bet to consistently fly to the football. It's also promising that he produced those 32 total stops in his first four starts as a middle linebacker -- he previously played outside linebacker for Cincinnati and is still growing in the new role. He has the athleticism to become a better playmaker with experience.
While it's still difficult to imagine Lee playing as effectively as he did before his wrist dislocation, he's nonetheless expected to play with a cast against the Bills on Sunday. Considering he was previously looking at the possibility of a season-ending surgery, the mere fact that he's expected to play is great news for his value, even if it is lower than what it was previously. Still, the cast on his forearm might make it difficult or impossible to make plays in coverage like he used to (three interceptions, five passes defensed in seven games), but as long as Lee stays on the field, he should be able to average at least seven tackles per game.
It's too early to say he's out of the woods, but Dumervil finally showed Sunday some of the ability that made him one of the league's most feared pass rushers the last few years. After posting eight tackles and no sacks in five games (missing two because of shoulder injury and playing through an ankle sprain since Oct. 23), Dumervil totaled 1.5 sacks against the Raiders last week, giving some hope that the player who took down the quarterback 17 times in '09 might be close to returning.
The loss of Kyle Williams (foot) stings the Bills badly, but it could prove to be beneficial for Dareus' statistics. While some of Dareus' recent increase in production is likely due to his personal progress as an all-around lineman, it's also worth noting that in his two games playing in Williams' place at nose tackle he totaled nine tackles (six solo) and 2.5 sacks. In a defense that saw fellow linemen Williams, Dwan Edwards and Spencer Johnson combine to average 4.6 tackles per game last year, Dareus could make a push for the 60-tackle mark as a rookie.
Landry isn't expected to miss time with the issue at this point, but he missed practice Wednesday after experiencing discomfort in the same Achilles tendon that has been so problematic since last year. His return to practice Thursday indicates that he's not in danger of missing Sunday's game against Miami, but his disappointing production (37 tackles in six games) and the potential for injury aggravation make him a shaky IDP option.
Ward's 39-tackle season was enough of a disappointment in itself, but Ward also left Sunday's game against Houston with hand and foot injuries. The foot issue had him in a cast as recently as Thursday, indicating that he's likely to miss at least one game with the injury. Safe to say, Ward will not approach the standout numbers he produced as a rookie, when he finished the '10 season with 123 tackles (95 solo) and 10 passes defensed.
A 49ers defense allowing 5.1 yards per play (ninth in the league) isn't going to complain, but Whitner's tackle totals are way down relative to what he posted in Buffalo. His 69 games with the Bills saw Whitner total 451 tackles (323 solo), which is a rate of roughly 6.5 per game (4.7 solo). In his first seven games as a 49er, Whitner has just 30 stops, with 24 as solo tackles. That projects to less than 70 total tackles over 16 games, which doesn't make him much of an IDP option.
Gilchrist proved to be a short-term bargain in IDP leagues, as the rookie totaled nine tackles (eight solo) in his start against Green Bay last week. Unfortunately, those nine tackles weren't the result of making plays around the line of scrimmage. Gilchrist was repeatedly torched in coverage and is headed back to a nickel back role as a result. Antoine Cason, who was benched in Gilchrist's favor, likely will resume the starting spot opposite Quentin Jammer.
Rhodes has been out since Oct. 9 with a broken foot, and the initial prognosis was merely that he would miss at least a month. It's a month later, and it looks like the absence could extend a few more weeks. According to