Eight in the box

Publish date:

All season long, this is the place for your weekly Individual Defensive Player Report. We'll be focusing on the three main statistics for most IDP leagues (solo tackles, sacks, and takeaways) in the common three-position formats (defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs).

Pretty much everyone's top DL coming into the season, Allen no doubt had his owners in tears after getting shutout Monday night. Don't read too much into it. Yes, the Packers consistently doubled Allen. And yes, Ray Edwards isn't really scaring anyone on the other side. But it wasn't anything Allen didn't see last season in K.C., and he was close to Aaron Rodgers numerous times. He was just a split second late too often. Allen had a similar performance in his second game of 2007, coming up with just one solo and one assist against the Chargers. It happens sometimes, and just like last year, Allen will bounce back.

Every year there's a middle linebacker or two who emerge as IDP stars. For '08, it looks like Bradley will be one of them. Playing the weakside in his only start as a rookie last season, Bradley had five solo tackles and an interception. The second-year linebacker took over the middle from Omar Gaither (now playing the weakside) and was a tackling machine in his debut at the MIKE (eight solo tackles and a sack). And that was with the Eagles defense spending less than 25 minutes on the field. He's not super-athletic, but Bradley gets around and is more than physical enough to handle the middle and rack up tackles.

It's easy to get all giddy as a schoolgirl over Brown's line from Week 1: five solo tackles, two sacks. And the veteran DT is in a good situation lining up next to Albert Haynesworth, who occupies two offensive linemen on every play. But this performance had fluke written all over it. Brown got an edge against Jacksonville's banged up interior line and, frankly, he doesn't have any kind of track record to support this kind of performance. Sometimes guys simply get better, but Brown is soon-to-be 28, started 16 games last season (13 alongside Haynesworth), and finished with 32 solo tackles and four sacks. At best, Brown is worth a flier in very deep leagues.

Diles came out of nowhere in Week 1. An '07 seventh-round pick, Diles surprisingly claimed a starting job during the preseason and came up with 11 solo tackles in Pittsburgh, the second-best total in the NFL. But don't get too excited. Diles is playing the strong side in Houston, and despite some good athleticism, he's going to get swallowed up in traffic often. It's just what happens on the strong side. Houston's '07 SAMs, Danny Clark and Charlie Anderson, combined for 49 solos. Diles will top that number, but not by much. DeMeco Ryans and Morlon Greenwood are still clearly the linebackers to own in Houston.

One of the more interesting IDPs out there, Roth is a linebacker who has retained his DL eligibility in just about every league. And his performance in Week 1 -- five solo tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble -- has put him squarely on the IDP radar. He plays the strong side, limiting his potential for tackles. But there is still reason to get excited about Roth. Roth came into the league in '05 as a 'tweener pass rusher when they weren't so in vogue. He never established himself with his hand in the dirt during his first three seasons, but he's a much better fit standing up as an outside linebacker in coordinator Paul Pasqualoni's scheme. Greg Ellis, a converted defensive end who played the strong side in Dallas last season (where head coach Tony Sparano and Pasqualoni came from), finished with a career-high 12.5 sacks. Of course, some of that came because defenses focused on stopping DeMarcus Ware on the other side. But Joey Porter will draw at least some attention, and Roth is the kind of raw pass-rusher who could surprise with double-digit sacks in '08.

White took over at free safety for the departed Madieu Williams, and it looks like it will be more of the same for Cincinnati in '08: lots of time on the field, and lots of yards allowed. That shouldn't stop White from matching Williams' production: about 70 solo tackles and a couple over 16 games. He's a low-risk back-up DB in most leagues.

Probably the biggest surprise (and undoubtedly the biggest disappointment) of Week 1 was Willis' performance. There's no doubt the superstar ILB has a huge bullseye on his back and was consistently targeted by the Cards. But three solo tackles isn't going to cut it, especially since San Fran's biggest defensive goal is to make sure he runs free. But there's no need to fret. The beauty of a Mike Martz offense (for IDP owners) is that it keeps the team's defense on the field constantly. The Niners defense was on the field more than anyone in '07 (32:52 per game). With Martz running the offense, their time of possession should drop even lower (the Niners had it for less than 23 minutes on Sunday). Willis will have plenty of time to get his tackles.

He was a regular on the highlight reel in Week 1, picking up a sack, an interception, and a fumble recovery to go along with three solo tackles. Showing off his improved ability to drop into coverage, as well as his proven ability to get to the passer, Woodley is certainly a star in the making and an upgrade over Clark Haggans on the left side opposite Jerome Harrison. But he's more of a high-risk flier for fantasy owners. He won't get the consistent tackles you want out of a linebacker. And he's certainly not going to get many more INTs. Double-digit sacks are a possibility, but Woodley is likely going to be a feast or famine fantasy producer all season.