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 three-position formats (defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs).
He finally forced our hand. Eight in the Box had been waiting Finnegan out, trusting that he would come back down to Earth after an absurd start to the season. So far, he just keeps topping himself. Finnegan picked off two passes in the opener, and added another in Week 2. Just when it looked like he'd finish with an ordinary day in Week 3, he picks off Matt Schaub and takes it 99 yards for a TD. Teams will throw at Finnegan, especially since they won't run on this defense. But the pride of Samford University won't keep picking off passes. The dude had one in 18 career starts coming into the year. The good news is that, even though the picks will fall off, the tackles should start coming. Finnegan had 78 solo tackles last season and is outstanding in run support as far as corners go (he only has 11 solos through three games). So while anyone hunting for big plays will be disappointed, Finnegan should be a safe, solid play and a top 15 or so DB.
The formula is there for a moderate breakout for Jackson. As a weakside ILB, he's in the right spot in Cleveland's 3-4. Unlike last season, he has massive space eater Shaun Rogers swallowing up those blockers in front of him. And the Browns have an offense that suddenly can't stay on the field. Jackson was solid in 2007, his second NFL season. He finished 28th in the NFL in solo tackles per game (5.4) despite a nagging ankle injury, and he turns just 25 on Friday. He's not a big play guy, but Jackson has 17 solo tackles this season. If he stays healthy, he's a good bet for 90 tackles and a top 20 linebacker.
Keiaho was off to a solid start last season before he was derailed by a series of injuries. He's a rangy linebacker on the weakside of Tony Dungy's Tampa 2. And Keiaho's IDP value gets a big boost with the Colts defense reverting to their '06 form. Indy's front four can't stop anyone, leaving Keiaho to pick up stops against the run. The Colts D couldn't get off the field on Sunday, and teams will certainly emulate the run-heavy attack that the Jags used to beat them in Week 3. Keiaho would have approached 100 solo tackles if healthy last season and should pass that landmark this year, especially with 22 solo tackles already.
Through three games, the Patriots have done nothing to hold back their rookie. Mayo has played just about every snap as the weakside ILB this season, the most tackle-friendly spot in New England's defense. So far, he has 21 solo tackles, including eight in the trouncing the Pats got from the Dolphins last Sunday. Teams won't have to abandon the run against the Pats this year like they did a season ago. If you're looking for this year's David Harris, it's probably Mayo.
Polamalu has always been a player whose real-life value far outweighs his fantasy value. He doesn't get a ton of tackles in run support because the Steelers' linebackers eat up the tackles. And while he gets the occasional interception or sack, they never come consistently enough to make up for the good-not-great tackles. The good news is that Polamalu is 100 percent for the first time since '05. But his value has been vastly exaggerated after interceptions in each of his first three games.
Is Robbins the latest D-lineman who will get a boost in Steve Spagnuolo's scheme? Not bloody likely, despite back-to-back two-sack weeks. He's certainly worth a flier, but the 317-pound Robbins will start seeing the occasional double team. And considering he had only decent production starting between Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora the past two seasons (63 solo tackles, 11 sacks in 2006 and '07 combined), there's no reason to think Weeks 2 and 3 were more than a fluke for the 31-year-old vet.
Tillman is back at it after two injury-plagued seasons (at least so far). He's a classic Cover-2 corner -- a solid tackler who's great in run support. But he's far from a shutdown corner against the pass. And that's what makes Tillman such an attractive IDP option. Teams will throw at him. Tillman has the ball skills to get the occasional pick, but more importantly he'll get those tackles when a catch is made in front of him. Tillman is one of the few DBs with a shot at 90 solo tackles, making him a top 5 option at the position.
Vanden Bosch has always been a favorite of mine. He's so consistent, notching 40-plus tackles in each of his three seasons with the Titans. Even better, he works next to stud DT Albert Haynesworth. That means few double teams to Vanden Bosch, who has topped 12 sacks in two of the past three seasons. Vanden Bosch already has 2.5 this season and looks like he's on his way to being a top 10 defensive lineman again.