Eight in the box: Individual defensive player rankings

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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).

Coming off Achilles surgery, Bell really carried far too much risk coming into the season. But six games into the year, it looks like Miami's strong safety has made it all the way back. With Miami's weak front seven, and Bell's spot in the box, it looks like he's going to finish among the top 10 IDP producers at defensive back as long as he stays healthy. Bell doesn't bring a lot of big play value (one career interception), but he already had 37 solo tackles through six games.

It looked like this might be the year for Mathis. With Dwight Freeney coming off a major knee injury, Mathis was set for a promotion of part-time player. Unfortunately for Mathis, Indy has pretty much taken Freeney's restrictions away. And it has knocked Mathis back into a rotation situation. He has five sacks this season, but it's going to be difficult for Mathis to produce at that pace when he's rarely a part of the base defense. After all, three of those sacks came in one game -- Week 6 against Baltimore. He remains the same high-risk, high-reward play from week to week.

With Rodney Harrison's season, and possibly career, coming to an end, Meriweather will get a chance to step into the starting lineup. With three interceptions this season as a sub package DB, he's intriguing. New England's 2007 first-round pick, Meriweather spent the offseason trying to improve his ball skills, and it looks like the work has paid off. But it's tough to see him lining up in Harrison's strong safety spot often. He's more of a centerfielder, and the Pats would seem more inclined to move James Sanders closer to the line of scrimmage. In that scenario, Meriweather would have fewer chances for tackles. It will be tough to get a read on Meriweather's role before Sunday, but right now he's not worth more than a flier.

Rouse has had a nice run at strong safety the past four games. He had 20 solo tackles and a 99-yard pick six of Eli Manning. But the party is over. Because of his solid play, Rouse might have Wally Pipped Atari Bigby, who is expected to be active this week. But the return of Bigby makes Rouse too much of a risk with not enough reward. Unless he's officially named the starter, unlikely right now, take a pass on Rouse.

He's one of the smartest linebackers in the game, but three seasons after an impressive rookie year, Tatupu isn't making many plays. He dropped to a career-low 83 solo tackles last season, and this year is on pace to be his worst yet. Because he has left two games early with head and knee injuries, Tatupu has just 29 tackles through six games. And now he's coming off a concussion. Tatupu is certainly a buy-low candidate, but his reward isn't very high.

No one seems to have benefited more from the acquisition of Jared Allen than Williams. He has always been supremely talented, but all the double teams have slowed Williams' numbers in recent years. But working alongside Allen on the right side, Williams is re-emerging as a double-digit sack threat as defenses focus on Allen. Williams had 10.5 sacks as a rookie in '03 and 11.5 in '04, but he hasn't recorded more than 31 solo tackles or five sacks in four seasons since. So through seven games this season, he's already at six sacks and 24 solos. It's a tough pace for any defensive tackle to maintain, but Williams has the talent, and now the supporting cast, to keep putting up elite numbers over the season's second half.

Oh, that Oakland D. With a swiss cheese front seven, Wilson has been cleaning up during his first year as a Raider. It's a perfect formula for IDP success. The Raiders have a front seven who can't tackle. Wilson can. Oakland has been playing him as essentially a fourth linebacker, putting him in the box constantly. And with all those ballcarriers running into him, Wilson can't help but make a run at 100 solo tackles, a plateau no defensive back has hit since Pat Tillman and Rodney Harrison back in '00. He's already at 39 through six games.

Wright is a little raw, but has a ton of natural ability. His nightmarish preseason was actually great news for his IDP value; teams have not shied away from throwing at him. And Wright has shown a ton of playmaking ability with three picks, including a pick six of Eli Manning two Mondays ago, and an impressive strip of Clinton Portis last week. Add that with his solid play against the run (26 solo tackles through six games), and you have a quality starting DB in IDP leagues.