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).
With stud LB David Harris out until Thanksgiving -- and possibly longer -- Bowens has stepped into his starting spot. After playing the outside and some defensive end over his career, last Sunday was Bowens' first major action at inside linebacker. He had four solo tackles and a sack in Buffalo. With his natural ability to rush the passer, owners in sack-heavy leagues should absolutely consider taking a flier on Bowens. He doesn't have anywhere near the range of Harris and struggles in coverage, so Bowens should be blitzing much more often than Harris ever has.
He came into 2008 a complete unknown. Graham was a '07 fifth-round pick out of might New Hampshire, and he spent his rookie year playing special teams only. Then Chicago secondary's annual injury-fest came around, and Graham was thrust into the starting lineup out of necessity. It was the best of both worlds from an IDP standpoint. Graham held his own well enough in coverage to stay on the field. And between opposing QBs picking on him, and Graham's outstanding ability in run support, he racked up a nice number of solo tackles -- 30 in his four starts. Graham will move back to sub packages now that Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman are both healthy, but there have been calls for Graham to keep Vasher's starting spot; don't count on it. But if injuries hit Chicago again, or if you play in a dynasty league, Graham is definitely a guy to get in tackle-heavy formats.
It will be Johnson, not Stanford Routt, stepping into the starting lineup for the now-departed DeAngelo Hall (we hardly knew ye!) in Oakland. Johnson is a 29-year-old career special teamer with one career star at corner. As has been well-documented throughout the season, Nnamdi Asomugha is the NFL's premier cover corner right now. Teams throw towards his side of the field about once per game. That means tons of throws are about to be coming Johnson's way, making him worth a flier. And the fact that he can't cover, but is a willing tackler, means Johnson will pile up more tackles than your average corner. The downside is that Johnson doesn't have great ball skills, and Routt is looming if he struggles.
He's shown flashes so far this season, and it's reasonable to expect Long to improve in the second half of the year. And with Leonard Little struggling with a hamstring injury, Long figures to stay on the field for even more snaps. He's had multiple solo tackles in every game this season and could easily top 50, a respectable number. And he had two sacks against Matt Light in Week 8, but they get a bit of an asterisk considering Matt Cassel's Roethlisberger-like tendency to hold on to the ball way too long. Last week, Long was a disappointment going up against the very ordinary Mike Gandy, coming up with zero sacks in Kurt Warner's 35 drop backs. Long shouldn't be relied on as an IDP starter right now, but he's a quality back-up with plenty of potential, especially with few elite tackles left on his schedule.
He's up to his old tricks again. After a relatively disappointing start to the season (as far as IDP owners are concerned), Morrison's numbers have been on the rise as the Oakland offense continues to fall apart. With the Raiders D stuck on the field for more than 36 minutes in Week 8 at Baltimore, and for more than 45 minutes last week against the Falcons, Morrison has been piling up tackles. After averaging just 5.5 solo tackles over the season's first six games, Morrison has 20 in the past two weeks. As long as JaMarcus Russell continues to regress, and Darren McFadden limps around for half the offensive snaps, Morrison's numbers will thrive.
After flashing some of his old skills the past few weeks, Peterson's IDP value may have just imploded for the third straight season. Once an annual candidate for 100 solo tackles and five sacks, injuries took Peterson off the radar in '06 and '07. But even last year, he still piled up a respectable 60 solo tackles and two sacks in 10 games before breaking his hand. He was mediocre at best this season, but recently he had 10 solo tackles against Cleveland, and four solos and a sack in Cincinnati last week. It was enough to keep him on fantasy league benches, until now. Peterson has mysteriously been booted from practice this week. He isn't talking. The Jags aren't talking. The best guess is that Peterson was still griping about the lack of a contract extension this summer. Considering the Jags have plenty of young depth at linebacker, and this is pretty much a lost season anyway, Peterson should be waiver fodder right now.
He was high on plenty of lists coming into the season, especially in tackle-heavy leagues. But while Posluszny hasn't necessarily been a disappointment this season, he hasn't exactly broken out. If you take away last year's Week 3 game in New England in which he broke his arm, Posluszny now has 63 solo tackles in 10 career games. But he's a vanilla Cover-2 middle linebacker. Poz doesn't do a lot of blitzing, and he doesn't have the coverage or ball skills to pick up any INTs. In fact, in those 10 career games Poz has no sacks, no interceptions, and only four passes defensed. The consistent tackles make him worthy of a back-up spot in most leagues, but while Posluszny is low-risk, he's not very high-reward.
It's about time this started happening. New York's ridiculous pass rush forces more bad throws than just about any team in the league. And over the past two weeks, Webster has finally been able to take advantage. He picked off Ben Roethlisberger two weeks ago, and can now tell his grandchildren that he picked off the immortal, Super Bowl-winning Brad Johnsontwice in one game. Still, Webster's role as a pure cover corner limits his value. He's only at 24 solo tackles so far this season and has never topped 40 in a year. Unless your in a league that weighs interceptions heavily, Webster should still be sitting on the waiver wire.