All season long, Eight in the Box is the place for your weekly Individual Defensive Player Report.
Analysis is based on the four main statistics for most IDP leagues (solo tackles, sacks, passes defensed and takeaways) in three-position formats (defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs).
C.C. Brown, DB, Giants
After a slow start, Brown has been an IDP revelation over the past two weeks with 22 solo tackles. Stepping in for an injured Kenny Phillips, Brown has been adjusting to more of a tweener safety role after spending four seasons as an in-the-box type for the Texans. A lot of his tackles are coming on receivers after the catch, which makes him a risk. But he's certainly been active enough to average five per game from here on in. Owners in tackle-heavy scoring formats should view him as a DB2.
Jairus Byrd, DB, Bills
Big-play leagues no longer have a choice: Byrd has to be on a roster. The rookie came into the league with a reputation for having great ball skills, but his instincts have really stood out since becoming a fulltime free safety. In five starts this year, he not only has five interceptions but seven passes defensed. He's not going to get more than two or three solo tackles most weeks, but Byrd is as likely as anyone in the NFL to keep picking off passes.
Brian Cushing, LB, Texans
The rookie continues to look better and better as he gets more comfortable, recording six solo tackles with two forced fumbles in Week 6, then getting five more solos in Week 7. He's been excellent when dropping into coverage, picking up six passes defensed already. Still, his solid play doesn't figure to translate into much fantasy value. Cushing isn't going to rush the passer, and playing the strong side he won't have a chance to get big enough tackle numbers.
Vontae Davis, DB, Dolphins
With Will Allen done for the year, Davis will step into the starting lineup across from fellow rookie Sean Smith. While there's no need to rush out and pick up Davis now, owners in big-play leagues should keep an eye on him. He's inconsistent, making him an inviting target for opposing offenses, but Vernon's little brother is a ridiculous athlete with big-play ability (he had a pick six against Buffalo in Week 4).
David Hawthorne, LB, Seahawks
Even if Lofa Tatupu isn't out for the year, he's going to be out for awhile. So for the time being, Hawthorne steps in for Act II. Back in Week 3, he had 15 solo tackles against the Bears. He looked a little lost in relief of Tatupu in Week 6, but still managed four solo tackles while playing about half the game. Owners in tackle-heavy leagues have pretty much nothing to lose at this point. Hawthorne is worth the risk as a LB2.
Kaluka Maiava, LB, Browns
D'Qwell Jackson is gone for the year, meaning the rookie Maiava is going to get first crack at his inside linebacker spot. Because of (a) the Cleveland offense's inability to stay on the field, and (b) the presence of Shaun Rogers in on the nose, being a Browns IDP immediately puts you on the IDP radar. Of course, Maiava has his flaws. He's rangy, but far too small to hold up on the inside of a 3-4 defense. His first NFL start was one to forget last week, as the Packers ran right at him all game, racking up 200-plus rushing yards as a team. Still, owners in tackle-heavy scoring formats should keep an eye on him going forward.
Jimmy Wilkerson, DL, Buccaneers
As we mourn yet another disappointing year from Gaines Adams, Wilkerson has quietly stepped up as the best lineman in Tampa. After six seasons as a bit player in Kansas City and Tampa, he's getting his first chance to start and has adjusted to JimBates' scheme much better than Adams has. He got Donovan McNabb for three sacks back in Week 5 and has 5.5, along with a respectable 21 solo tackles, so far. With Adams shipped off to Chicago, Wilkerson is a lock to retain a fulltime role all year. At this point, he's worth a flier as a DL2 in deeper leagues.
Will Witherspoon, LB, Eagles
He didn't start in his Eagles debut, but he played pretty close to a full game after coming in for Jeremiah Trotter. And considering his performance, there's little doubt Witherspoon will be starting soon enough. He had six solo tackles, a sack, and a pick six in his Philly debut. While his stat line won't always be so versatile, he should be a tackling machine with the potential for some sacks in Philly's blitz-heavy scheme. If he's sitting on your league's waiver wire, he shouldn't be. As the starting MIKE, he's an LB2 with LB1 upside.