November 11, 2009

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).

Jonathan Babineaux, DL, Falcons

A nine-solo tackle, 2.5-sack performance will put any defensive lineman on the IDP radar, and that's exactly what Babineaux did against Washington last week. The fifth-year veteran actually has 3.5 sacks over the past two weeks, matching his previous career-high for a season. I shouldn't have to tell you his Week 9 outburst was a fluke. He's a penetrating defensive tackle who plays in a good spot, but you have to be a Haynesworth-sized talent to maintain IDP value as an interior lineman. It wouldn't be a shock if Babineaux didn't match his Week 9 output over the rest of the season combined.

Tyrone Carter, DB, Steelers

It looks like Carter could start indefinitely while Ryan Clark sorts out his health issues. Carter got the job done Monday night. Playing his more natural free safety position, rather than strong safety (where he filled in for Troy Polamalu earlier this season), Carter picked Kyle Orton twice and took one back for a touchdown. That really doesn't make him an IDP option though. Carter's ball skills are decent, but it's his weakness in tackling that will keep him from having value most weeks. In seven starts over the past two seasons, he has just 16 solo tackles.

Kevin Ellison, DB, Chargers

Ellison is developing into a solid IDP option. Since releasing Clinton Hart four games into the season, the Chargers have utilized a rotation at strong safety. But Ellison is emerging as the leader in that pack, and Sunday's performance in the Meadowlands was his best performance to date: seven solo tackles and two passes defensed. The rookie is the kind of in-the-box presence who should keep gaining momentum in tackle-heave scoring formats. He's a high upside DB2 in re-draft leagues right now, and a great option in dynasty leagues. He's injury-prone, but it's hard to imagine a scenario where Ellison isn't San Diego's strong safety of the future.

David Hawthorne, LB, Seahawks

Well, if you didn't read this column and grab Hawthorne as soon as Lofa Tatupu went down in Week 7, it's too late now. Hawthorne solidified himself as the IDP free agent pick-up of the season with eight solo tackles, two interceptions, and three passes defensed in Week 9. That makes 28 solos, three picks, two sacks, and five PDs in three starts. Obviously, he won't keep up that pace, but he's certainly a borderline LB1 going forward.

Landon Johnson, LB, Panthers

With Thomas Davis down for the season, Johnson will get first crack at replacing him as the WILL in Carolina's 4-3. There had always been enough tackles to go around between Jon Beason and Davis, as the Panthers funnel ballcarriers to their linebackers. The sixth-year vet was serviceable as a starter for the Bengals a few years back, getting 73 solo tackles in 2006 and 66 in '07. He's a pretty uninspiring pick-up at this point, especially since he gets you little outside of tackles. But linebacker-starved owners could do worse.

DeAndre Levy, LB, Lions

Ernie Sims could be out for awhile, opening the door for Levy, a rangy rookie who will start on the weakside. Levy had been seeing a lot of sub package duty, and will now get a shot to play three downs. He's actually out-tackling Sims so far this season (24-to-14). Levy has much more upside than Landon Johnson (see above) among linebackers stepping into starting spots, and could easily put up 35-plus solo tackles over the second half of the season. He's definitely worth a flier if you have a bench spot available.

Brian Orakpo, DL, Redskins

I pegged Orakpo as my favorite rookie IDP coming into the year, and so far it's been a mixed bag. His tackle totals have disappointed (17 solo tackles), but that's not a shock considering he was moving to linebacker after playing with his hand down for four years at Texas. The more encouraging side of the equation has been Orakpo's performance on passing downs, when he moves back to end. He had two sacks in Atlanta last week, giving him 5.5 in the first half of the season, all of which have come over the past six games. Considering he should be better-adjusted to linebacker as the year goes on, which could mean more tackles, Orakpo has DL1 upside in the second half of the season.

Shaun Phillips, LB, Chargers

While the focus has been on Shawne Merriman's re-emergence, Phillips has been blowing up lately as well. After going without a sack in the season's first five games, he has five -- as well as 14 solo tackles, over the past three. As Merriman continues his return to form, opponents will have to pay more attention to him. That should only open things up more for Phillips, who has 50-solo tackle, 10-sack potential. Owners in sack-heavy scoring formats should be viewing Phillips as an LB2 with some nice upside for the second half of the season.

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