Another week, another top IDP goes down with an injury.
In Week 5 it was Mario Williams' turn, with the standout pass rusher suffering a season-ending pectoral muscle tear. It's a crushing loss for Houston, as well as IDP owners who benefited from Williams having defensive-line eligibility despite playing outside linebacker. He had five sacks before the injury struck and was a candidate for the league lead in sacks by year's end.
Mild but nonetheless problematic injuries struck two other top IDPs, as Julius Peppers' already disappointing season was further disrupted by an MCL sprain, while promising Tampa Bay rookie Mason Foster emerged from the weekend with an ankle issue that has thrown his immediate availability into question. Also, Falcons defensive end John Abraham apparently suffered a hip injury in practice last week and ultimately missed the team's game against Green Bay; his status is in question again heading into this weekend.
As far as good news goes, Denver's Von Miller already looks like one of the league's top pass rushers, and Carolina's Greg Hardy appears to be turning into an effective complement across from Charles Johnson. Meanwhile, cornerback Jason McCourty is putting up big numbers in Tennessee.
His brother Devin has a higher profile, but Jason, too, is holding a strong presence on the stat sheet through five weeks. Since taking over the starting job from Alterraun Verner in the preseason, McCourty has shown similar numbers to those Verner did in his 101-tackle rookie season last year. McCourty has 39 tackles -- 24 in the last two games alone -- with five passes defensed, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one sack. It seems unlikely that he'll hold up his pace of roughly 125 tackles over 16 games, but McCourty's production up to this point is still convincing.
It looks safe to say that Miller, the second overall pick in the 2011 draft, is the real deal. Although he plays in a 4-3 defense for Denver, Miller is still producing like a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 end, which puts him on the radar in leagues that reward well for sacks. He has five of those in his first five NFL games, and while his 18 total tackles (15 solo) keep him lower on the radar in tackle-heavy scoring systems, his two forced fumbles show that Miller has the potential to compensate a bit with turnover potential. Miller might hit a bit of a rookie wall soon as offenses become more concerned with him than Elvis Dumervil, but Miller's long-term outlook couldn't be much brighter.
Hardy has long been identified as a top athletic talent, but injuries and profound underachievement landed him in the sixth round of the '10 draft. He's playing, though, more like the first-round talent most expected before his disappointing '08 senior season at Mississippi. It's early, but he has started every game this year for Carolina and has 21 tackles (17 solo), three sacks, a safety, two passes defensed and a forced fumble through five weeks. With Charles Johnson on the other side of the line, it's unlikely that Hardy will need to deal with double-teams anytime soon.
The Giants defense has allowed teams to march down the field a fair amount this year, resulting in Rolle having a bunch of tackle opportunities through five games. He has 37 stops (32 solo) -- which easily leaves him on pace for a career high -- with two passes defensed, one interception and a forced fumble. The odds of him maintaining that tackle pace don't seem especially good, but he remains a pretty good bet to approach triple-digit tackles.
It has been against two of the league's absolute worst offensive lines, but Umenyiora has been on fire since returning from a knee injury that kept him out of the first three games. He posted two sacks and a forced fumble against both the Cardinals and Seahawks. Amazingly, he might not even be the top double-team target on the Giants defensive line, even with Justin Tuck (groin/neck) out of the lineup. The strong showing by Jason Pierre-Paul so far means Umenyiora should continue to post impressive numbers. He has an astounding 12 forced fumbles in his last 18 games.
Williams is normally one of the top tackle producers along the defensive line, but an apparently nasty foot injury has thrown him almost entirely off the IDP radar. After totaling 77 tackles (54 solo) last year, he has just nine (four solo) in five games in 2011. That kind of production won't do a thing for IDP owners.
Like seemingly everyone in Miami, Dansby has badly failed to meet expectations so far, at least as an IDP option. Despite posting triple-digit tackle production since 2007 (injury had him fall short in two cases), Dansby is on a rather pathetic pace of just 16 tackles (15 solo) in four games, with only a forced fumble to make up for it. He has dealt with a groin injury for much of this year, so perhaps he'll get going soon here.
It's too early to write off Edwards entirely, but it looks safe to say he was mostly the product of Jared Allen and the Williams Wall in Minnesota. He has just 12 tackles (10 solo) and one sack through five games, and it's not as if he's seeing many double-teams with John Abraham on the other side.
Page turned out to be a good IDP bargain through the first five weeks, totaling 36 tackles (27 solo) in five games. Unfortunately, his numbers were the product of ballcarriers and receivers running free in the secondary rather than any ability to make stops near the line of scrimmage. As a result, Page has been benched for Kurt Coleman, one week after Kurt Coleman was benched for Nate Allen. The Eagles defense looks ugly outside of its pass rush.
On one hand, it's kind of unfair to list Smith on here given how well he's playing in real life, but on the other hand, the stats are all that matter for IDP owners. Smith's stats through five games -- 15 tackles (12 solo), three sacks and two forced fumbles -- are quite strong as far as the 49ers are concerned, but most of Smith's IDP owners drafted him with the expectation that he'd be the guy who produced in the 70-tackle range since '04. Instead, while Smith is still playing at a high level, the ball-control (and successful) San Francisco offense has kept Smith and the 49ers defense resting on the sidelines much more than in the past, resulting in fewer tackle opportunities for Smith. Unless the San Francisco offense implodes, Smith's IDP owners might need to get used to this.