The biggest news among defensive players from last week -- you may have already heard about it -- was Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh's after-the-play stomp on Green Bay guard Evan Dietrich-Smith and the two-game suspension that came out of it.
Even before Suh's boneheaded spree of violence Thursday, his numbers were a major disappointment. He's nowhere close to the pace he produced as a rookie, when he totaled 66 tackles and 10 sacks.
Meanwhile, there have been several significant developments on the injury front recently. The biggest news is that Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora (ankle sprain, 2-4 weeks) and Denver star rookie linebacker Von Miller (torn thumb ligaments) are expected to miss time. Beyond that, Ray Lewis (turf toe) remains questionable for this week, while Buffalo coach Chan Gailey expressed pessimism Thursday regarding the potential return of safety George Wilson (stinger). Atlanta cornerback Brent Grimes (knee) is expected to miss 2-3 weeks, as well.
There's some good news, however, as LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) is expected to return at outside linebacker for Pittsburgh this week. He was playing exceptionally well before the injury struck, totaling 36 tackles (24 solo), nine sacks and an interception in eight games.
Barrett Ruud (groin) might not play against Buffalo this week, but even if he does, it's difficult to imagine why the Titans would take McCarthy out of the starting lineup. The rookie has consistently impressed since seeing his playing time increase, posting 28 tackles (22 solo, five for a loss), one interception and one forced fumble the last three weeks. It seems safe to say McCarthy is not only the future at middle linebacker for Tennessee, but is probably an upgrade over Ruud in the meantime.
Atkins is one of the league's most promising disrupters among interior defensive linemen and is turning into one of the rare defensive tackles who warrant IDP consideration. Through 11 games this year, the second-year Georgia product has 32 tackles (18 solo) and 6.5 sacks. Given what he has shown to this point, it wouldn't surprise if Atkins made it to double-digit sacks once or twice in his career.
Keep an eye on the ankle injury he's dealing with, but Long is expected to play through it. He's finally playing at the level expected from a second-overall pick, taking down opposing quarterbacks 10 times through 11 games this year. Long appears unlikely to ever post big tackle numbers -- he has just 25 (22 solo) this year and posted 29 in 16 games last year -- but he looks like a solid option in leagues that reward heavily for sack production.
Pierre-Paul was an elite IDP option even before news broke than Umenyiora was dealing with an ankle sprain that would cost him multiple games, but with Umenyiora out, JPP should see an increase in his snap count. He has a staggering total of 50 tackles (38 solo) and 10.5 sacks through 11 games as is, so he might be the top-ranked IDP option among defensive linemen the rest of the way.
Stewart might miss some time with a concussion he suffered last week, but even if he does, his IDP value is clearly pointed upward. Since replacing Craig Dahl in the starting lineup for St. Louis, the second-year player from South Carolina has made 52 tackles (45 solo) with two sacks, one forced fumble, nine passes defensed and an interception returned for a touchdown in nine starts. If Stewart misses Week 13, Dahl could be a decent spot start for those in deeper IDP leagues. Dahl has 41 tackles this year despite starting only two games, and he made 98 tackles (87 solo) as a 13-game starter last year.
It's difficult to tell what's more alarming: Suh's weak numbers in 2011 or his indefensible actions against the Packers on Thanksgiving. The league issued Suh a two-game suspension in response to him repeatedly forcing Evan Dietrich-Smith's head into the ground and stomping on the Green Bay guard after getting pulled away. His absence, though, will be barely noticeable to Suh's remaining IDP owners. He has just 31 stops (22 solo) and three sacks in 11 games this year, a pace that obviously falls well short of the 66 tackles (49 solo) and 10 sacks he totaled as a rookie last year.
Tuck gets points for effort and toughness after playing through neck and groin injuries this year, but his numbers have badly suffered as a result. He has a miserable total of just 19 tackles (12 solo), two sacks and no forced fumbles in seven games. Considering he averaged roughly 66.8 tackles (48 solo), 9.9 sacks and four forced fumbles per season in the four years before 2011, that drop-off has been truly huge. It's getting to the point where it's difficult to justify holding a roster spot open for him.
Cole's season has been fairly similar to Tuck's. He headed into the year as a firmly established elite IDP but has just 24 tackles (21 solo) and five sacks in nine games so far. Given that Cole entered this season boasting an average of 67.3 tackles (51.5 solo) and 11 sacks per season in the last four years, his owners simply aren't getting what they paid for. It's possible Cole is still bothered by the calf strain that caused him to miss two games, but his numbers in the last five weeks (10 tackles, two sacks) are difficult to defend even if he isn't playing hobbled.
It seems like Abraham might finally be slowing. The 33-year-old end has just 24 tackles (16 solo) and four sacks through 10 games -- numbers that make him waiver-wire fodder in most leagues. He does, at least, have 8.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage, so there remains some hope that he'll find his way to opposing quarterbacks. In the meantime, though, he's just not especially useful in most leagues.
Griffin was a hit as an IDP last year, making 108 tackles (86 solo) while intercepting four passes and forcing two fumbles, but his numbers have shown a substantial decrease through 11 games this year. He has just 48 tackles (36 solo), and he isn't making plays in coverage to offset the deficiency of tackles -- he has just one interception and five passes defensed. It's difficult to imagine a scenario in which Griffin is worth owning.