Week one of the 2014 NFL season featured the usual mix of surprises, as well as confirmations of things we knew all along. It’s often best not to over-react to the results of a single game; that said, if you think you need a new defense already, or are looking to improve your individual defensive player (IDP) corps, here are some suggestions.
D/ST sleeper: Washington Football Team (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars). You shouldn’t need to scramble for a Defense/Special Teams unit in Week Two, but if you do – Washington is actually a reasonable pickup. They host the Jaguars in their home opener, a team with questions at quarterback, mediocrity at running back, and disappointment at receiver. Undrafted rookie Allen Hurns came out of nowhere to score two touchdowns last week, and even if he’s the new Wes Welker or Victor Cruz, the Jags offense hardly inspires fear – QB Chad Henne is a placeholder, and he’s just barely holding off rookie Blake Bortles, who would be guaranteed to have growing pains if he plays. If you need a one-week play, Washington is not a bad bet.
Defensive Line: Wallace Gilberry, DL, Cincinnati Bengals. Gilberry had a nice week one with 1.5 sacks and a pass defenses (plus four tackles), and this week Cincy hosts an Atlanta Falcons team that will air it out a lot, with a QB in Matt Ryan who has average mobility. If he drops back 45 times again (especially since the Falcons will probably struggle to run the ball), Gilberry has another chance at a sack or two.
Linebacker: David Hawthorne, LB, New Orleans Saints. A journeyman with modest pass-rushing ability, Hawthorne has a great chance to make Brian Hoyer and/or Johnny Football miserable on Sunday when the Saints visit the Cleveland Browns. At the least he should be good for five-plus tackles. The New Orleans defense gets little real-life respect (and not entirely undeserved), but there are still productive players to be had in N’Awlins, especially for fantasy IDP purposes.
Defensive Back: Johnathan Joseph, DB, Houston Texans. He may be hard-pressed to match last week’s 11 tackles, but a trip to the Black Hole that is the Oakland Raiders and their offense will provide him ample opportunities to make plays. Joseph may be 30 but he looks like he still has plenty of good football left in him. Expect fewer stops but increased chances for picks and passes deflected. Joseph is listed as questionable with a foot injury and was limited in Wednesday practice but may still be one of the healthier options the Texans have in the secondary. A.J. Bouye is probably the man to start if Joseph can’t go, but keep an eye on this. Whoever gets the playing time is a solid gamble this week.