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Behind the Iron Curtain - Week 5
By Dave Foral
October 2, 2003
 

Linebackers

WHO'S HOT

Chris Claiborne, Minnesota Vikings, appears to be adjusting to his role at OLB. Claiborne started out at outside with the Lions, and was then moved to MLB, where he enjoyed the best year of his career in 2002. This, of course, led to a juicy contract with the Vikings, and Claiborne has helped lead the return to glory of a defense that inspires recollections of the "Purple People Eaters" of the 70's. Against the 49ers, Claiborne dominated, logging 11 solo tackles. The 4-0 Vikings are for real, and Claiborne and the rebuild D is a primary reason why. Staying in the NFC Central, OLB Na' Il Diggs, Green Bay Packers, looked "monster-like" as the Packers made the "Monsters of the Midway" Bears look more like the Cubs on Monday Night Football. Diggs show great instincts and appeared to be around the ball on every defensive play. Now, granted it was against the struggling Bear offense, but Diggs posted excellent stats, with 9 solo and 1 assisted tackles, and 2 interceptions. After the Arizona debacle of Week 3, this domination over the Bears could be just what Diggs and the Packers need to challenge the Vikings for the Division title. Napoleon Harris, Oakland Raiders, was a player I ear-marked as one with incredible potential in 2002 as a rookie. However, it was the Eric Barton show last year, while Harris still performed more than adequately in the middle. Harris has appeared to narrow the gap in the stat department this year, and when you have running backs like LT and Priest Holmes in you division, you can expect as a MLB to have a shot at a high number of tackling opportunities. Harris seized such opportunities in Week 4, tallying 8 solo and 4 assisted tackles. With veteran Bill Romanowski's future cloudy as a result of concussions, Harris will be depended on even more to corral opposing running backs. Other LB's of note in Week 4: Keith Bullock, TEN Titans; Ray Lewis, BAL Ravens; Mike Maslowski, KC Chiefs; Ian Gold, DEN Broncos; Earl Holmes, DET Lions; David Thornton, IND Colts; Darrin Smith, NO Saints; Ronald McKinnon, AZ Cards; and Donnie Edwards, SD Chargers.

WHO'S NOT

Love him (not likely) or hate him (most likely), one cannot argue that LB Bill Romanowski, Oakland Raiders, hasn't been practically a picture of consistency and health during his 17 year NFL career. Romanowski started an amazing 243 straight games, only to miss last week's game with the Chargers with a concussion. Now, Romo's contemplating retirement, and one must assume that after such a long haul of playing through pain, he's battling some pretty serious effects from the sustained concussion. If you are a Romanowski owner, keep an eye on the news and free agency wire. Romanowski's back up is Travian Smith, who posted a nice 7 solo and 2 assisted tackle game vs. San Diego. Peter Sirmon, Tennessee Titans, will likely miss 2-3 weeks with fractures in his lower back realized during Sunday's game versus the Steelers. Sirmon is an integral part of the Titans defensive scheme, as both he and Keith Bullock utilize their speed to both support against the run and protect in the flats. Sirmon's backup, Rocky Boiman, is questionable for this week's game against the Patriots, leaving rookie Ray Wells to man the Sam position.

Start 'em If You Got 'em

Raynoch Thompson, AZ Cardinals, against the DAL Cowboys
Takeo Spikes, BUF Bills, against the CIN Bengals
Al Wilson, DEN Broncos, against the KC Chiefs
Mike Barrow, NY Giants, against the MIA Dolphins
Keith Brooking, ATL Falcons, against the MIN Vikings
Darrin Smith, NO Saints, against the CAR Panthers
Eric Barton, OAK Raiders, against the CHI Bears
Nick Barnett, GB Packers, against the SEA Seahawks
Keith Bullock, TEN Titans, against the NE Patriots
Mike Peterson, JAX Jags, against the SD Chargers
Barrett Green, DET Lions, against the SF 49ers
LaVar Arrington, WAS Redskins, against the PHI Eagles
Andra Davis, CLE Browns, against the PIT Steelers
David Thornton, IND Colts, against the TB Bucs
Derrick Brooks, TB Bucs, against the IND Colts

Defensive Linemen

WHO'S HOT

Mike Rucker, Carolina Panthers, came off the bye week firing on all cylinders, as the Panthers manhandled the Falcons on Sunday. Rucker and the rest of the D Line have proven thus far in the season that they are indeed the best in the league. Rucker had 5 solo tackles and 2 sacks on the day. It is not improbable that Rucker will realize 1-2 sacks per game the rest of the season, with opposing teams having to deal with Julius Peppers on the other side and 2 solid DT's caving in the middle. Marcus Stroud, Jacksonville Jaguars, is part of another excellent defensive line. With stud veterans Tony Brackens and Hugh Douglas wreaking havoc on the outside, Stroud and John Henderson have their way with the interior. Against the Texans in a tight loss, Stroud had LB-type numbers, pulling in 7 solo and 3 assisted sacks, and a sack. Other DL's of note in Week 4: Lance Johnstone, MIN Viking; Grady Jackson, NO Saints; and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, GB Packers.

WHO'S NOT

Both DT John Browning and Vonnie Holliday, Kansas City Chiefs, are battling shoulder injuries and are listed as questionable against arch rival Denver Broncos this week. As good as the KC D has been this season, they are not deep. Browning is needed to plug up the middle, especially if Clinton Portis returns to play this week. Holliday, teamed with Eric Hicks on the other side, has been very effective with the Chiefs with 4 sacks on the season, and the team needs both ends to put pressure on Jake Plummer. Eric Downing and R-Kal Truluck are Browning and Holliday's back ups, respectively, and represent a significant drop in talent. As solid as the Indianapolis Colts defense has been playing this year, imagine if they had a healthy Dwight Freeney in the lineup. Freeney was one of last year's gems at defensive end with 13 sacks. This year, Freeney has missed a lot of time, and has only registered a single sack. The Colts haven't been in too big of a hurry to get Freeney back into the line up, with veteran DE Chad Bratzke filling. Freeney is listed as probable this week, but will likely share time with Bratzke for several weeks to come.

Start 'em If You Got 'em

Greg Ellis, DAL Cowboys, against the AZ Cardinals
Bertrand Berry, DEN Broncos, against the KC Chiefs
Michael Strahan, NY Giants, against the MIA Dolphins
Kevin Williams, MIN Vikings, against the ATL Falcons
Mike Rucker, CAR Panthers, against the NO Saints
Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, GB Packers, against the SEA Seahawks
Kevin Carter, TEN Titans, against the NE Patriots
Marcus Stroud, JAX Jaguars, against the SD Chargers
Andre Carter, SF 49ers, against the DET Lions
Simeon Rice, TB Bucs, against the INDI Colts

Defensive Backs

WHO'S HOT

Mike Green, Chicago Bears, showed up for the MNF game against the Packers this past week. Well, someone had to tackle, and Green was that someone with 10 solo and 1 assisted tackles, and an interception. The Bears miss their interior defensive linemen, as well as Rosie Colvin, but Green has been able capitalize at the SS spot with plenty of tackles. Darren Sharper, Green Bay Packers, also showed up for the game, but something is telling me he was having more fun than Mike Green was. Sharper looked great on the field, as the Packers showed a ton of blitz packages that confused (is it really that hard?) and bottled up Kordell Stewart. Sharper accumulated 6 solo tackles and 2 sacks on the day, and he looks like the 4th LB out there, the way he has in the past. Dexter Jackson, Arizona Cardinals, is enjoying a great start to his career in the desert, as exemplified by his great fantasy performance against the Rams on Sunday. With 9 solo and 2 assisted tackles, an interception, and a forced fumble, Jackson is proving to be a valuable free agency pick up for the Cards. Other DB's of note in Week 4: Greg Wesley, KC Chiefs; Ed Reed, BAL Ravens; Corey Chavous, MIN Vikings; Deon Grant, CAR Panthers; and Derrick Gibson, OAK Raiders.

WHO'S NOT

Starting CB Tyrone Williams, Atlanta Falcons, was suspended for Week 5's match up with the Vikings. Williams must have done something pretty bad, as he was likely the team's best chance at keeping Randy Moss contained. Now, that task falls probably to Kevin Mathis, a seven year veteran that should get schooled early and often. Another sticky situation in Week 5 belongs to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Redskins roll into town with a high-octane passing game that has yet to be diffused. With studs FS Brian Dawkins and CB Bobby Taylor already out of the picture, the Philadelphia Eagles could hardly afford another injury to its secondary, but will likely find itself without one of the best CB's in the NFL, Troy Vincent. Vincent has a strained hamstring, and all indications are pointing that he'll sit this weekend. Roderick Hood will take his place, and will have his hands full with either Laveranues Coles or Rod Gardner.

Start 'em If You Got 'em

Dexter Jackson, AZ Cardinals, against the DAL Cowboys
Roy Williams, DAL Cowboys, against the AZ Cardinals
Greg Wesley, KC Chiefs, against the DEN Broncos
Shawn Williams, NY Giants, against the MIA Dolphins
Corey Chavous, MIN Vikings, against the ATL Falcons
Mike Minter, CAR Panthers, against the NO Saints
Mike Green, CHI Bears, against the OAK Raiders
Darren Sharper, GB Packers, against the SEA Seahawks
Donovin Darius, JAX Jaguars, against the SD Chargers
Corey Harris, DET Lions, against the SF 49ers
Mike Doss, IND Colts, against the TB Bucs

Top 12 Team Defenses

  1. CAR Panthers vs. NO Saints - Saints look horrible, while CAR is dominating
  2. BUF Bills vs. CIN Bengals - Bills rebound and stomp the Bengals at home
  3. TB Bucs vs. IND Colts - Week off, at home, and facing former head coach
  4. MIN Vikings @ ATL Falcons - Teams heading in opposite directions
  5. IND Colts @ TB Bucs - Dungy's D looking awesome and out to prove it
  6. OAK Raiders vs. CHI Bears - Stewart still looks like deer in headlights
  7. KC Chiefs vs. DEN Broncos - Chiefs will dominate, especially if Portis can't go
  8. PIT Steelers vs. CLE Browns - Steelers always tough at home against Browns
  9. SEA Seahawks @ GB Packers - Seahawks lead in turnover ratio
  10. DAL Cowboys vs. AZ Cardinals - Cardinals worst in turnover ratio
  11. NY Giants vs. MIA Dolphins - Call this a hunch. NYG D will dominate
  12. TEN Titans @ NE Patriots - TEN D will force Brady into turnovers

As always, be sure to check the latest injury reports before submitting your roster. Good luck and thanks for supporting The Huddle!