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IDP Interactive - Week 12
Steve Gallo
November 22, 2008
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Welcome to our week 12 edition of IDP INTERACTIVE.  In our IDP Forum you will find a thread entitled "IDP INTERACTIVE" pinned to the top where you can submit your questions for consideration.  If you question is not chosen to be answered in this column every effort will still be made to answer your question in the IDP Forum.

Let’s take a look at what question forum member csrulz16 has this week.

Tally  wrote,
“There are a couple of threads concerning Vilma on the IDP board right now so it seems that numerous huddlers (including myself) are curious about what’s going on with the LB situation in New Orleans. One post mentions a contract situation possibly being the cause of Vilma recent decline in stats…Link

I would really like to see an analysis of the current NOS linebacker situation. Vilma has all but disappeared in the last 2 weeks and meanwhile Fujita’s numbers have skyrocketed since then. Is Fujita the better start at this point? And what should we expect to see out of Vilma the rest of the way? Thanks in advance!”

Déjà vu?
What is wrong with Jonathan Vilma?  Is this a déjà vu moment or what?  Vilma was a highly touted rookie when the Jets selected him in the 2004 NFL Draft.  It took Vilma until week 3 of that season to get his first start (MLB) and he kept that job for the rest of the year.  So in 14 games as a rookie Vilma eclipsed the 100 tackle mark (107) and averaged 14.53 fantasy points/game (PPG) which was good for 20th among all LBs.  Going into 2005, expectations were very high for the young Jets LB and he surely didn’t disappoint.  Vilma recorded an eye popping 169 tackles and was one of only two LBs to average over 20 points a game that year.  His average of 20.13 PPG was 2nd only to Zach Thomas’ 20.68 PPG.
At this point, fantasy owners had to feel like Vilma was bullet proof; he was their Superman at LB.  However, just like Kryptonite rendered Superman’s powers useless the 3-4 defense installed by new Head Coach Eric Mangini did the same to Vilma.  It was at that time back in 2006 when people were first asking “What is wrong with Jonathan Vilma?”.  That is why I asked if this was a déjà vu moment or not.  I am sure that there are even some owners that are saying “here we go again”.  Except this time the only thing that is similar is that Vilma’s numbers have fallen off.  The reason for the fall off isn’t the same reason for his fall off back in 2006 where he fell all the way to the 41st ranked LB with a 12.13 PPG and yes 2007 saw Vilma fall even farther (49th ranked LB with 11.93 PPG).  Last year, an injury cut Vilma’s season at seven games but it was other damage that was done that got Vilma shipped off to New Orleans this year.  Vilma didn’t buy into Mangini’s 3-4 system and his skill set was a poor fit.  To make matters worse many felt that the Jets didn’t have the DT to run the 3-4 very well.  We all know what happened when David Harris took over for him last year, he blew up.  That doesn’t mean that Harris is a better talent or that Vilma was a flash in the pan.  It just goes to show that "Defensive Scheme Matters" and that players have different skill sets that allow them to flourish in certain systems and struggle in others.

Top 10 again!
After week 1 was in the books Vilma had given his owners a warm and fuzzy feeling after seeing him post 9 tackles in his first game with the Saints.  All was right in the world again, Vilma was back to being a productive MLB in a 4-3 scheme.  It got even better in week 2 when he posted 16 tackles!  Thru the first 8 games of the year Vilma owners found him firmly entrenched as a top 10 LB, again!  While not on pace to match his 2005 tackle production of 169 tackles he was on pace for 144 tackles.  In those 8 games he posted a minimum of 9 tackles 5 times.  Now halfway thru the season it was easy to see that Vilma’s knee was fine and his stats were even finer but then…

Base Jumping or Bungee Jumping?
…the bottom fell out.  It would be very easy to just say that it was all just a mirage but what we really need to find out is if the past two weeks are the equivalent of base jumping without a parachute or bungee jumping.  Fear tends to bring out irrational behavior and can cloud our judgment.  Sure there is something to be concerned about but like old saying goes, once is a fluke; twice is a coincidence; three times is a trend.  A few things that are positive with regards to Vilma is that he has played in 100% of the team’s defensive snaps the past two weeks and that he isn’t missing snaps due to an injury.  Also, he blitzed on over 10% of the defensive snaps versus the Chiefs and if the Saints are going to continue to blitz him that should bode well with helping to add a few big plays to his stat line.  This week Vilma faces a Packers team that should present him with a great chance to bounce back.  As a Vilma owner in one league I am starting him with the utmost confidence this week and with a bit of finger crossing too.

Why, just tell me why
Injury, is my guess but not to Vilma.  My theory and it is just a theory at this point in time until I am able to view the Saints past two games is that the injury that kept Charles Grant out of week 11 and 12 and landed him on IR is the possible culprit in Vilma’s fall off the past two weeks.  A MLBs best friend is strong DT play to keep him free and clear of offensive lineman so that he can get to the ball and make tackles.  I know, I know Grant was a DE and not a DT but Grant’s loss could be causing a ripple effect along the defensive line.  So there you have it my unofficial theory as to the reason why there has been a fall off. 

The Final Answer…
Currently, there is no definitive answer.  Many top LBs have peaks and valleys over the course of the long NFL season.  And this could simply be one of those peaks in Vilma’s season but the fact that people are asking questions about poor performances like this is a good thing.  It is what allows us to stay on the pulse of what is going on so that we aren’t blindly starting or benching someone strictly based on their numbers.  This week if you have the Saints game I suggest that you keep a close eye on Vilma and how often Packers OL are getting to him.  If you don’t get the Saints game, find the MLB in the game you are watching and make him your focus.  It isn’t easy but try and watch the game from a different perspective instead of watching the play develop from the QB.  You just might be surprised at how different the game can look.  My gut tells me that Vilma owners are going to be getting that warm and fuzzy feeling back sooner than later and that’s a good thing because winter is upon and the playoffs aren’t far off.

Oh and the other guy
Scott Fujita has been the big beneficiary the past two weeks but prior to this year over the last 3 years he has only recorded 9 or more tackles 4 times.  That shows me there is some risk involved with relying on Fujita.  In deeper re-draft leagues he is someone worth keeping an eye on but in deep dynasty leagues I don’t see him as anything more than depth.

I hope that everyone has enjoyed our first installment with IDP Interactive and I look forward to seeing more questions in the coming weeks.  If you have any comments or recommendations on what you would like to see in IDP Interactive you can email me at idpsteve@gmail.com

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