Everyone loves a Monday Morning Quarterback, so why not a Monday Morning Linebacker? If you're like me, you tend to express your consternation when a player or players on your roster don't exactly perform as expected. Many expletive laden tirades have been directed at my computer or smart-phone as I scan the scoreboards. Occasionally I'm pleasantly surprised, but more often than not it's "WTF was that?!"
In this weekly article we'll take a look at those players that performed as expected and those that didn't. This won't be a complete review of every player from every game; simply the outliers that deserve recognition, one way or the other.
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Studs That Were Studs (*Notable players that lived up to or exceeded expectations)
Charles Johnson, DE, CAR vs. ATL- CJ has failed to perform like a stud to date. Most IDP owners drafted him as a DL2, though we've been getting more like DL5 numbers. Well I guess CJ got bored and decided to make some noise this week. After 3 weeks of single-digit performances, Johnson exploded for 6 solo tackles, 2 assists, 1 pass defensed, and 3.5 sacks in Week 4. Matt Ryan was sacked 7 times in this one with CJ claiming half of them. His play has been too paltry to consider this anything other than an anomaly, but if the matchup is right, start him.
Nick Barnett, LB, BUF vs. NE - Yes, I'm taking some liberty with labeling Barnett as 'stud', but too bad, I'm doing it anyway. He's been solid, though not spectacular, until yesterday, recording a season-high 10 solo tackles and 5 assists. The Patriots ran the ball 40 times, giving Barnett and co. plenty of opportunities to make plays. If the Bills defense continues to look as anemic as they did yesterday, that trend will carry over from week to week. That's good news for their MLB. Keep starting Barnett. Ahtyba Rubin, CLE vs. BAL - The big defensive tackle has been hit or miss through 3 weeks and hadn't recorded a sack heading into Week 4's matchups. But he got his first sack of the season on Thursday along with 6 solo tackles. The Ravens had the lead throughout, so it's surprising that they ran the ball just 24 times, but Rubin still got his and played like an elite DT. In leagues that require DTs, he's a weekly starter. In leagues that do not, consider him when the matchups merit it and you have lesser options.
J.J. Watt, DL, HOU vs. DEN - This is becoming a trend. Watt continues to impress and live up to the hype. He erupted for 6 solo tackles, an assist and 2.5 sacks last week, and backed it up yesterday with 4 solos, an assist, a fumble recovery and 2 more sacks. He's quickly becoming an elite DL. Keep him in your lineup and forget about him.
Lavonte David, LB, TBB vs. WAS - David has been fair to middlin' through three games as the Bucs struggle to find their defensive identity. Yesterday, however, David had his coming out party. Sort of. 12 solo tackles and 2 assists are both season and career highs. As the Bucs offense continues to struggle, it's easy to think David will have plenty of opportunity to make plays. I wouldn't start him as anything more than a LB3+ until he elevates his play on a consistent basis.
Studs That Were Duds (*Notable players that didn't even come close to expectations)
Chris Clemons, DE, SEA vs. STL - What goes up does indeed come down. In Week 3, Clemons spent more time in Aaron Rodgers' nightmares than he did in Green Bays' backfield (and that was a lot). But after a 4 sack, 4 tackle week, Clemons virtually disappeared yesterday. No, scratch that. He DID disappear. One tackle. That's it. That's all he could muster against the Rams despite 27 rushes and Bradford being sacked twice. This is a major letdown after seeing him run wild last week. His play has been up and down week to week, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see him have a big week against the Panthers. Start him, but do so with caution.
Michael Johnson, DE, CIN vs. JAC - After a Week 3 performance that included 5 solo tackles, 1 assist, 1 pass defensed, and 3 sacks, MJ came crashing down to earth. And by crashing down to earth I mean a big fat stinkin' goose egg. I get it; the Jags trailed all day. They abandoned the run early and limited Johnson's opportunities. But a zero is a tough pill to swallow from a guy that had been playing so well. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and consider this an aberration due to the situation, so consider him a DL2 moving forward and plug him in.
London Fletcher, LB, WAS vs. TBB - The timeless one has had very solid back-to-back games with at least 6 solo tackles heading into Week 4. But LFB blew some serious chunks for IDP owners yesterday. Once again, the game situation severely limited his opportunities, but you'd expect more than one tackle from Fletcher. Another classic example of how opportunity is just as important, if not more, than ability. This is an atypical day for LFB and you should continue treating him as a LB2+ and plugging him into your lineup.
Ray Lewis, LB, BAL vs. CLE - Speaking of father time, Ray-Ray has been impressive through the first three games of the season. He represented tremendous value in drafts and rewarded his owners kindly. In the Week 4 matchup against the Browns, however, Ray Lewis took a mini-vacation as he recorded just 3 tackles and one assist. Again, the game situation limited Ray's chances as the Browns trailed all day, so we'll write this one off and forgive and forget.
Mario Williams, DE, BUF vs. NE - I have to include him here since I've been touting him all off-season. Another sack-less game for Super-Mario despite 36 dropbacks from Tom Brady and just 2 total tackles despite 40 runs by the Patriots. In his return to a 4-3 defense end, he's been a major disappointment, and that's putting it kindly. He's lost his elite status and is worthy of nothing more than DL3+ consideration until proven otherwise.