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Four Free Agent Defensives

If you are like me, then you are a handsome genius. It also means you would rather play roulette with your fantasy defense than spend a valuable middle-round draft pick on one in August. So for those of you scouring the free agent pool for Week 2, here are four defenses you might find rising to the surface.

BRONCOS
Next three – @Jax, SD, @TB

The Kansas City matchup on opening weekend had owners shying from the Broncos on draft day. Other owners dumped the Broncos after watching Priest Holmes weave his way to the endzone three times. But a closer look reveals that this game should have been much more one-sided. Plummer threw a left-handed interception from his own endzone that led to a quick Chiefs TD. Another interception resulted in a 50-yard field goal. The refs also botched a call on a fumble that would have negated another TD. Subtract those 17 points and all of a sudden Denver held the best offense in the league to seven points. Sure, turnovers and bad calls are a part of the game and Priest carved them up pretty good, but those werent your average turnovers and Priest carves everyone up.

What I noticed most about the Bronco defense was their speed. I love the way they flew around, swarmed the ball, and made the Chiefs look slow. The additions of Champ Bailey and rookie linebacker D.J. Williams immediately made Denver one of the fastest defenses in the NFL. I could carry on about Denvers deep personnel, but all you need to know is Trevor Pryce and the front four rank among the best, the linebackers have excellent speed, and Champ Bailey can erase one third of the field.

Despite two road games, the Broncos upcoming schedule is so good it hurts. Jacksonville does not match up well with Denver, San Diego is one-dimensional and Tampa Bays offense is offensive. In fact, Denver has one the most favorable schedules in the league for the entire 2004 season and might be worth hanging onto for awhile.

PACKERS
Next three  CHI, @Ind, NYG

The secondary is porous, but the Packer defense is just plain nasty everywhere else. The trio of linebackers is fast and mean and the front four is versatile and powerful on the interior.  Say what you will about Brian Urlacher, but MLB Nick Barnett might be the best LB in the Norris Division. His great range from sideline to sideline and ability to drop into coverage allows defensive coordinator Bob Slowik to blitz from a variety of angles on almost every down. CB Mike McKenzie just ended his holdout, which should give the secondary a much-needed boost. Green Bay also used its first two picks in April to draft cornerbacks Ahmad Carroll and Joey Thomas.

Green Bay should make a good play all season long when they face running teams or young quarterbacks. Conversely, avoid the Packers against any team with a proven aerial attack, home or away. If you can carry an extra defense for the week of the Colts game, Green Bay should pay immediate dividends to your fantasy squad. The Bears are exploring a new offense and the Giants should provide more turnovers than a Danish bakery.

SEAHAWKS
Next three – @Tam, SF, Bye

All right, before you point to my location and call me a homer, hear me out. We all know the Seahawks can score like crazy. But what most people dont realize is that from top to bottom, Seattle’s secondary is shaping up as one of the best all-around units in the league. A high-octane offense and strong secondary can make a deadly combination in the NFL, because when the offense gets a two-possession lead, opponents are then forced to attack the strength of the defense.

Like Green Bay, Seattle has a speedy and versatile linebacker in Anthony Simmons that allows defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes to blitz early and often. The Hawks remain painfully thin at linebacker but Rhodes is a master when it comes to masking a weakness or even using it to bait the offense. The front four lacks a true sack artist but they can be highly disruptive.

Seattles next two games come against a pair of struggling teams. Tampa Bay is a shell of its former self and the Niners, now led by Ken Dorsey, appear to be even worse than anyone could have imagined. After the 49er game, cut the Seahawks loose until Week 7 when they meet Arizona, Carolina, San Francisco, and Miami during a tasty 5-game stretch.

REDSKINS
Next three – @NYG, DAL, @Cle

The Skins looked great last weekend, limiting the Buccaneers to 169 total net yards. Granted, Tampa Bay is woefully void of skill players. I have been staring at their roster for what feels like an hour now and still cannot find one player who deserves a starting job, fantasy or otherwise.  Regardless, future defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was given the reigns to the Skins defense last weekend, and judging by his success, the aggressive style we saw against the Bucs should continue throughout the 2004 season.

OLB LaVar Arrington is a menace, and just like the linebackers mentioned earlier, has above average speed and is diverse enough to allow the rest of the defense to blitz like ravenous dogs. Like the Seahawks, what the Skins front four lacks in sacks they make up for in disruption and protection for the linebackers. Three of their four sacks last week came from the linebackers and secondary, one by Arrington and two by Matt Bowen who also racked up nine tackles while playing a John Lynch-style SS.

The secondary scares me a bit. Actually, it scares me a lot. The fact that Shawn Springs is starting for anyone is cause enough for concern, not to mention life after Champ Bailey will take some getting used to. Fred Smoot is a capable cover corner, but any offense featuring two or more quality route runners will give the Redskins matchup problems. Luckily, the schedule smiles upon them early with teams that will play mostly to their strengths.

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