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IDP ROUNDUP: News, Notes, and Opening Night Start/Sit

The 2011 NFL preseason is in the rearview mirror, and now just a few scant sunsets stand between us and getting down to the nitty-gritty of the 2011 fantasy football campaign. So, as you’re counting down the hours to opening night’s game, here’s an update on some injuries and player news of significant interest to Individual Defensive Players league owners, as well as a quick peek at Thursday’s New Orleans Saints-Green Bay Packers tilt from a Start/Sit standpoint.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get it on!

The Indianapolis Colts rested a multitude of starters in their preseason finale, among them injured defensive stalwarts Robert Mathis and Antoine Bethea. Mathis is expected to be fine, but the Colts may rotate the defensive end early on to avoid re-aggravating his hamstring injury, leaving Mathis in DL2 territory on opening weekend in a so-so matchup with the Houston Texans. The matchup is a better one for Bethea but his health status is cloudier, and while there have been no reports that Bethea’s hamstring could cause him to sit out he played very sparingly in the preseason, so if you have comparable alternatives to the low-end DB1 it’s time to explore them, at least for Week 1.

We’ll start our trip around the linebacker recovery ward in Charlotte, with Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Jon Beason. Beason, who was ranked as high as second overall in my
Redraft LB Rankings
before Aug. 22, when Beason had surgery on an injured foot, says he intends to play in the season opener against the Arizona Cardinals. The doctors say otherwise, and while the fifth-year pro has yet to miss a start in his career it looks like it will be Dan Connor in the middle for the Panthers in Week 1. Connor will almost certainly leave the field in the nickel in favor of James Anderson and Thomas Davis, however, so he’s a deep-league LB3 play at best.

The news isn’t any better in Denver for Broncos WLB D.J. Williams, who got a January DUI trial date to go along with the dislocated elbow suffered in Denver’s third preseason game, which is expected to sideline him for up to a month. Wesley Woodyard will step into an every down role on the weak side in Williams’ stead, and with a tilt against Oakland on tap that should showcase a whole lot of Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. You could do worse than Woodyard as a desperation start at linebacker.

Despite a so-so preseason, all indications are that the Philadelphia Eagles intend to roll out rookie Casey Matthews at middle linebacker in their season opener, but there’s not a lot of room for optimism here. Matthews has looked serviceable at best and completely lost at worst, Brian Rolle was already stealing nickel snaps from Matthews by the third preseason game, and the Eagles already have a more proven option in SAM linebacker Jamar Chaney, so whatever fantasy thunder for 2011 the coiffed rookie had in August has fizzled by now.

Also, while everyone’s been watching and talking about the middle linebacker battle in Philadelphia (including me), very few folks have bothered to notice that Jonathan Goff has very quietly settled into a three-down role with the New York Giants. Goff, 25, isn’t going to be confused with Patrick Willis anytime soon, but he did manage to post 80 tackles in a two-down role in the Big Apple in 2010. He may not crack the Top 20 (or 30 for that matter) at his position, but three-down 4-3 MIKE linebackers don’t grow on trees, so if you’re drafting late give Goff a look towards the end, and if you already have put him at or near the top of your post-Week 1 waiver wish list.

Finally, here’s a preview of this season’s Individual Defensive Players Start/Sit feature, with a look at a few players who will be kicking off the season Thursday night, along with one caveat. It’s Week 1, and in 99 percent of cases you don’t want to overthink things. You didn’t draft the likes of Desmond Bishop or Jonathan Vilma to sit them out of the gate, so don’t.


START

Malcolm Jenkins – FS, New Orleans (at Green Bay): This has the makings of the sort of game that keeps free safeties very busy, making Jenkins a solid DB3 start on opening night.

Tramon Williams – CB, Green Bay (vs. New Orleans): Given the quarterbacks and receivers that will be on display Thursday evening, I don’t know if there’s a starter in either secondary I
don’t like this week.


SIT

Will Smith – DE, New Orleans (at Green Bay): If the news slipped past you, don’t be alarmed since the case took 37 years to resolve, but Smith’s sidelined for the season’s first two games behind the Starcaps saga and resulting suspension.

Clay Matthews – OLB, Green Bay (vs. New Orleans): You didn’t burn a high pick on him to sit him (hopefully you didn’t burn a high pick on him period), but the Saints gave up the fifth-fewest sacks in the NFL in 2010, so the matchup is far from favorable.

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