At this point of the NFL off-season there tend to be a lot more questions than answers. Nowhere is this truer than on the defensive side of the ball. I always say the two most nerve racking times for IDP owners are the week after the regular season ends and Draft weekend. The week after the season ends, or “Black Monday” as it has come to be known, leads to coaching changes, which leads to defensive scheme changes, which can turn a legit IDP squad into a hot mess overnight. Draft weekend can also wreak havoc on IDP rosters when players are unexpectedly drafted to teams who weren’t expected to add talent at the position. Usually this only affects the fringe talent at the linebacker position, guys like Paul Worrilow.
In the “32 Teams, 32 IDP Questions” we’re going to break down each NFL division, team by team, and ask the most pressing IDP questions facing each club. It may deal with overall scheme changes, position battles or draft related strategy. Today’s focus is the NFC North.
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“What do we do with Danny Trevathan coming off a torn right patellar tendon?”
The knee injury suffered by Danny Trevathan in week 12 of last year was awful. He was playing some great football in Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defense and looked to be the centerpiece of the defensive rebuild. He’s now facing what has become the hardest injury to return from with a torn right patellar tendon. This is the same injury Jimmy Graham suffered and he has been able to regain the majority of his explosion but it often takes in excess of a year. To me, whenever I hear of this injury I always remember Cadillac Williams. He suffered a similar injury and never recovered 100%.
So what do we do with Trevathan? If you have deep rosters or IR spots you hold on to him and wait for 2018. He’ll more than likely spend the first six weeks at least on the PUP list and could possibly be hit with the “IR-designated for return” tag, and that’s best case scenario. Seeing him on the field in 2017 is no guarantee at all. The player who you can handcuff him with is second year linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski. He held up fairly well after Trevathan went down last year, racking up 37 total tackles over the last five and a half games. The Bears traded up in the fourth round of last year’s draft to select him in the fourth round and has the look of a long term payoff and it looks like that day is coming sooner than later.
“Can Paul Worrilow climb above being an IDP punch line and into an IDP asset?”
Like I mentioned in the opening, sometimes a situation will carry as much, or more, weight than the talent of the player. This could be one of those scenarios. The Lions linebacker corps was one of the worst in the league last year and the team cut DeAndre Levy and replaced him with former Falcon Worrilow. Worrilow has been a bit of a punch line in IDP circles. He too often looks lost on the field and is a beneficiary of pure volume. He lacks efficiency but the defensive units he plays on are just bad enough to keep them on the field and this one in Detroit will be no different.
Outside of Haloti Ngata, there isn’t a veteran presence on this unit and his main competition for tackles will come from Tahir Whitehead. Whitehead is definitely the better dynasty asset but Worrilow will definitely have redraft appeal for 2017, barring a high draft pick is added. He has the potential to be this year’s Craig Robertson as a player you can pick off the trash heap and ride to unwarranted production.
Green Bay Packers
“Who is the odd man out at inside linebacker between Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez and Joe Thomas?”
Ugh!!!! This is the worst type of situation to dig through in IDP when you have three players who all seem interchangeable and none of them present that elite aspect to their game. Ryan, Martinez and Thomas are all blue collar “lunch pail” kind of guys who can get the job done but lack the ability to take over and dominate a game. Blake Martinez seems to have the best chance of being “the guy” after delivering a solid, if unspectacular, rookie season in which he dealt with a sprained MCL late in the year.
The second inside linebacker spot will be a battle between Jake Ryan, his picture might actually be in the Encyclopedia next to blue collar, and Joe Thomas who was tendered with the exclusive rights tag this offseason. He was an undrafted free agent signing in 2014 and put up two double digit tackle games over the season’s final month. Ryan could, and should, put a firm grip on this job if he can just stay out of the trainer’s room. He seems to constantly be nicked up and always fighting something. He probably has the most versatility of the bunch. I expect Ryan and Martinez to be the week one starters with Thomas seeing rotational snaps.
“Will a linebacker besides Eric Kendricks emerge as an IDP worthy player in 2017?”
This will be a very pivotal offseason for Anthony Barr’s development and future with the Minnesota Vikings. He seemed to take a step back in his third year after two promising campaigns. He averaged on 4.38 tackles per contest in 2016 and his sack total fell to two on the season. He also seems to have gotten himself into Coach Zimmer’s doghouse as he’s been fairly critical of Barr’s performance. Hopefully this is just tough love because Zimmer’s defense has always supplied us with two strong IDP linebackers and Barr’s only current competition is Emmanuel Lamur, who played for Zimmer in Cincinnati. Gone is Chad Greenway who announced his retirement this offseason after seeing his production nosedive for the third straight season.
The wild card in this situation is second year player Kentrell Brothers who the Vikings took in the fifth round of last year’s draft. He led the nation in tackles two years ago while at Missouri and earned All-SEC honors as a senior. While limited on timed speed (he ran a 4.82 40-yard dash at his Pro Day) he has great instincts and plays quicker than fast. He appears to be a pet project of Zimmers and should be snatched up a speculative add and IDP lottery ticket, especially if he can nail down the WILL linebacker job on this defense.
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Eric is on Twitter @OlingerIDP.