Commentary

D Up!: Plugging the holes

Updated: October 15, 2010, 3:56 PM ET
By Jim McCormick | Special to ESPN.com

When significant stars go down on offense there's often a rush for that player's replacement, that, or the "handcuff" is already owned. On defense, we must fend for ourselves in these cases, as the next in line generally isn't likely to replicate or near the lost production. Defenders often are making what could be considered more individual plays; a blend of reactive and proactive decisions in response to the offense, while offensive players are often given the ball and tasked with accruing yardage or hitting their assignments.

This is an amazingly simplistic take, but that's my style. What I'm really getting at is that if a star defender goes down, his replacement on that respective defense isn't necessarily in line for comparable production, or even a worthy percentage of the lost production. The same can be said in situations like the Green Bay backfield, where the production void left by Ryan Grant simply hasn't been nearly replaced. But more often than not when a statistical star goes down, particularly a tailback, there is some semblance of value found in the replacement player, if even for just a finite or singular contribution. This said, there are some significant injuries plaguing the defensive side of late. The recourse in these scenarios is to get out on the wire and hunt for some valid plug-ins. You can begin this process by perusing the Bargain Bin below. We can't control the health of Clay Matthews' hamstring even if we wanted to, but we can seek out suitable alternatives.

Front Four: The weekly word on the world of defenders

Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck
Gabriel Bouys/Getty ImagesOsi Umenyiora and Just Tuch have combined for 20 sacks in their first five games.
G-Men: With Mathias Kiwanuka continuing to deal with a serious cervical ailment, his fellow quarterback predators, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, have been regularly collapsing pockets. Umenyiora has been particularly prolific, with five sacks and four forced fumbles in his past two outings. See what a great statistical streak can do to assuage the tension built over the course of a tumultuous offseason? For his part, Tuck has four sacks in the past two games and affords his owners an atypically healthy tackle clip. Both are available in approximately 20 percent of ESPN leagues and face Detroit offense that will likely be playing from behind in the second half, likely continuing these hot streaks.

Infirmary: Week 5 saw some significant talents incur injuries, particularly to sack-monster Clay Matthews, whose status for this weekend is iffy thanks to a hamstring injury. Yet another statistical force was sidelined on Sunday as Lance Briggs left the Carolina game wearing a boot due to a dreaded high-ankle sprain. Fantasy stalwart Brian Dawkins has been struggling with a knee injury that saw him sit this past week and he's unlikely to suit up versus the Jets this week. Peruse the "Bargain Bin" below for some worthy replacements if you have an injury or bye situation to accommodate.

Sackable: In fantasy, we are pretty comfortable making up words; cutable, startable, and now I present, sackable. So what is sackable? Some would say potatoes are sackable, and that would be correct, but I'm focusing more offensive lines that are apt to allow cluttered pockets and quarterbacks that regularly visit the turf. Several elements play into these sackable crews; notably sieve offensive lines and signal-callers that hold onto the ball too long. Defining these sackable scenarios (clearly I'm trying to break a single-graph record for using the "word" sackable) begins with combing through some simply statistics, like the teams that give up the most sacks! Who knew? It sounds simple, but allowance of sacks is a pretty enduring metric, it seems, as the teams that are poor at protection tend to struggle throughout a season, or at least for considerable stretches. Another trend to seek out is to find which teams are missing significant offensive line talents, like Carolina's Jeff Otah and the turnstile he's been replaced with. In the cases where I'm seeking out a defensive lineman or outside linebacker in a given week, I often look for these clues to determine the players with the highest potential for getting to the quarterback.

L.L. from LSU: LaRon Landry not only forces writers to capitalize the "R," he also forces fantasy owners to respect his numbers. Still available in nearly 16 percent of ESPN leagues, the respect just isn't good enough, and only you can change this. The dude is one tackle off of the league lead with 52, on pace for a ridiculous 166 total takedowns this season. While this has no fantasy value and serves solely as an anecdote about the type of player Landry is, I had the opportunity to interview him for a magazine I worked on a few years ago and he told me that in high school he knocked out his own teammate in practice on a crossing pattern. When approached by the coaches about the viciousness of the hit, Landry simply said "if you put me on the field, this is what is going to happen." For some reason, this is exactly why we love this game.

IDP Rankings Week 6: The Top 10 linebackers, lineman and defensive backs

So that we're working from agreed parameters, we'll use what many consider traditional scoring modifiers for an IDP league: Tackle - Solo (0.5), Tackle - Assist (0.25), Sack (3), Interception (3), Forced fumble (3), Fumble recovery (3), Touchdown (6), Safety (2), Pass defended (1), Blocked kick (2).

Bargain Bin: Worthy defenders available in more than half of ESPN leagues

Tennessee Titans defensive end Jason Babin simply keeps tackling quarterbacks behind the line when they have the ball. Many consider this an accomplishment. I was down on Babin tabbing him merely a situational rusher that had a few solid outings, but the longer he keeps replicating success the more I'll have to endorse him, I suppose. He could and maybe even should collect another sack as David Garrard scrambles behind a somewhat porous line. & While Shaun Phillips went bust just a week after a significant boom, fellow San Diego Charger 'backer Kevin Burnett kept up his menacing ways and now has four sacks in past two games. A visit to St. Louis could help him continue his torrid streak. & We can't go expecting Philadelphia Eagles safety Quintin Mikell to score every week, or any week really, but the blend of tackles and potential for turnovers is enough to make him a worthy depth and bye addition. & I'm breaking rules here, but they are my own rules so I'm pulling rank and endorsing a player just above the 40 percent ownership threshold. The player is Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway; a player with a nose for the ball and some big play potential who is rostered in just 41 percent of ESPN leagues.

Jim McCormick is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com, as well as a regular contributor to the Washington Post's "Behind the Helmet" and Sirius XM's Fantasy Sports Channel. You can reach Jim with your questions and comments at JMcCormickESPN@gmail.com or on Twitter @JMcCormickESPN

Jim McCormick is an IDP and fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com.