News, Analysis & UpdatesSeptember 30, 2004

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The Top Ten Defenders of Week 3

By Arlo Vander

After two weeks of seeing cornerbacks atop the rankings and linebackers not far behind, it’s time for the sackmeisters to come into their own. If you put your faith in the defensive linemen listed below last weekend, your defense was in very good hands.

1. Rod Coleman – DT, Atl
Last week’s matchup between Atlanta and Arizona turned into a defensive struggle, and Coleman was a huge factor in helping the Falcons escape with a 6-3 victory. With two fumbles and a recovery, a pair of sacks and five tackles, the former Raider came through with what may have been the finest performance of his career. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, he doesn’t get to face the Cardinals every week, but he certainly deserves a look if your league requires you to start defensive linemen.

2. Michael Strahan – DE, NYG
Like Coleman, Strahan also racked up two sacks and five solo tackles, and recovered two key fumbles as the Giants rolled over the Browns. Look for last year’s sack leader to be amomng the top fantasy DLs again this season.

3. Dontarrious Thomas – LB, Min
The numbers Thomas put up in his first two games weren’t particularly impressive, but this week, the rookie linebacker burst out with a team-leading nine-tackle effort in which he also recovered a fumble. He may not be Derrick Thomas, but this is a talented young linebacker worth keeping an eye on.

4. Patrick Kerney – DE, Atl
Kerney joined Rod Coleman in feasting on Josh McCown and the Cardinals offense last Sunday, recording seven tackles and three sacks for losses totaling 27 yards. Like Coleman, Kerney is a solid DL option, but obviously can’t be expected to enjoy this measure of success every week. Maybe fantasy owners should simply start any DL facing Arizona.

5. Tony Dixon – S, Dal
Dixon may be a defensive back, but he joined this week’s top linemen in putting together a multiple-sack effort, coralling Mark Brunell twice on Monday night. Think this might be a breakout year for Dixon? His 13 tackles already equal his 2003 total, and his three sacks this season are equal to his previous output in 40 career games.

6. Jevon Kearse – DE, Phi
Kearse tied Kerney and New Orleans DE Charles Grant in recording a league-high three sacks this week, and also added a forced fumble and a handful of sacks. Kearse hadn’t been much of a factor in Philadelphia’s defense so far; it’s definitely encouraging to see such a good game from the sixth-year pro.

7. David Thornton – LB, Ind
Thornton narrowly missed making this list last week, but wouldn’t be denied this time. In an offense-dominated shootout against Green Bay, he came through with eight tackles and two assists, an interception and a pass defense. Now those are the numbers you want to see from your top LBs.

8. Gary Baxter – CB, Bal
That’s more like it. After recording just two tackles in each of the Ravens’ first two contests, Baxter picked up ten in Cincinnati (although he didn’t add a sack this time). Baxter’s season totals should be decent, but expect lots of ups and downs in his stat line.

9. Tony Parrish – S, SF
The Seahawks certainly kept San Francisco’s defenders busy last week, allowing Parrish to record eight tackles, two assists and a forced fumble. With The 49ers defense likely to spend a lot of time on the field this year, their defenders should be solid fantasy producers.

10. Kenoy Kennedy – S, Den
Like Gary Baxter, Kennedy broke out this week, adding a sack, a forced fumble and eight tackles to his previously unimpressive season statistics. Until he starts producing consistently, however, he’s only worthy of consideration in very deep leagues.

Just missed: Mike Peterson (LB, Jax), Nick Harper (CB, Ind), Adewale Ogunleye (DE, Chi), Nate Webster (LB, Cin)

Top Defenders of the Season to Date

1. Zach Thomas – LB, Mia
2. Julian Peterson – LB, SF
3. Patrick Kerney – DE, Atl
4. Nick Barnett – LB, GB
5. Ashley Ambrose – CB, NO
6. Ray Lewis – LB, Bal
7. Robert Griffith – S, Cle
8. Sheldon Brown – CB, Phi
9. Duane Starks – CB, Ari
10. Antoine Winfield – CB, Min

Arlo Vander’s team ran into the tough trio of Brooking, Brooks and Archuleta this week and only narrowly escaped with a win.

Who were your top defenders of week 3?

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