News, Analysis & UpdatesNovember 9, 2004

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The Top Ten Defenders of Week 9

By Arlo Vander

Linebacker Mike Vrabel made headlines this week by not only lining up on offense, but catching a two-yard touchdown pass against St. Louis. Thanks largely to that reception, Vrabel owners were delighted with their LB, but nonetheless, that performance wasn’t quite good enough to earn a spot in this week’s top ten. Which defenders made the list? Read on!

1. Alex Brown – DE, Chi
After a slow start into the season, Brown put up respectable tackle totals from the DE position following Chicago’s week 5 bye. On Sunday, however, Brown had a career day with four sacks, a forced fumble, a pass defense and six tackles. He might still be available in some leagues that require owners to start a DL, but after a game like that, he won’t be for long.

2. Duane Starks – CB, Ari
Starks was a fantasy non-entity in recent weeks, due in part to a shoulder injury suffered a month ago, but the sixth-year pro was on top of his game when the Cardinals visited Miami. In his first game ever against the Dolphins, he introduced himself by returning an AJ Feeley mistake 40 yards for the score late in the third quarter as the Cardinals fought back from an early deficit. With five tackles thrown in for good measure, Starks played a key role in his team’s comeback; if you’ve relegated him to the bench, consider returning him to your starting lineup.

3. Anthony Simmons – LB, Sea
Like Brown, Simmons’ season was also slowed by shoulder trouble, and like Starks, Simmons also came through with a touchdown this week, his first since his 1998 rookie campaign. His five solo tackles tied a season high. That’s a good sign, but for now, he remains a somewhat risky middle-of-the-road fantasy linebacker.

4. Mike Green – S, Chi
Green joined Alex Brown in terrorizing the Giants this week, finishing the day with two forced fumbles and a recovery, six tackles and a pass defense. Like most stats posted by DBs, Green’s numbers won’t be consistent, but when he’s good, he’s very good indeed. Green storms into the season top ten this week as the top safety behind New England’s Rodney Harrison.

5. Antoine Winfield – CB, Min
After pulling a vanishing act a week ago, Winfield struck back with a vengeance in Monday night’s clash with Indianapolis. Ten tackles, three assists and a couple pass defenses were the result. It wasn’t quite enough for the Vikings to beat the Colts, but it was definitely good enough for his fantasy owners. By now, it’s more than clear that his 2003 surge was no mere fluke.

6. Jonathan Vilma – LB, NYJ
Some owners who drafted Vilma were disappointed by his early numbers, but now that the 12th overall pick out of Miami is seeing consistent playing time, those numbers are soaring. This week, he reached double digits in tackles for the first time in his career. Those who didn’t give up on him are now being rewarded handsomely for their patience. This won’t be the last time the talented linebacker shows up on this list.

7.Will Witherspoon – LB, Car
Sixteen tackles in the last two weeks – now that’s more like it. Against the Raiders, Witherspoon added his second career interception and three pass defenses. Thanks to lackluster numbers early in the season, he might still be available in your league.

8. Gibril Wilson – S, NYG
Plucked by the Giants in the fifth round of this year’s draft, Wilson is quietly putting together an excellent rookie campaign. His nine tackles against Chicago give him 42 for the season, and he also recorded his third sack and forced his first fumble.

9. Madieu Williams – CB, Cin
Early in the year, there were doubts that Williams could keep up his torrid pace. And while his performance in recent weeks has indeed tailed off, inconsistency has to be expected from the cornerback position. This Sunday again brought out the best in Williams, who contributed an interception and nine tackles to Cincinnati’s romp over Dallas. If he was dropped in your league, consider picking him up if you need a CB.

10. Brian Dawkins – S, Phi
It was a dismal weekend for Philadelphia, but Dawkins owners were all smiles as their DB not only picked up nine nine tackles in the Steelers’ rout but also picked off Ben Roethlisberger. Dawkins has now recorded eight or more tackles in three straight games.

Just missed: Derrick Brooks (LB, TB), Ed Reed (S, Bal), Eric Barton (LB, NYJ), Damione Lewis (DT, StL), Derek Smith (LB, SF), Mike Vrabel (LB, NE)

Top Defenders of the Season to Date

1. Zach Thomas – LB, Mia
2. Rodney Harrison – S, NE
3. London Fletcher – LB, Buf
4. Jamie Sharper – LB, Hou
5. Terrence McGee – CB, Buf
6. Antoine Winfield – CB, Min
7. Derrick Brooks – LB, TB
8. Ronde Barber – CB, TB
9. Mike Green – S, Chi
10. Ray Lewis – LB, Bal
11. Adrian Wilson – S, Ari
12. Donnie Edwards – LB, SD
13. Mike Peterson – LB, Jax
14. Brian Dawkins – S, Phi
15. Ed Reed – S, Bal

Arlo Vander’s defense scored more points this week than his opponents’ running backs, wide receivers and tight ends combined. Sometimes, everything just comes together.

Who were your top defenders of week 9?

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