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Reading the Defense: Burnett rounding back to form

Week 5 of the NFL season didn't feature a ton of eye-popping performances, but for IDP owners there were plenty of familiar names that stepped up and played the way people expected them to. And isn't that what you really want? There's a reason you selected guys like Paul Posluszny and Lavonte David -- because they score points. Sometimes, it's just that easy. Let's get to this week's Reading the Defense.

There is still a long way to go in this season, but Morgan Burnett looks like he's returning to the form that made him a top five fantasy defensive back in 2011 and 2012. Through his first five games, Burnett is averaging nine points per contest and has topped double digits in three of the first five games.

And it's not exactly like he's been all over the field snagging interceptions or taking down quarterbacks. Burnett has yet to register either a pick or a sack in 2014, however he does have one forced fumble this season. Instead Burnett has posted fantasy points by being a volume tackler, leading Green Bay in tackles through the first month of the season.

That's a good news, bad news situation. The good news is obviously for IDP owners who are plugging the Packers safety into their lineup on a weekly basis -- especially since he's on pace for better than 100 tackles, which would far surpass his career high. The bad news is that Green Bay's leading tackler is in the defensive backfield. That's an unsustainable situation for the Packers defense, but as long as Burnett is making plays he should be in your fantasy lineup.


After five weeks, can you name the defensive linemen with the most sacks in the NFL? J.J. Watt? Nope. Robert Quinn? Try again. Chandler Jones? Nuh-uh. The correct answer: Chicago's Willie Young and Buffalo's Marcell Dareus, who have compiled five QB takedowns apiece.

Young etched his name into the IDP consciousness after beating San Francisco's Jonathan Martin for a pair of sacks in Week 2. But considering the problems Martin has had pass blocking this season, it's fair if you discount those. However, Young has recorded a sack in four of the Bears' five games this season and has already surpassed his career high of three. As a fifth-year veteran, Young is inconsistent as a pass rusher and stuck behind Lamarr Houston on the depth chart, but if he continues to get to the quarterback, more opportunities could be coming.

On the other hand, Dareus' calling card coming out of college was his ability to get to the quarterback -- even if defensive tackles don't normally post big sack totals. Right now, Dareus is on pace to shatter his career-high of 7.5 from last season. He's certainly been helped by playing in the midst of a ferocious pass rush that includes Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams. It's hard to expect this level of production from an interior lineman, but with the help around Dareus, there's no reason to think he can't continue to be an IDP surprise.

Four downs

While the Cardinals and Broncos dispute whether or not Julius Thomas' block was dirty, the fact remains that Calais Campbell is going to be out of action for up to three weeks. That's bad news for a defensive front that is already missing five other starters from last season. Arizona has added Marcus Benard who could provide some support as an edge rusher, but isn't likley to be immediately fantasy relevant.

The Eagles defense is hoping to get a pair of linebackers back soon. DeMeco Ryans is expected to return to practice this week after suffering a groin injury in last week's game against St. Louis. Philadelphia is also awaiting the return of Mychal Kendricks, who has missed the past three weeks with a calf injury. Kendricks didn't practice Tuesday and is considered day-to-day. Kendricks is the team's best all-around linebacker and an IDP playmaker. If he can get back into the Eagles lineup, he should be in yours.

Giants linebacker Jon Beason has missed the past three games with a toe injury and was held out of last week's contest against Atlanta in an effort to avoid any further injury. Once upon a time, Beason was one of the best linebackers in the NFL, but injuries have slowed him significantly in recent seasons. He might still be a nice option for the Giants, but fantasy GMs probably shouldn't rely on the veteran.

Bears safety Chris Conte is again dealing with the effects of a concussion after leaving Sunday's loss to Carolina after just one play. After having suffered a similar injury in the preseason, there is concern that Conte could be out of action for some time as he recovers. The Bears secondary is already perilously thin. IDP owners looking for DB help should go elsewhere.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for Follow him on Twitter @MarcasG.

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