Reading the Defense: Defensive backs gaining value

Oh Week 1, you're always full of surprises. While most fantasy owners were talking about out-of-nowhere big weeks from guys like Jared Cook, Julius Thomas and Joique Bell, IDP owners likely focused on a player like Barry Church.

Who? Exactly.

Church, like a few of his Dallas Cowboys teammates, had a nice start to his season. The fourth-year safety forced one fumble and recovered another which he picked up and returned for a 27-yard touchdown, the first score of his four-year career. In all, he finished with a week-high 17.50 fantasy points.

This might not be the way of the fantasy world every week for Church. Entering his fourth season, the Toledo product has yet to register an interception and has never posted more than 16 tackles (he had seven in Week 1). But if there's a reason to remember his name, it's because of a much more veteran presence on the Cowboys defense -- Monte Kiffin.

Kiffin and his "Tampa 2" defense are back in the National Football League and so far, the extra activitiy in the Dallas defense has been noticeable -- especially when the team forces six turnovers in the season opener. In recent seasons, Dallas' defensive backs have been a liability, but with this new scheme, Church and fellow safety Will Allen should have greater freedom to be playmakers.

DB derby

You might have heard once (or a million times) that the NFL is geared toward teams that can throw the ball effectively. That was never more true than in Week 1. Only three individual players broke the 100-yard barrier in the first week -- and one of them was quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Extend that out and only 11 teams went over the 100-yard mark.

It's a stat that's sure to cause headaches for fantasy owners trying to find some consistency from the running back position. But it could be a potential boon for IDP owners looking for help at the DB spot.

There's no science to it. Just like more targets mean more chances for wide receivers to make plays, more passing attempts generally mean more opportunities for defensive backs to do the same. It says something that six of the top 10 (and 11 of the top 25) IDP scorers this week were defensive backs. The times, they are a-changing ... even in IDP leagues.

Four downs

» It appears that all is well with Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. He left Monday night's game against Philadelphia with an apparent concussion, but the word from head coach Mike Shanahan is that Kerrigan has been cleared and would have been able to practice Tuesday had it not been an off day for the team. Next on the schedule is a matchup against a suspect Green Bay Packers offensive line. A healthy Kerrigan is a nice choice to pick up a sack or two.

» While the Pittsburgh Steelers are trying to figure out what to do about their inside linebacker spot in the wake of Larry Foote's season-ending injury, the team suddenly has an embarrassment of riches at outside linebacker. Rookie Jarvis Jones has been promoted to co-starter for Week 2 along with Jason Worilds. As for who takes the opening defensive snap, that's unclear. However, it means the young playmaking linebacker will have more chances to make an impact. It's too soon to compare Jones to former Steelers star James Harrison, but if he continues to play like he has, he'll get the opportunity to be a Harrison-like contributor.

Don't sleep on Terrelle Pryor

After a nice fantasy debut in Week 1, Michael Fabiano continues to believe in Terrelle Pryor against the Jaguars. More ...

» Cleveland Browns rookie Barkevious Mingo could make his NFL regular-season debut this week against the Baltimore Ravens. Mingo suffered a bruised lung during the preseason and was held out of the season opener as a precaution. The first-round pick will have primarily one job this week -- chase down the quarterback. For the moment, his IDP value is up for debate, but he's defintely one to watch going forward.

» The Seattle Seahawks could get defensive end Cliff Avril back just in time for this weekend's game against the San Francisco 49ers. While that's great news for the Seattle defense, it means Avril's first assignment will be to help corral Colin Kaepernick. Welcome back! Avril posted 9.5 sacks for the Lions last season and was signed to provide a bookend to Chris Clemons (who is also expected back soon). Avril's a quality option for any IDP owners seeking sacks. Just maybe not this week against a quarterback who's difficult to catch up to.

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

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