Last week featured a lot of big IDP performances. This week ... not quite as many. That doesn't mean there weren't some standout performances. It also doesn't mean we won't see any more big weeks going forward. As always, Reading the Defense is here to recap the week that was and preview the week that will be.
Defensive line: Weeks like this last one are what the the Falcons were looking for when they drafted Vic Beasley to bolster their pass rush. The second-year player notched 3.5 sacks and eight total tackles in the win over the Broncos. With 4.5 sacks on the season, he's already surpassed his total from an injury-plagued rookie campaign. Is this a fluke or the start of something big? We could learn a lot more next week against Seattle's shaky offensive line.
Linebacker:Lorenzo Alexander was part of a big day for the Bills' defense in the win over the Rams. The veteran player already has seven sacks in 2016, most in the NFL and demolishing his previous career high of 2.5 set in 2012. It's apparent that this defense suits Alexander and he's part of what is becoming a pretty formidable linebacker group along with Zach Brown, Preston Brown and Jerry Hughes.
Defensive back: Did I mention that it was a good defensive day for the Bills? Nickell Robey-Coleman returned to the Los Angeles Coliseum where he starred collegiately for USC and had a day. The Bills corner defended two passes, intercepted two more and returned one for a touchdown. This is the second big week for Robey-Coleman, who tallied 13 fantasy points against the Jets in Week 2. As long as he works as the Jets' main nickel corner in a pass-happy division, there will be the chance for more big weeks.
What went wrong
» This isn't just a "what went wrong" for Week 5, it's a question for the first five weeks. Khalil Mack has been incredibly quiet for the first chunk of the season with just one sack, which came against the Ravens in Week 4. As the Raiders' primary pass-rusher, fantasy owners won't find much value in Mack unless he's getting to the quarterback. So far that's not happening, but a game against the Chiefs (13 sacks allowed in four games) offers a little bit of hope.
The other thing that offers some long-term hope for Mack is the fact that he started fairly slow last year as well. At this same point in 2015, he had just three sacks but turned it up as the season progressed -- the highlight being a five-sack performance against the Broncos late in the season. Even if the start hasn't been what you expected, remain patient. Good things appear to be on the way.
Week 4 boomer
Whitney Mercilus, LB, Houston Texans: Without J.J. Watt, the Texans need to find QB pressures from elsewhere in the lineup and Mercilus has been happy to oblige with a team-high 3.5 sacks. That's a number that seems likely to increase against a miserable Colts offensive line that has allowed a league-worst 20 sacks this season. Look for the Texans to bring plenty of pressure which should give Mercilus chances to chase down Andrew Luck.
Week 4 buster
Tamba Hali, DL, Kansas City Chiefs: Statisically, it hasn't been a great season for Hali and this doesn't look like the week where he'll turn it around. The Raiders have shut down just about any and all pass rushers this season with an offensive line that has allowed a league-low five sacks in the first five games.
Week 4 sleeper
Stephon Tuitt, DL, Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers lost Cameron Heyward early in last week's game to a hamstring injury. With Heyward expected to miss the next 2-3 weeks, there's an opening for Stephon Tuitt to make some plays. Pittsburgh used a committee at defensive end last week after Heyward's injury and could do the same this week. But Tuitt is still seeing a signficant number of snaps and will line up against the Dolphins, whose offensive line has been -- in a word -- ungood.
First down: It was a surprise to many when the Panthers cut Bené Benwikere after allowing a huge day to Julio Jones. It's much less surprising that the Miami Dolphins have claimed Benwikere off waivers. Miami's secondary has been abysmal this season, to the point that Byron Maxwell was sent to the bench. Considering Benwikere's struggles this season, this move might not be an upgrade but can it really be any worse?
Second down: Washington is making moves to shore up its terrible run defense. The team is talking with free agent defensive tackle Terrance Knighton about joining the roster. Washington is allowing a league-worst 5.1 yards per carry and has been frequently gashed up the middle. Bringing in a run stuffer like Knighton could change how opponents could attack the defense.
Third down: The Ravens played without cornerback Shareece Wright last week because of back spasms but coach John Harbaugh expects the defensive back to return next week. That's not exactly great news considering Wright has struggled to stay with receivers and could line up against Odell Beckham, Jr. next week. But at least there's a chance for him to get plenty of tackles.
Fourth down: In addition to missing Heyward, the Steelers have been without Ryan Shazier since suffering a knee injury in Week 3. The bad news is that it doesn't look like he'll be back anytime soon. According to reports, Pittsburgh might be without the linebacker until after its Week 8 bye. Vince Williams has seen his snaps increase in Shazier's absence and should continue to be a part of the Steeelers' defensive plans.