One of the bigger surprises through the first two weeks of the regular season has been the peformance of the Tennessee Titans defense. While their shutdown of the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 is somewhat tarnished by the Steelers' inability to do anything on offense, Tennessee did a good job of putting the clamps on a pretty good Texans offense in Week 2.
All of which doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot to IDP owners. But for that, I have two words: Zach Brown.
The Titans' second-year linebacker has been the standout of this remarkable unit, posting 19 tackles, two sacks and a pass deflection in the first two games. This comes after a solid rookie year in which Brown finished in the top 25 among fantasy linebackers.
Some of the credit for Brown's development certainly belongs to Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray. The former Rams defensive back spent most of his playing career under the late Fritz Shurmur and played alongside dynamic linebacker Kevin Greene. That certainly gives Gray some idea on how to utilize a multitalented linebacker.
Brown enters Week 3 as the NFL's leading tackler and sits fifth overall in fantasy points among individual defensive players ... and appears to have just scratched the surface of what he can do. It wouldn't be surprising to see Tennessee turn him loose this week against San Diego, sending him to disrupt a Chargers passing game that has clicked so far this season.
Of course, he's not the only defensive back who's been in the spotlight for some questionable hits. Both Bernard Pollard and Kareem Jackson were hit with $42,000 fines for the hits they laid in last week's games. Jackson -- like plenty others before him -- said this punishment won't change how he plays the game. Which begs an interesting question...
How much should IDP owners (and NFL fans alike) worry about that? Any player who does change his style -- even unconsciously -- becomes a target for the opposing offense and a liability to have on the field. But if that style of play leads to fines, and potentially suspensions, that's a liability of a different kind when that player isn't on the field and contributing to his team. That's going to be a continuing struggle to watch as this season rolls along.
» Speaking of big hits, Washington safety Brandon Meriweather was back on the practice field Wednesday after leaving Sunday's game with an apparent concussion. Meriweather was among those whose wallets were a little lighter after illegal hits in Week 2. Nonetheless, when he's on the field, Meriweather is a playmaker in the secondary. The key words in that sentence are "when he's on the field." He hasn't played 16 games in a season since 2010, but this weekend's matchup against the Lions should offer plenty of chances to get involved.
» The Baltimore Ravens are making a change at cornerback, moving Jimmy Smith ahead of Corey Graham on the depth chart. That officially would make Smith "the other guy" across from Lardarius Webb, who has been a tough customer for opposing offenses over the past few seasons. This week, however, Smith could see a little extra action against the Houston Texans. With Andre Johnson (concussion) banged up, it wouldn't be shocking to see the Texans send a few more targets in the direction of breakout rookie DeAndre Hopkins. Smith might want to stay on his toes.
» Cleveland Browns linebacker Quentin Groves looks like a longshot to play this week against the Vikings as he recovers from an ankle injury. That means more time on the field for Barkevious Mingo, who made quite an impression. The rookie logged a sack on his first play from scrimmage last week and had a nice all-around day. Look for him to continue to make a push upfield against Minnesota this week.
» Ed Reed still isn't officially in the lineup for the Houston Texans, but head coach Gary Kubiaksounds optimistic that his veteran safety could be suiting up soon. Reed isn't an IDP star the way he once was, but just his presence in the secondary could do quite a bit for Kareem Jackson and Jonathan Joseph.