Injury Report: Next Man Up, Week 13
With so many quarterbacks missing time this season, it’s easy to see the impact that injuries have on the NFL landscape. But it’s not just the high-profile losses that make the difference between winning and losing. Last week, in the fourth quarter of a tight game against the Cowboys, Giants starting cornerback Trumaine McBride exited the game with a groin injury. Slot cornerback Terrell Thomas had to shift to the outside to take McBride’s place, and safety Antrel Rolle shifted to the slot for Thomas. Never a reliable coverman, Rolle was mercilessly targeted on Dallas’ game-winning drive, surrendering four catches for 45 yards and three first downs.
You’d never think that a seventh-year journeyman cornerback would be the critical piece in the most important game of the season, but McBride’s injury may have been the difference between the Giants staying in the thick of the NFC East race and looking towards next season. With that in mind, let’s look at some other injuries from this past week and how teams might respond to them.
Injury: Justin Houston, Chiefs OLB (Dislocated Elbow)
Next Man Up: Frank Zombo
What They’re Losing: Houston’s pass rushing prowess is no secret, but he’s our highest-graded 3-4 outside linebacker this season thanks to his equally-impressive run defense. His 38 defensive stops are the second-highest total at his position.
What They’re Getting: Zombo has an ineffective pass rusher going back to his Packers days. He has 19 quarterback pressures over four NFL seasons; Houston had 22 in his last five games.
Outcome: Zombo and Dezman Moses mustered just two quarterback pressures on 55 pass rushes after Houston and Tamba Hali left against the Chargers. Even if Hali suits up, Houston is the more complete player and a bigger loss for Kansas City.
Injury: Kevin Vickerson, Broncos DT (Dislocated Hip)
Next Man Up: Sylvester Williams
What They’re Losing: Vickerson is a solid run defender, but his sack and quarterback hit against the Patriots were his first of the season. He also has been flagged for the most penalties of any defensive tackle this season, hurting his team with some big personal fouls.
What They’re Getting: Denver’s first round pick, Williams has had a rocky rookie season. He’s tallied just four run stops, three quarterback pressures, and was a healthy scratch just a few weeks ago.
Outcome: Williams and fellow backup Mitch Unrein haven’t done much to inspire confidence, but the Broncos can also play all-purpose defensive Malik Jackson more inside, where he’s had great success this season. Together, the trio should be able to replace Vickerson without a problem.
Injury: Walter Thurmond, Seahawks CB (Substance-abuse Suspension)
Next Man Up: Byron Maxwell
What They’re Losing: I said two weeks ago that Thurmond would fill in well for the injured Brandon Browner, and he did precisely that. He allowed just 9 yards on nine targets with an interception in his only start.
What They’re Getting: Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), injuries and suspensions have made Maxwell no stranger to coming off the bench. In the nine career games where he’s taken more than 20 snaps, he has a +5.9 overall grade and allowed just 150 yards on 29 targets into his coverage.
Outcome: There was no deeper position group in the entire NFL heading into this season than the Seahawks’ cornerback corps. Maxwell will be the latest backup to survive in the spotlight, but this pool is getting shallower by the week.
Injury: Michael Griffin, Titans S (Safety Rules Suspension)
Next Man Up: George Wilson
What They’re Losing: Griffin is primarily a free safety, but is also an effective run stopper when he does line up in the box. He has the third-highest run defense grade of any safety, and an excellent 13.3 Run Stop Percentage when lined up within 8 yards of the line of scrimmage.
What They’re Getting: Wilson had the eighth-highest grade of any safety last season with the Bills and allowed just 13 receptions into his coverage all season. We scratched our heads when Buffalo released this former Secret Superstar, and he’s since helped the Titans off the bench and as a special teamer.
Outcome: Wilson should fill in well for Griffin in an important divisional game against the Colts. With Bernard Pollard on a one-year contract, Titans fans may be getting a glimpse of next year’s starting strong safety.
Injury: Jim Cordle, Giants C (Knee)
Next Man Up: Kevin Boothe
What They’re Losing: Cordle himself is a former Next Man Up, taking over for David Baas back in Week 4. He was a bit more consistent than his predecessor, but had his hiccups in pass protection with four sacks and three quarterback hits allowed this season.
What They’re Getting: The Giants’ most versatile lineman, Boothe already started at center once this season back in Week 1. When he stepped in for Cordle this past week, he earned a career-high +4.1 run block grade.
Outcome: Boothe will be adequate at center, but the Giants will be more interested in how James Brewer holds up at left guard for Boothe. After an impressive showing versus the Cowboys last week, the second-year lineman could be an important piece of the puzzle when New York inevitably retools its interior line this offseason.
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