Injury Report: Next Man Up, Week 14
We’re entering the final quarter of the NFL season, and few teams can say they’ve made it this far unscathed. But if the Ravens, Giants, and Packers showed us anything in their respective Super Bowl runs, it’s that injuries aren’t a death knell if you have the depth to withstand them. Last week was relatively quiet on the injury front unless you were an offensive lineman. In a lopsided version of Next Man Up, let’s examine which big uglies will help their team withstand its losses.
Injury: Clint Boling, Bengals LG (Torn ACL)
Next Man Up: Andrew Whitworth
What They’re Losing: No one will mistake Boling for a road grader, but he’s a solid pass protector. He hadn’t given up a single sack or quarterback hit this season.
What They’re Getting: When Boling went down, Whitworth slid from left tackle to man his old position. I could tell you how he did, but you’re better off reading Sam Monson’s complete breakdown of Whitworth’s game in this week’s Analysis Notebook.
Outcome: Even Whitworth’s replacement at the blindside, Anthony Collins, has the best Pass Blocking Efficiency of any offensive tackle with 100 pass blocks this season. Third in our latest offensive line rankings, this Bengals line is deep. Reliable as Boling was, Cincinnati will survive without him.
Injury: Fernando Velasco, Steelers C (Achilles)
Next Man Up: Cody Wallace
What They’re Losing: Despite the doom and gloom headlines after Maurkice Pouncey was lost for the season, we noted that Velasco actually had the higher overall grade last season. He had mixed results in Pittsburgh, with five quarterback pressures against the Bills’ talented defensive tackles but a clean sheet versus the Lions fearsome pass rush. Overall, he wasn’t a big downgrade for a player who wasn’t even on the roster in Week 1.
What They’re Getting: There’s not much film on Wallace, as his 38 snaps in Week 8 versus the Raiders were more than he had in his previous five seasons combined. He split time between guard and center with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this preseason, allowing just two quarterback hurries in pass protection but earning a -6.4 run block grade.
Outcome: The good news for Wallace is that he has two quality players beside him in David DeCastro and Ramon Foster, both in the Top 20 of our guard grades. Nevertheless, this is a patchwork replacement at a star-crossed position for the Steelers.
Injury: Scott Wells, Rams C (Broken Ankle)
Next Man Up: Tim Barnes
What They’re Losing: It was only two seasons ago that Wells was our fourth-highest graded center. But a litany of injuries kept him sidelined for most of 2012, and he hasn’t been the same since. He still held his own in pass protection this season, but only five centers have posted a worse run block grade.
What They’re Getting: Barnes only took one career snap in three seasons before he stepped in for Wells on Sunday. He came out clean with no quarterback pressures allowed and a +0.7 run block grade against a tough 49ers front.
Outcome: The book is still out on Barnes, and he won’t get any breaks in a tough December schedule. The bigger takeaway here lies with Wells, who has turned from a savvy free agent pickup to an injury-prone disappointment for the Rams.
Injury: Branden Albert, Chiefs LT (Knee)
Next Man Up: Donald Stephenson
What They’re Losing: Despite some public drama this offseason surrounding the franchise tag and the drafting of tackle Eric Fisher with the first overall pick, Albert has been just as steady for the Chiefs as he’s always been. He’ll never wow you in the run game and he draws a few too many flags, but he’s once again near the top of his position in Pass Blocking Efficiency.
What They’re Getting: It was around this time last season when Stephenson had to fill in for an injured Albert, and the results weren’t pretty. The 12 combined sacks and quarterback hits he surrendered last season were more than double the amount that Albert allowed in almost twice as many snaps. Stephenson’s second season isn’t going much better, as he’s earned a -10.9 grade in sporadic duty.
Outcome: The Redskins defense has been toothless for much of the season, but they’ll now have an advantage this Sunday with Stephenson manning the Chiefs blindside. Brian Orakpo, fresh off a Team of the Week performance, could be in for another big week.
Injury: Elvis Dumervil, Ravens OLB (Ankle)
Next Man Up: Courtney Upshaw
What They’re Losing: In what has been an impressive career, Dumervil is in the midst of his best season ever. He hasn’t always been the best run defender, but has stepped up there this season. And while other players like Justin Houston and Robert Mathis have garnered more attention, Dumervil has posted the highest pass rush grade of any 3-4 outside linebacker.
What They’re Getting: Upshaw’s rookie season was as lopsided as you can get, as he earned the second-highest run defense grade but second-lowest pass rush grade at his position. His second season has been much quieter, as he’s totaled just 12 quarterback pressures and 7 run stops.
Outcome: Upshaw will also split snaps with former Secret Superstar Pernell McPhee. Neither can match the impact Dumervil has had in the Ravens pass rush, but they may not need to against the Vikings. If Upshaw can recapture his run defense of last season, it’ll go a long way towards keeping Adrian Peterson under wraps.
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