Injury Report: Next Man Up, Week 2
Injuries are a harsh reality in today’s NFL, and when they appear they can make a team only as strong as its weakest link. Anthony Spencer couldn’t suit up Sunday, but the Dallas Cowboys defense didn’t skip a beat as George Selvie generated seven quarterback pressures. The Baltimore Ravens lost Michael Oher early against the Denver Broncos, and backup Ricky Wagner surrendered three sacks and four hurries in his stead. As teams across the league call on their ‘next man up’, let’s take a look at the recent injuries that could affect this weekend’s games.
Injury: Maurkice Pouncey, PIT, Torn ACL
Replacement: Fernando Velasco
What They’re Losing: Contrary to popular opinion, we don’t think Pouncey is a bad player, as we still gave him our 12th-highest center grade last season. We just don’t understand why he receives awards and praise over better performers like John Sullivan and Nick Mangold. Nevertheless, he was the most stable piece on a Pittsburgh line that has lacked continuity.
What They’re Getting: Though Kelvin Beachum is supposedly starting on Monday night, the three QB pressures and -2.3 run block grade he earned in Week 1 makes it seem like a matter of time until Velasco has to step in. The veteran former-Titan actually came in just ahead of Pouncey in our center rankings last season, and it’s hard to see a massive drop off with the underrated lineman in the game.
Outcome: The Pittsburgh line has a host of problems despite the early draft picks they’ve spent there, and swapping a consistent center for a solid one won’t change that. Though he draws an unenviable assignment this Monday against Geno Atkins & Co., Velasco will eventually settle in and put Pittsburgh’s mind at ease a bit.
Injury: Jacoby Jones, BAL, MCL Sprain
Replacement: Marlon Brown
What They’re Losing: Jones is the classic case of a role player’s value being inflated after a memorable Super Bowl run. His 126 yards on Deep Receptions in the playoffs were impressive, but they nearly matched his total from the entire regular season. And despite his special teams heroics, he still didn’t crack the Top 5 of our kick returner rankings.
What They’re Getting: Brown turned some heads with a 131.7 WR Rating in the preseason and added a touchdown in relief of Jones last Thursday. However, he had three dropped passes in August and added another in Week 1.
Outcome: Jones has always been at his best in a No. 3 receiver/special teams role, so another Baltimore wideout was going to have to step up this season even before this injury. If Brown can cut down on the drops, he could emerge as a reliable No. 2 target for Joe Flacco.
Injury: Blaine Gabbert, JAC, Lacerated Hand
Replacement: Chad Henne
What They’re Losing: Not only has Gabbert famously struggled in his short career, but injuries continue to sabotage any chance he has to grow out of his deficiencies. Performances like Week 1, when he had a 29.7 passer rating when not under pressure, show that Jacksonville will not lose much on the field without him. But from a front office standpoint, this injury could deprive them of any chance to salvage their 2011 top draft pick.
What They’re Getting: When Henne stepped in for Gabbert last season, his initial high marks gave hope that he was finally discovering the success that he lacked as a Miami Dolphin. But five straight negative grades to finish the season brought him back to Earth.
Outcome: Gabbert’s gaffes have fooled some into thinking that Henne could be a viable alternative in Jacksonville, but the former Dolphin also finished near the bottom of every one of our quarterback Signature Stats last season. The Jaguars appear destined for a quarterback in next year’s draft, and the sixth-year veteran won’t alter that course.
Injury: Garry Williams, CAR, Torn ACL & MCL
Replacement: Chris Scott
What They’re Losing: An undrafted free agent who’s been in and out of the Panthers starting lineup in his five NFL seasons, Williams was locked in as a the starting right guard when Carolina released Geoff Hangartner in training camp. Though he’s been mostly average in his career, Williams did finish 2012 with a +6.3 grade in his final five games.
What They’re Getting: A solid preseason, particularly as a run blocker, showed the potential for Scott to step in for Williams without any hiccups. But that was not the case against the Seahawks in Week 1, as Seattle’s line dominated him. With 10:13 left in the fourth quarter, O’Brien Schofield simply tossed Scott onto his back, collapsing the pocket for a hit on Cam Newton.
Outcome: Williams was no superstar, but Scott’s debut brings concerns that right guard could be a big hole for Carolina this season. If he doesn’t improve quickly, the Panthers will soon be shopping for a veteran replacement.
Injury: Larry Foote, PIT, Ruptured Biceps
Replacement: Kion Wilson
What They’re Losing: Foote was among the many longtime veterans who the Steelers defense loves to rely upon, but he seemed to be in decline before this injury. He earned the seventh-lowest run defense grade of any inside linebacker last season, while allowing a 121.6 passer rating on throws into his coverage.
What They’re Getting: There’s little known about Wilson, as the nine snaps he took on Sunday in relief of Foote were the first of his career. He did show a lot of potential as a pass rusher this preseason, as his six quarterback pressures led all inside linebackers.
Outcome: It’s always worrisome to replace a familiar veteran with a green rookie, but Dick LeBeau’s defense has plenty of experience elsewhere to make up for Foote’s absence. Along with Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones, Wilson could help bring about a youth movement in Pittsburgh’s linebacking corps.
Injury: Prince Amukamara, NYG, Concussion
Replacement: Aaron Ross
What They’re Losing: Safety Ryan Mundy’s helmet-crunching hit on Amukamara brought up the question of whether players should be fined for hurting their own teammates. On the field, it could leave the Giants without the best member of an already shaky secondary. His 0.86 Yards Per Coverage Snap was the second-lowest mark for any NFL cornerback with over 300 snaps last season.
What They’re Getting: Returning to the Giants after a one year “vacation” with the Jaguars, Ross may have to unexpectedly step right back into his old starting role. His aggressive style leaves his susceptible to penalties and double moves, and the 811 yards he allowed in coverage with the Giants in 2011 were the tenth-most of any NFL cornerback.
Outcome: Ross has the benefit of familiarity with Perry Fewell’s defense, but there’s a reason the Giants let him leave in 2012. With Corey Webster struggling to find his old form on the other side, and the Denver Broncos coming to town this Sunday, Giants fans should hope that Amukamara is cleared to practice soon.
Injury: Bradley Fletcher, PHI, Concussion
Replacement: Brandon Boykin
What They’re Losing: After providing quality snaps off the bench the last two seasons with the St. Louis Rams, Fletcher finally returned to a starting role only to suffer a concussion Monday night. His 0.52 Yards Per Coverage Snap in 2012 was the lowest rate of any NFL cornerback with 250 snaps.
What They’re Getting: A fourth-round draft pick, Boykin was a bright spot on an otherwise spotty Eagles secondary in 2012. He was the only Philadelphia defensive back to earn a positive season grade, and he notched a +5.0 mark in his four starts while allowing just 54.0% of the targets into his coverage to be completed.
Outcome: Considering how productive Fletcher has been off the bench, it’s fitting that he’ll be spelled by a teammate who has excelled as a backup in his own right. Philadelphia should be fine with Boykin until Fletcher recovers.
Injury: Brodrick Bunkley, NO, Calf Injury
Replacement: John Jenkins
What They’re Losing: Throughout his eight-year career, Bunkley has been one of the league’s best interior run defenders. He had the highest run defense grade of any defensive tackle in 2011, and against posted a solid Run Stop Percentage last season.
What They’re Getting: Jenkins made a quick splash on Sunday, earning three quarterback hurries and a run stop in just 25 snaps. This may not have come as a surprise to those Saints fans who watched him in preseason, where he earned good grade in both run and pass defense.
Outcome: It’s a tall order to replace the run-stopping dominance that Bunkley consistently brought, but at first glance Jenkins has shown the potential to be just as productive inside.
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