Injury Report: Next Man Up, Week 6
At this point of the season, the injury reports get so long that it becomes a truly difficult task to narrow this column down to just a select few players. While you can likely measure the profound effect of losing a playmaker like Julio Jones, I’ll try to focus on some less-heralded positions whose absence may not always show up in the stat sheet, but certainly does on the tape.
Injury: Amini Silatolu, LG, CAR (Torn ACL)
Replacement: Travelle Wharton
What They’re Losing: After being selected in the second round of the 2012 draft, Silatolu’s rookie season featured sieve-like pass protection and the third-worst grade of any left guard in the league. He was off to a strong start this year thanks to some good run-blocking, but now the Panthers will have to wait until next season to gauge his long-term potential.
What They’re Getting: Wharton can relate to Silatolu’s misfortune, as he himself lost all of last season to a knee injury. It’s been a while since he finished the 2011 campaign with nine straight positively-graded games, and he has a troubling 91.2 Pass Blocking Efficiency in part-time duty this season.
Outcome: Wharton may still be able to bring some push in the running game, but this veteran hasn’t been a reliable pass protector for quite some time. The Panthers had the eighth-best offensive line through the first quarter of the season, but they’ll likely take a tumble after this loss.
Injury: Luke Joeckel, LT, JAX (Broken Ankle)
Replacement: Cameron Bradfield
What They’re Losing: Much like his fellow top pick Eric Fisher, Joeckel was having a rocky start to his NFL career. His pass-blocking was respectable, but he was too often dominated in the running game. His move to left tackle was equally discouraging, as he surrendered a quarterback hit on his third pass blocking snap Sunday before eventually suffering his injury.
What They’re Getting: After entering this season with Joeckel and Eugene Monroe, the Jaguars couldn’t have imagined handing their blind side to a third-year undrafted free agent. Bradfield had a number of up and down performances at right tackle last season before being benched in Week 16, and earned a dreadful -6.2 grade after replacing Joeckel on Sunday.
Outcome: Considering Joeckel’s struggles, the short-term impact of this injury isn’t big. But given the investment and trust Jacksonville had put into him as their long-term solution at left tackle, it’s a massive hit to their franchise.
Injury: Owen Daniels, TE, HOU (Fractured Fibula)
Replacement: Garrett Graham
What They’re Losing: Daniels has long been a productive pass-catcher in Houston, the de facto number two option after the incomparable Andre Johnson. His blocking has never been anything to write home about, but through five games this season he was on pace for his highest receiving total since 2008.
What They’re Getting: The Texans frequent two-tight end sets have brought some production from Graham in the passing game, though his 1.14 Yards Per Route Run rate since 2012 falls short of Daniels’ mark of 1.50. Though he hasn’t posted a good run block grade this season, Graham has proved proficient in that area in the past.
Outcome: Though Graham probably won’t match Daniels’ yardage totals, he can make up for it with his work as a blocker. And with DeAndre Hopkins finally giving Houston a competent No. 2 wide receiver, the Texans are better suited to survive this loss than they would have been in seasons past.
Injury: Clay Matthews, 3-4 OLB, GB (Broken Thumb)
Replacement: Mike Neal
What They’re Losing: There’s a reason Matthews earned mention as one of the league’s biggest losses last season. He missed four games in 2012 and still accounted for 28.4% of the Packers’ sacks and quarterback hits that season. When he’s on the bench, Green Bay’s pass rush disappears.
What They’re Getting: Despite him being fourth on the team in quarterback pressures last season, the Packers felt the need to move Mike Neal to outside linebacker, and the change has been drastic; he’s played with his hand off the ground on 81.5% of his snaps this season after 17.3% last season. He’s coming off a dominant performance against the Lions where he generated six QB pressures on just 26 pass rushes and added two run stops.
Outcome: There’s a reason Matthews earned the second-highest pass rush grade at his position in 2012. However, if Neal can continue to put forth the type of effort he did last week, the Packers defense could weather Matthews’ loss better than they did last season.
Injury: Bobby Wagner, MLB, SEA (High Ankle Sprain)
Replacement: K.J. Wright
What They’re Losing: With a grade second only to Patrick Willis among inside linebackers, Wagner’s 2012 season nearly earned him our Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Though he hasn’t matched that impressive production this season, his 18 defensive stops are still nearly twice as many as the second-highest total on the Seahawks.
What They’re Getting: With Wagner likely to miss this Sunday’s game, Wright will slide from his usual weakside spot to the middle. He’s proven himself to be one of the league’s best cover linebackers over the past two seasons, though he has struggled in run defense this year.
Outcome: Wright’s move inside will also create a domino effect of more snaps for Malcolm Smith and Bruce Irvin. Though all have had their moments, none are likely to match the consistent production of Wagner.
Injury: Tommy Kelly, DT, NE (Knee)
Replacement: Chris Jones
What They’re Losing: For years out in Oakland, Kelly was one of the league’s most potent, and most penalized, interior pass rushers in the league. Now in New England, he’s managed to keep up the pressure while keeping a clean sheet.
What They’re Getting: Jones got some kudos for his two sacks last week in Cincinnati, but that didn’t overshadow his rough day against the run. It didn’t help that fellow rookie Joe Vellano was having an even worse day in his first attempt at filling Vince Wilfork’s enormous shoes. Together, this duo earned a -9.5 grade in run defense.
Outcome: I can’t imagine Jones and Vellano having as rough a day as they did last week, but they’re still a far step down from Kelly and Wilfork. The Saints aren’t known for pounding the ball, but they’ll sure be tempted to run inside on these rookies.
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