Injury Report: Next Man Up, Week 9
I usually limit this column to injuries that happened the previous week, but when Thursday night’s game includes an injury to the third-best player of the 2012 season, I’d be remiss not to address it. In a lineman-heavy edition of Next Man Up, let’s tackle the worst loss of the 2013 season so far.
Injury: Geno Atkins, Bengals DT (Torn ACL)
Replacement: Brandon Thompson
What They’re Losing: Atkins was our Defensive Player of the Year runner-up last season. He earned a +80.0 grade; the next-highest defensive tackle earned a +31.7. He has a +145.2 grade since entering the league in 2010; the next-highest DT has a +71.3. After a slow start and career-low grade in Week 3 this season, he’d returned to his old ways of dominating offensive lines before his unfortunate injury.
What They’re Getting: Thompson has shined in run defense this season, but hasn’t brought much as a pass rusher with just four quarterback pressures on the season. He didn’t notch any on Thursday night while playing a career-high 35 snaps once Atkins left the game.
Outcome: Simply put, there’s no replacing a player as good as Atkins. The Bengals defensive line still has some formidable pieces with players like Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap, put how much of their production came because teams had to devote more attention to Atkins? After losing Leon Hall last week, Cincinnati will have to go on without yet another of the league’s top defenders.
Injury: Sebastian Vollmer, Patriots RT (Broken Leg)
Replacement: Marcus Cannon
What They’re Losing: A PFF Second-Team All-Pro selection last season, Vollmer was equally impressive this season with the second-highest grade of any right tackle. He’s earned his keep as an elite pass protector since he entered the league in 2009, but is no slouch in the running game either.
What They’re Getting: Cannon has earned mixed results in the spot appearances he’s had over his three seasons as a backup. He’s been poor as a run blocker this season, though in his defense he’s had to fill in at left tackle, right guard, and right tackle.
Outcome: On the surface Vollmer is a big loss, but the Patriots are experts at successfully integrating new faces into their offensive line. Much like Peyton Manning, who has helped get the best out of Manny Ramirez and Chris Clark, Tom Brady will likely move along with Cannon without much of a hiccup.
Injury: Brian Waters, Cowboys LG (Triceps)
Replacement: Mackenzy Bernadeau
What They’re Losing: Speaking of Patriots offensive lineman, Waters was our second-highest graded right guard in 2011 with New England, his last full season. He no longer has much push in the running game, but provided his typically high level of pass protection with no sacks and just two quarterback hits in his five starts for the Cowboys.
What They’re Getting: There’s a reason the Cowboys wanted to move on from Bernadeau, as he followed up poor pass blocking last season by allowing a sack and two quarterback hits in this year’s season opener. He settled down a bit after then, but clearly not enough to keep Waters from taking his job.
Outcome: Normally an injury like this would compound the Cowboys’ chronic offensive line issues, but they’re stronger up front than they’ve been in the past. Doug Free is having a resurgent season and Travis Frederick is proving the draftniks wrong. Together, Dallas’ line has a better chance of masking Bernadeau’s faults than they did last season.
Injury: Brandon Gibson, Dolphins WR (Knee)
Replacement: Rishard Matthews
What They’re Losing: Gibson wasn’t the Dolphins most productive receiver this season, but he was their most efficient; his 1.66 Yards Per Route Run led all Miami wideouts. He was also ninth in the league with 313 slot yards, providing most of Miami’s production over the middle of the field.
What They’re Getting: Mathews, who also lines up primarily inside, has a 1.49 YPRR on slot routes this season that isn’t far off Gibson’s mark. With no drops on 22 career catchable targets, he’s shown good hands in his two NFL seasons.
Outcome: Gibson brings more experience and the extra element of being an occasional deep threat (he had 183 yards and three touchdowns on deep passes last season). But Matthews has shown in his limited playing time that he may be equally effective at exploiting the space that outside receivers Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline provide.
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