The saying goes “If I could predict the future, I wouldn’t be here.” Especially when it comes to injuries in the NFL, one can just never tell. They can happen at any time, to any player, at any level of severity. A simple fall and twist in the wrong way at practice and a Jared Devries is looking at the IR list before the season starts. Marlin Jackson is done for 2010, bringing Philly into the Atogwe bidding.
Any Player. Any Time. Any Severity.
This makes some questions have easy answers. Who will get injured? Someone. How bad? Bad Enough. When? Sometime.
The best way I’ve found to approach injuries is not by looking at who is likely or even not likely to get injured. It could be anyone, any time, any severity. Rather, it is to look at the depth at each position and see how injuries to one or both starters and/or depth players will impact the team. So here is my early look at each position group for just basic depth and how injuries could affect the team in relation to that group.
Kicker: Hanson is now literally old reliable. Just like last season, were he injured the Lions would need to sign one of the replacement kickers who are usually on the market. Teams just don’t have roster space for a backup kicker, so this is really the only option. Same with Harris at Punter.
WR: Calvin Johnson is THE big threat at wideout. There are some younger guys in camp that have a chance to make in impact. Burleson could be a middle of the field threat. Sheffler from the TE position in the slot could be a factor. Like it or not thought, this offense revolves around Calvin Johnsonin the passing game. The rest is there to take pressure off of him, or to take advantage of taking him out of the game with coverage. Best will get stuffed at the line as bad as Kevin Smith did with CJ out unless a WR steps up and shows they have what it takes to be a deep threat too — at least a little bit. An injury to one the role players could be overcome, but another season of dinged up CJ would not be good. There is some depth, but it is mostly unproven and CJ stands a large cut above the rest as far as threat level goes to opposing defenses.
RB: Until Kevin Smith returns, the Lions are still vulnerable at RB — but not badly. Best is a rookie, but Mo Morris is a solid veteran all around good if not spectacular back. An injury to either would be inconvenient, but not lead to a total shut down of the running game. Once Kevin Smith returns from injury, they Lions would actually be very strong at depth. Felton is also a good bruising runner, and provides some depth to the unit as well with an ability to catch and block, as well as run the tough inside yards Best may have trouble with as a speed-specialist rookie should Morris go down and/or 34K not be back yet. A Best injury would relegate away much of the “home run threat” of the running game, but at least it would still have some relevance (we hope) if the O-Line is stronger this season.
Offensive Line: This unit could be good this year — but one injury could change all that pretty quickly. While the projected starting line of Backus-Sims-Raiola-Peterman-Cherilus looks the strongest it has in years, an injury to any one of those players will necessitate the insertion of one of the turn-styles from last year into the lineup, or force inexperienced young players into the fray. Cross your fingers here folks because the health of the offensive line starters is, to me, one of the biggest injury-related keys to the upcoming season.
TE’s: Again there is good, solid depth here. Heller, Pettigrew, Sheffler. a 4th TBD. The Lions can handle one injury here after Pettigrew is back, but not before and not more than one or it will hobble the two TE sets Linehan likes to run — just like last season when Pettigrew went out.
Quarterback: This position is as injury resistant as I’ve seen it ever. Stafford is an entrenched starter, and Shaun Hill is the kind of vet who knows the offense and can come in and win a couple games while your starter gets healthy. Not of the same caliber as Stafford, he still has a solid command of the offense and can utilize CJ, Best, and the other offensive weapons of the Lions.
Linebacker: This unit is not nearly as loaded as last season. Sims and Foote are both gone. Only two starters, DeAndre Levy at MLB and Julian Peterson at SLB, are solidified. The WLB spot is up for grabs between Jordan Dizon and Zack Follett at this point it would seem. I still think that Dizon showed great improvement last season, and can play all along the line. We’ll have to see how guys like Campbell, Palmer et al work out before we know what they have back there. Still, I would hazard to say one injury among the starters wouldn’t be catastrophic — though the drop-off would be noticed, especially at MLB. However, multiple injuries — even just a couple — would put the Lions with backup-quality special teamers on the field starting again. Depth is okay, but not great. Still, compared to years past this is a definite improvement.
Defensive Line: This is one position group that seems not only vastly improved, but very solid depth wise. Last year’s starters are this year’s rotational guys – many with good upside. A loss of one DT and/or DE would still leave the Lions line able to function, unlike when the Lions were forced to have O-Linemen in on short yardage running plays. KVB/DeVries/Hunter/Avril/McBride/Fox at DE right now, and DT has Suh/Williams/Hill starting caliber, with Cohen(s), Fluellen, et al backing them up. Still a solid starting group available even with an injury at each position.
Secondary: Here’s where life gets dicey, and the work the roster still needs comes to the fore. Delmas essentially is the secondary as far as known quantities go. Everything else is Duct-Tape, Dreams, Mirrors, Potential and a whole lot o’ prayin’. I’ll have a lot more to say on the secondary as the ifseason progresses, but this is the one area where an injury – especially to Delmas – could be devastating. The quality isn’t there or unknown in the starters, much less everyone else vying for a roster spot.
So I can’t tell the future, but I do know that injuries will happen — and the Lions always seem to get more than their fair share. Will they be able to get past those injuries and win games, or will they be crippling like last year to a team that is struggling to find talent in the starters, much less quality depth. It is a long road to competitiveness for the Lions, and they have only just begun the journey. Any team, however, can be bitten by the injury bug – or devoured by it.
Any Player. Any Time. Any Severity.