We look back at Atlanta's worst games this year to see what weaknesses New England might exploit. Those weaknesses include pretty much everyone on defense, but is there a secret to stopping the Falcons offense?
11 Nov 2008
by Will Carroll
This year, as much as any I can remember, quarterbacks are dropping, and with them the fortunes of their teams and fantasy teams everywhere. The NFL has done all they can to protect quarterbacks, teams are scheming to protect them, spending big money on tackles, and still, we have as many quarterback injuries as ever. If all that isn't enough, what more can be done? Is the nature of the game such that teams will need to have better backups?
I asked Dr. Ralph Gambardella, the head of the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic, what he thought and he gave the answer many of you wouldn't expect: "Stuff happens." Well, yes, but is there anything we can do to keep the bad stuff from happening? "When over 200 pounds is moving in several different directions, quick movements build tremendous force, generating torque that human body parts have a hard time with. Many of our bones and joints do well with compression, but not with torque." So is torque the problem, and could we build braces and pads that do better with twisting forces than the linear orientation of the game? It's possible and certainly worth investigating. Dr. Gambardella also suggests that peripheral vision might be something that should be investigated more and certainly, that's one more test I'd like to see at the combine. Let's look at the injuries:
Willie Parker says he does not have a torn labrum, or at least that no one has told him this. There's some hand-wringing that maybe Parker just hasn't been told, but that's exceptionally unlikely. Could he have misunderstood? Missed a word when the doctor was speaking in unfamiliar terms? (Yeah, it happens. When I was diagnosed with cancer more than a decade ago, I had to make an embarrassing call later that day because I didn't know what kind. After the word "cancer," your brain kind of flips a switch.) Parker spoke with ESPN to contradict Adam Schefter's detailed report on the how and why of Parker's injury. The detail is what gets me with Schefter's report. Given all the facts I've been able to gather, I think Schefter's right. Parker could be back as early as next week, but if he's wearing a harness, you'll know. Parker also mentioned that he's still feeling the effects of the MCL sprain, so given Mewelde Moore's effectiveness in his absence, Parker could come back to find himself in a timeshare.
The Redskins rushing attack has some problems. Clinton Portis has a knee sprain (rumored to be another MCL sprain, this year's "it" injury) while Ladell Betts is still banged up. That leaves Shaun Alexander -- or, as we call it here at Football Outsiders, "nothing." Portis' knee has gotten worse, according to Jim Zorn, during the bye week, an odd choice of words. Rest shouldn't make things worse, so what do we have with this sprain? Portis' health and sanity are always in question, but seldom his talent. The real mystery is where this sprain came from. He was playing on a mildly sprained ankle and had a rough week rushing, but still put up big yardage in Week 9. Most wouldn't notice that Portis is just behind Adrian Peterson in both rushing yards and carries while being more valuable using our advanced measures, but most would agree that Portis has been very effective this season despite his normal dings and dents. This one isn't reading right so I'll be watching it closely all the way up to game time.
The Rams continue to be very conservative with Steven Jackson, describing him as day-to-day after keeping him out of last week's game. The quad strain's location appears to be the real problem, with the proximity to the patellar tendon causing the issue. All the symptoms match up, including pain at the start and end of workouts, plus a "creaky" knee as described by Jackson himself. While we shouldn't trust Jackson given his earlier statements on his readiness, the tendon involvement explains why this is going slowly and why his forcing himself on the field was such a bad idea, setting this back significantly. In essence, the Rams are forced to treat one injury in two ways -- as they would for a muscle strain and as they would for a tendon strain. The treatment isn't significantly different, but the recovery period and recurrence risk is, which leads to the conservative treatment. We'll have to see if Jackson can practice on it this week, as Jim Haslett isn't going to let him on the field without a couple solid practices.
Tony Romo is back under center for the Cowboys, but is he healthy enough to start? While he almost came back a couple weeks ago, he realized that his misguided attempt to play through the broken finger would have been a mistake both for him and the team. While his return won't fix all the Cowboys' problems, it might paper over well enough to give the rest of it some cover while they try to fix things. So far, Romo isn't showing problems with grip strength or mobility in the hand, or at least it doesn't show in his throws. Observers say that despite the brace he's still wearing on the hand, they couldn't detect any significant difference in his throws from normal. Things look good for Romo to be back on Sunday and going forward.
Rex Grossman wasn't terrible in his sub start against the Titans, but few Bears fans are saying that he should get another start, even if Kyle Orton isn't back to 100 percent by Sunday. Orton was the inactive emergency quarterback last week and still says that he's having trouble putting pressure on the ankle, problematic since it's the push leg for throwing. His mobility and throwing mechanics will be watched closely by the Bears staff, but they have all week to make a decision. This is one that will likely go up to game time, though I think we'll have enough information by Friday to make a good fantasy decision. Against Green Bay, Orton will need to have near-full mobility to be effective. That we should be able to figure out in practice.
Last week I wrote about Greg Oden's foot injury over on Basketball Prospectus. One of the big things that's been talked about with Oden is the weight that he's carrying on that foot (and repaired knee). The same type of thing is being discussed with JaMarcus Russell after he missed Sunday's game with knee tendonitis. Russell, like Oden, was a high school star. Also like Oden, his is a very large man. While the weight is something that has been discussed, Russell put on the bulk of his bulk during his time at LSU. That's not uncommon, as it's the first time these athletes have been under constant monitoring and training regimens, have access to strength and conditioning programs, and perhaps most importantly, are reaching physical maturity. Russell weighed in at 265 pounds at the NFL Combine (256 a week later at his pro day) and is listed this year at 260. He certainly came in to camp higher, but going back to his days at LSU, Russell often came in near 280. It should have been a red flag, but this is the Raiders, a team that disregards red flags as standard operating procedure. Sources tell me that Russell's knee is more a good excuse to give him some time away from a terrible team and that he'll likely be back in concert with Darren McFadden as the team tries to figure out how to escape the cellar. Right now, they appear to be on the
Devil Rays plan of sitting at the top of the draft for a decade.
There was a quick report during the Colts-Steelers game that Marvin Harrison had left the game due to a concussion. On the next offensive series, he was back in. Even the mildest concussion would, or at least should, keep a player out longer, but this didn't look like a concussion. First, the replay showed that Harrison didn't take much of a hit to the head, if at all. He just kind of laid there for a minute. When he came to the bench, he reached up to take his helmet off and stopped. A few moments later, he was seen speaking with a team doctor and making a gesture that indicated something in the back right quarter of his head. The doctor rubbed his neck briefly and Harrison nodded. All signs then point to Harrison getting a stinger. I can remember a tight end back in my student trainer days who jogged over and said matter-of-factly that he was having a stroke. The pain is sharp, intense, but thankfully, not a stroke. Harrison should be fine, short- and long-term.
Jared Allen wasn't the only one playing through a shoulder injury. Derrick Mason actually dislocated his shoulder during Sunday's game and played through it. Granted, he left the field and had it reduced (put back in place) and then got a painkilling injection, but we should still give him credit for toughing it out. The dislocation, while painful, isn't that bad in and of itself after reduction. The worry is that things got stretched or torn as the shoulder came out of socket. So far, Mason is doing pretty well, undergoing treatment to minimize the swelling and pain. We won't know if he can play until later in the week, though my guess is that if he could play immediately after the injury, he should be able to make it back after a week of treatments.
The Saints are coming off a crushing loss to the Falcons and seem to be one of those teams who are losing chemistry as losses pile up. It's easy to point fingers when things are going badly, and let's face it, the Saints aren't nearly as good as anyone expected, even with Drew Brees putting up MVP numbers. Getting Reggie Bush back might help on the field and could take some of the pressure off him from teammates, many of whom are still perturbed that he can make all of his social engagements and public appearances, but can't seem to get through practice a couple weeks after minor knee surgery. He's expected back this week, but not expected to take his normal load of carries and targets. The same social problems exist for Jeremy Shockey, plus he can't stay healthy. An ankle sprain pushed him out of Sunday's game, and then Billy Miller outplayed him. He's going to have to prove he can stay healthy; he's already proven he can't shut up.
Ben Roethlisberger appeared to be wearing down with arm strength as Monday's game went on. With 42 throws, it's apparent he wasn't on a pitch count ... Carson Palmer is out for Week 11, but the Bengals seem willing to wait and give him a chance to play late in the season ... All signs point to Cadillac Williams being activated this week. A final decision will be made on Wednesday, but don't get too excited. Both Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn look ready to play and Williams is "not ready to be a feature back," according to Jon Gruden ... Felix Jones isn't back at practice yet, but the Cowboys hope to have him by midweek ... Aaron Stecker has a strained hamstring and has been losing touches to Deuce McAllister as the latter has gotten progressively healthier ... Not quite Theismann or Krumrie, but Charles Gordon would likely rather not have broken his ankle. Hat tip to PFT ... Jamaal Charles' sprained ankle will push him back behind Larry Johnson ... The Bills are hopeful that Fred Jackson's ankle injury is minor and that he won't miss time ... Adalius Thomas is done for the year after breaking his arm ... Nick Barnett was playing "more aggressively" in the last few weeks, trying to find the form that made him so good last year. It might have contributed to him tearing his ACL on the Minnesota turf. He's done for the year ... Mike McKenzie broke the patella in his right knee, the same one that had the ACL replaced last season. Coincidence, I'm told ... Also true in football.
24 comments, Last at 12 Nov 2008, 1:41pm by dbostedo