NFL goes Awol: QBs Step Up, Injuries, Depth Chart

With the Falcons possibly losing playmaker Julio Jones for the season after breaking the screw in his foot from a previous surgery, the belief is that the other standout receiver will miss some games as well. Roddy White has been playing through a lingering hamstring issue, so Atlanta desperately needs Steven Jackson to come back in an effort to turn their 1-4 fortunes around after this bye week that they really needed. This gives Harry Douglas an extended opportunity, and the other internal options are Drew Davis and Kevin Cone. Do note though, tight end Tony Gonzalez was already drawing massive defensive attention and backup Levine Toilolo caught a touchdown last week. Maybe they should incorporate some more two-tight end sets. Matt Ryan, this is the time the team needs you to take an extra step and make everybody better.

A pair of Giants running backs are out with neck injuries. David Wilson will be getting a second opinion to see how much time he will miss, while Ahmad Bradshaw departed for the Colts and will miss the remainder of the year. Indianapolis was hoping to have him paired up with the newly acquired Trent Richardson, so now Donald Brown is getting the snaps as the compliment. As for the G-Men, they resigned Brandon Jacobs a few weeks ago and resigned Da’Rel Scott this week, expect a timeshare minus the back-flip celebration.

Chiefs standout cornerback Brandon Flowers played in the slot in last week’s win against the Titans. Normally Dunta Robinson is part of the rotation, however it was rookie Marcus Cooper that played on the outside along with starter Sean Smith. Well, this could be preparing for the two matchups against the Broncos this season and all of their targets, having four cornerbacks that can cover and a consistent pass rush is a good recipe to containing Peyton Manning and company.

Patriots expect dominant tight end Rob Gronkowski to make his debut this week, and they certainly need him. They have found a way to win games, hence the 4-1 start, but the offense hasn’t been pretty with rookie receivers and a banged up Danny Amendola. Amendola returned in last week’s loss to the Bengals, but didn’t make much of a difference considering New England was shut down to a couple of field goals. They also hope that the musical chairs in the backfield is soon over with the return of Stevan Ridley. Between the Ridley and LeGarrette Blount fumblitis, the injured Leon Washington and Shane Vereen, and the on-and-off injured Brandon Bolden, the offense has been a complete mess. Appreciate the Patriots ability to win with all this going on, as health is slowly coming into their favor.

Cowboys’ receiver Miles Austin continues to deal with a nagging hamstring injury basically every season, he is back at practice after backup Terrence Williams posted 11 catches for 222 yards and a touchdown in his absence. Running back Lance Dunbar isn’t participating at practice today, opening things up for backups Joseph Randle and Phillip Tanner. Yes, DeMarco Murray is producing well up to this point, but his touches need to be monitored to keep him healthy and on the field. In the past he’s gotten hurt quite frequently, so the backup will get involved, although they probably didn’t even use Dunbar enough with his durability now an issue.

Running back Andre Ellington has played better than starter Rashard Mendenhall all year so far. His snaps are increasing, and even though the Cardinals have a weak offensive line, Ellington continues to make something out of nothing and may have the full load to himself in the coming weeks. This is a very fast football team, if they can figure out a way to get the O-line in sync with quarterback Carson Palmer, this is a dark horse team with a strong defense.

Riley Cooper brought some attention to himself with a negative connotation before the season started, but he’s blowing his opportunity to replace the injured Jeremy Maclin in the starting lineup. His lack of ability to gain separation against cornerbacks has been more than evident, losing a considerable amount of snaps to Jason Avant. Now enter rookie Jeff Maehl. He played for head coach Chip Kelly at Oregon and will get more playing time as the team struggles to find a receiver to help Desean Jackson on the outside. Either that, or they need to throw to their versatile tight ends, Brent Celek and rookie Zack Ertz who is also deserving of more targets.

Buffalo has suffered a few key injuries at the same time unfortunately. We already know that rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel is out for a month or two, well his go-to guys are banged up as well. Running back C.J. Spiller was limping on that rolled ankle of his while receiver Stevie Johnson was on the sidelines. Granted, Johnson has missed at least one practice in the last month, he usually plays through injuries and gets an extra day of rest. The unsung hero that running back Fred Jackson is, will take advantage of a bigger workload if it comes to that. Rookie receiver Robert Woods is playing really well right now with Johnson drawing the better cornerback each week. Hopefully for them, they get serviceable, game-manager type of production at QB. Shoot, maybe let Jackson throw some passes on option or wildcat plays.

Calvin Johnson is not on the practice field yet again. It was surprising to us but strategic by the Lions to conceal the news so that Green Bay had to gameplan for him. It didn’t work out, and the rest of the offense will have another week to put something better together than last week’s woeful performance. Expect the elite Browns defense to focus in on the ground game, although running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell should be used in similar fashion that the Bills use Spiller and Jackson. With a healthier Brandon Pettigrew, the tight end should get more involved, especially with the lack of receiving targets. Maybe backup Tony Scheffler gets in on the targets as well, he quietly has a knack for stepping up when called upon. No Johnson, no Nate Burleson. Kris Durham is filling in, who excels on special teams and Ryan Broyles has yet to find comfort in the slot. One thing is for certain, quarterback Matthew Stafford has to finally take the helm and make his teammates better, similarly to Matt Ryan.

In the midst of a mid-life crisis, Texans’ quarterback Matt Schaub has lost tight end Owen Daniels for at least a couple months to a fractured leg. Next man up is Garrett Graham who has actually been involved this season. Graham can play and will bridge the gap since he’s been in the lineup before the injury occurred. The combination at receiver with Andre Johnson and rookie DeAndre Hopkins have recorded the least amount of drops as any duo in the league.

Santonio Holmes is still out which gives Jets receivers Jeremy Kerley and Clye Gates some more reps with starter Stephen Hill. Quarterback Geno Smith made things work on Monday night’s victory in Atlanta. Then tight end Jeff Cumberland emerges as a safety valve, and Kellen Winslow is wanting in on the action, who is talnted just hasn’t had the healthiest career up to this point.

Chicago focuses their gameplan on running back Matt Forte and receiver Brandon Marshall. The thing is, quarterback Jay Cutler locks onto a receiver when they are producing, hence a good game from Alshon Jeffrey followed by a monster 200-yard breakout. Well now tight end Martellus Bennett is questionable to lace up Thursday night against the Giants, which will draw more attention to the outspoken Marshall, who does have a point by the way. I just think he is further maturing and trying to be a leader. The Bears have dropped the last two games and are now 3-2, and he doesn’t want them to fall below a certain standard. Good for him and the panic button should not be pressed, they lost to a rival in the Lions, then the undefeated Saints.

Minnesota has a trio of quarterbacks, which usually means you don’t have a good one, but if that’s the case then I commend them for adding Josh Freeman to the competition. I fully expect him to start at some point, if not next week, but so far Matt Cassel looks better in this offense than Christian Ponder. I do like Ponder’s future better because he is raw, but the journeyman in Cassel had some success in the past with weapons on the Patriots. He wasn’t the leader that could make his teammates better in Kansas City, but not everybody is that guy and he finds himself with an opportunity here. He led the Vikings to their first win of the season, of course on the back of MVP running back Adrian Peterson. Whoever takes the helm has receivers Greg Jennings and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson on the outside, with Jerome Simpson racking up catches in the slot and Kyle Rudolph a gritty tight end. There’s tools in the shed around the centerpiece Peterson, so I wouldn’t count them out yet.