Injuries in the NFL are like the short horned grasshopper, the Locust. The migration of this insect is an occasional event, but could be very damaging, hitting hard all at once. Not all environmental factors are involved – weather (sun, wind and rain); artificial turf, dirt and sand all play a factor in injuries to all players. Injuries can and will affect the depth of a team, like the locust damage on a field of vegetation.
After one game the Rams are feeling the pinch in several key positions. As I mentioned coming out of training camp and heading into the 2010 regular season, “building the backend of the roster and overall depth is the key to building a strong 53 man roster”.
This team is not HEAVY in any one position; the personnel department should be looking at every NFL roster for possible trades and practice squad players in case the injuries sustained are long term. Each personnel department in the NFL has what they call an “Emergency list.” This listing will provide the powers that be options on players on the street and throughout the league on practice squads.
Remember my four rules when signing a Free agent or trading for players, 1. Character 2. Injury History 3. Playtime 4. Production. At this point of the early season you will see the occasional trade (for instance Laurence Maroney from New England to Denver on Tuesday). Maroney has had spotty playing time the past few seasons (he’s a former first rounder that struggled with injuries despite some production). For the most part though, NFL clubs sit tight with their present roster while they move forward into the meat of the season.
The most urgent position for the Rams at this point from a strategic point of view is the cornerback position. In the second half of the Arizona game the Rams had two corners go down (Justin King and Kevin Dockery) with soft tissue injuries. These two players are considered starters in the sub-packages (nickel/dime coverage’s that use 5 or 6 defensive backs) in passing situations usually used on 3rd down, especially 3rd & long, or competing vs. 3-4 receiver formations. These two injuries put Coach Steve Spagnuolo and defensive coordinator Ken Flajole in a slight bind. They were forced to play safeties against receivers where corners would normally line up.
Then there is the linebacker position. Josh Hull, the rookie from Penn State, was off to a fine start and a promising career, blew his ACL in practice yesterday and will go on IR. Chris Chamberlain, another linebacker and special team’s ace the past few seasons, sustained a major Great Toe injury vs. Arizona, and will miss the next 6-8 weeks if not the remainder of the season.
The third position would be the running back, as we talked about all off season, around the draft and through training camp. A backup running back that complements SJ39 or a change of pace back would give the opposing Defensive Coordinator something else to think about.
Replacing these players at their position is one thing, but it also effects the third phase of the game which is vital to winning as well – special teams. All active football players on game day contribute on special teams. The 53 man roster should be built with athletic players that are extremely aggressive and willing to contribute on special teams. This special breed of player helps the coaching staff form the active roster on game day, based on the players’ ability to contribute on the special teams unit.
You always want the best front line starters (top 22); your second team and nine other players that form the rest of your 53 man roster should be sound athletic football players that are tough, competitive, intelligent, and have a passion for the game. Because on any given play in practice or games a player can get injured and lost for the season. Having depth plays a huge part of the championship foundation.