Monday, November 3, 2008

How Much Are Injuries to Blame?

by: Michael Steffes

I managed to drag myself to the DVR after a mostly relaxing morning, and surprisingly the early returns are making me optimistic about this organization's future, at least defensively.

-Darryl Tapp is playing much better than last year. He is much more complete. He seems to have incorporated the hustle of Patrick Kerney into his more athletic skill set.

-On the other side, Lo Jack has clearly hit an early wall. He is struggling. However, many highly thought of ends have struggled in their first season. It takes a while to adjust to the talent of NFL tackles.

-It consistently takes two guys to effectively block Brandon Mebane.

-Wilson and Trufant make a nice pair of corners. I really think this defense has good, youthful talent.

The problem is that they are getting killed by the offense. Even when this team scores it is on big plays. They are simply incapable of sustaining long drives. How much of this is because of injuries? Well, here is a quick calculation I have done with regard to offensive starts lost to injury. All these players were projected to start either at the beginning of the year or at the time they were hurt.

Nate Burleson 7.5 games
Deion Branch 7.5 games
Rob Sims 7 games
Matt Hasselbeck 4 games
Bobby Engram 3 games
Logan Payne 7 games (minus a few plays)
Sean Locklear 3 games
Mo Morris 3 games
Leonard Weaver 1 game

This makes for a grand total of 43 starts lost from the offensive unit, or an average of almost 5.5 per game. That is ridiculous--what team can compensate for missing more than 5 projected starters per game on one side of the ball? This doesn't even account for the fact that a guy like Ben Obamanu would have been starting had he not been hurt, or that guys like Billy McMullen came off the street and started and then were hurt. Yet, somehow, Pork Chop stays healthy. When you look at the fact that the Hawks are averaging only 25 minutes of possession each game you wonder what it is doing to the defense. It is definitely too hard to make any accurate assessment of that side of the ball, but if you go on what they look like in the first halves, there is reason for hope. ~END~