Friday, November 18, 2011

Week 11 Coin Toss: The Injury Epidemic

Matt Schaub's injury is just one on
a 2011 list that's far too long. (AP)
Stally: In case you haven't heard fantasy owners, Matt Schaub and Matt Cassel are the most recent additions to a list of injured players that could compile a reasonably sized book.  It seems to be an epidemic this year.  This is the first time where I've just seemed to lose excitement in fantasy football and the only reason is because it's deflating watching all your players go out.

I had a phenomenal team in the keeper league Austen and I play in.  However, Andre Johnson has missed most of the season, Jahvid Best hasn't been right with a concussion, Ahmad Bradshaw cracked a bone in his foot, Daniel Thomas has battled a hamstring and my team is very mediocre.  Austen beat me in that league this past week, while I beat him in the one he created.  In that league, he has a crazy list of running backs that have gotten hurt while on his team and I'm sure he'll kick off his response with that group.

Austen, what do you think the issue is right now in the NFL?  Are injuries up this year or is just our perception because the fantasy starts have fallen?  Is this a long-term issue and how can the league fix it?

Austen: No one has come close to the list of injuries my fantasy team has faced this season. I started a league with Stally and some of my friends from New York and just this week I lost Matt Cassel, Jacoby Ford and Jeremy Maclin. That's more than some teams have lost all year. However, the same team is down Peyton Manning, Andre Johnson, Jamaal Charles, Peyton Hillis, Earnest Graham, LeGarrette Blount (for several weeks) and Knowshon Moreno on top of those three going down. Also banking on Ryan Torain for three weeks in which he averaged less than two points was not a great move either.
Moving past my fantasy woes, if the injuries I mentioned above were the biggest injury issues the NFL were facing, it would still be a pretty bad season. However, this does not even come close to mentioning all the stars that have fallen this season. The Steelers offensive line has been in shambles all year and both of their pass rushing outside linebackers, Lamarr Woodley and James Harrison, have been banged up all year. The Giants' defense lost around five starters before the season even began and have lost even more since then. On top of losing Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs also lost two of their most talented young players, playmaking safety Eric Berry and pass catching tight end Tony Moeaki, for the entire year. Those are just three teams that have really been held back by injuries. However, there are significant injuries on every team.

The lockout has a lot to do with the massive amount of injuries that is facing the NFL, since a lot of players got lazy in the offseason and are now paying the price. However, injuries are going to continue to be a massive problem in the NFL if they do not change the rules about the number of practices teams can hold in full pads. According to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams can only hold 14 practices in pads over the entire regular season. That's less than one practice in full pads a week.

If people have forgotten, football is a physical sport. I know the NFL continues to make rule after rule to protect player safety, and I have agreed with every rule change that protects players from getting a concussion because there are serious ailments that can threaten players lives and their future. However, this rule has simply gone way too far.

Unless players stop getting hit in games, they are still going to be at risk. It is 100% necessary that they get used to physical contact before those game time situations because getting hit in practice will almost always be less damaging to your body than what an opposing team will do to you. That is why it is necessary to have a lot of practices in full pads.

Players do not have to go full speed in practice, but they have to get hit in full pads in practice. All players, and especially young players, need to learn how to absorb a hit or avoid a hit in game time situations. There is no better place to learn how to do this than in practice against your teammates, who will not hit you nearly as hard as your opponents will on Sundays. Young players are not used to taking such huge hits from profession football players and that is why we are seeing so many young players go down.

This is an issue that I am very avid about. When I played football in High School, we played both sides of the football and the only reason we were in condition to do so was by playing, practicing and running in full pads everyday. While I was never part of a big time football program, my teammates and I were always physically prepared for our games. Being ready for full contact in practice allows you to simply go out and have fun on game day. A looser player leads to less injuries and a more fun game to watch.

Stally: If I'm not mistaken, you might have even forgot to put Montario Hardesty on your list of injured players.  Let me go on record as saying that this is why you don't handcuff players in fantasy football: there's no guarantee who will emerge as a back up (Jackie Battle in Kansas City) or that the handcuff stays healthy (Hardesty in Cleveland).

I agree with your assessment that the lockout changed some of the strength and conditioning routines.  Since players weren't allowed to use the facility or even be in contact with the team, they had to get motivated to workout and stay in shape on their own.  Not to name any names, other than CHRIS JOHNSON!!!, but this is suprisingly difficult for some of the multi-millionaires whose livelihoods depends on the condition of their body.

I really like your point about practicing in pads.  As a hockey player, non-contact practices are a foreign concept to me.  At no point did we ever just go pad-less, unless we were out for some fun pond skate during a busy stretch of games.  Given, I was at 49ers Training Camp last year when Mike Singletary's old school Nutcracker drill claimed too many players, so I've seen the flip side.  However, that doesn't mean that players shouldn't strap on the full pads regularly.  I seem to remember USC always running in full pads once a week (I think on Wednesdays).  It didn't seem to hurt them; they made the Rose Bowl every year I worked for the Trojans!

Austen: I've had so many questions this week, but most of them are running themes from past topics: who are the Ravens; who is any good in the AFC West; and what can anyone make out of Tim Tebow (I promise I will do my best not to talk about him for the rest of the season)?

However, my biggest issue of the week is can the Texans stay competitive if Matt Schaub is out for the season? I know they have a great defense and the most dangerous pair of running backs in the NFL in Arian Foster and Ben Tate, but is that enough to make up for Matt Leinart being their new leader on offense? Coming from USC, you and I have seen Leinart at his best, and it is probably the best he will ever show us. However, is there a chance he redeems himself and shows that he still has the potential to be a franchise quarterback? I really have no idea what to make out of this situation, please let me know what you think!

Stally: Good news or bad news?

First of all, the Texans will still make the playoffs.  They are in one of the lesser divisions in football, and they hold a game-and-a-half lead over the Titans.  They've beaten Tennssee in their only meeting, have a 3-0 record in the division to the Titans 1-2 and are 6-2 in the conference to the Titans 4-4.  Thus, going down the list of tiebreakers, even if Houston caves late and loses to Tennessee in Week 17, they should win a potential tiebreaker.

I see Houston as a favorite to win at Jacksonville and Indianapolis and home against Carolina.  That would put them at 10 win and require Tennessee to go 6-1 the rest of the way to finish 11-5.  I don't see that happening.

The other positive is that the Texans have a late season bye this week, so that will give them an extra week to plan for the quarterback switch.  However, Matt Leinart isn't the answer.  He's not going to ever make it big in the NFL.  The fact that, despite all their issues under center, Arizona canned him last year should be a tell-tale sign.  With talents like Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, Kurt Warner relived his glory days and brought that team to Super Bowl; it was the same team Leinart couldn't win games with.  He's also a lefty, so the offense is going to have to revamp the way it approaches the game since Schaub was a righty.

Now, Leinart does have plenty of talent surrounding him, so his best bet is to start handing off.  If Andre Johnson comes back, that might be a huge boost for him.  However, we're talking about a guy that couldn't find a way to maximize Fitz, so let's not get to excited about what a half-healthy Johnson may or may not provide Leinart.

Playoff team?  Yes.  But, this team went from emerging as a Super Bowl contender to just another divisional winner that will be forgotten after getting trounced by a far superior Wild Card from a far superior division.

Austen: Before Schaub's injury, I was a strong believer that the Texans would be representing the AFC in the Super Bowl this season. After their offensive leader has fallen to a very serious injury, I am not so confident. Losing your leader on both offense and defense (outside linebacker Mario Williams is out for the year) is something that is almost impossible to overcome.

The Texans are lucky they got off to such a hot start, which is something they have struggled with in the past. However, after hearing whispers of people talking about the Texans trying to bring back Brett Favre (no I am not joking about this one), I simply cannot put much trust in Leinart. Like Stally said, he was given all the opportunities in the world in Arizona and he fell flat on his face.

While I think we will see a much more motivated and prepared Leinart than we have in the past, it will be his weak arm strength and his inability to read complex defenses that will hold this team back. There were many questions during the draft on whether or not Leinart had an NFL caliber arm. At the time, I ignored these critics because I believed I had seem him make ever throw on the face of the planet while running USC's pro style offense. However, once he got to the NFL, he seemingly could not complete a pass more than five yards down field. That will really limit the effectiveness of Andre Johnson once he returns and will allow defenses to stack the box in order to stop the Texans' dangerous run game.

Despite being able to dissect college defenses by always calling the right audibles, Leinart has not taken this skill to the next level and is frequently confused by NFL blitz packages. This is a part of his game that could have improved vastly if he has been hitting the books like some have claimed about him. However, understanding it on paper and being able to execute during a game time situation are completely different things. We will not be able to fully understand how much he has progressed as a cerebral quarterback until we see him hit the field again.

Despite Leinart's weaknesses, this Texans team is set up much better than the Cardinals ever were to help Leinart succeed. The Texans defense is one of the best in the league, even without pass rushing demon Mario Williams. The Texans have not one but two extremely talented running backs who can catch passes out of the backfield, which is a quarterback's best friend and is something the Cardinals were never able provide Leinart. Andre Johnson is ever bit as good as Larry Fitzgerald, but the difference in the passing game for Leinart will be speedy tight end Owen Daniels. He is the perfect security blanket for a young quarterback and will be relied upon heavily in the passing game. 

Like Stally said, the schedule is set up for Leinart to succeed and he would have to be down right awful for them to not win their division. However, if they cannot get Schaub back by playoff time, which the Texans are still holding out hope for, they will not win a game in the playoffs since they will likely face defenses like the Ravens, Steelers, and Jets who all stop the run and rush the passer in ways Leinart will not be able to handle. 

If Leinart cannot be effective with this team surrounding him, he will never get another shot as anything more than a third string quarterback. 

No comments:

Post a Comment