In the NFL, injuries are an inherent risk of the job. But when a
starter is knocked out of the lineup and suddenly a backup player or a rookie
has to fill in, it can have an impact on a team's strategy, game plan and
success. Here are five high-profile injury concerns out of this week's
slate of NFL games, with each injury scored on a 1-10 scale with a "10" indicating the highest impact.
Vernon Davis, TE - 49ers
Level of Concern: 8
The 49ers are ranked 31st in the league in passing and have struggled putting
points on the board. Losing one of their top offensive weapons, tight end Vernon
Davis, hurts their chances of exploiting Seattle's 30th-ranked pass defense.
Davis is a deep threat that keeps linebackers on their toes due to his
ability to stretch the field. He creates more room for wide receivers Darrell Jackson and Arnaz Battle on the outside due to his presence in the middle.
Without him on the field, it'll get tighter on the outside and make it tougher
for San Francisco to execute big passing plays.
Third-year backup Billy Bajema will take Davis' place in the lineup. A
seventh-round pick of the Niners in 2005, Bajema was a good prospect coming out
of Oklahoma State. He displayed good hands and speed for the Beavers, but in his
three-years with San Francisco, Bajema only has five receptions for 54 yards in
33 career games. During Davis' absence, Bajema will primarily be asked to stay
in as an extra blocker.
The lack of an offensive punch at the tight end position will shift the
Niners' focus to running the ball. Seattle is allowing 102 yards a game on the
ground, so this could be a game for running back Frank Gore to break out.
Through the first three weeks, Gore has carried the ball 52 times for just 175
yards (3.4 YPC) and three touchdowns.
J.P. Losman, QB - Bills
Level of concern: 8
With J.P. Losman -- who sprained his left knee against the Patriots last week
during the Bills first offensive series -- out this week against the New York Jets, rookie third-round pick Trent Edwards will make his first professional
Bills QB Trent Edwards
AP Photo/Stephan Savoia
Edwards led the Bills on a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive during his first
series against the Patriots last weekend in place of Losman. But the offense
produced just 104 yards on its final 10 possessions under Edwards' direction.
The Bills offense hasn’t produced much through the air even with Losman at
the helm thus far. He has completed 30-of-47 for 255 yards, no touchdowns and an
interception. Rookie running back Marshawn Lynch has provided most of the
offensive production, and a change in field generals may be the answer the Bills
are looking for.
Obviously, Losman is the starting quarterback, but Edwards is an intriguing
player with a lot of upside. He has excellent size at 6 foot 4 inches tall, 232
pounds and is a very good athlete. He shows great poise in the pocket and is
able to locate receivers. He’s an accurate passer who has nice touch on the
However, Edwards may run into problems against the Jets defense. He tends to
lock in on one receiver and tends to take his time in the pocket. The Jets run a
3-4 defense and they like to bring pressure from the outside. If Edwards takes
too much time going through his progressions, this could be a short NFL debut
for the rookie out of Stanford.
Samari Rolle, CB - Ravens
Level of Concern: 7
Samari Rolle missed last week's game against the Arizona Cardinals, but his
replacement Corey Ivy stepped in and played well. Ivy had the daunting task of
covering Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald. He recorded five tackles, a
sack, and a forced fumble/recovery while holding Fitzgerald to five receptions
for 85 yards and no touchdowns.
Rolle will be out again this week as the Ravens head to Cleveland to take on
This week's matchup is interesting. Cleveland has two big, physical receivers
-- Braylon Edwards and Joe Jurevicius -- that can muscle-up with any defensive
back. Ivy's one dilemma is that he's a 5-foot-9, 188-pound defensive back who
will have to contend with the 6-foot-5, 232-pound Jurevicius. Rolle's presence
in the Ravens secondary would benefit the Ravens in this matchup because his
size (6-foot tall, 175 pounds) is ideal. But the one thing the Ravens like to do
when Ivy's in the lineup is blitz from the outside. In the first three games,
Ivy has recorded 11 tackles and leads the team with two sacks. Even if there is
a concern about Ivy's ability to keep Jurevicius in check, his ability as a
playmaker is evident.
Steven Jackson, RB - Rams
Level of Concern: 7
Jackson is the Rams' most consistent offensive threat. He struggled the first
two weeks, rushing for a combined 118 yards on 39 carries and no touchdowns
against Carolina and San Francisco.
David Sherman/Getty Images
Last week against Tampa Bay, Jackson battled and showed signs of coming
around. He had 30 carries for 115 yards, but still hasn't scored a touchdown.
Against the Buccaneers, he tore his groin and will be out for two weeks.
In the meantime, rookie running back Brian Leonard takes over. Leonard has
similar skills and stature to Jackson, but he's not as tough between the tackles
and is not as fast around the end. Leonard is a tremendous receiver out of the
backfield, as is Jackson, but to make Leonard comfortable the Rams will take
advantage of his best attributes.
The former Rutgers running back will surprise the opposition with his running
skills. In college, he played fullback because the Scarlet Knights featured Ray
Rice, one of the top running backs in college football. But Leonard has a lot of
ability as a featured back. He's an aggressive runner who fights for tough
yards. He has excellent vision and quick feet that make him tough to take down.
The one thing he doesn't have is experience, but his versatility is what
makes him intriguing. Sometimes the unexpected is better than what's known.
Lito Sheppard, CB - Eagles
Level of Concern: 6.5
Lito Sheppard has been out of the Eagles lineup since he was injured during
the first game of the season against Green Bay. Sheppard sprained his MCL
against the Packers, and although he's made some progress, it doesn't appear as
if he'll be ready for this Sunday's game against the New York Giants.
Usually, when the Eagles are without Sheppard it's a major concern. But
when the Eagles and Giants play, it doesn't seem to matter. Sheppard, who's an
outstanding cover corner, doesn't have much success against the Giants. In eight
career games against the Giants, Sheppard has 17 total tackles and no
Sheppard's replacement, Will James, may have more success against the Giants
because he plays a physical game. James will pressure the Giants receivers and
will use his size to deal with the New York's tall receivers. He tends to play
overly aggressive and could give up a big play while trying to cause a turnover.
James' responsibility will likely be to cover Amani Toomer. It appears that
Plaxico Burress, who's been nursing an ankle injury, will play. Sheppard usually
covers Burress in these matchups, but if he's out of the lineup, that
responsibility is handed over to Sheldon Brown.
In six career matchups against the Eagles, Burress has 24 receptions for 458
yards and two touchdowns. One of the biggest touchdowns came in Week 2 of last
season. The Giants rallied from a 17-point deficient in the fourth quarter and
managed to take the game to overtime. In overtime, Eli Manning found Burress in
the endzone for the game-winning touchdown -- a touchdown that Burress caught
A member of the Pro
Football Writers of America and the Football
Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has
provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft
prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.