Written By: Roy Countryman, @PreacherBoyRoy
After crossing the quarter mark in the NFL schedule, there are a number of teams still trying to replace numerous players currently facing season-long or multi-week absences. Here are some of the key developments from week 5.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif- OG, Kansas City Chiefs
Fractured Fibula and Torn Ankle Ligaments (IR)
Replacement: Jordan Devey
Duvernay-Tardif was a key cog in keeping Patrick Mahomes upright through the first five weeks of the season. He is one of the most underrated guards in all of the NFL, and there will definitely be an adjustment period going forward for his replacement. The man tasked with trying to fill his shoes is Jordan Devey. He is a journeyman OL who has bounced around a few organizations, but has experience playing both C and OG. He is a very tall (6’6”) and well proportioned OL who is at his best in a phone booth, where he can use his length and strong hands to fight DL. No qualms about it that he is a replacement-level player, who might only be keeping the seat warm for some younger players like Andrew Wylie or Kahlil McKenzie.
Taylor Lewan- OT, Tennessee Titans
Foot Injury (Status Uncertain for this Week)
Replacement: Dennis Kelly
Lewan has yet to be ruled out for this week’s game, but has been missing valuable practice time that may seem to tip the hand that he will indeed miss time. His injury actually came at an opportune time, because RT Jack Conklin just returned from a Torn ACL, and at least initially the top backup OT in Dennis Kelly will get a chance to step up in his absence. Kelly, however, has been working back from an illness that has held him out of action in the early part of the season. That said, he is nonetheless a valuable backup option to start at LT. He is a mountain of a man at 6’8” with great length and quick enough feet to hold his own at the blind side position. He is aggressive, intelligent, and shows good hand usage throughout the whistle. There will be a dropoff, but hopefully for the upstart Titans, it will be for only a short time.
Corey Grant- RB, Jaguars
LisFranc injury (IR)
Replacement: Jamaal Charles
One of the best RB’s of the last decade gets his first crack at replacing the explosive receiving back in the two-headed monster that has had to fill in for the injured Leonard Fournette. Charles, however, is not the back of yesteryear, and has lost some of his patented quickness and explosion through the hole. Despite his losses in physical talent, he still shows prowess in getting the yardage that is blocked for him, has great vision, and still can be a threat to catch passes out of the backfield. All in all, his experience and tendency to produce positive gains could be a great addition to a beaten up backfield.
Matt Breida- RB, 49ers
Mid-Ankle Sprain (Status uncertain for this week)
Replacement: Alfred Morris/Raheem Mosert
Matt Breida has been one of the emerging playmakers in the NFL this year, although he has had to do it on a team whose offense looks like a M.A.S.H. unit. With a backup QB in tow, Kyle Shanahan seemed to be inclined to feed his young stud of a RB. Now facing a time where he may miss some key snaps, Shanahan and Co. will turn to veteran RB Alfred Morris to be a touch monster. He is a between-the-tackles plodder who lacks home run speed but will hit you a lot of singles and doubles. He runs hard behind his pads, has good vision, and excels in a zone running scheme. When he is due for a break, he will get subbed out with journeyman Raheem Mostert.
Riley Reiff- LT, Vikings
Foot Injury (Status uncertain for this week)
Replacement: Rashod Hill
Riley Reiff is a very underrated blindside protector, especially with a QB in Kirk Cousins who likes to sit in the pocket and go through his progressions. In trying to make up for his solid skill set, the Vikings will slide RT Rashod Hill over to the blind side and hope he can buoy the pass rush until Reiff returns from a stubborn foot injury. Hill is a young OT from Southern Miss who has seen some significant snaps throughout the last season plus with the Vikes. He has good length and athleticism, shows an ability to read what the pass rusher’s plan is, and adjusts accordingly. He also shows a prowess for running his feet on contact in run blocking and being able to adjust to players in space. Hill should be able to give the Vikings a quality option at LT so that Reiff could get his foot straightened out for the second half of the season.
Justin Houston- OLB, Chiefs
Hamstring Strain (Could face a multi-week absence)
Replacement: Breeland Speaks/Tanoh Kpassagnon
Justin Houston was the Alpha Dog pass rusher for the Chiefs, but this season that mantle has been passed to Dee Ford. Nonetheless, Houston was still a highly efficient pass rushing bookend. Now with Houston slated to miss a few weeks due to a hamstring strain, and young OLB Tanoh Kpassagnon ailing as well, the torch is being passed to Breeland Speaks. Andy Reid was ecstatic during draft weekend, because he didn’t believe that a player of his talented skill set would be available in the second round. Speaks possesses great size and length, tremendous power, quickness, and awareness to fly into tackles with controlled aggression. He has a varied pass rushing skill set and shows an ability to be too slippery for OT to get a true hold on him. The Chiefs will have to lean on Speaks heavily until the other OLB’s get healthy, and even signed Frank Zombo back to the squad.
Clayton Geathers- S, Colts
Neck Injury (Status uncertain for this week’s game)
Replacement: Mike Mitchell
The Colts are in a pinch at the Safety position this week, with their cornerstone Geathers facing uncertainty as to when he will be able to return from a neck injury. His injury is highlighted by the fact that backup Matthias Farley is also dealing with a hamstring injury. So since the Colts were backed into a corner, they went out and signed the seasoned veteran Mike Mitchell. Mitchell is a former starting safety for a number of teams, most recently with the Steelers. He possesses great speed and a true appreciation for hard hitting. He will fly around the field, and is better at filling in on run defense because he will become confused in pass defense and take bad angles to the ball. He is a middle of the road veteran fill-in that should help give some quality snaps until the better players come back.