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NFL's Next Man Up: Players Stepping up due to Injury Week 5

Photo Courtesy of Pat Pryor

Written By: Roy Countryman @PrecherBoyRoy

Week 4 has come and gone, and there's a dearth of quality players in training rooms across the league, some are more serious than others though, so let’s delve into a few...

Earl Thomas-S-Seahawks

Fractured Lower Left Leg Fracture (IR)

Replacement: Tedric Thompson

Bottom Line

After holding out for a new contract, Thomas decided it was time to lace up his cleats one last season for the team that originally drafted him. Only this time it came back to bite him in the hindquarters. After a forgettable exit from the field on the back of a cart, as well as a sad farewell to one of the best and most decorated members of The Legion of Boom. Onward we look through at his replacement, Tedric Thompson. He is a member of the 2017 draft class, coming from the 4th round, and getting some playing time in his rookie season. Thompson flashes some serious skills as a pass defender, showing great diagnostic abilities, great ability to get vertical and affect the catch point, and has savvy instincts. He has the speed to carry WR’s and TE’s, and shows great athleticism. He was a high school WR, and it shows with his ability to adjust to the ball in the air. The only real knock is he is not much of a tackler, and will have a noticeable drop off from Thomas.

Tyler Eifert-TE-Bengals

Broken Right Ankle (IR)

Replacement: Tyler Kroft/C.J. Uzomah

Bottom Line

Another year, another season-ending injury for Eifert. When healthy he is one of the most talented TE’s in football, but after this injury you have to wonder if this will not put a serious hamper on Eifert’s ability to come back. The only positive to his injury is that the Bengals are used to playing without him, and there should not be a big adjustment period with roles. Tyler Kroft came in last season, and put up respectable stats replacing Eifert, showing a soft set of hands, and a feel for finding soft spots in zone coverage. He is a respectable blocker as well, and has good speed and quickness to threaten the seam. Uzomah is more of a big, burly, and bumbling TE, who uses his length, and strength to gain separation, as well as being one of Dalton’s trusted red zone targets.

Leonard Fournette-RB-Jaguars

Hamstring (Possible Multi-week absence due to 2nd strain)

Replacements: T.J. Yeldon/Corey Grant

Bottom Line

Leonard Fournette tried giving it a go in Week 4, but to no avail. He played limited snaps and left early once again with a hamstring injury. This time though the Jaguars will probably play it safe, and allow his backups to carry the load until he is back to 100%. The backfield will be a timeshare, that will be greatly affected by game flow. The early-down work will go to Yeldon, due to him having a well-rounded skill set. He shows patience running inside the tackles, he has a good burst through the hole, and good power to finish his runs. He also will be able to take a few touches on third down due to him be showing an acumen in pass protecting, and a set of hands that will not embarrass himself. The real wildcard in the backfield though is Grant. He possesses elite straight line speed, loose joints to make defenders miss in the open field, great balance, and good power to finish his runs. He is a real threat as an receiving outlet on third downs.

Kenny Vaccaro-S-Titans

Right Elbow Injury (Expected to miss 2-4 weeks)

Replacement: Dane Cruikshank

Bottom Line

A late addition to the Titans defensive backfield this offseason was just settling in as one of the key contributors when he exited week 4’s action. The positive news is that it is a short-term injury that will not require an IR stint, but nonetheless, a young player will be asked to step up in his absence. Cruikshank is a 5th round pick from this year’s draft class, who has experience playing CB and S. The Titans will be relying on him to step up in the position he is better suited for. He is tall, lanky, with arm good length, strong striking ability in coming downhill in run defense, good speed evidenced by a 4.41 40, and a knack for laying some hard hits. He should be able to chip into the cause while Vaccaro is out, but he may experience some growing pains since he is a rookie.

Will Dissly-TE-Seahawks

Torn Patellar Tendon (IR)

Replacement: Nick Vannett

Bottom Line

What a terrible blow to a very intriguing TE from this year’s draft class, but nonetheless another young TE in Vannett will get a chance to contribute until veteran Ed Dickson gets a chance to return from injury as well. Vannett is a former third-round pick back in 2016, and he never has gotten a true chance for starting snaps outside of some snaps contributing in the blocking game. He is blessed with a very big, broad, and sturdy frame, underrated athleticism that he uses to bleed out and get behind an LB corp. He has sticky hands and is willing blocker not only in the running game but maybe more importantly in chipping in with pass protection due to the inept Seahawks OL.

O.J. Howard-TE-Buccaneers

Sprained MCL (Expected to miss 2-4 weeks)

Replacement: Cameron Brate

Bottom Line

One of the Ryan Fitzpatrick favorite targets on the season left week 4 early due to a knee injury, and now with Jameis Winston back in the saddle, he will have to wait to see how he adjusts to playing with his new QB in a few weeks. As bad as the injury to Howard is, the plus is it is only for a few weeks, and Winston will have one of his favorite targets in Cameron Brate to help offset any drop-off. Brate is a very talented TE, who has good speed, strength to break tackles of would be defensive backs, and a keen intelligence on how to get open down the field. He is one of those players that a QB will find when in distress, because he has a trustworthy set of hands, and knows how to find small creases in the zone. This is one situation where there should be little drop-off.

Rodney McLeod-S-Eagles

Torn MCL (IR)

Replacement: Corey Graham

Bottom Line

This write up is actually a week late due to the late placement of McLeod on IR at the end of last week, but this weekend gave us some insight on who exactly coach Pederson will depend on. Corey Graham is a grizzled veteran, who has contributed to the cause on a number of teams throughout the years. He is a sure tackler, who is at his best-covering players in small quarters due to diminishing speed. What he has lost in speed he makes up for his cerebralness and instincts. If he is asked to continually cover the deep third the Eagles will be at a disadvantage. Rookie CB prospect Avonte Maddox also got a few looks at S, in a dime look, and he as well could get some practice reps to try and offset some speed deficiencies.

Terrance Mitchell-CB-Browns

Fractured Right Forearm (IR)

Replacement: E.J. Gaines

Bottom Line

Terrence Mitchell was stringing together a few respectable performances at outside CB for the Browns when he went out with an injury, and in comes a CB who is looking to get back to where he was earlier in his career. E.J. Gaines was an early contributor in his NFL career with the Rams and played some very important snaps. He is a little undersized for an outside CB, but he is very feisty in his pass coverage. He can supplant WR’s with a decent jam at the LOS and is quicker than fast to stay at the WR’s hip pocket. He also is not afraid to close quickly and contribute in run defense.

Bobby McCain-NCB-Dolphins

Knee Injury (Out 2-3 Weeks)

Replacement: Minkah Fitzpatrick

Bottom Line

Miami keeps getting hit with the injury bug after a very encouraging 3-0 start. McCain originally earned his stripes as a nickel CB, and will still swing back there on 3rd downs, but this season he was forming a very formidable tandem with Xavien Howard, who is really breaking out in his own right. McCain is blessed with all the traits of a lockdown CB. He has loose hips to swivel and carry WR’s, great quickness, great ability to jump and disrupt the ball its apex, good closing quickness, instincts to jump routes, and soft hands to come up with some big turnovers. Fitzpatrick though is a very decorated CB in his own right coming from Alabama in this past year’s draft, and he will help Miami both Outside, and inside while McCain is out. He is tall, long-armed DB, who has the good hip fluidity to play both insides, and out. He loves the physical element and is a very adept pass rusher from the secondary. He loves to be physical with WRs throughout the route and plays with the demeanor that it is his ball in the air. All in all this injury may be a blessing in disguise, as it could put the Dolphins in the enviable situation of having two top-notch CB’s outside, and a top-notch NCB on the field all at one time.



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