It seems like the injuries just won't stop coming for Atlanta. With so many starters out, we'll examine who is injured, and who has to step in and fill these roles for the Falcons.
Position: Running Back
Player: Steven Jackson
Time Out: 2-3 weeks
Steven Jackson was brought in to improve the one area of the Falcons' high powered offense that didn't click last year, and that was running back. While Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez had big years, Michael Turner did not. With Turner out, Jackson was brought in to make the Falcons offense from a skill position standpoint, complete.
In the second game of the year, Jackson went out on the first drive after collecting his first touchdown as a Falcon. His replacements, Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling, only had 36 yards rushing combined last week.
This put a lot of pressure on Matt Ryan to singlehandedly carry the team with the passing game.
If the Falcons expect to have any semblance of a running game without Jackson, Snelling and Rodgers are the men that will have to improve upon their performance last week.
Rodgers got the majority of the touches after Jackson went out, but Snelling was brought in later when Rodgers was ineffective and had more yards on two rushes than Rodgers did on 11.
Look for Snelling and Rodgers to split time running the ball early. Whoever is having the better day will become the feature back over the course of the game.
Player: Sean Weatherspoon
Time out: 8 Weeks
Replacements: Joplo Bartu, Paul Worrilow, Stephen Nicholas
Joplo Bartu had actually beaten out Stephen Nicholas for the other OLB position, opposite Weatherspoon. His speed and nose for the ball really stood out last week with six total tackles and two tackles for loss.
Now with the loss of Weatherspoon, Nicholas will likely reclaim his old position, with Paul Worrilow filling in whenever he is needed.
Look for Bartu and Nicholas to get the majority of the snaps at both OLB positions.
Position: Defensive End
Player: Kroy Biermann
Time Out: Rest of Season
Replacements: Malliciah Goodman, Jonathan Massaquoi
Kroy Biermann fit into Mike Nolan's crazy schemes perfectly. He could play DE and rush the passer or play LB and drop into pass coverage. He wasn't the best player in either facet, but he played with a lot of energy and hustle, and was a formidable opponent for opposing QBs/Offensive lines.
Now a rookie (Goodman) and a two year player (Massaquoi) must fill the gap. The two of them actually managed to get in the face of Sam Bradford a couple of times a piece after Biermann left, which was encouraging.
Still, this team has always struggled to get pressure on the quarterback, and with two very inexperienced players taking over for the reliable Biermann, the Falcons pass rush may become even more ineffective.
Player: Bradie Ewing
Time Out: Rest of Season
Replacement: Patrick DiMarco
Poor Bradie Ewing. Two years in the NFL, and two season ending injuries later, he's got another long rehab process away from him. His fragility brings back memories of the Atlanta Braves' Mike Hampton unfortunately.
While Ewing is out, Falcons practice squad member Patrick DiMarco is set to take over. There isn't a track record here for DiMarco and it's unknown how well he'll do.
Jason Snelling could also see some time at fullback as well if DiMarco struggles. The Falcons running game did well when Ewing played in week 1, and was non existent after he left. Fullback is one of the most underrated positions in the NFL, as they are huge parts of blocking for the running back.
The Falcons have some big of shoes to fill with the loss of these players. These are the players we'll see trying to step in Sunday against the Dolphins.
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