The loss of Will Svitek is potentially devestating for the Falcons. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
In a welcome change, the Carolina Panthers have been relatively injury free thus far *furiously begins knocking on wood*. The same can't be said for our division rivals, all of whom are hurting after a few critical injuries have thrown their preseason plans off kilter.
Beginning in Atlanta, the Falcons are reeling after losing OT Will Svitek due to what the organization are calling an 'upper arm injury'. Svitek was Atlanta's backup at LT, but more importantly he was the more reliable of their pass blocking offensive tackles. Starter Sam Baker was the more complete player, but advanced metrics showed him to be extremely lacking as a pass blocker.
It's not just at OT– the Falcons also lost FB Brady Ewing who they drafted in the 5th round this year, thought to be their long-term answer at the position. Ewing is done for the year, and now veteran Lousaka Polite will be asked to shoulder the burden again, something they hadn't really planned.
Perhaps the biggest issue for Atlanta is veteran DT Corey Peters, who much like our own Jon Beason is missing practices and games without update. It's clearly not too serious, but will be something to watch as the preseason progresses, as there's a good chance he'll miss time early in the season.
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New Orleans were already smacked with suspensions because of their bounty scandal, and now their defense has been rendered even weaker. Linebacker Chris Chamberlain was placed on IR with a knee injury, prompting the Saints to work a trade with the Seattle Seahawks for Barrett Ruud. For a defense already missing Jonathan Vilma, Chamberlain was expected to be the veteran presence in the linebacking corps, and someone who already has an understanding of the defense.
What further exacerbates the situation is that fellow linebackers David Hawthorne and Curtis Lofton are also dealing with injuries of their own, and are expected to miss at least the next preseason game. Lofton is hoping to be ready by week one.
Perhaps the team in the division (other than Carolina) who has avoided injury the best is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They had a scare on Friday with running back LeGarrette Blount, but it now appears his injury was little more than a tweaked groin, and that he'll be ready for the regular season. More concerning is CB Eric Wright, who Tampa just signed to a 5-year contract as a free agent. Wright was being relied on to be the #1 corner for the Buccaneers, and yesterday he left practice with an unspecified injury and did not return. Thus far word on Wright's injury is being held close to the Bucs chest, but it's something to watch. Second year strong-side DE Da'Quan Bowers was lost for the season to an achilles injury in May.
With the Carolina Panthers due to play all three division opponents in the first four weeks of the season, this could really open up opportunities for the Panthers to get a quick start to the season, and capitalize on their misfortune.