NFL 2016: Injuries Open Doors, Create Opportunities

Aug 12, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) drops back to pass in the first half against the Cincinnati Bengals in a preseason NFL football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 12, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) drops back to pass in the first half against the Cincinnati Bengals in a preseason NFL football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday in Week 4, over 100 NFL players did not participate in team practices mainly due to an injury of some sort. That opens doors for others to shine.

It’s hard to fully quantify being in an NFL stadium where one can actually hear a unified gasp of air when a player gets injured. For some fans, the loss of that player is the end of the season. For others, it means the next man up.

We have seen this throughout many seasons in the league. Who can forget the injury to Drew Bledsoe of the New England Patriots that opened the door for Tom Brady, a now future Hall of Famer and recipient of four Super Bowl rings.

After five long years holding a clipboard in 1999, Trent Green was ready to take over the Rams’ starting quarterback position, only to be denied by a hit from Rodney Harrison of the San Diego Chargers. Head coach Dick Vermeil had no choice than to put in Kurt Warner. A man who spent time in the NFL league in Europe and Arena Football. It took Greens’ injury to open the door for the Greatest Show on Turf and a Super Bowl ring.

Now three weeks into the 2016 season,many players have gone down with season-ending injuries, allowing another player to live his dream at the expense of an injured players’ lost season.

Sep 25, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) scrambles in the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Dak Prescott, QB — Dallas Cowboys

Tony Romo spent all of 2015 on the PUP list after back surgery. The backup quarterback circus that occurred in Dallas included Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden, and Kellen Moore. Cowboys fans couldn’t wait for Romo to come back under center. Well, he did and in his first game back in the 2016 peseason against the Seattle Seahawks.

However, he was leveled by a hit from Cliff Avril. It was a nonsensical preseason game and it resulted in a broken bone in his back. Out goes Romo and the hunt for a veteran backup was in the works. But with the way rookie quarterbacks are coming out of the draft fired up, the Cowboys decided to see what he could do with Dak Prescott. But for safety measures they took Mark Sanchez off of waivers.

Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett were keen on the upside of the rookie quarterback, especially with what they saw in training camp. Prescott prepared for this opportunity and displayed that on the field. His football IQ was rated pretty high in the 2016 NFL Draft and tried out for several teams.

In just three games, Prescott has completed 66-of-99 attempts for 767 passing yards, one touchdown, zero interceptions, and a passer rating of 93.3. His stats beat out all three backups last season combined.  The Cowboys have no sense of urgency as they have confidence in Prescott’s abilities while Romo is healing.

Jun 16, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Terrell Pryor (3) throws a pass during minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Terrelle Pryor, WR — Cleveland Browns

Due to some off-field issues that banned Terrelle Pryor from completing his senior year at Ohio State, he became eligible for the 2011 Supplemental Draft. He was the last pick that Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders had a hand in. He sat out most of 2012 until Carson Palmer was injured, allowing Pryor to start at quarterback. He was slated as the starter in 2013. In his career as a Raider quarterback, he threw for 1,953 passing yards, nine touchdowns, and 12 interceptions while holding a rating of 69.3. He went just 3-7 with Oakland, though.

He was traded to the Seattle Seahawks in 2014, but never made the roster. He then signed with the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals. That’s when he made the decision to switch positions and become a wide receiver. When Pryor signed with the Cleveland Browns, he didn’t know how long he would be there.

But as fate would have it, Browns quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown were inactive in Week 3 due to injuries. Even the rookie Cody Kessler came in to take over at quarterback, it was the off-field struggles of wide receiver Josh Gordon that left the door wide open for Pryor.

In that week, Pryor started as a receiver sure, but he also took a few snaps as a quarterback when Kessler was taken out with an apparent injury. He also played at the safety position in the second half and ended that game with 144 receiving yards, 21 rushing yards, 30 passing yards, and a rushing touchdown.

NFL Week 4

Sep 25, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) runs with the ball past Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Mike Mitchell (23) during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Bradford, QB — Minnesota Vikings/Carson Wentz, QB — Philadelphia Eagles

The Minnesota Vikings were ready to lead the NFC North again with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at the helm. However, Bridgewater tore his ACL during training camp, costing him the 2016 season. It looked like the Vikings season would be over. But Bridgewater’s injury opened the door for two quarterbacks under different starting circumstances.

The Vikings traded for the only quarterback they felt could lead their offense, Sam Bradford. He was already salty when the Philidelphia Eagles traded up to get rookie Carson Wentz with the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft. Thus Bradford would get his chance to start in Minnesota while Wentz would take over in Philly.

Somehow, this transition to the Vikings has suited Bradford. In just three weeks, his completion rate sits at 67.8 percent, compared to his entire 2015 season with the Eagles at 65 percent. That’s even better in comparison to his four years with the Rams at 58.6 percent! As a Viking, he has yet to throw an interception and currently has the team at 3-0.

As for young Wentz, he believed he was the number draft pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Though he was the second pick, he has proven to be the right leader for the Eagles. His poise in the pocket is that of a veteran.  He can throw on the run and does not get rattled when pressured. His leadership has the Eagles flying high at 3-0 in the NFC East. It’s a win-win for both gentlemen.

Sep 25, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Brice Butler (19) cannot catch a pass while defended by Chicago Bears cornerback Jacoby Glenn (39) in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Jacoby Glenn, CB – Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears defense has been plagued with injuries for two consecutive years. Despite the injuries, the young studs are coming in and making some plays. The most notable injury was that to cornerback Kyle Fuller after having a knee scope done. However, second-year man Jacoby Glenn has taken every opportunity to make the most of his time on the field and when Fuller was deemed out, Glenn was the next man up.

In 2014 he spent the majority of the time on the practice squad, but in training camp, he was going to rise to the challenge and make it on the roster. And did he ever.

Glenn started the season as a third string and valiantly worked his way to the starting role at corner alongside veteran Tracy Porter. So far Glenn has a total of 19 sacks and five passes deflected, including a forced fumble against Dallas when it counted the most.  A true ball hawk, he has shown that he wants to get the tackle and will do whatever it takes within reason to take the opponent out of the end zone.

In the game against the Dallas Cowboys, quarterback Dak Prescott sails one 42 yards to Terrance Williams. In what looks to be a for sure touchdown, Glenn runs full speed at the 20-yard line and snags the ball out of Williams’ hands for a fumble. It allowed safety Adrian Amos to pick up the ball and run it back about 5 yards. It was a much-needed spark for a gassed out Bears defense.

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