Injuries are a part of every NFL team. The truly great teams find success in working through these issues, be it a deep bench or a schematic tactic. For Atlanta this season, they should consider themselves pretty lucky. Besides the loss of cornerback Brent Grimes the first week of the season, the other players have remained relatively healthy.
The loss of Grimes to a torn Achilles tendon, while definitely a setback, doesn’t appear to have hampered the Falcons secondary as much as originally thought with two cornerbacks filling in well.
Atlanta’s newest cornerback, three-time All-Pro Asante Samuel, has done a great job filling in for the injured Grimes.So far Samuel has racked up 23 tackles and the all-important 79-yard interception returned for a touchdown last week against Oakland. Duanta Robinson, Atlanta’s nickel corner, statistically has outperformed even Samuel. Recording 33 tackles, one interception and one fumble forced, Atlanta’s has been very lucky with their secondary depth otherwise this team might not still be undefeated.
The other major defensive injury for Atlanta was the left foot injury of defensive tackle Corey Peters. This injury caused Peters to miss all of training camp and the preseason. Rather than place Peters on the injured reserve list, the Falcons put Peters on the reserve/non-injury list. By placing Peters on the non-injury list, Peters had to sit out the first six games of the season but will be allowed to play in the Week 8 contest.
Fortunately for Atlanta, Peters has been getting himself into playing shape. Coach Mike Smith wouldn’t specify when Peters will be in the lineup. “It takes some time. You’ve got to work on that endurance of pushing the big bodies,” Smith said. “Corey’s been working hard. We’ve been trying with our athletic performance guys to simulate it as much as possible, but there is nothing like going out there and practicing and getting 30 or 40 snaps in a practice…and we’re anxious to see where Corey is going to be when we can make that decision of when we want to start that 21 day period.”
Several other Falcons have been hit with the injury bug several times so far this season. Linebacker Stephen Nicholas was injured throughout the preseason and in Week 5 he injured his ankle. Running back Antone Smith has injured the same hamstring twice this season.
Despite these nagging injuries, Nicholas has been able to play through them so far this season, playing in all six games and logging 38 tackles, one forced fumble and one interception. Smith hasn’t been as lucky playing in just three of Atlanta’s six games so far.
Still, with a week off to catch their breaths, Atlanta’s Week 8 game against Philly and their former number 1 draft pick Michael Vick should give their players adequate time to recover from whatever other nagging injuries are plaguing them. The way Atlanta has been playing this season, there’s no reason to think that next week they will come out just as strong as they did in their 40-24 opening week victory over Kansas City.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.