It’s amazing to me how an NFL team’s hopes, whether they be for a Super Bowl or a .500 season, can be dashed by injuries – particularly early in the season. Teams that lose key players seem to be devastated every year. The Rams saw it a couple of times when Orlando Pace was hurt early on. It happened to the NFC Champion Falcons in 1999, when they lost Jamal Anderson to what turned into a career ending knee injury. The ’99 Broncos suffered the same fate with Terrell Davis. Last year’s Bears lost Brian Urlacher, and Jon Gruden’s 2007 Bucs were 3-1 before losing Cadillac Williams, and played .500 ball the rest of the way.
This year, the Detroit Lions had high hopes, but were playing without a safety net if quarterback Matthew Stafford got hurt. He did, separating a shoulder in Sunday’s loss to Chicago, and now the Lions have to hope Shaun Hill can do a reasonable job of replacing Stafford. Good luck with that.
In Green Bay, running back Ryan Grant suffered severe ankle and leg injuries that knocked him out for the season. Brandon Jackson is the nominal replacement, and the Packers are in trouble.
The Lions hoped to go 8-8, and now they have no chance. The Packers were hoping for a Super Bowl, and THEY have no chance. Those teams needed different levels of insurance, and they didn’t buy it during the off-season or in training camp.
Another team in that boat is the Rams, who hope to return to respectability. With young quarterback Sam Bradford, they need to have a strong running game. They’ve had several chances to get a legitimate backup for Steven Jackson, but at this point we just don’t know if that guy is on the roster. Kenneth Darby is in his third year with the Rams, and to this point he has 62 NFL carries for just over 300 yards, hardly enough to judge his abilities if Jackson were to go down. Rookie free agent Keith Toston may be a viable player, but we just don’t know yet.
The Rams certainly had to know that St. Louisan Laurence Maroney of the Patriots was available. He didn’t play down the stretch of the pre-season, and then was scratched for New England’s opener against Cincinnati. The Denver Broncos acquired Maroney from the Patriots, along with a sixth round pick next year, for Denver’s fourth round choice.
Maroney is 5-11 and 220 pounds, and he’s 25 years old. He has 542 carries for 2,430 yards in his career, a 4.2 yard per carry average. He’s also played in a Super Bowl, which you would think would provide some value to the Rams offense.
I have trouble believing that the Patriots wouldn’t rather have the Rams fourth rounder in 2011 than Denver’s. Maroney would have been a terrific fit in St. Louis, where he does a tremendous amount of community work.
If Jackson gets hurt…and he hasn’t played a full schedule since 2006…it would seem the Rams are in BIG trouble. Let’s hope Darby and Toston wind up being bigtime players. Because if they aren’t, and SJ39 DOES go down, the Rams have an accident and no insurance. And even though they had the chance to be better off than Detroit or Green Bay, they’ll be stuck in the same spot. That would be a shame.