With a game that’s being considered a benchmark game for the resurgent Miami Dolphins (2-0) coming up in a few days, the last thing the Atlanta Falcons (1-1) needed was more injuries to contend with.
But they got exactly that.
The Atlanta M.A.S.H unit–which already included season-ending injuries to Mike Johnson, Bradie Ewing and Kroy Biermann, as well as some long-term injuries to Steven Jackson and Sean Weatherspoon–has just grown by one more member.
Starting left tackle Sam Baker has been ruled out of Sunday’s game with the Dolphins due to a knee/foot injury. This thins out what was already a permeable offensive line depth chart, and will put even more pressure on a running game that is missing its star attraction (Jackson).
Baker will be replaced either with undrafted rookie free agent Ryan Schraeder, or the recently signed veteran Jeremy Trueblood, who is reportedly up to speed on the playbook and ready to go.
Also questionable for the Miami game are Julio Jones, Roddy White and Asante Samuel.
Just because The Walking Dead is filmed in Atlanta is no reason for the Falcons to pay homage to the hit cable series. Couldn’t they mock-up Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D instead?
The Dolphins have their share of nagging injuries as well, mostly consisting of players listed as probable or questionable for Sunday’s face-off with Atlanta.
If this were Atlanta at full strength, the Dolphins would more than likely be considered big underdogs, even in their home stadium. The Dolphins secondary doesn’t have the firepower to keep up with Atlanta’s group of receivers, but with Roddy White hobbled (and potentially Julio Jones as well) and Steven Jackson missing from the backfield, the task will become considerably easier for Brent Grimes and company.
A huge challenge for Atlanta will now be protecting QB Matt Ryan. The Atlanta offensive line was atrocious in the Week 1 game against the New Orleans Saints, and saw some improvement last week against the St. Louis Rams. But the Dolphins have a very solid defensive line–anchored by DE Cameron Wake–who this season have rung up 11 sacks, 18 quarterback hits, and 38 hurries.
The good news for the Falcons is, the Dolphins haven’t been much better at protecting their own QB, Ryan Tannehill. Atlanta DEs Osi Umenyiora and Jonathan Massaquoi had both better eat a full bowl of Wheaties prior to the game, because they will be key in disrupting Tannehill’s timing with a very good group of receivers. Lengthy one-on-one route running with Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline could get ugly for Atlanta’s young defensive backs.
I would look for Atlanta to lean on Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling (possibly even Josh Vaughan) early on in the game to keep the Dolphins defensive line from teeing off on Ryan quickly, and to draw the linebackers in to line up some mismatches with tight ends Tony Gonzalez and Chase Coffman.
Given the Dolphins weak running game, and their inability to stop the run, this could be a low-scoring but fast moving (in terms of game clock) game. With Atlanta’s injury situation, it makes these two teams pretty evenly matched, so winning the turnover battle and special teams play could be the difference in the final score.
Michael Collins is an Atlanta sports humorist, columnist, radio host and owner of Georgia Sports Craze. He is a member of the FWAA and eats peanut butter straight from the jar. Follow on Twitter @GaSportsCraze on Facebook here or on Google here