High-Profile Injuries: Week 4

Scout.com NFL Analyst Chris Steuber has reviewed the NFL injury list heading into Week 4 and points out five high-profile injuries and provides his analysis of how they will impact the teams involved.

In the NFL, injuries are an inherent risk of the job.  But when a starter is knocked out of the lineup and suddenly a backup player or a rookie has to fill in, it can have an impact on a team's strategy, game plan and success. Here are five high-profile injury concerns out of this week's slate of NFL games, with each injury scored on a 1-10 scale with a "10" indicating the highest impact.

Vernon Davis, TE - 49ers

Injury: Knee
Level of Concern: 8

The 49ers are ranked 31st in the league in passing and have struggled putting points on the board. Losing one of their top offensive weapons, tight end Vernon Davis, hurts their chances of exploiting Seattle's 30th-ranked pass defense.

Davis is a deep threat that keeps linebackers on their toes due to his ability to stretch the field. He creates more room for wide receivers Darrell Jackson and Arnaz Battle on the outside due to his presence in the middle. Without him on the field, it'll get tighter on the outside and make it tougher for San Francisco to execute big passing plays.

Third-year backup Billy Bajema will take Davis' place in the lineup. A seventh-round pick of the Niners in 2005, Bajema was a good prospect coming out of Oklahoma State. He displayed good hands and speed for the Beavers, but in his three-years with San Francisco, Bajema only has five receptions for 54 yards in 33 career games. During Davis' absence, Bajema will primarily be asked to stay in as an extra blocker.

The lack of an offensive punch at the tight end position will shift the Niners' focus to running the ball. Seattle is allowing 102 yards a game on the ground, so this could be a game for running back Frank Gore to break out. Through the first three weeks, Gore has carried the ball 52 times for just 175 yards (3.4 YPC) and three touchdowns.

J.P. Losman, QB - Bills

Injury: Knee
Level of concern:  8

With J.P. Losman -- who sprained his left knee against the Patriots last week during the Bills first offensive series -- out this week against the New York Jets, rookie third-round pick Trent Edwards will make his first professional start.

Bills QB Trent Edwards
AP Photo/Stephan Savoia

Edwards led the Bills on a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive during his first series against the Patriots last weekend in place of Losman. But the offense produced just 104 yards on its final 10 possessions under Edwards' direction.

The Bills offense hasn't produced much through the air even with Losman at the helm thus far. He has completed 30-of-47 for 255 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. Rookie running back Marshawn Lynch has provided most of the offensive production, and a change in field generals may be the answer the Bills are looking for.

Obviously, Losman is the starting quarterback, but Edwards is an intriguing player with a lot of upside. He has excellent size at 6 foot 4 inches tall, 232 pounds and is a very good athlete. He shows great poise in the pocket and is able to locate receivers. He's an accurate passer who has nice touch on the ball.

However, Edwards may run into problems against the Jets defense. He tends to lock in on one receiver and tends to take his time in the pocket. The Jets run a 3-4 defense and they like to bring pressure from the outside. If Edwards takes too much time going through his progressions, this could be a short NFL debut for the rookie out of Stanford.

Samari Rolle, CB - Ravens

Injury: Illness
Level of Concern: 7

Samari Rolle missed last week's game against the Arizona Cardinals, but his replacement Corey Ivy stepped in and played well. Ivy had the daunting task of covering Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald.  He recorded five tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble/recovery while holding Fitzgerald to five receptions for 85 yards and no touchdowns.

Rolle will be out again this week as the Ravens head to Cleveland to take on the Browns.

This week's matchup is interesting. Cleveland has two big, physical receivers -- Braylon Edwards and Joe Jurevicius -- that can muscle-up with any defensive back. Ivy's one dilemma is that he's a 5-foot-9, 188-pound defensive back who will have to contend with the 6-foot-5, 232-pound Jurevicius. Rolle's presence in the Ravens secondary would benefit the Ravens in this matchup because his size (6-foot tall, 175 pounds) is ideal. But the one thing the Ravens like to do when Ivy's in the lineup is blitz from the outside. In the first three games, Ivy has recorded 11 tackles and leads the team with two sacks. Even if there is a concern about Ivy's ability to keep Jurevicius in check, his ability as a playmaker is evident.

Steven Jackson, RB - Rams
Injury: Groin
Level of Concern: 7

Jackson is the Rams' most consistent offensive threat. He struggled the first two weeks, rushing for a combined 118 yards on 39 carries and no touchdowns against Carolina and San Francisco.

Brian Leonard
David Sherman/Getty Images

Last week against Tampa Bay, Jackson battled and showed signs of coming around. He had 30 carries for 115 yards, but still hasn't scored a touchdown. Against the Buccaneers, he tore his groin and will be out for two weeks.

In the meantime, rookie running back Brian Leonard takes over. Leonard has similar skills and stature to Jackson, but he's not as tough between the tackles and is not as fast around the end. Leonard is a tremendous receiver out of the backfield, as is Jackson, but to make Leonard comfortable the Rams will take advantage of his best attributes.

The former Rutgers running back will surprise the opposition with his running skills. In college, he played fullback because the Scarlet Knights featured Ray Rice, one of the top running backs in college football. But Leonard has a lot of ability as a featured back. He's an aggressive runner who fights for tough yards. He has excellent vision and quick feet that make him tough to take down.

The one thing he doesn't have is experience, but his versatility is what makes him intriguing. Sometimes the unexpected is better than what's known.

Lito Sheppard, CB - Eagles

Injury: Knee
Level of Concern: 6.5

Lito Sheppard has been out of the Eagles lineup since he was injured during the first game of the season against Green Bay.  Sheppard sprained his MCL against the Packers, and although he's made some progress, it doesn't appear as if he'll be ready for this Sunday's game against the New York Giants.

Usually, when the Eagles are without Sheppard it's a major concern.  But when the Eagles and Giants play, it doesn't seem to matter. Sheppard, who's an outstanding cover corner, doesn't have much success against the Giants. In eight career games against the Giants, Sheppard has 17 total tackles and no interceptions.

Sheppard's replacement, Will James, may have more success against the Giants because he plays a physical game. James will pressure the Giants receivers and will use his size to deal with the New York's tall receivers. He tends to play overly aggressive and could give up a big play while trying to cause a turnover.

James' responsibility will likely be to cover Amani Toomer. It appears that Plaxico Burress, who's been nursing an ankle injury, will play. Sheppard usually covers Burress in these matchups, but if he's out of the lineup, that responsibility is handed over to Sheldon Brown.

In six career matchups against the Eagles, Burress has 24 receptions for 458 yards and two touchdowns. One of the biggest touchdowns came in Week 2 of last season. The Giants rallied from a 17-point deficient in the fourth quarter and managed to take the game to overtime. In overtime, Eli Manning found Burress in the endzone for the game-winning touchdown -- a touchdown that Burress caught over Brown.

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.

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