Is there a dirtier word in the NFL lexicon?
Not if you ask the New York Giants, who, while not willing to place the blame for their 7-9 season on injuries, aren’t quick to dismiss the 13 players that finished the year on injured reserve last season as a factor.
Just how much of an effect did injuries have on the Giants? We’ll examine that in a bit. First, let’s see how the Giants' injury situation compared to the rest of the NFL.
I went through every NFL team’s roster page to take a count of the number of players that were placed on their injured reserve list.
In a couple of cases where teams had merged their injured reserve lists with their primary roster, I went back over their 2013 transactions to identify which players were placed on injured reserve. Here is what I found:
Besides having a baker's dozen on injured reserve—I’m not counting linebacker Dan Connor, who was waived off injured reserve mid-season—the Giants also had two key players, receiver Victor Cruz (knee) and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) who couldn't finish the season.
What's perhaps the most alarming statistic related to the Giants' injury situation is the results of an analysis done by Rick Gosslein of The Dallas Morning News that looked at the number of games lost by starters due to injury.
In that study, the Giants finished with 91 games lost by starters because of injury, the highest total in the NFL.
Is it any wonder why continuity consistently eluded the Giants in 2013?
The ‘Ouch’ Factor
According to the official NFL injury reports filed by each team to the league, the Giants listed 40 different players on their injury report, the list of which is below.
|Terrell Thomas||Henry Hynoski|
|Corey Webster||Jacquian Williams|
|Adrien Robinson||Linval Joseph|
|Jason Pierre-Paul||Louis Murphy|
|Cooper Taylor||Mark Herzlich|
|Brandon Jacobs||Peyton Hillis|
|David Baas||Spencer Paysinger|
|David Diehl||Aaron Ross|
|Jayron Hosley||Antrel Rolle|
|Trumaine McBride||Bear Pascoe|
|Cullen Jenkins||Dan Connor|
|David Wilson||Da'Rel Scott|
|Shaun Rogers||James Brewer|
|Victor Cruz||Jerrel Jernigan|
|Damontre Moore||John Conner|
|Hakeem Nicks||Justin Trattou|
|Andre Brown||Prince Amukamara|
|Brandon Mosley||Rueben Randle|
|Brandon Myers||Ryan Nassib|
|Chris Snee||Zak DeOssie|
What kind of injuries were most prevalent among the Giants? Here's a look at the top four ailments.
|Injury||Number of Times Reported|
So when team COO John Mara referred to the injury situation as "staggering" during his radio interview with WFAN-660 AM, he wasn't kidding.
The injury bug doesn't discriminate, affecting anyone from a key starter to a seldom-used reserve.
In looking at a team's injury situation, it's not so much how many injured players they have, but rather which specific players are unavailable or limited on any given week.
For example, if one starter and five backups are on injured reserve, that would be a much different story than if those numbers were reversed.
In the Giants' case, they lost several players who were key cogs in the machine, and whose missing production was never made up by the depth.
Here is a look at some key injuries and what was lost when each player became unavailable.
Defensive End Jason Pierre-Paul, 5 Games Missed (Shoulder)
As general manager Jerry Reese noted during his interview with WFAN-660, Pierre-Paul was a shell of himself all season long, first due to his ongoing recovery from back surgery, and then later due to a shoulder injury that he suffered in the late-season game against Dallas.
When healthy, as he was in 2011, Pierre-Paul is capable of notching double-digit sacks.
More importantly, when he was at the top of his game, he started to draw double-team blocks which created on-on-one opportunities for other teammates to exploit.
Imagine, if you will, a defensive line in 2014 in which a healthy Pierre-Paul and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who was the recipient of many of the double-team blocks this season, are on the field at the same time together.
Then again, if you’re an offensive coordinator whose team is going to face that potential lineup combination in 2014, maybe it’s better that you don’t.
Safety Stevie Brown, 16 Games Missed (Knee)
Before Will Hill and Antrel Rolle emerged as a force with which to be reckoned, Ryan Mundy stepped into the starting lineup for the fallen Brown,who was lost during a preseason game.
Before he gave way to Hill, Mundy managed just one interception—a far cry from the eight that Brown posted the year before when he finished as the league leader.
Running Back Andre Brown, 9 Games Missed (Broken Leg)
It was supposed to be a dream team at running back. Instead, it was a nightmare.
Brown’s role in the dynamic duo, which was to include starter David Wilson, was to have been the pass blocker, short yardage specialist and goal line back who could also carry the rock, as needed, between the twenties when Wilson needed a breather.
A broken left leg ended that vision, as Brown found himself on the Reserve/Injured (designated for return) list for the second season in a row.
When Brown returned, he posted two 100-yard rushing performances in his first three games.
Whether it was his long absence from the field and/or the continued downward spiral by the offensive line, Brown would only rush for more than 50 yards one more time in the season, against San Diego (81 yards on 16 carries).
If that wasn't bad enough, his once pristine ball security eroded into three lost fumbles in his last four games, as Brown didn't look much like the player who burst onto the scene in 2012 before suffering the first of his two broken legs.
Wide Receiver Victor Cruz, 2 Games Missed (Knee)
In a season that saw a once potent passing game dissolve into a mix of interceptions (22 by the wide outs, per Pro Football Focus, subscription required) and dropped passes (21), Cruz was the lone bright spot.
Although opponents often doubled him, Cruz never stopped fighting for the ball, finishing as the best of the Giants receiver in receptions (73) and receiving yards (998).
Had a knee injury not robbed him of his last two games, Cruz would have easily surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the third season in a row. That's not a bad accomplishment for a guy who had to fight for every yard he earned.
Running Back David Wilson, 11 Games Missed (Neck)
Wilson might have had his issues with ball security in the beginning and also might not have been the best pass blocker out there. However, without him on the field, the Giants missed their homerun threat in the rushing game.
Because he was so elusive, he had a knack for making the first man miss. Per Pro Football Focus, Wilson created 13 missed tackles in five games, tying him for the team lead in that category with Andre Brown.
It also goes without saying that Wilson has been the Giants best kickoff returner in quite some time. We all saw how he exploded for 1,533 yards on 57 returns last season, including a 97-yard return for a touchdown.
Although the coaches tried to relieve him of the kickoff return duties, they eventually went back to Wilson, who finished 2013 with 222 yards on nine returns for a 24.7 average.
To put those numbers into perspective, Michael Cox, who took over the majority of the kickoff return duties, finished with 436 yards on 20 returns for a 21.8 average.