NFL 2011: In the Post-Lockout Era, Lack of Defense, Injuries Plague the Season

Daniel BogaardCorrespondent ISeptember 21, 2011

Without this piece of paper, we would be watching the CFL right now. But did they bite off more of the $9 billion pie than they could chew.
Without this piece of paper, we would be watching the CFL right now. But did they bite off more of the $9 billion pie than they could chew.Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Before the 2011 NFL draft, I wrote an article discussing how the lockout may have very well killed the season for some teams before the season even began. 

I discussed how the inability of teams to sign pivotal free agents or interact with draft picks, or how the capacity for newly-hired head coaches to implement their schemes may hinder the success of some of the lower-echelon teams.

To a certain degree, I believe my prognostication was correct. 

However, one aspect of the fallout from the lockout that I did not predict was the amount of injuries and the overall lack of defense. 

In the first two weeks, fans have witnessed statistical anomalies from rookie quarterbacks and great defenses being described as “old.”  We have also witnessed key players on a variety of teams go down to a plethora of season-ending injuries, while others are incessantly hampered by the nagging variety. 

Is this a derivative of the lockout or mere coincidence? 

In their epic quest to split the $9-billion pie, did the owners and players bite off more than they could chew? 

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Where’s the “D”?

Throughout the entire ordeal leading up to early August, fans received numerous reports that spoke to the veracity of the importance of the offense being able to get in sync. 

Brady has almost eclipsed 1000 yards passing...in TWO games
Brady has almost eclipsed 1000 yards passing...in TWO gamesJim Rogash/Getty Images

Described as a proverbial pandemic, it was postulated that offenses were essentially going to be drawing plays in the dirt in hopes of gaining positive yardage. 

Yet what we have seen thus far is the complete opposite. 

On numerous occasions and in numerous games, we have been privy to myriad blown coverages, bad tackling and an unusual amount of profundity on the part of offenses. 

Which begs the question: Where’s the “D”? 

It certainly has not been on display in the first 32 games of the season. 

In order to verify this assertion, one does not have to look any further than the amount of 300-yard passers in Week 1: 14. 

This statistic includes the five games in which both QBs eclipsed the 300-yard mark. 

Further exacerbating the situation, four QBs threw for more than 400 yards, and Tom Brady hit Miami to the tune of 517. 

Just a Fluke?

In examining these numbers, one could chalk it up to a fluke, inferring that in winter months it will all balance out. 

Cam Newton is a rookie...not putting up traditional rookie numbers. Where's the D?
Cam Newton is a rookie...not putting up traditional rookie numbers. Where's the D?Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

This may be true. 

Nonetheless, Week 2 offered eight more 300-yard passers, including two more QBs—Carolina’s rookie phenom Cam Newton and the venerable Tom Brady—eclipsing 400 yards again

It appears that the ball is just flying through the air at will.  Still, the play-calling has definitely been in favor of the aerial attack. 

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King reports that teams are calling pass plays almost 60 percent of the time. 

Granted, with more pass plays comes more sacks, but it is not the pass rush that is the problem—it’s the ubiquitous amount of blown coverages. 

When you see the prevalence of shootouts like the barn-burner in Green Bay to kick off the season continue on to games between the likes of Arizona and Carolina in Week 1—and then not lose steam into Week 2 with the aerial onslaught featured in Oakland vs. Buffalo and again by Brady vs. Rivers in New England, one cannot help but wonder what happened to the defense.

It’s almost like watching a game in inclement weather (ideally snow) where the offense knows exactly where they are going and the defense is merely trying to react.

Only they are not reacting. 

Fluke?  Maybe. 

Still, I wonder how an offseason program may have helped defenses to coalesce. 

As it appears right now, the rules on player safety verified during the lockout and the lack of time to develop defensive chemistry due to the lockout have led to an overall poor performance from a defensive perspective.

The only thing that could possibly be worse is injuries. 

The 4077th of the NFL  

Everyone knows that in the NFL, players get hurt.  It is indeed the nature of the beast. 

Yet, due to the inability to work out at team facilities, it appears that some players may not have been working out at all. 

Teams like the New York Giants and the Denver Broncos need Hawkeye Pierce to come to their aid. 

Denver started last week’s game against Cincinnati down seven starters. 

The Giants lost seven starters before the regular season even started. 

And that is only the beginning. 

In two weeks, the Kansas City Chiefs lost star safety Eric Berry and Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles to torn knee ligaments.  This was after they lost starting tight end Tony Moeaki.  

The Detroit Lions lost rookie running back Mikel Lashoure to a ruptured Achilles tendon.  The same can be said for Panthers linebacker Jon Beason. 

In total, 10 players are done for the season due to Achilles injuries alone.  

That was before the regular season started.   

Clearly, the most glaring “injury” has happened to Peyton Manning, and he has been vocal about his inability to meet with team doctors—because of the lockout—as being directly correlated to his need to have another surgery, thus sidelining him until at least Thanksgiving. 

So why all the injuries? 

Again, one could draw the correlation to mere coincidence and say that it is a part of the game. 

One could also make the argument that due to the lockout, players did not work out as they should have.

Freak injuries like what happened to Michael Vick on Sunday night are going to happen.  Nevertheless, the number of pulled hamstrings, groin injuries and ruptured Achilles tendons—at such an alarming rate—must lead one to ponder. 

Houston running back Arian Foster has been hobbled by a nagging hamstring injury for the last month or so. It is probably a logical conclusion to believe that—unless he misses extended time—he will be in and out of the lineup for the rest of the season. 

Now, before any ex-high school or collegiate football star who still reminisces about that time they made the play that won the big game goes nuts on me, incredulously shouting, “You don’t know what it’s like to compete,” I will say again that I recognize that injuries are a part of the game. 

But to this magnitude, in a lockout-shortened offseason, what else is one to deduce? 

The fact is that while the powers-that-be were at undisclosed locations all over the east coast, it does not appear that the salary that NFL players are paid warrants them enough coin to afford a membership to 24 Hour Fitness. 

The owners and players alike fought adamantly to strike a deal that would benefit both parties—and it appears they have done that.  It just does not appear that they thought through all of the ramifications for all of the parties involved. 

However, if their goal was to have arena-league type numbers put up in games almost completely devoid of defense while star players drop like flies due to injury, I guess the mission was accomplished.  

Daniel is also a contributor to TheFanManifesto. Check out his manifesto's at TheFanManifesto.com.

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