My general feeling on NFL injuries is this:
They are part of the game, and every team deals with them. They should not be used as an excuse, except for specific cases. Building depth and finding players to fill in is part of being a successful organization.
So the obvious question here is: How much can the Eagles use injuries as an excuse for their season ending in the wild-card round against the Cowboys?
Which brings us to a great breakdown from Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News.
Gosselin takes a look at the injuries suffered by every NFL team and calculates which squads were most hurt by players going down.
The Eagles ranked fourth, with 70 games lost by starters. The Buffalo Bills were first (103); the St. Louis Rams second (75); and the Jacksonville Jaguars third (71).
It should be noted that the two teams playing in the Super Bowl - the Saints and Colts - ranked fifth and sixth, respectively. Just behind the Eagles.
Of the 10 teams who were most hurt by injuries, four made the postseason.
The Cowboys and Vikings were the two healthiest teams in the league, having lost starters for 14 and 16 games, respectively. Of the 10 teams who stayed the healthiest, six made the postseason.
Obviously, there's no newsflash here. Staying healthy is a key to advancing far in the postseason. It's interesting to see it all broken down though by the numbers.
Gosselin also names a key injury for each team. For the Eagles, it should come as no surprise that he chose Stewart Bradley.
The Bradley injury was a dagger for a number of reasons. One, he was playing at a high level last season. But maybe more importantly, the Eagles could never adequately fill the middle linebacker position. Sean McDermott tried pretty much everything. Omar Gaither (who also went down with a seaosn-ending injury), Akeem Jordan, Will Witherspoon, Chris Gocong, and Jeremiah Trotter (am I missing anyone?) all got chances, to varying degress of success.
Update: Yes, I forgot Joe Mays. Thanks for the heads-up.
Elsewhere on the defense, the injury situation wasn't bad. The defensive line, in particular, stayed relatively healthy. Sheldon Brown playing at far less than 100 percent was a factor. And Jordan's four-game absence definitely hurt. Actually, more than the games he missed, Jordan's level of play when he returned (not entirely his fault when they tried him in the middle) hurt the D's performance.
Offensively, the most devastating injury was probably the Jamaal Jackson one, not so much in Week 17, but moreso in the wild-card loss, when the line looked completely confused.
At guard, I thought they were able to fill in when Todd Herremans missed time, but he was obviously an upgrade on the left side when he returned. Jason Peters missing time generally created problems, although Herremans was capable of sliding over.
Donovan McNabb, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Michael Vick and Brian Westbrook all missed time. But I didn't think any of those injuries killed the Eagles.
So what's your take? On a scale of 1-10, with a 10 being "injuries were the main reason they lost in the first round" and a 1 being "injuries had no effect on the outcome of the season," how would you rank it?
I think I'd put it at right around a 5 or a 6.