The Falcons enjoyed remarkably good injury look over Dan Quinn’s first three seasons. They ranked second-, sixth- and second-best in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost metric, which accounts for the role of the players who miss games and includes those who take the field with reported injuries.
That good luck has run out for Quinn’s Falcons.
The team announced today that left guard Andy Levitre is out for the season. The Falcons already lost starting safety Keanu Neal for the season, and linebacker Deion Jones is out until at least Week 11. Running back Devonta Freeman has missed one game and could miss two more.
That’s a solid lineman on one of the league’s best units, a good running back and two of the team’s best defenders.
This is when signing guard Brandon Fusco should pay off for the Falcons. He’s started at right guard for two games, supplanting 2017’s starter, Wes Schweitzer. Now Schwiezter can slide back into the starring lineup and, though he’s probably a downgrade, at least he’s experienced.
Still, Levitre’s injury leaves the Falcons thin on the offensive line (few teams have more than one really good backup). They also don’t have much experience at linebacker or safety behind Neal and Jones, both Pro Bowl selections in 2017. They are deep at running back Freeman is the most accomplished among them.
Injuries are a fact of life in the NFL, and it mostly comes down to luck. The Falcons had unusually good fortune with injuries for three seasons. Now Quinn is getting a taste of what predecessor Mike Smith had to deal with.
The Falcons ranked fifth-worst in Adjusted Games Lost in 2013 and seventh-worst in 2014. Included among the casualties in 2013: Roddy White, Sean Weatherspoon, Kroy Biermann and Mike Johnson. The next year, injuries were suffered by White, Weatherspoon, William Moore, Robert Alford and Sam Baker.
Not many things create a fog around a team like injuries. Falcons players and coaches will say expectations are the same because, really, what else can they say? No one wants to hear injuries used as excuses.
Fans may come to accept the reality of injuries, but they can inspire feelings of ambiguity. If it turns out the Falcons have suffered too many injuries to key players to remain playoff contenders, then it’s nobody’s fault. But it would be hard for their supporters not to feel melancholy about what might have been.
For the first time as Falcons coach, Quinn will have to navigate through a season with major injuries to multiple, key players. His good luck has run out, but the season goes on.