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Monday, October 24, 2011
Impact of Hightower, Moss injuries

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

By now you've seen the news that Washington Redskins running back Tim Hightower is out for the season with a torn ACL and that the Redskins' top wide receiver, Santana Moss, will miss 5-to-7 weeks with a broken hand. These injuries will have impact in a variety of areas, so let's take a look at a couple of them.

The Redskins' running game: This is where I actually expect the Hightower injury to have the least impact. Ryan Torain has been a better runner of the football than Hightower has this year, and the reasons Hightower got his starting job back Sunday once healthy again have less to do with his ability as a runner than they do with things addressed in the next paragraph. Torain can and will carry the load as long as he's healthy. If he does break down, as he has in the past, the Redskins like what rookie Roy Helu brings to the table. In this particular "next man up" scenario, the Redskins have plenty of men for the job.

The Redskins' passing game: The main reason Hightower was the starter ahead of Torain when Torain was running so much better was because Mike Shanahan liked what Hightower brought to the passing game. He's an excellent pass-blocking back and an excellent pass-catching back, and the Redskins' passing game will suffer for his absence. It goes without saying the passing game will suffer for the absence of Moss, who caught 93 passes for 1,115 yards in 2010 and has averaged 74 catches per season as a Redskin. They're deep at receiver, but not with anyone of Moss' experience level.

The Redskins' state of mind: The Redskins' early success was, in part, the result of the strong veteran leadership in their locker room. Moss, who has been a Redskins mainstay since 2005, was a big part of that. This might not be as significant as, say, losing London Fletcher would be to the defense. But if the Redskins' offense has a leader to whom it looks for guidance, Moss is probably it. Add in the fact that they've now lost two straight games after their feel-good 3-1 start and seen Moss, Hightower, tight end Chris Cooley and starting offensive linemen Trent Williams and Kory Lichtensteiger go down with significant injuries the past two weeks. The good early vibes are going to be tough to sustain.

Fantasy football rosters across the land: I mean, I'm not made of stone here. I recognize these are real people in real pain and I wish them both well. But I also play fantasy football. I used to write a weekly column on trading in fantasy football for my previous employer. And I recognize the huge part it plays in the coverage of today's NFL. I recognize that a lot of you clicked on this link with fantasy football in mind. So here's my guess: Torain becomes the starting running back and remains so as long as he's healthy. Given the Redskins' schedule, he's a guy worth having on your team and probably starting. Helu needs to be on fantasy benches in case he gets some run as the starter at some point, which is above-average likely. And if you have really deep rosters, Evan Royster might even be worth stashing. As for receiver, everybody's going to say Jabar Gaffney, but I don't see his numbers (which have been pretty good and consistent this year, actually) changing that much for the Moss injury. I think tight end Fred Davis will continue to function as the No. 1 fantasy receiver on the Redskins.

That's pretty much all I've got on this for now. Your thoughts?