5 injuries that will impact NFL Week 2
The start to the 2015 season has been littered with big-name injuries. Heading into Week 2, let’s review five of the most impactful players afflicted, as well examine each teams’ likely replacement(s).
Cowboys WR Dez Bryant
Bryant (88.0 overall rating) is expected to miss four to six weeks after breaking the fifth metatarsal on his right foot, requiring surgery.
If Week 1 is any indication, his targets are likely to be spread between Dallas’ running backs, along with TE Jason Witten (+13.2 cumulative pass grade), WR Terrance Williams (-7.2), and WR Cole Beasley (+2.2). The Cowboys also made a move to bring in WR Brice Butler from Oakland for a late round pick in order to improve their depth and possibly regain some of the big play production they will surely be missing from Bryan.
Expect the offense to remain efficient in moving the chains, but not be as explosive in the next few weeks. Opportunities will be aplenty for one of the running backs to stand out, and we will see just how much the Cowboys miss DeMarco Murray.
Agreeing with my colleague Sam Monson, Tony Romo and the offensive line should enable Dallas to stay afloat in the NFC East over the next four to six weeks, where the only win after Week 1 belongs to Dallas.
Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs
While the Cowboys are known for their big play offense, Terrell Suggs has played a large role in building Baltimore’s intense defensive reputation. Suggs (83.1 overall PFF rating) is done for the year after tearing his left Achilles tendon against Denver.
In 2014, a healthy Suggs graded equally as effective against the run (+13.2) as he did rushing the QB (+14.4). Baltimore should still have an upper echelon defense in 2015 without Suggs, given the presence of OLB Elvis Dumervil, ILB Daryl Smith, and OLB Courtney Upshaw, along with a healthy Jimmy Smith at cornerback. With the signing of Jason Babin, Baltimore now has a veteran OLB who did his best Suggs-impression in a limited role with the Jets last season (+8.2 run and +6.7 pass rush playing, 45 percent of snaps).
Thanks to an impressive roster, Baltimore’s defense should be just fine this season despite missing its leader.
Chargers RG D.J. Fluker
In what feels like déjà vu, the Chargers are again banged up along the offensive line. Fluker graded negatively at RT in 2014 (-8.8) and ’13 (-7.9), but was having an encouraging debut at RG for San Diego in Week 1 (+2.7) before going down in the second half with a high-ankle sprain (likely out four to six weeks).
His replacement is the unproven RG Chris Hairston, who had an less-than-impressive turn in his place with a -0.3 grade; paired with C Chris Watt (-6.3), San Diego will likely be weak overall up the middle. RB Melvin Gordon will truly be tested in the coming weeks, and like Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch, will likely have to earn the bulk of his yards after contact, where he was able to rack up 30 of his 51 yards in Week 1.
Expect to see more of a heavy dose of the hard-running Gordon in the coming weeks to compensate for the projected drop off in O-line play San Diego is likely to suffer.
Raiders FS Nate Allen
An already perilously-thin secondary in Oakland suffered a big blow in Week 1 when starting FS Nate Allen (+3.9 in 2014) suffered a torn MCL in the first quarter (out for at least eight weeks). Allen was brought in this offseason to pair with Charles Woodson in what otherwise is a very inexperienced secondary.
Making matters worse, Woodson reportedly suffered a dislocated shoulder against Cincinnati and could also miss this week’s game against Baltimore.
The contingency plans are limited and are likely to include fifth-year journeymen FS Larry Asante (two career starts) and the newly re-signed Taylor Mays (four career starts). In small sample sizes, both have graded much lower in coverage compared to the players they are replacing.
The good news is that front-seven players Justin Tuck (+8.7 in Week 1), Dan Williams (+7.1 in Week1), Khalil Mack, and Aldon Smith form what could be a dominant line that should have opposing QBs unloading the ball quickly. New defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. will have a tall task ahead of him masking the newfound deficiencies in his secondary.
Redskins WR DeSean Jackson
A big-play threat throughout his career, Jackson is scheduled to miss significant action for the first time since 2012, likely out three to four weeks with a strained hamstring. Jackson has graded favorably overall the past three seasons, and much of his impact comes in his ability to stretch the field with his speed (he led the league with 13 catches of 40 or more yards in 2014).
In his absence, the most targeted Redskin in Week 1 was Jordan Reed (PFF’s No. 11 rated TE). With WR Pierre Garçon not providing the same downfield threat as Jackson, Reed could take a lot of the deeper targets in the next few weeks. When healthy, Reed has played very well. Expect him to increasingly get up the seams to try and create mismatches against smaller secondary players or slower linebackers.