Daily Focus: Lions' recent injuries could open doors on offensive depth chart
Editor’s note: Every weekday in “Daily Focus,” PFF analysts take the latest NFL news and translate what it really means for each team involved.
Detroit injuries mean opportunities for others, both on and off roster: The Lions had two bits of injury news yesterday, as they waived TE Tim Wright with an injury designation and announced that second-year RB Ameer Abdullah had surgery in January to repair his torn labrum.
Considering their top two TEs—Eric Ebron and Brandon Pettigrew—are currently not healthy enough to participate in offseason training activities, Detroit could be in a market for a free agent to fill Wright’s vacancy. The most obvious option is Bear Pascoe, who played 50 snaps over the course of the last three games for the Lions this past season.
While it appears Abdullah is ahead of schedule with his rehab and will be ready to go for training camp, his absence does present an opportunity for other RBs on the current roster. That includes Theo Riddick (who set a PFF-era record last year for RB receiving grade), who is likely to take the majority of first-string snaps, and Zach Zenner, who was otherwise fourth in line and needs as many reps as possible this summer to help him secure a roster spot in the fall.
Titans rookie out until training camp, loses valuable offseason time on the field: The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported yesterday that Titans’ second-round pick Kevin Dodd had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot, and is likely out of action until August training camp.
The former Clemson defensive end finished his college career with a flurry of productivity, as he posted eight sacks, 26 pressures, and 19 stops in the final five games of the season.
Despite his end-of-the-year push, Dodd struggled at times with consistency, in particular on the pass-rush. While missing unpadded practices is unlikely to hurt Dodd’s long-term development, it does put him a bit behind schedule heading into camp. Considering he is learning the new position of outside linebacker in Tennessee’s 3-4 scheme after playing on the line of scrimmage his entire college career, Dodd is losing valuable reps on the field—reps he is unlikely to make up in training camp, seeing as he will surely be behind veterans Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo on the depth chart.
Defending NFC champs getting healthy: Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL last August, causing him to miss the entire 2015 season. Hopes remain high that Carolina can duplicate last year’s Super Bowl run—with his return playing a significant factor in that optimism—and yesterday he participated in his first practice since the injury.
As a rookie, Benjamin posted 84 catches for 1,116 yards and 11 touchdowns; however, his drop rate of 13.1 percent ranked 48th at his position.
QB Cam Newton obviously had an outstanding 2015 campaign, but with his top target returning (Benjamin lead the team with 142 targets in 2014), he could actually surpass last year’s production, which was good enough to win the league’s offensive MVP award and the No. 8 position on our Top 101 players of 2015 list.