Injury-Plagued Week 2 Shakes Up the NFL: Who Is Impacted the Most?
Y'all OK? Or did any of you suffer couch-related football-watching injuries Sunday?
Sympathy pain is real, and it's possible you're a little sore this morning after watching notable NFL players drop like flies throughout the NFL in Week 2.
It was, unfortunately, one of the most injury-plagued days of football I've experienced in my 14 seasons covering this league. Here's a rundown of the seven teams hit hardest on a painful afternoon in the National Football League.
7. Los Angeles Chargers
Key injuries Sunday: QB Tyrod Taylor (chest)
The Los Angeles Chargers shocked the football world by suddenly starting rookie quarterback Justin Herbert in place of Taylor, who suffered a mystery chest injury during pregame warmups ahead of L.A.'s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
And while that sounds scary and we hope Taylor is going to be alright, Herbert's play indicated an extended absence for Taylor might not hurt the Bolts. A bridge quarterback anyway, the 31-year-old struggled in a near-loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1 while Herbert went over 300 yards and averaged 9.4 yards per attempt in a strong debut performance against the Kansas City Chiefs.
There will be growing pains like the ugly second-half interception that led to a Kansas City touchdown, but the Chargers don't look like a prime contender and might want to start getting Herbert acclimated soon.
And yet, somewhat oddly, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn still insists Taylor will keep the job if healthy.
Don't be surprised if those dynamics change.
6. New York Jets
Key injuries Sunday: C Connor McGovern (hamstring), WR Breshad Perriman (ankle)
It's pretty clear the New York Jets won't be a factor this season. They weren't even remotely competitive against the severely depleted San Francisco 49ers (more on them coming) on Sunday, and that isn't likely to change moving forward if they don't have two key offensive starters in McGovern and Perriman.
Both were critical offseason additions, with the former signing a three-year, $27 million deal to anchor the middle of the offensive line and the latter expected to help replace the departed Robby Anderson at wideout.
With Le'Veon Bell (hamstring) and Jamison Crowder (ditto) already out, poor young Jets quarterback Sam Darnold has practically no support in an offense run by consistently unsuccessful head coach Adam Gase.
Veteran Chris Hogan (nursing a rib injury of his own) and the unaccomplished Braxton Berrios might have to carry a lot of the load in the receiving corps, and there's only so much an 85-year-old Frank Gore can do at this point.
There's no word on how long McGovern or Perriman will be out, but the straits are dire in the land of Gang Green anyway.
5. Carolina Panthers
Key injuries on Sunday: RB Christian McCaffrey (ankle)
This is notable simply because it's an injury to a big-time player, but the Carolina Panthers are hoping it's a small-time injury for McCaffrey, who left the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after hurting his ankle.
It didn't look devastating, but four out of five experts agree running backs need their ankles, and the 0-2 Panthers can't afford to spend much time without a 2019 first-team All-Pro and the reigning league leader in scrimmage yards and touchdowns.
Considering all the changes the Panthers underwent in the offseason, and considering their position in a tough division within the stronger of the two conferences, this might be a rebuilding year for Carolina anyway. But with Teddy Bridgewater, DJ Moore and McCaffrey forming an intriguing trio on offense, there was some hope they could remain competitive with an expanded playoff field in place for 2020.
Backup Mike Davis carried the ball once for a grand total of one yard Sunday, and the 27-year-old has a career yards-per-attempt average of just 3.6.
4. Indianapolis Colts
Key injuries Sunday: S Malik Hooker (Achilles' tendon), WR Parris Campbell (knee)
The Indianapolis Colts bounced back from an embarrassing Week 1 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars with an impressive Week 2 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. And while that win was by no means Pyrrhic, it was somewhat tainted by concern regarding Hooker and Campbell, both of whom exited in the process.
The good news, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, is Campbell did not tear his ACL. The bad news is Colts fans will have to curb their optimism until the second-year second-round pick gets the results of an MRI this week.
And the potentially devastating news is there's been no word at all on Hooker.
The fourth-year playmaker has struggled with injuries for much of his career, and Achilles injuries are quite frequently categorized as no bueno. He'll also have an MRI Monday, but Rapoport reports the fear is it's torn.
While T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal and rookie Michael Pittman Jr. might give Indy the wide receiver depth to overcome a run without Campbell, they'd presumably prefer not to rely heavily on rookie third-round pick Julian Blackmon in Hooker's absence. Blackmon performed pretty well in Hooker's stead Sunday, but it's been a particularly limited offseason for a player who is nine months removed from tearing his ACL.
3. Denver Broncos
Key injuries on Sunday: QB Drew Lock (shoulder), WR Courtland Sutton (knee, cramping)
The new-look Denver Broncos offense might never gain a chance to consistently work together this season.
That offensive core was already limited by the fact a retooled line and revamped receiving corps couldn't practice much together during an offseason minimalized by the COVID-19 pandemic, and then rookie second-round pick KJ Hamler and Sutton both missed the opener.
Then standout running back Phillip Lindsay suffered a toe injury in said opener. Then Sutton overcame a shoulder injury to start in Week 2 before departing due to cramping in his knee/legs, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Then Lock hurt the AC joint on his throwing arm against the Pittsburgh Steelers—an injury Schefter reports will keep him out between two and six weeks.
Even if a Monday MRI determines the big-armed second-year Missouri product might only have to miss a couple of weeks, it could be difficult for the Broncos to come back from this. They were likely only in the wild-card picture at best this year, but now they're 0-2 and facing a five-week stretch that includes matchups with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs.
Backup Jeff Driskel took six sacks and completed barely half his passes in relief of Lock on Sunday, and it doesn't appear his supporting cast will be 100 percent anytime soon.
Keep in mind the Broncos were already operating without starters Ja'Wuan James (COVID-19 opt-out), Von Miller (ankle) and A.J. Bouye (shoulder). It's pretty daunting.
2. New York Giants
Key injuries on Sunday: RB Saquon Barkley (knee), WR Sterling Shepard (toe)
With all due respect to Shepard, who departed during the first half of yet another New York Giants loss Sunday, this is all about Barkley.
If the rebuilding Giants had any shot of competing under the tutelage of a first-year head coach, with a defense in transition and with a mistake-prone quarterback in 2020, it was going to be because the 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year bounced back from an injury-plagued sophomore season in order to dominate.
Instead, according to Schefter, the team fears Barkley tore his ACL in the second quarter Sunday against the Chicago Bears.
It'd be a crushing blow to a team that hoped to make progress in Daniel Jones' second year as the Joe Judge era gets underway. Barkley struggled in the opener but had 28 yards on just four carries before going down, and backup Dion Lewis gained just 20 on 10 in the Penn State product's stead. Lewis will probably work with Wayne Gallman, who has averaged just 3.6 yards per carry the last two seasons and was inactive Sunday.
None of it bodes well for Jones, who is on pace to turn over the ball 32 times in 2020. The G-Men are well on their way to a fourth consecutive season with double-digit losses.
1. San Francisco 49ers
Key injuries on Sunday: Edge Nick Bosa (knee), QB Jimmy Garopollo (ankle), RB Raheem Mostert (knee), DL Solomon Thomas (knee)
Bosa and Garoppolo might be the two most important members of the San Francisco 49ers roster. The former is suspected to have a torn ACL, while the latter is likely to miss time because of the high-ankle sprain he suffered in the first half of Sunday's completely unvictorious victory over the Jets.
Per Schefter, Mostert's injury doesn't appear to be too serious, and the 49ers are at least famous for their deep rotational depth in the offensive backfield and along the defensive line. But backs Jerick McKinnon and Tevin Coleman could have their hands more than full if they're forced to work against an NFL-caliber opponent (unlike the Jets) without Garoppolo and Mostert.
Meanwhile, Schefter reports that Thomas' injury could also be serious, which means last year's dominant San Francisco D-line, which already lost DeForest Buckner via trade and was without veteran Dee Ford (neck) on Sunday, could indefinitely be without Bosa, Thomas, Buckner and Ford.
There's only so much Arik Armstead can do, especially without star cornerback Richard Sherman (calf) on the back end.
Throw in that offensive standouts George Kittle (knee) and Deebo Samuel (foot) also missed Sunday's game against the Jets and it's fair to wonder if the Super Bowl hangover will last a full season in San Francisco.