Injured NFL Players We Can't Wait to See Return in Second Half of 2020 Season

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistOctober 30, 2020

Injured NFL Players We Can't Wait to See Return in Second Half of 2020 Season

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    Scot Tucker/Associated Press

    The second half of the 2020 NFL season could be littered with intriguing comeback stories. 

    The halfway point of any season is often the sweet spot for players to return from injured reserve and get back on the field with their respective teams, potentially changing the outlook in divisions and beyond. 

    Returns from injured reserve are especially interesting in 2020 because of the expanded rules unique to this season. This year, teams can activate an unlimited number of players off injured reserve, provided they've been on the list for three weeks prior to activation. 

    Here's a look at some notable players who have been sidelined with injuries and could make returns soon, reannouncing their presence and providing a big impact on their respective teams.

Jalen Reagor, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Help appears to be just around the corner for struggling Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Both wide receiver Jalen Reagor and tight end Dallas Goedert returned to practice Wednesday, with the former ready to return for Sunday's divisional clash against the Dallas Cowboys.

    Wentz is particularly excited to get his rookie receiver back into the fold.

    "I think it can change the dynamic [of the offense], just what you can do with him in the screen game, and down the field," he told reporters Wednesday. He's a guy that has run-after-the-catch ability."

    The No. 21 overall pick played in the Eagles' first two games before he went on IR with a thumb injury. But he briefly flashed some of his game-breaking ability by catching five passes for 96 yards, or 19.2 yards per catch. 

    With Reagor, DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffrey sidelined, Travis Fulgham and Greg Ward have been Wentz's primary receivers. Given Reagor's collegiate track record and blend of NFL size and speed, he should provide the Eagles offense with a dangerous new element upon his return.

    Reagor might not be enough to single-handedly push the Eagles to the playoffs, but it'll be exciting to see how head coach Doug Pederson deploys him.

Richard Sherman, DB, San Francisco 49ers

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    Scot Tucker/Associated Press

    The San Francisco 49ers have been besieged by injuries, particularly on defense. Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas and Ziggy Ansah are all out for the year, while Richard Sherman and Dee Ford have played only one game apiece.

    It appears Sherman may be nearing a return, though. The veteran corner went down in mid-September with a leg injury. As of Oc.t 16, he was set to be re-evaluated in 1-2 weeks. and it appears he'll target a Week 12 return. 

    In Sherman's absence, the Niners have started Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley at cornerback. Although they bounced back with wins over the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots in recent weeks, they also allowed Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw for 342 yards in a blowout Week 5 loss.

    Last season, Pro Football Focus gave Sherman an elite grade of 88.9, as he allowed only one touchdown across 15 games. The 49ers are in the NFL's most competitive division, so Sherman can't come back quickly enough for the NFC champions.

Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert appeared poised for a massive breakout before he suffered an ankle injury in Week 3.

    Last season, the 2018 second-round pick hauled in 58 receptions for 607 yards and five touchdowns. He picked up where he left off, snagging eight catches for a career-high 101 yards and a touchdown in Philadelphia's season-opening loss to the Washington Football Team. 

    The Eagles designated Goedert for return from injured reserve Wednesday, according to Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk. If he doesn't return for Sunday's divisional clash against the Dallas Cowboys, he seems likely to come back after the Eagles' Week 9 bye.

    Fellow tight end Zach Ertz suffered a high-ankle sprain in the Eagles' Week 6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens and has since been placed on injured reserve. Goedert will temporarily take over as Philly's No. 1 tight end whenever he does come back, perhaps giving Eagles fans a glimpse of the long-term future.

Michael Pittman Jr., WR, Indianapolis Colts

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    Zach Bolinger/Associated Press

    Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. isn't just interesting for his abilities and big upside. It's exciting to project what he could become within a Philip Rivers-led offense. 

    Unfortunately, we've only seen a small taste of it so far, as the second-round pick suffered a calf injury in Week 3 and was designated to return from injured reserve on Wednesday, opening the 21-day window for him to get back on the active roster.

    Pittman received 12 targets before getting hurt, so it's hard to read into if he can break out like Tee Higgins has done for Cincinnati. He has good size at 6'4", and it's fun to think about how he'll pair in the offense alongside T.Y. Hilton, especially if he can open up the field for the team's current leading receiver. 

    While Rivers hasn't been great in his new surroundings, he's completing nearly 70 percent of his passes and loves to spread it around, as evidenced by six different Colts players sitting on double-digit receptions. Getting the ball in Pittman's hands and letting him go to work in the open field could help the Colts keep pace with the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans.

Dee Ford, Edge, San Francisco 49ers

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The 49ers also need more pass-rushing help, and Dee Ford is their best bet. 

    The Niners put Ford on injured reserve in early October with a back injury, and head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters last week that he likely won't return until after their Week 11 bye. San Francisco has three divisional games in those final six weeks, making it a critical stretch.

    Ford has played in only one game this season—the Niners' Week 1 loss to the Arizona Cardinals—during which he notched three combined tackles and one quarterback pressure while playing 56 percent of the defensive snaps. Last season, he finished with 16 pressures and 6.5 sacks, earning a PFF grade of 84.4.

    Ford's return could reshape the NFC West race, particularly considering the Niners have only 12 sacks through seven games this season.

Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    The surprising 5-2 Cleveland Browns will soon be getting back one of the NFL's best running backs.

    Nick Chubb suffered a knee injury during the Browns' Week 4 victory over the Dallas Cowboys that was expected to sideline him for roughly six weeks, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. He's been ruled out for this week's game against the Las Vegas Raiders, but the Browns will re-evaluate him after their Week 9 bye.

    Kareem Hunt has started in Chubb's place over the last three games, and he has 569 yards from scrimmage and seven total touchdowns on the season. But last season, Chubb rushed for 1,494 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 5.0 yards per carry.

    Given the physical nature of the running back position, it might be a blessing in disguise for the Browns to get a well-rested Chubb back for a late-season playoff push. It sets the stage for some must-see games against Tennessee, Baltimore and Pittsburgh.