NFL training camps are just getting under way, but there has already been a rash of injuries to key players. Several of these injuries are quite serious, and will have lasting effects on teams throughout the season. Let’s take a look at some of the more prominent players that have suffered injuries early in training camp, and how their teams will deal with the absence of those players.
Jeremy Maclin, Eagles – Maclin is arguably the most significant injury to occur during training camp, as he will miss the entire season after tearing his ACL. Maclin and teammate DeSean Jackson would have been one of the top wide-receiver tandems in the NFL this season, and new head coach Chip Kelly undoubtedly had big plans for Maclin in his offense, which could look different now that the Eagles don’t have two wide receivers as talented as Jackson and Maclin (not that we would know if it did change).
Philadelphia has said they will look to fill the void internally, which means that Jason Avant is the most likely candidate to step into the starting lineup. Avant isn’t a big target, nor is he a big playmaker, with just 10 career touchdowns in seven seasons, so the Eagles can’t feel too confident about him being a reliable number-two receiver. Riley Cooper and Arrelious Benn are next in line, but neither inspires much more confidence than Avant, which means the Eagles could be in trouble at the receiver position, although they have a couple of good options at tight end in veteran Brent Celek and rookie Zach Ertz, both of who may have to take on larger than expected roles in the passing game to make up for the absence of Maclin.
Dennis Pitta, Ravens – Losing Pitta to a dislocated hip is a crushing blow for the Ravens. Pitta was Baltimore’s third leading receiver last season, and they were expecting even more out of him this season after trading Anquan Boldin. Pitta was a favorite target of Joe Flacco on third downs and in the red zone, and not having such a reliable target in those situations will be a difficult adjustment for Flacco to make.
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Behind Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones, the Ravens don’t have much depth at wide receiver, so they’re going to need significant contributions from their tight ends, but behind Pitta, they don’t have much depth at tight end. Following PItta’s injury, the Ravens signed Visanthe Shiancoe to team up with Ed Dickson to play tight end for them, but unless one of those players has a resurgent season, the Ravens shouldn’t expect either of them to equal Pitta’s production, which will put Flacco and Baltimore’s passing game at a distinct disadvantage.
Dan Koppen, Broncos – A strong offensive line was a huge part of Denver’s success last season, as they kept a vulnerable Peyton Manning on his feet, but losing Koppen to a torn ACL is a huge hit for the Broncos. The Broncos will hope to get J.D. Walton back late in the season, but before that it looks like they’ll rely on Manny Ramirez and veteran Steve Vallos, who they signed following Koppen’s injury, to hold down the center position. Ramirez was the weakest link on Denver’s offensive line last season, and with Chris Kuper also expected to miss the start of the season, the Broncos could be in serious trouble along the offensive line, which is the last thing they can afford to have happen with Manning under center.