We already know how injuries can impact team success throughout the course of full 16-game NFL schedule. When said injuries take place prior to the start of the regular season, teams find themselves in a difficult situation of having to look for in-house candidates to fill in out of the gate.
A lot of the focus at this point in the year is on players who are likely going to be out for an extended period of time. You have read about the Sam Bradford injury and whether Shaun Hill will be able to produce at a high level as his replacement in St. Louis. You have also read about Darnell Dockett’s injury in Arizona.
But what about the shorter-term injuries that will impact teams over the course of the first few weeks of the season?
Today’s focus is going to be on five injuries that will have an impact on the success specific teams have on opening weekend. From NaVorro Bowman in San Francisco to Danny Trevathan in Denver, there are some important cogs missing from lineups around the league in Week 1.
J.C. Tretter, Center, Green Bay Packers
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 3, 2014
While Tretter should be back at some point during the first half of the season, his knee injury leaves Aaron Rodgers vulnerable up the middle against the best defense in the NFL in the form of the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night.
Rookie fifth-round pick Corey Linsley will start in Tretter’s stead against the Legion of Boom at CenturyLink. And Seahawks pass rusher Bruce Irvin had something to say about the interior lineman, who will be making his first regular season NFL appearance (via USA Today).
I’m going to pray for him,” Irvin said Tuesday of Linsley, a fifth-round draft pick out of Ohio State. “It’s going to be a long night, man. We’ve got to just take advantage of it.
The Seahawks are never afraid to trash talk during the week, but more often than not they back it up on the field. With Pete Carroll and Co. now zoning in on Linsley, this could have a huge impact on the outcome of the game.
Kenny Stills, Wide Receiver, New Orleans Saints
Wont know much til next Wednesday. But questionable RT @SmolaDS: Any updates on Kenny Stills? Expect him to be ready for Week 1?
— Mike Triplett (@MikeTriplett) August 27, 2014
Stills helped Drew Brees and Co. take the top off defenses last season by averaging a league-leading 20 yards per reception. The second-year speedster missed the first two games of the preseason with a quad injury and aggravated it in the Saints preseason finale.
He is considered questionable at this point, but the injury has to be a concern for the team. Quad injuries can impact a player long term if rushed back into action. In reality, the Saints long-term success may very well be the deciding factor here. Sit Stills Week 1 and have him for the long haul. If Stills is held out against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, that pushes Brandin Cooks and Joseph Morgan up on the depth chart.
Anthony Spencer, Defensive End, Dallas Cowboys
Still no firm timetable for A. Spencer: IRVING, Texas — The fact that defensive end Anthony Spencer will star… http://t.co/fR8NojTbhY
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) September 2, 2014
If the Cowboys are unable to generate a pass rush against Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers on Sunday, it’s going to be a long day for the home team. Spencer has been out for nearly a calendar year and will not suit up Week 1. This means that the likes of George Selvie and Jeremy Mincey will be forced to bring the pressure. That’s not necessarily an ideal scenario with Joe Staley and Anthony Davis protecting the edges for the 49ers.
The plethora of weapons San Francisco has in the passing game will be on full display if Kaepernick has a clean pocket. Good secondaries won’t be able to hold up against the likes of Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis and Steve Johnson on a consistent basis without Kaepernick being pressured. And the Cowboys don’t have a good secondary.
Danny Trevathan, Linebacker, Denver Broncos
This is a huge loss for the Broncos, who will be without Trevathan for the first month of the season. He held quarterbacks to a 87.7 quarterback rating and intercepted three passes last season.
LB Brandon Marshall's unique journey to first NFL start is here: http://t.co/VudHL6CGp4
— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) September 2, 2014
With Trevathan out of action against the Indianapolis Colts, youngster Brandon Marshall will be tasked with going up against the two-headed tight end monster that is Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. Denver could shade coverage up the middle with newcomer T.J. Ward, but that would likely leave its cornerbacks in single coverage against a solid wide receiver group in Indianapolis. Another plan would be to play an umbrella scheme in the secondary, which would then enable Andrew Luck to eat the Broncos alive underneath. This could have a major impact on the outcome of the game.
NaVorro Bowman, Linebacker, San Francisco 49ers
Bowman is expected back at some point in the second half of the season, but the 49ers are going to miss him big time early on. Simply put, he is one of the top-five overall defensive players in the NFL. And not a single player the 49ers have on their roster can come close to producing at his level. It appears that Michael Wilhoite and rookie Chris Borland will share duties early on.
As it relates to coverage against Jason Witten in Week 1, future Hall of Famer Patrick Willis will be tasked with underneath coverage while Pro Bowler Eric Reid will look to help over the top at times. Willis is absolutely no slouch in coverage, but he did allow a triple-digit quarterback rating when targeted last season. A big day for Witten could go a long way in Dallas pulling off an upset Week 1.