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Last week, Jason Lisk wrote a great article analyzing a number of key offensive injuries around the league last week. While Football Perspective hasn’t taken a day off since opening, this is not the go-to site for current events. But today, we’ve got something special in store for you. I was able to get thirteen top-notch writers to join me at a virtual roundtable and provide updates on some of the more important injuries to offensive players around the NFL.

How much of Gronk will we see in 2013?

How much of Gronk will we see in 2013?

Let’s start in New England, where the Patriots are having all sorts of tight end problems. Three months ago, the team’s top three tight ends were a relatively healthy Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and a recovering Jake Ballard. Since then, Hernandez has been released, Gronkowski may start the season on the PUP list, and Ballard is a possible camp cut as he recovers from the ACL and microfacture surgery that caused him to miss all of 2012. I’ve brought in Dr. Jene Bramel (@JeneBramel), author of the Second Opinion injury blog at Footballguys.com, to discuss the status of the Patriots tight ends:

It’s really difficult to know what to expect from Gronkowski. He’s had two surgeries at two different disc levels in his lumbar spine. He recovered from the first one well, but it’s fair to wonder whether his lower back will hold up over time. And the infection and back surgery have limited his ability to fully rehab his arm. However, he’s just 24 years old and has seemed superhuman at times. I think Patriots fans can be optimistic that he’ll return close to his normal form this year. Whether that’s during the first month of season or not won’t be known until close to August 31. That’s when the Patriots must decide whether Gronkowski is safe to keep on the final 53.

I’m not expecting much from Ballard at all. Microfracture surgery is still difficult to fully recover from and rehabbing from an ACL tear at the same time adds to the level of difficulty. Even if Ballard does make the roster, it’s not likely that he’ll be healthy enough to play more than 20-30 snaps a game, much less make a meaningful contribution.

In the AFC North, the two perennial powerhouses are dealing with similar issues: After moving on from a starting wide receiver, injuries have struck at tight end. For Baltimore, the Ravens are now dealing with injuries to Dennis Pitta (out for the season with a hip injury) and Ed Dickson (groin), after trading wide receiver Anquan Boldin to San Francisco.  In the last few days, Baltimore signed wide receiver Brandon Stokley and tight end Dallas Clark, reuniting both former Colts with current Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell. I asked Brian Burke (@Adv_NFL_Stats), Ravens fan and owner of Advanced NFL Stats, for his take on how the Baltimore offense will operate in 2013:

Baltimore will be competitive as always, but don’t expect what happened in the post-season to carry forward as if there is some magical trajectory involved. The passing game will regress without some key playmakers, and I fear they may try to return to more of a power run offense. The Stokely and Clark signings suggest that the coaches aren’t optimistic about the incumbent crop of receivers behind Torrey Smith. I think the defense will actually improve, despite losing key leaders. Lewis and Reed are legends, but were at/near the end of their respective shelf lives. The conventional opinion is that last year’s defense was as stout as ever, but the reality was that it was completely average. They have some top players returning from injury-plagued 2012 (Jimmy Smith, Terrell Suggs, Lardarius Webb), plus free agent acquisitions (Chris Canty and Elvis Dumervil).

In Pittsburgh, the loss of Mike Wallace (Miami) has been compounded by Heath Miller’s struggles to recover from a torn ACL, PCL, and MCL, and a recent Lisfranc injury to backup tight end Matt Spaeth (out at least 8-to-10 weeks). I asked Pittsburgh native Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) of Football Outsiders what we should expect from the team’s offense in 2013:

For the Steelers, passing in the red zone could be an issue with tight end Heath Miller having no timetable for his return after last year’s torn ACL. David Paulson is now the team’s No. 1 TE, which is a scary thought. Matt Spaeth is out 8-10 weeks with a Lisfranc foot injury, but he was never a valuable receiver anyway. Miller must return in a timely fashion. While Mike Wallace’s speed and downfield threat will be missed, he was also a better target in the red zone than Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, who must break out in his fourth year. Plaxico Burress was thought to be the big red-zone target for Ben Roethlisberger, but a torn rotator cuff has ended his season and possibly career. This should help veteran Jerricho Cotchery make the team, but he will battle intriguing rookie Markus Wheaton for playing time.

With the injuries to the tight end position, Todd Haley may want to incorporate more 11 personnel and get Wheaton significant playing time in the way Wallace did as a rookie in 2009. Rookie Le’Veon Bell missed the first preseason game, but it appears to be nothing serious as he is the favorite to win the starting running back job. I have seen far worse collections of talent at the skill positions in Pittsburgh, but there is a concerning amount of uncertainty and lack of proven production with this group. Thankfully Kent Graham will not be the quarterback.

Foster prays for good health

Foster prays for good health.

The Texans also had a pair of injuries strike at one position, as running backs Arian Foster (calf strain, back) and Ben Tate (groin) have been banged up. Tate played in the team’s preseason opener, but the big question on the minds of fantasy owners is “Can we trust Arian Foster?” I asked that question to Stephanie Stradley (@StephStradley), a Houston lawyer who writes about the Houston Texans for the Ultimate Texans site at the Houston Chronicle online.1

Since you asked me this question, I decided Tuesday morning to ask Texans head coach Gary Kubiak specifically whether fans should be concerned about Arian Foster’s return and whether the issue was still his back. His answer:

Any time guys aren’t on the field, you’re concerned when they get back, but as far as are we concerned about him at this point about his process? No, we know what we’re going through. We know where we’re at, so we’ve got time. Do I want him out here? Do we all want him out here? Yes, we do. He needs to work to get ready for the season and I think we’re awful close to doing that.

Yeah, his back’s bothering him a little bit. I think his calf is doing just fine. Some tightness in his back and we’re just trying to find the right moment to when we get started in the process. The question is always when do you put him off PUP.

I speak Kubiak, and I’ve watched Foster throughout his rehab and listened to whispers, so these are my thoughts:

1. I think Foster will be ready for the season and will play well. The Texans are very careful with key players coming off of injuries and don’t expose them during the preseason. Yes, you never know with any running back and the hits they take, but from what I know now, I am optimistic. I think that they are just being careful with him, and I think it is a good thing he isn’t being exposed to preseason/camp reps. In addition, the Texans have plenty of running back bodies they are trying out in camp, and this gets them more of those reps to watch. (For fantasy purposes, keep an eye on RB3/4 competition for the Texans since Ben Tate is on last year of contract).

2. If I were playing fantasy, I’d have no problem picking Foster high. Kubiak wants to be able to run in the red zone. In addition, I think all the best projection info suggests that the Houston defense is going to be good again, and that means a lot of running late in games. I think ideally, the Texans would like to have a running back split between Foster/Tate similar to what they had in 2011.

Elsewhere in the AFC South, Indianapolis is looking to build on a weird 2012 season, where the team won 11 games despite being outscored. Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) was signed as a known injury risk, but that’s not the only foot on the minds of Indianapolis fans: tight end Dwayne Allen is out at least the rest of the preseason with his own foot injury. Let’s check in with Nate Dunlevy (@NateDunlevy), my first stop for all things Colts. Nate is a writer for Colts Authority and NFL columnist for Bloguin.com, as well as host of Colts Central Radio and an author whose books can be found at MadisonHousePublishing.com.

Bradshaw is critical to the Colts’ hopes of taking a step forward in 2013, or at least not regressing. The fact that he opened on PUP wasn’t exactly a shock, but it is a concern for the franchise. He is recovering from off-season surgery to repair screws that were placed in his foot. The current expectation is that he’ll be back before the start of the regular slate, so if he’s not out there for Week 3 of preseason the hand-wringing will begin in earnest.

The bigger concern at the present is the health of Dwayne Allen. One of the breakout stars for the Colts last season, Indy is relying heavily on two tight-end schemes to offset weakness in the overall receiving corp. While Coby Fleener has had a strong camp (though a rough first game), it’s Allen who is expected to provide the firepower both as a pass catcher and a key blocker in the run game. He disappeared from practice early last week with a foot injury that has become something of a local mystery.

Chuck Pagano asserted after the Bills game that Allen would be ready to go by the start of the regular season, but that runs counter to most of the local whispers. Allen has been been reportedly in a walking boot with a fracture in his foot that could keep him out four to six weeks. His availability for the opener depends on the level of confidence you place in the Indy organization to accurately report injuries. At this point, the possibility that he could miss games is still there.

When I wrote about Kenny Britt in early July, I reached out to Titans expert Tom Gower (@ThomasGower) of Total Titans and Football Outsiders fame. Let’s bring back Tom to talk about Britt and the other injuries in Tennessee.

Titans offensive injury issues came in three different forms.

  • The offensive line last year was very injured, the second-most injured line in the league by Football Outsiders numbers. Right tackle David Stewart is recovered from his broken leg. He sat out the first preseason game with a back issue, but should be back for the next one. Fellow IR’ed starters Eugene Amano, Leroy Harris, and Steve Hutchinson are no longer on the team. New left guard Andy Levitre missed OTAs with a knee scope, but he’s back and fine. Rookie fourth-round pick Brian Schwenke is currently out with a hamstring injury but still may end up in the competition to start at center.
  • Jake Locker missed six games last year with a non-throwing shoulder injury and had surgery in the offseason. He’s now healthy. If he stays that way, they’ve indicated they’ll do some more with him in the run game. If he’s banged up, they won’t.
  • Pass targets: Kenny Britt is at 100% for the first time since before he tore his ACL in September 2011. The Titans are being careful with him, unsurprisingly, giving him days off and the like. Given his injury history, who knows how long he’ll stay that way. Delanie Walker is on the PUP with a knee injury he suffered during OTAs and ended up having scoped in July. They’re planning on big things for him in the offense, but aren’t installing certain things only Walker does until he does get healthy. Kevin Walter and Marc Mariani are also banged up, but they’re not on your fantasy team unless you’re doing an AFC South-only league.

The Football Perspective Curse?

The Football Perspective Curse?

As you can see, we have some really excellent writers joining us today. I cooked up this roundtable idea on Sunday night, and I immediately wanted to involve my former co-blogger and Chiefs fan Jason Lisk (@JasonLisk). But I couldn’t think of any major Chiefs injuries, so I e-mailed Jason:

…..Anyway, I think this a fun idea and I don’t want to leave you out, but I don’t think there are any real Chiefs injuries to discuss, are there?

Monday morning, Jason wrote back to me:

You jinxing son of a gun. When Charles snaps a leg, I’m coming after you.

Suffice it to say, Jason and I aren’t on the best of terms right now.

Let’s close out the AFC with a look at the conference favorite, the Denver Broncos. Injuries have been happening in pairs at Dove Valley, so I e-mailed Doug Lee (@IAOFM) from Its All Over, Fat Man! to get his take. At center, both J.D. Walton (ankle, likely out through October) and Dan Koppen (out for the year with a torn ACL) have suffered some serious injuries, while tight ends Jacob Tamme (quadriceps) and Joel Dreesen (knee) are both currently on the sidelines. The obvious question for Doug: what does this mean for Peyton Manning’s offense?

On its own, the loss of starting center J.D. Walton wasn’t such a big deal, as Dan Koppen was unsigned and did an admirable job of filling in for him in 2012. But once Koppen tore his ACL, Denver’s center situation was thrown into chaos.

Manny Ramirez, who had started 11 games at right guard in place of Chris Kuper, had worked as the first-team center during OTAs and minicamp, but he’s never played center in college or the NFL, and at this level, he’s at best been a solid backup interior lineman. According to Pro Football Focus, Ramirez was responsible for 6 of the 21 sacks taken by Peyton Manning last season.

Denver’s confidence in Ramirez as their starting center was belied by their quick calls to retired ex-Colts Jeff Saturday and Ryan Lilja following Koppen’s injury. Saturday is down to the 230-240 pound range and working for ESPN, and he suggested the team consider Lilja.

Lilja looked overmatched at times on Thursday against the 49ers, but he was excellent as the Chiefs’ center in 2012 after Rodney Hudson went down. We fully expect Lilja to overtake Ramirez as the starting center, once he’s shaken off the rust of retirement. His five years spent blocking for Manning in Indy should help his cause.

Joel Dreessen, Denver’s blocking tight end, recently underwent a second knee scope and is out for the preseason. Jacob Tamme, their receiving tight end, has been hampered by a quad injury, but he’s another ex-Colt who serves as a security blanket for Manning.

Ultimately, though, the roles of both Dreessen and Tamme may be shrinking, as college hoopster Julius Thomas is finally showing signs of living up to the potential that prompted Denver to draft him in the fourth round of the 2011 Draft. He’s been the breakout star of OTAs, minicamp, and training camp, and in Thursday’s preseason opener, he looked like a starting NFL tight end.

As we shift conferences, let’s start with a key target for the other Manning. Doctor Jene was nice enough to come back and provide the latest update on Hakeem Nicks and what that might mean for Eli Manning and the Giants offense.

I’m on record arguing that it’s unfair to label every player who has had multiple injuries “injury prone.” But common sense says it’s tough to dismiss the label for a player that has never played a full season and seemingly can’t make it through a month without a new lower body injury. So fans are right to be concerned. So are the Giants, who aren’t in any hurry to extend Nicks’ contract. It’s good news that Nicks looks likely to play in this week’s preseason game. But another aggravation of his groin strain, however minor, may mean that 2013 will be a year in which Nicks won’t ever be in full form.

One thing’s for sure: Manning needs a healthy Nicks to have the bounceback year I’m expecting in 2013; at least for now, Nicks looks good to go.

Staying in the NFC East, Philadelphia is another team that’s seen one unit of the team get decimated. For the Eagles, it’s at wide receiver (Jeremy Maclin (right ACL), Arrelious Benn (left ACL), and Riley Cooper (brain)). I checked in with Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia), who covers the Eagles for Birds 24/7 on PhillyMag.com to see how much of an impact the Maclin/Benn injuries will have on the offense, and what he thinks we should expect from Cooper this year.

The injuries to Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn certainly hurt the Eagles’ offense, but it’s unlikely that they’ll prove to be devastating. Maclin has averaged 67 catches, 893 yards and over seven touchdowns the last three seasons. And Benn, a former second-round pick, was looking to resurrect his career.

Riley Cooper is expected to start opposite DeSean Jackson, but it’s unlikely he plays a prominent role in the passing game. Cooper got a chance for extended action in 2012, playing 70 percent or more of the snaps in seven games. He totaled just 19 catches in those games and averaged 29.4 yards per contest. He’s probably the Eagles’ best blocking receiver, which is important to Chip Kelly, and Cooper provides a big target in the red zone. But he’s unlikely to come close to matching Maclin’s production.

Look for the Eagles to focus on the run game and show a lot of two tight-end sets. They signed James Casey in the offseason and drafted Zach Ertz in the second round. Plus, they still have Brent Celek on the roster. The guess here is that Ertz, specifically, will be a focus in the passing game.

What will RG3 do for an encore?

What will RG3 do for an encore?

The most scrutinized injury in the division — in the whole NFL, perhaps — is in Washington. All eyes are on RG3 as he recovers from his torn ACL/LCL, while Fred Davis is also recovering from torn Achilles. I asked Will Brinson (@willbrinson), NFL Writer, CBSSports.com, for his thoughts.

Robert Griffin III’s injury is getting tons of play in the national media and for all the wrong reasons: people want to debate whether or not he and Mike Shanahan are on the same page. It’s irrelevant, because Griffin, the player, agreed to a timeline set by Shanahan, the coach, and when Week 1 rolls around, RG3 will get his first live action. Whether or not there’s “no doubt” (as RG3 said) remains to be seen, but if you can find remotely decent odds on Griffin playing, take them. He’s going to play. And barring a setback in his recovery, he’s going to be fine. Watching Griffin in the first week of training camp, he looked somewhere between 75 and 90 percent to my untrained medical eye. Griffin wouldn’t put a number on his recovery, but he was clearly doing just fine during Week 1 preseason warmups. I’d be completely and utterly stunned if Griffin didn’t come out and play, and play well during the Redskins Week 1 Monday Night Football matchup against the Eagles.

Fred Davis represents the other major offensive injury for the Redskins and perhaps a more intriguing one. Like I said, Griffin’s healthy. If Davis can stay healthy, he could truly surprise as a tight end threat for a team that thrives off of dump offs and play action. Davis has just 19 total games over the last two years thanks to injury and suspension, so guaranteeing him a full year on the field isn’t exactly a lock. He fits what the Redskins want to do and if he can stay healthy, a career year isn’t out of the question.

I’m with Will — I expect a monster game by Griffin in front of a national audience in week one. Since I don’t think fans can ever get enough Robert Griffin III talk, so I want to bring Brian Burke back since he’s been a regular contributor at the Washington Post. Brian, do you think RG3 will play any differently this year?

Griffin will be spectacular and fun to watch as ever. The question is whether he gets injured again. Don’t forget he missed time with a head injury last year too. His personality is fiercely competitive and aggressive, so I doubt he’ll play any safer this year than last year, despite the official PR narrative. Washington struggled on defense most of last year, so any kind of improvement, especially vs the pass, will go a long way toward keeping them at the top of their division. The Redskins are hopeful that the return of Brian Orakpo will make a big difference.

Let’s leave the NFC East and head to Green Bay, where the Packers potent offense is dealing with injuries to a couple of key starters. First, right tackle-turned-left tackle Bryan Bulaga went down for the season; then Jordy Nelson had knee surgery on August 5, and was expected to be out 4-6 weeks. Should Aaron Rodgers and Packers fans be concerned about the offense? I asked Tom Kessenich (@TomKessenich), who covered the Packers in the ’90s for the Oshkosh Northwestern and the Appleton Post-Crescent, and is currently the the Manager of High Stakes Fantasy Games for STATS LLC (including the NFFC), for his thoughts:

It’s fair to have some concern about the state of the Packers’ offense heading into the season. Bulaga was the team’s best offensive tackle and Nelson is the No. 2 wide receiver behind Randall Cobb. Bulaga’s injury bears the most scrutiny because the Packers’ offensive line was already a question mark. Aaron Rodgers was sacked 51 times last season, the most sacks taken by any quarterback in the NFL. Losing the team’s second-best offensive lineman is cause for some concern since it remains to be seen how effective rookie David Bakhtiari will be as his probable replacement.

Nelson’s injury is a big blow and leaves the Packers thin with experienced receivers. Rookie running back Eddie Lacy could be counted on even more early in the season if Nelson isn’t at full strength to provide more pop for the offense. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers won’t be lacking for targets, however, as Cobb has tremendous upside and James Jones has evolved into a more consistent receiver. Nelson, though, has now suffered with leg injuries the past two seasons and it’s possible this could be an ongoing issue which threatens to limit his effectiveness. However, while the injuries are ones to watch, the Packers’ offense still has enough talent at the skill positions to be one of the league’s most potent this season as long as Rodgers remains healthy.

Let’s head down to Atlanta where the big concern is the loss of right tackle Mike Johnson (broken fibula) for the season. I asked Mike Bradley (@MarkBradleyAJC), columnist at the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, for his thoughts on how Johnson’s injury would impact Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense:

Mike Johnson was listed ahead of Lamar Holmes at right tackle, but Holmes is a slightly higher draft pick — No. 91 overall in 2012; Johnson was No. 98 in 2010 — who more fits the profile of what the Falcons want their offensive line to become, meaning bigger and stronger.

It’s not clear if Holmes is ready to be an NFL starter, but Johnson hadn’t been able to find and keep a starting job, either. Neither is it clear what the Falcons will do if they determine Holmes isn’t up to the task. They signed Jeff Nady, an undrafted free agent who was cut by Jacksonville, but that seems more a case of filling a roster spot than a move toward a long-term solution.

The Falcons always earmarked the 2012 draft — they didn’t have a No. 1 pick that year, owing to the Julio Jones trade-up of 2011 — as the one that would rebuild their offensive line. They took Peter Konz in Round 2, and he’ll be the starting center in Year 2, having succeeded the retired Todd McClure. On talent, that’s an upgrade. They took Holmes in Round 3 because they saw starting potential. Johnson’s injury makes this a sink-or-swim season for Holmes at an earlier date than the Falcons would have liked, but they’ve always considered him another part of that talent upgrade. They like Johnson, but the thinking here was that Holmes would eventually wind up being the right tackle.

Staying in the NFC South, I want to bring back the the good doctor to discuss an under-the-radar injury in Carolina: the prognosis for Jonathan Stewart (ankle/foot) seems to be getting worse each week. Jene, on a scale of 1-10, how concerned should Panthers fans be?

I’ll answer this as if “1” means he’ll return to practice tomorrow, “5” means it’s a condition that could linger all season and “10” means it’s a career-threatening injury. Despite Ron Rivera’s recent insistence that Stewart has a good chance to be ready for opening weekend, there’s not much reassurance that can be taken from a player that had arthroscopic surgery on both ankles and still hasn’t recovered nearly seven months later. And that’s after his already worrisome history of chronic foot and Achilles issues. Stewart is still just 26 years old, but he’s got the legs of a 30-year old running back. I’d put him in the 7-8 range in my hypothetical scale.

[In case you haven’t figured it out by now, Jene is the man. You really should be following him and reading everything he writes.]

The West might come down to which team stays healthiest

The West might come down to which team stays healthiest.

Finally, let’s close by analyzing some injuries to two of the league’s powerhouse teams in the NFC West. In Seattle, three of Russell Wilson’s top targets — Percy Harvin (torn labrum), Sidney Rice (knee), and Zach Miller (torn plantar fascia) are banged up. When it comes to the Seahawks, my first stop is always Danny Kelly (@FieldGulls), the Editor and Lead Writer of Field Gulls, the SBNation Seahawks blog. I asked Danny if there’s any chance we’ll see Harvin this year, and for the latest on Rice and Miller:

Yes, there’s hope that Percy will return in 2013. Most of the prognoses I’ve seen from actual doctors and people in the medical profession (and/or people familiar with athlete performance and recuperation from this specific hip labrum injury) put his timetable for return at probably around three to four months. This is the timetable that the Seahawks reportedly have set as a goal for his return as well.

Obviously, there are a million caveats to go with any prediction as to how a human being will react to surgery/treatment, and this assumes he won’t suffer any setbacks, but a late November or early December return is what most Seahawks fans are hoping for or expecting. Some have braced for the idea that Percy won’t be back this season, but I’d say the overall consensus would be that Percy returns for Seattle’s Week 13 or Week 14 game – those being the December 2nd game against the Saints in Seattle on MNF or the December 8th game against the Niners at Candlestick. The plan then, I’d guess, would be to install the schematic wrinkles they had in mind for Percy into the offense over the last few regular season games, phasing him back in slowly, and have him at full speed in time for a playoffs push over the last few weeks or playoffs run once they’ve clinched. Of course, best laid plans…

As for Sidney Rice, I don’t actually read too much into that injury, or not at this point, anyway. From what I understand, Rice went to Switzerland to receive platelet-rich plasma injections for patella tendinitis that had been causing some soreness in his knee. This isn’t a situation that will keep him out of games and shouldn’t be an issue short term. Longer-term? Who knows. But, for now, I’m going on with the assumption that Rice will be ready to go at the beginning of the season. Reports out of camp on Monday indicated that he was running normally.

Miller’s injury situation is slightly more worrying. Apparently, the foot injury that has kept Miller out of training camp and the Seahawks’ first preseason game is unrelated to the torn plantar fascia injury from last season, but obviously, chronic problems in that area could be an issue for a guy who was asked to run routes and block in-line on 83% of Seattle’s total offensive snaps in 2012. Exacerbating this is the fact that Miller’s trusty backup and two tight end set partner Anthony McCoy tore his achilles during the offseason and will miss the whole year. McCoy, who played in 46% of Seattle’s offensive snaps, will be missed immensely, and as it looks now, Seattle will depend on 2nd year TE Sean McGrath and rookie Luke Willson should Miller miss any time. This has caused me some consternation. I’m going to be looking for Seattle to possibly swing a trade or trawl the waiver wires at roster cut-downs for more depth in this spot.

Finally, the defending NFC Champion 49ers are dealing with a couple of key injuries at wide receiver. Let’s bring in Danny Tuccitto (@FO_DTuccitto), staff writer at Football Outsiders and Footballguys.com, to discuss his favorite team. I asked Danny for the latest on Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham injuries, and for an update on South Carolina rookie running back Marcus Lattimore:

As of right now, both wideouts are on the preseason PUP list. Barring any setbacks, San Francisco will activate Manningham in a couple of weeks and move Crabtree to the regular season PUP list on August 31st. The reasons why they would do that rather than designating Crabtree as their return from injured reserve player are detailed here, but the bottom line is that the Ravens set a precedent last year with Terrell Suggs: Teams only get one IR-designated spot, so not using it on Suggs allowed them to use it on Ray Lewis later on and have both of them available for the playoffs. I guess if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! (See also their signing of Anquan Boldin.)

Regardless though, I don’t see Manningham or Crabtree having much of an impact on the regular season. Looking at Football Outsiders’ injury database, which goes back to 2000, there have been only three even remotely comparable injury situations among wide receivers over the past 13 years:

  • Todd Pinkston, 2005, Philadelphia: He was a 28-year old, four-year starter when he tore his Achilles in August. The timing of the injury doesn’t match Crabtree’s, but it’s noteworthy that Pinkston never played again.
  • Kevin Dyson, 2003, Carolina: He was a 28-year old, four-year starter (with Tennessee) when he tore his Achilles in June. Carolina put Dyson on the PUP list and activated him in November, but he only played five games (including playoffs), catching two passes and returning two kickoffs. Like Pinkston, that ended up being his last season in the league.
  • Demaryius Thomas, 2011, Denver: He was a 24-year old projected starter when he tore his Achilles in February. He healed in time to make the active roster coming out of training camp, and ended up playing in 13 games (including playoffs), starting seven. He didn’t really become the Demaryius Thomas we know today until December and January, though. (Who am I kidding? That was just divine intervention.)

Obviously, with a sample size of three, the margin of error (for lack of a better term) here is enormous, but given the various factors involved (i.e., age, previous NFL wear and tear, injury timing), I’d expect Crabtree to produce something between what Dyson and Thomas gave their respective teams: say, a per-game average of four catches for 50 yards in December and January.

With respect to Manningham, he only played 48.5% of snaps in 11 full games last season, so I don’t see playing a higher percentage than that (or producing more in the stats department) coming off of two torn knee ligaments. Yes, the 49ers are desperate for warm bodies at wide receiver until Crabtree comes back, but I think that they will work around that in an X’s and O’s way, not by forcing the situation with Manningham. Since Jim Harbaugh joined the 49ers, I’ve been waiting for him to feature the tight end in San Francisco’s pass offense like he did at Stanford. I think this is the year we finally see that.

As far as Lattimore goes, he’s on the non-football injury list right now. And given that Jim Harbaugh seems to put baby in a corner whenever possible, I’d be shocked if Lattimore wasn’t redshirted this season. Barring any setbacks with his knee (or the Bubonic Plague hitting San Francisco’s backfield), he probably won’t see regular season action until 2014. Both Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter will be free agents in March 2015, so there’s incentives on both sides (i.e., Lattimore and the 49ers’ front office) to give him every chance to prove himself next season.

Thanks to everyone for contributing. This was a lot of fun to host, and if you enjoyed, be sure to tell your favorite writers!

  1. Regular readers may recall I interviewed Stradley as part of this article about Gary Kubiak last season. []
  • Orange_and_Blue

    Great job and idea. Plenty of intriguing injury situations with more to come, I’m sure.

  • Adam

    Great great work!

  • Richard

    Of course the return of Harvin late in the season could really help the Seahawk offense. But I’m wondering how tough is it going to make it on defenses trying to scout our offense. Adding a top weapon will change the offense considerably and teams simply will not have game tape on us . Could be a great advantage Seahawks !