The football gods never seem satisfied unless the injury bug sidelines at least one big-name player each year in preseason. Maybe they felt like getting an early start this year.
It was a dangerous opening weekend for training camps, as two season-ending injuries took place within a few hours of each other on Saturday. Then another one took place in Denver on Sunday. Not to mention, A.J. Green was just one of a handful of other stars around the league who overcame some nicks that they picked up. But who knows how perilously close they came to joining the growing list of players who will be watching the action from their couches on Sundays? And all this before teams are even hitting each other in practice? Yikes. What did we ever do you to you, football gods?
It's understandable that fans and fantasy owners everywhere started becoming extremely nervous any time breaking camp news would flash across their TV screens, phones or computers, worrying that their favorite players may be next. I've watched NFL football religiously for the better part of 30 years, and while instant access to information wasn't as readily available as it is today, I don't ever recall this many players being so banged up so early. Let's try to dissect what this means from a fantasy perspective.
Jeremy Maclin and Dennis Pitta
By now, you've probably already read as much as you could about these two fantasy starters. Maclin blew out his ACL while Pitta somehow fractured his hip. It's still uncertain exactly what kind of system Chip Kelly will run with the Eagles, but whichever direction he decides to go, Maclin would have played a big role in the receiving game. DeSean Jackson is now Philadelphia's No. 1, but he's more of a burner instead of a true WR1 who can be counted on to haul in 7-10 catches for 100 yards each week. In fact, Jackson may now face his fair share of double coverages if opposing defenses feel comfortable leaving the rest of their secondary on islands against Philly's less proven wideouts. That would also allow defenses to stack the box more and focus on stopping LeSean McCoy. That's why I believe Maclin's injury could prove to have a huge negative ripple effect on Philadelphia's offense as a whole. Chip Kelly will really need to rely on his offensive wizardry to make this situation work.
Pitta, on the other hand, is merely a further depletion of an already thin receiving unit. At least his backup Ed Dickson proved he's capable of producing decent numbers, having posted a career-best in catches (54), yards (528) and touchdowns (5) in 2011. Dickson effectively takes Pitta's place on your draft boards, and you will just need to hope for the best. But the biggest effect of the Pitta injury will be felt by Joe Flacco. When Flacco had trouble finding an open Anquan Boldin on third down last year, he'd look Pitta's way. Now, with Boldin off to San Francisco and Pitta out for the year, Flacco will be left throwing to other unproven outlets. Jacoby Jones is not really a true No. 1, and Torrey Smith is undersized. I'm expecting a down year from Flacco. No wonder he was reportedly looking so bummed at practice on Sunday.
Broncos O-line ailing
It isn't even August, yet the Broncos are already down to Plan C at center. The replacement starting center Dan Koppen was Plan B, but he tore the ACL in his left knee during training-camp practice on Sunday, ending any shot he has of playing this season. Koppen had only been in Denver for about a month after the team's starting center J.D. Walton suffered his own season-ending ankle injury.
That's hardly the extent of Denver's injury issues on their offensive line, though. Left tackle Ryan Clady is still recovering from shoulder surgery and has been limited in practice. Right tackle Orlando Franklin is in the same boat, having had surgery on both his toe and shoulder. And finally, guard Chris Kuper still hasn't even practiced as he recovers from ankle surgery. All of those lingering injury issues should resolve themselves by Week 1, but if they don't, then the fantasy value of every player on Denver's offense could be in real trouble. Peyton Manning will never be confused with Johnny Manziel when it comes to mobility, and not many running backs can produce if defensive linemen and linebackers are in their face a nanosecond after they receive a handoff. I'll be curious to see how well Denver's patchwork line functions in their first preseason game on August 8th at San Francisco. If the offensive line suffers any more setbacks before then, expect to see help wanted ads popping up in Denver newspapers asking local citizens if they are interested in blocking.
>>Blaine Gabbert sprained his ankle in practice on Monday. It's a complete tossup as to who wins the starting QB job between him and Chad Henne, so any time Gabbert misses will only hurt his chances at winning the gig.
>>Dwayne Bowe practiced with the Chiefs after missing time with a chest virus. I have to admit it, I hadn't seen that happen to any other NFL player before. But give Bowe props for not embarrassing himself and failing his fitness test like a seemingly high number of other receivers did entering camp. How Bowe ends up performing with Alex Smith is another interesting storyline for August.
>>Matt Forte recently hinted he was anxious to catch more passes in new coach Marc Trestman's offense. His total catches fell below 50 and total receiving yardage below 490 for the first time in his career last season. Trestman utilized his RBs often during his previous NFL coordinating and coaching stints, so expect Forte to emerge as one of the better PPR running backs this season.
John Juhasz is a fantasy editor at NFL.com. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnJuhasz