NFL Preseason Injury Outlook: Tight Ends

As we continue our dive into NFL injury issues that can affect games this football season. We have reviewed the top five quarterback, running back, and wide receiver issues.

Indeed our doubts on Marquise Brown seem to be coming true with his missing practice again only two days after being activated off NFI. Today, we follow with the tight ends. 

Here are the top five tight end health issues this preseason:

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Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

The star tight end has had multiple foot issues over the last two seasons and is now 34 years old. In 2017, Olsen broke his foot in Week 2, had surgery, and missed eight games.

Last year, he broke the same foot in Week 1 and missed only three games, but had to deal with a compensatory injury to his plantar fascia and did not finish the season.

Olsen avoided the PUP list going into training camp and has been a full participant during team drills.

Given his age and the recurrent foot issues, it remains to be seen if Olsen can make it through 16 games.

Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

Kelce missed all of spring programs after undergoing surgery to clean out his left ankle. The troublesome left ankle has bothered him for up to three years. Five months removed from the surgery, Kelce passed his physical and participated in practice during training camp on July 24.

He will be ready for the new season after being cleared to practice and I don’t expect the ankle to get in the way of the perennial Pro Bowler. In fact, the surgery may help him play even better, if that is possible.

Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans

The productive tight end’s season ended early after he broke his right ankle and tore ligaments during Week 1. Although he is 35, he is still a very important part of Titans offense.

He was back during OTAs running drills, but expect Walker to have a slower start to the season before regaining his form.

Walker avoided PUP and passed his physical but recently had said he felt 85%. Given the injury and his age, one cannot expect him to be the same as before although he could still produce.

Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers

Henry tore his ACL at mini-camp 2018. He missed the entire year and came back to play in the Chargers’ second playoff game but was ineffective with one target on 14 snaps.

Given the almost year and a half since injury, I expect him to exceed his rookie year form and watch for a big year for Henry.

Hayden Hurst, Baltimore Ravens

Last year’s first-round pick also had injury issues. He had a stress fracture in his left foot that needed surgery in the preseason. Initial overly optimistic reports of missing only 3-4 weeks turned into 6 weeks and even then when he returned he only had one catch for seven yards in three games.

After a very disappointing rookie campaign of only 13 catches for 163 yards, one might expect a significant jump this year. However, Hurst is not in the clear for three reasons.

First, stress fractures in the foot can recur (see Greg Olson, Dez Bryant, Julian Edelman, and others). Second, he has added 20 pounds of muscle this offseason to help durability at the NFL level debut that could put more stress on the foot. 

His statement that this should “protect his foot” does not make medical sense. More weight equals more force that the foot will have to absorb. Third, don’t forget the high chance of bilaterally where the other foot can be vulnerable to stress injury.

One can hope for but cannot guarantee a big year given his re-injury risk. The TE could become his young QB’s favorite target and safety blanket. The easiest throws are traditionally to the TE, but that is assuming he stays healthy.

Bonus Report:

Tyler Eifert may seem injury prone but is not and could finally have a good year coming off an ankle fracture.

Jack Doyle’s hip and kidney issues should be behind him.

Evan Engram should be healthy after his MCL injury last season.

Tyler Kroft had a second break to the same foot and needs to be treated with caution as Jones fractures do recur.

Jake Butt avoided PUP but is not 100% yet after another ACL tear.

Cameron Brate could have a bounce-back year after hip surgery.

Father time should be a bigger concern than Jimmy Graham’s thumb injury from last season.

Will Dissly avoided PUP but expect him to struggle early on after a patella tendon tear last year.

Next up: Offensive line issues before we hit the defensive side.