As we continue our dive into injury issues that can affect games this season. We have reviewed the top-five quarterback and running back issues. (Indeed our doubts on Jerick McKinnon recovery from ACL surgery seem to be coming true with PRP injection and missing several weeks now.) Today, we follow with wide receivers and will then finally get to tight ends.
Here are the top five wide receiver health issues this preseason:
Antonio Brown, Oakland Raiders
Despite much talk and concern about his feet, I have and continue to believe his feet will be fine well before the regular season. I have written that the cause is not just the cryotherapy but a form of “trench foot”. Of course, the missed training camp time could hurt the rapport with Derek Carr and the rest of the offense. The helmet issue seems silly but I don’t see how that doesn’t go away. I don’t see how Brown will walk away from $30 million-plus. And if he does, his current foot situation won’t be the reason.
AJ Green, Cincinnati Bengals
The star wide receiver dealt with right turf toe for a majority of the 2018 season. He first injured it in Week 8 and missed three games. He re-injured the ankle in Week 12 and missed the rest of the season. Green had surgery on “toe ligaments” which in this case means the repair of the plantar plate. One might think a toe injury is not a big deal, but this one is; it is the main joint in the big toe which is responsible for at least 50% of a player’s push-off, acceleration, and cutting. Green missed all of OTAs but was medically cleared in June. This doesn’t mean he will be 100% because this type of injury can be very impactful to a wide receiver and full recovery can take 6-9 months, not the 3-4 that had been widely reported. The new issue is Green was carted off during early training camp during 7-on-7 drills. By my video analysis, he suffered a significant left high ankle sprain. This is not the same foot that bothered him last year. He underwent arthroscopic surgery and is said to miss about eight weeks. The scope was to remove some chips and that part will recover quickly. The issue is the ankle ligament tear. My over/under on his return is Week 3. And when he returns, there may be a few weeks of acclimation before he is 100%.
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
Hopkins “tore shoulder ligaments off the bone” in Houston’s playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts. Even with a presumed grade 3 (severe) AC joint sprain, it didn’t require surgery. There is a deformity (bump) visually, but that does not translate to impairment. Hopkins did start training camp on PUP list but that was for a minor ankle issue. His health seems fine and the PUP is more like veteran rest for the start of camp and he has already been activated. Expect Hopkins to start the season fully healthy. Pair that with a healthy quarterback and watch out.
Julian Edelman, New England Patriots
Edelman overcame a 2017 ACL tear to be last year’s Super Bowl MVP. The knee is fully behind him now but a new issue has cropped up. He is said to miss “multiple weeks” with a thumb injury where he was seen at a kids camp with a small splint/brace on the base of his thumb. He was placed on NFI, which seems unusual if a player was doing football activities, even if away from the facility. New England worked out some receivers but that doesn’t mean it is looking for a long-term replacement. Looking at the splint, I am not worried about Edelman starting the regular season. I have optimism for a healthy start to 2019. Given his 2017 ACL tear in the preseason and his familiarity with the system, I would expect to see Edelman for the first time in Week 1 for game action.
Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens’ first-round pick continues the tradition of angst about the health of top pick wide receivers in Baltimore. Fans are leery of team reports and have never forgotten the last first-round wide receiver pick Breshad Perriman who started his rookie campaign as “day-to-day” on his knee ligament issue before that ultimately turned into missing the whole season and then washing out quickly and moving on. I am not saying that Brown will suffer the same fate but there remains a concern. He had Lisfranc (midfoot) surgery coming out of college. The Ravens medical staff examined him several times (Combines, recheck Combines, and even brought him to Baltimore for a visit). While this is good news, if there were no worries, why did they need three visits? Sure enough, draft day optimism has now turned to concern. Reports are that he had yet to begin to run as of the July hiatus. I am not saying his career is in jeopardy but he is already missing the start of training camp on the NFI list. Brown has run on the side and looked good in terms of speed in a straight line. He has now been cleared to practice with the team but a player needs to run for a month and more before he is able to plant and cut aggressively. Factor in that rookie wide receivers traditionally have an adjustment period, that Brown has missed the entire offseason program, is a smaller receiver who will need to rely on quickness for separation, and will have a still-inexperienced quarterback throwing to him given Lamar Jackson’s lack of starts, that all leads me to conclude Brown will have a rough start. Perhaps he can recover enough to be effective later this season but as a result of his injury, he is a clear risk at this point. His first-year production seems questionable to me.
Demaryius Thomas will end up on PUP and miss at least the first six weeks given the way he looked to me in a recent video coming off Achilles surgery. Emmanuel Sanders is much further ahead from his Achilles surgery and is practicing but probably will not be 100% until later this season. Will Fuller has his straight line speed back coming off of ACL surgery but may not have crisp cuts yet. Sterling Shepard will be fine from his thumb fracture by Week 1 and should not be limited. Look for a big year from Anthony Miller who played thru an unstable shoulder in his rookie campaign and his offseason shoulder surgery should help his game tremendously. Christian Kirk may be poised for a big year as long as his foot issues do not recur and there is a chance for that.
Next up: tight ends including Delanie Walker, Evan Engram, Greg Olsen, Travis Kelce, Hunter Henry, and more.