No one likes to see injuries in the NFL, but they’re an unfortunate reality of pro football. As teams ramp up for the start of the regular season, which health issues will most heavily affect rosters, depth charts, and game-planning? Let’s go around the league and look at the most critical injury situations in the NFL.
NFL Injuries To Watch in 2023
Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals
Murray was never expected to be ready for Week 1 after tearing his ACL in December. The Cardinals kept him on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list this week, meaning he’ll miss at least the first four games of the season.
However, depending on how Arizona performs in the early portion of the year, there seems to be a decent chance Murray could be shut down for the entire campaign. If the Cardinals have one or two wins with Josh Dobbs/Clayton Tune under center, will they be motivated to bring Murray back from the injured list, especially if they’re in line to receive the top pick in the 2024 draft?
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Although Taylor was thought to be suffering from “contract-itis,” the Colts kept him on the PUP list this week after failing to trade him by their self-imposed Tuesday deadline. Taylor is still recovering from an ankle injury that cost him time in 2022, but his contractual situation has taken center stage recently.
Indianapolis, which doesn’t plan to extend Taylor before his rookie deal ends after this season, can still move the fourth-year running back before the NFL’s Oct. 31 trade deadline. However, the Colts’ asking price — which reportedly included Jaylen Waddle in talks with the Dolphins — remains absurd.
Breece Hall, RB, New York Jets
Hall was on PUP for much of the summer before being activated in August. While the 2022 second-round pick is expected to be available for Week 1, Jets head coach Robert Saleh said the club will “have to be smart” with how they use Hall, at least early on, as he works his way back from an October ACL tear.
Breece Hall had some creative usages last season in his brief 7 game campaign
Fun 99 touches to study… IZ/OZ, Inside quick hitters, perimeter tosses/flips, and lots of featuring in the pass game! I think back to Hackett/LaFleur using Aaron Jones very similar pic.twitter.com/IS7GF9OVrz
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) July 24, 2023
New York signed Dalvin Cook to help carry the load while Hall is sprinkled into the Jets’ offense. Cook, who underwent offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum, returned to practice this week and should be ready for the start of the season.
Miami Dolphins RBs
The Dolphins somewhat surprisingly placed Jeff Wilson Jr. on injured reserve on Thursday as he continues to deal with midsection and finger injuries. Because Wilson made Miami’s initial 53-man roster, he’s eligible to return after a minimum four-game absence.
With Wilson sidelined, Raheem Mostert is in line to take over as the Dolphins’ top running back at the start of the season, but Miami will work in rookie third-rounder De’Von Achane and veteran Salvon Ahmed. Both backs are dealing with minor injuries, but head coach Mike McDaniel said both should return to practice by the beginning of next week.
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Denver Broncos
Having already lost Tim Patrick for the season, the Broncos couldn’t really afford any wide receiver injury — but they got one anyway.
Jeudy was carted off the practice field in late August with what was later determined to be a hamstring injury. NFL Network reported Jeudy was expected to miss “several weeks” after going down on Aug. 24. However, Denver didn’t place Jeudy on IR, meaning they’re optimistic he can return to action within the first quarter of the season.
Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington Commanders
McLaurin suffered a turf toe injury in the Commanders’ second preseason game, leaving his status for Week 1 up in the air. While the club has “optimism” that McLaurin will be available, it still might be too early to tell whether he’ll be on the field against the Cardinals.
Fortunately, it doesn’t sound like McLaurin will miss much time after Week 1 — if he misses Week 1 at all. In the meantime, first-year starter Sam Howell would have to rely on other receiving options like Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel until McLaurin returned.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Seattle Seahawks
Things are looking up for Smith-Njigba, who broke a bone in his left wrist in the preseason and underwent surgery last week. The 20th overall pick in April’s draft, JSN has already practiced for two straight days despite just having surgery. Seattle would be fine with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett as their top two WRS, but it sounds like Smith-Njigba has a chance to be ready for Week 1.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba back at practice today. pic.twitter.com/uNLQV54z43
— Bob Condotta (@bcondotta) August 29, 2023
“He’s doing remarkably well,” head coach Pete Carroll said this week. “I saw him respond to the injury at the outset, and then I saw him respond to when they told him he’s going to have to get operated on, and so I’m not surprised at the attitude that he’s brought post-surgery.
“He’s out here working, catching balls, catching punts, doing everything. He ain’t worried about it. It could have gone a number of different ways. It’s gone the way of the competitor. He’s not going to be denied. He wants to play football.”
Austin Corbett, G, Carolina Panthers
Frank Reich has said all offseason that Corbett wasn’t expected to be ready for the start of the season, so it wasn’t surprising when the Panthers transferred him to the reserve/PUP list this week.
With Corbett sidelined, fourth-round rookie Chandler Zavala and holdover Cade Mays are candidates to start at right guard. But Reich has been coy about which player is the favorite to play along a Carolina offensive line that struggled to protect Bryce Young during the preseason.
Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer said Thursday that the team will aim to add a veteran lineman in the near future.
Teven Jenkins, G, Chicago Bears
Jenkins moved from right to left guard this offseason after the Bears signed Nate Davis in free agency, but he’ll have to wait a little longer to debut at his new position. Chicago placed Jenkins on IR with a leg injury this week, but the team expects him to be ready to return after his mandated four-game absence.
With Jenkins sidelined, the Bears will reconfigure their starting offensive line, moving Cody Whitehair from center to left guard while inserting Lucas Patrick at the pivot. Shifting OL positions this close to Week 1 is never ideal, but Whitehair and Patrick are experienced at multiple spots. Chicago also picked up guard Dan Feeney from the Dolphins as additional depth.
Houston Texans OL
The Texans were expected to field an above-average offensive line in front of rookie starting quarterback C.J. Stroud, but their front five depth is already being tested.
Kenyon Green, the No. 15 pick in last year’s draft, went on IR earlier this week with multiple injuries, including a shoulder issue. Because he wasn’t placed on Houston’s initial 53-man roster, Green is ineligible to play this season. He’ll be replaced by trade acquisition Kendrick Green (no relation).
The Texans will also have to determine how to replace second-rounder Juice Scruggs, who was expected to start at center. Fellow rookie Jarrett Patterson or practice squader Michael Deiter could be options in the middle. Meanwhile, right tackle Tytus Howard might not be ready for Week 1 after undergoing hand surgery in early August.
Von Miller, EDGE, Buffalo Bills
Although Miller was optimistic he could be available for the start of the 2023 season after tearing his ACL last Thanksgiving, the veteran pass rusher also repeatedly said he would trust the advice of Buffalo’s medical staff as he recovers.
The Bills kept Miller on PUP this week, so he’ll be sidelined for at least four games. But Buffalo wants to ensure he’s back when things really count later in the season and into the playoffs. The Bills will lean on Greg Rousseau and Leonard Floyd on the edge in the interim.
Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Cincinnati Bengals
Ossai suffered a right ankle injury in the Bengals’ final preseason game, but Cincinnati didn’t place him on IR to begin the year. Head coach Zac Taylor said the club is still assessing Ossai’s injury — he could theoretically still be moved to the injured list before the season begins.
If Ossai goes on IR, I would expect Stanley Morgan to be elevated to the 53. https://t.co/Nt7gzkjhsN
— Jay Morrison (@ByJayMorrison) August 31, 2023
Ossai wasn’t a projected starter, but he was expected to see ample snaps behind Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard. If Ossai has to miss time, the Bengals will rely on Cam Sample and first-round rookie Myles Murphy to step up until he can return.
Jalen Ramsey, CB, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins formally placed Ramsey on IR on Thursday, a transaction that was fully expected ever since the veteran defensive back underwent a full meniscus repair in late July. Ramsey will likely be sidelined until at least December.
There’s no way for Miami to truly replace Ramsey, who remains one of the NFL’s top corners. Eli Apple won the starting outside cornerback job opposite Xavien Howard, while Kader Kohou will play in the slot for the Dolphins.
Marlon Humphrey, CB, Baltimore Ravens
Humphrey is expected to miss time at the beginning of the season after undergoing foot surgery in mid-August, but the Ravens didn’t put him on IR this week. That means Baltimore thinks Humphrey can return to the lineup before Week 5.
The Ravens will likely field an all-new cornerback rotation in 2023, at least to begin the year. Rock Ya-Sin is slated to start at one outside spot, while recent free agent addition Ronald Darby could fill in at the other. Meanwhile, Arthur Maulet — another external singing — will line up at nickel.
Devon Witherspoon, CB, Seattle Seahawks
Witherspoon, the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft, has been out of Seahawks practice since injuring his hamstring on Aug. 7. Pete Carroll, never one to be forthcoming with injury information, has unsurprisingly refused to offer many particulars about Witherspoon’s return.
When asked after practice about Witherspoon’s status, Pete Carroll said he wasn’t talking about injuries today.
Asked how far behind Witherspoon is with his injury absence of more than 3 weeks, Carroll said: “Neeeeext,” with the syllable elongated for emphasis. https://t.co/0myBqlTJzj
— Gregg Bell (@gbellseattle) August 31, 2023
The Seahawks have the cornerback depth to get by without Witherspoon temporarily. Riq Woolen and Mike Jackson would start on the outside with Coby Bryant in the slot, while Seattle also has a host of safeties capable of playing nickel.