When you start counting down NFL teams on June 18, you know things are going to change before you get to No. 1 at the end of July.
Still, this seems a bit extreme.
The past few weeks have had plenty of headlines about holdouts, injuries and Tyreek Hill dodging a suspension. Suddenly we have teams dealing with issues they weren’t anticipating a month ago. Some of these storylines could have a major impact on the season.
Let’s rank the biggest injuries and holdouts, based on the likelihood they linger into the season and how they could impact their teams:
7. New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman’s injury: Edelman ranks the lowest on this list because he’s supposed to be fine by the season opener. Edelman suffered a broken thumb. But it’s a little alarming because New England doesn’t have much else at receiver coming into the season. They need Edelman healthy.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue: ESPN.com pointed out that Ngakoue’s contract is tricky to navigate because the Jaguars have a $16.5 million dead cap hit from releasing Blake Bortles. A horrendous decision to extend Bortles gets even worse. It seems like a good bet that Ngakoue will report and the team will work on a contract solution. They need Ngakoue, one of the league’s underrated pass rushers.
5. Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott’s holdout: It seems like a foregone conclusion that Elliott will report by Aug. 6. He needs to report by then to get an accrued season toward free agency. It’s hard to believe Elliott would push his free agency another year into the future with a holdout, but even if he reports, will he be happy to log another 300-plus carries on a team that might not want to pay him?
4. Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green’s injury: Green had minor surgery on his ankle after injuring it in practice, and coach Zac Taylor said the team expects Green to miss multiple regular-season games. Even if Green misses just two games, that’s a huge blow for a rookie head coach installing a new offense.
3. Washington Redskins OT Trent Williams’ holdout: Whenever the phrase “Ereck Flowers will fill in at left tackle” is used, it’s a scary situation. Williams, a seven-time Pro Bowler, hasn’t reported. He has a contract dispute and also some issues with the team’s medical staff. Of all the situations listed here, this seems like the one that has the best chance to linger well into the season.
2. Los Angeles Chargers RB Melvin Gordon’s holdout and OT Russell Okung’s medical condition: The Chargers have the worst luck. They should have hopes of winning it all, but two huge questions on offense punched them in the face before camp. Gordon wants a contract extension, but the Chargers don’t seem to want to pay him what he wants. Then came news that Okung experienced chest pains and found he had pulmonary embolism caused by blood clots. Okung hopes to return soon, but it’s a scary situation. Football-wise, it’s bad news for an offensive line that was already the weak link of a good team.
1. Houston Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney’s holdout: Technically Clowney isn’t holding out; he hasn’t signed his franchise tag tender. But he’s not in camp and nobody seems to know when he’ll report. Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reported it’s likely Clowney is back before Week 1, but how many times did we hear optimistic reports about Le’Veon Bell last season? Clowney has been the subject of endless trade rumors. Given how the Texans rely so heavily on four superstars and the uncertainty over what Clowney might do, this is the most concerning of the preseason situations.
There are plenty of other situations to monitor over August, as we get the preseason started Thursday night with the Hall of Fame Game. We didn’t adjust the pre-preseason Power Rankings (which were revealed with our team previews over the last few weeks) but there will likely be plenty of changes to the next Power Rankings, which will roll out before Week 1 of the regular season.
Here’s how it stands before the preseason starts, and for a full in-depth preview of each team, click the team name below:
There has been no better peek into what the Cardinals’ new offense could look like than this report from Arizona’s camp by Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson. If you’re curious about Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid, read it.
It makes no sense if Ryan Fitzpatrick starts over Josh Rosen. However, that would be Rosen’s fault. The organization has every reason to start him. But coach Brian Flores can’t start his tenure starting Rosen if he’s clearly being outplayed. Flores would have credibility issues in the locker room if he did so. If Rosen can’t win the job, that’s on him.
I don’t even know what to say about the Raiders promoting new linebacker Vontaze Burfict as a mentor and leader of their locker room.
Golden Tate is unlikely to win an appeal of his PED suspension, Sterling Shepard has a broken thumb and Corey Coleman is done with a torn ACL. Saquon Barkley might get every single touch in the Giants offense this season.
If I had reshuffled the rankings, I’d have moved the Bengals down. A.J. Green’s injury is a huge blow. They lost rookie left tackle Jonah Williams to shoulder surgery and guard Clint Boling to retirement. It has been a bad few weeks for Cincy.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, new Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said he has been to the hospital every year he has coached. His health has been a story through the years, and he doesn’t seem to worry. “You can die at any moment doing anything,” Arians told HBO’s “Real Sports,” via the Times. “I mean, so why not do what you love to do. If I die on game day, have a drink. Celebrate.”
Jay Gruden has a very hot seat coming into the season and knows it. He was forthcoming about that issue with Yahoo Sports’ Kimberley Martin. If you wanted to bet on the first NFL coach fired, Gruden probably tops the list. He needs a fast start.
The addition of defensive lineman Mike Daniels is a good (and unexpected) one before the preseason. If Daniels is healthy, he can be a productive player. Cutting him could end up being a regrettable move by Green Bay.
While the Bills continue to tout LeSean McCoy as their No. 1 back, everyone else seems to believe he could be traded or cut. How the Bills handle McCoy, coming off the worst season of his career, will be a story through August.
Tight end Chris Herndon was suspended four games due to a DWI arrest last year. While Herndon isn’t a household name yet, he’s a very interesting player and losing him for a quarter of the season is a big blow to the Jets.
Emmanuel Sanders’ return from an Achilles injury has been a big topic at Broncos camp. He looks fast and is already back to 11-on-11 drills. We’ll see when games start if he has lost any separation, but he looks good so far and that’s great news for Denver’s offense.
No. 2 overall pick Nick Bosa is over the hamstring injury that set him back earlier this offseason. He is already drawing rave reviews at 49ers camp.
One player to keep a close eye on this season: receiver Dede Westbrook. He has been starring in Jaguars camp. He could have a true breakout season.
Julio Jones hasn’t made a big deal over contract negotiations, taking the angle that the team promised it would take care of him and he believes it. What happens if we get to the end of the month and there’s no deal? Just because Jones is in camp now doesn’t necessarily mean the story is over.
The Titans are being secretive about running back Derrick Henry’s lower-leg injury, but nobody in Nashville seems too worried. It seems the Titans will just be careful, knowing Henry will get all the carries he can handle when the games count.
Since Cam Newton is progressing fine and the Panthers are having a quiet camp, it’s worth mentioning that Amazon’s “All or Nothing” series on the 2018 Panthers was fantastic. If you haven’t seen “All or Nothing,” you’re missing out. It’s better than “Hard Knocks.”
Dalvin Cook is healthy and ready to have a big workload. “I was brought here to do a job, and my job is to carry the football as many times as they want to hand it to me,’’ Cook told Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
The Jarran Reed six-game suspension is bad news for the Seahawks. Seattle already had a lot of pass-rush questions, and Reed had 10.5 sacks last season.
John Harbaugh is already predicting more than 139 carries (Cam Newton’s career high) for Lamar Jackson. It makes sense. There’s no real reason to believe a quarterback has more of a health risk running the ball than a running back. It’s just that if the starting quarterback goes down like running backs often do, it’s much tougher to replace him.
The timing of a one-year extension for Mike Tomlin was curious. It seemed a message to impatient Steelers backers to not bother complaining about Tomlin, because he’s not on the hot seat.
The most interesting scenario with Jadeveon Clowney’s discontent over his contract is the Texans trading him. Hey, at this time last year Khalil Mack was holding out from the Raiders and we figured he’d report at some point.
Now that Michael Thomas has gotten his huge deal from the Saints, all eyes turn to Amari Cooper. Thomas got $20 million per season, and Cooper probably will be asking for something similar. If he gets paid before Dak Prescott or Ezekiel Elliott, that will turn some heads.
Already the coaches are publicly criticizing tight end David Njoku. It’s not the best sign that they feel Njoku still needs to be motivated that way.
When a player gets cut in late July and immediately signs a one-year, $9.1 million deal elsewhere, someone screwed up. Either the Lions were crazy to overpay defensive lineman Mike Daniels, or the Packers dumped a potential impact player and got no 2019 benefit out of it.
This is the one team, as I wrote all the previews, that I regretted having too low. The roster is loaded, and I shouldn’t have hedged so much on Carson Wentz’s health. Philadelphia seems confident he’ll stay healthy, having given him a huge extension already.
I like the confidence Mitchell Trubisky exuded to Yahoo Sports’ Eric Edholm. Trubisky is right. You can talk yourself into the Bears offense being much better this season.
I think the Chargers have the leverage in the Melvin Gordon holdout. I like to see players get paid and Gordon is very good, but I think Los Angeles knows it will be fine with Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson. (Still, Philip Rivers shouldn’t have said it.)
At what point do we get worried about this Andrew Luck calf injury? Not yet? OK, but I don’t want to hear about any more setbacks.
Chris Jones reported. Tyreek Hill wasn’t suspended (and we’ll assume his quad injury will be OK). Frank Clark already is impressing the team. It has been a good start to camp for the Chiefs.
One player I’m interested to see this preseason is Teddy Bridgewater. He was great last preseason, not so good in Week 17 last season, but still lines up at Drew Brees’ successor, if Brees ever retires.
I’m fascinated by Sean McVay admitting to Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson that he knew during the Super Bowl that Bill Belichick had out-coached him. It was a surprising bit of candor.
It’s concerning that 2018 first-round pick Isaiah Wynn is still working back from an Achilles injury. He’s penciled in as the Patriots’ starting left tackle. Guard Joe Thuney is next in line, and while he’s a good player, shifting him from guard to tackle is not ideal. Yet, because it’s the Patriots, there doesn’t seem to be any worry over left tackle because they always figure it out.
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