Will Andy Dalton’s Injury Launch the Justin Fields Era in Chicago?
With rookie first-round pick Justin Fields waiting in the wings, the Bears understandably opted to throw veteran bridge quarterback Andy “Red Rifle” Dalton to the wolves in a Week 1 prime-time road matchup with Aaron Donald and the Los Angeles Rams.
That didn’t go well, but Dalton got one more start Sunday against Cincinnati. After that, the question is whether Dalton will start again in Chicago after suffering a knee injury in the 20-17 victory over the Bengals. Fields replaced Dalton and struggled with just six completions and an interception on 13 attempts, but he did rush for 31 yards. He told the media afterward that he wasn’t “pleased” with his performance, but his head coach sounds OK with making the change if Dalton has to miss time.
“Like I’ve said with Justin, he’s probably further along than we thought at this point right now,” Matt Nagy said after Sunday’s game. “If that’s the case [and Dalton has to miss time], we feel good about it with Justin. He has worked really, really hard to get to this point.”
Dalton is a backup-caliber player. But, unfortunately, he doesn’t give the Bears a better chance of beating the Browns next week than Fields does. So it’s time to launch the Fields era, regardless of Dalton’s status.
Deja Vu in Philly as 2 Key Eagles Trench Players Are Injured
The Eagles spent much of last season without multiple key offensive linemen as Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Andre Dillard, and Isaac Seumalo suffered severe injuries. However, those ghosts returned in the trenches for Philly on Sunday, with Brooks (pectoral) and veteran defensive end Brandon Graham (Achilles) going down in the 17-11 home loss to the 49ers.
The former will have an MRI to determine the seriousness of his injury, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, while ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports Graham has a torn Achilles. He’s done for the year.
These hits are brutal because the Eagles entered this season loaded with question marks essentially everywhere except along both lines. Sure, they could most afford to lose a defensive lineman in particular, but they weren’t a contender, to begin with, and now it’s even more challenging to see them surprising in 2021.
The Steelers Are Toast Without T.J. Watt
The margin for error is even smaller for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North, especially after losing to the Raiders in Week 2. This team hemorrhaged talent and experience in the offseason, and star edge defender T.J. Watt is a question mark after suffering a groin injury Sunday.
Watt’s partner in crime, Bud Dupree, escaped in free agency in March, and the team didn’t have the means to replace him with a veteran of similar caliber.
Established Steelers defenders Devin Bush and Joe Haden didn’t play at all Sunday due to their own groin injuries, and Pittsburgh gave up 425 yards and 26 points to a so-so Raiders team traveling cross-country on short rest.
There’s no word yet on Watt’s status, but a Week 3 game with the Cincinnati Bengals won’t be a walk in the park sans Watt and Co. And after that, they have to go to Lambeau Field.
Without Watt for multiple weeks, it’s easy to see Pittsburgh falling behind quickly in that strong division.
Tyrod Taylor Injury Gives the Texans a Chance to Assess Their Future at QB
Tyrod Taylor’s injury might not impact the playoff field this winter, because the Texans aren’t expected to contend anyway. But with the 32-year-old going down with a hamstring injury Sunday in Cleveland, the Texans will have a chance to assess rookie third-round pick Davis Mills.
Taylor is likely just a bridge quarterback, but he’s been QB1 in Houston as incumbent starter Deshaun Watson faces 22 lawsuits and ten criminal complaints from women accusing him of sexual assault or sexual misconduct while he received massages (allegations he denies).
A Watson trade looks like a strong possibility at some point between now and the 2022 season, so the Texans must get a feel for Mills’ ability before navigating free agency and the draft next year.
You hope Taylor will be OK, but Mills’ starting debut will be intriguing Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers.
The Broncos Can’t Afford to Lose Bradley Chubb
The Denver Broncos won just five games in 2020, but they were 4-2 in contests in which pass-rushing star Bradley Chubb recorded at least one sack. The fifth pick in the 2018 draft made his first Pro Bowl, but he entered this season hampered by an ankle injury.
That held him out of Denver’s Week 1 game against the New York Giants. And although he made his season debut Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he left the game in the first half and did not return, and his status for next week is unclear.
With the margin for error minuscule in an AFC West that contains the Super Bowl favorite Kansas City Chiefs and the rising Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers, the 2-0 Broncos would be in serious trouble if Chubb were to miss an extended period.
Von Miller recorded two sacks in Week 1, but he’s 32 and has also had trouble with durability, and there isn’t a lot else on edge in Denver. The Broncos sacked Jags quarterback Trevor Lawrence just once Sunday in the 23-13 win.