The 2014 NFL season is officially underway. So far, the big stories from the league have not been so positive, unfortunately. The off the field issues with players such as Josh Gordon, Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and Greg Hardy have taken the public’s attention away from the games. The league is addressing these issues; but so far has not done so in the way the general public would have liked. Now the league’s front office is in a pickle as they try to figure out what exactly went wrong in their handling of these issues.
Aside for that black mark, the other major not-so-positive story has to do with injuries. It seems like every player is getting injured early this season. Some of these injuries have come to some teams’ most important players. Injuries to these types of players can end a team’s hopes of making the playoffs.
This list consists of injured players who are key pieces to the success of their team. However, since the big stories have revolved around players getting injured early in the season, players who were injured prior to the start of the regular season will not be included. This means big name players such as NaVorro Bowman and Danny Trevathan will not show up despite them being extremely important to the success of their teams.
10. Maurice Jones-Drew — RB — Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders’ brought in Maurice Jones-Drew to add a bit of firepower to their offense. Jones-Drew was once one of the league’s most explosive players. Injuries have set him back in the past couple of seasons, but he still has the ability to make some big plays. MJD injured his hand in the first week of the season against the New York Jets. He did undergo a minor surgery for the injury, but there were no broken bones. He was held out of the Raiders’ week two matchup against the Houston Texans. He may return quickly, but the injury could affect his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. This is a skill that the Raiders need very much especially since they are letting their rookie quarterback, Derek Carr start.
9. Vernon Davis — TE — San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers may have a lot of injuries on the defensive side of the ball, but now they have a concern on offense as well. Vernon Davis left the 49ers’ week two matchup against the Dallas Cowboys with an ankle injury. The injury does not appear to be severe and it is unlikely Davis will miss much time because of it. However, this type of injury will very much affect his ability to run routes precisely and at top speed. Davis is the 49ers’ most reliable target in the passing game. If something were to happen to worsen this injury it would be the most devastating thing that could happen to the 49ers’ offense.
8. Eric Berry — S — Kansas City Chiefs
After suffering from quad contusions during the Chiefs’ week one matchup against the Tennessee Titans, safety Eric Berry was declared active for week two. Berry’s practice week was very limited and it almost looked like he would miss the game against the Broncos. Early on in the matchup, Berry suffered a heel injury and would not return for the rest of the game. The Chiefs cannot afford to lose Berry. He is a three-time Pro Bowler and is arguably the best safety in the game. Adding him to the team’s long list of injured defensive starters would be disastrous.
7. Marcedes Lewis — TE — Marcedes Lewis
The loss of Jaguars’ tight end Marcedes Lewis may not seem like a huge deal. However, Lewis is one of the team’s few veterans on the offensive side of the ball. He suffered a high ankle sprain in the third quarter of the Jaguars’ week two matchup against the Washington Redskins. He is expected to miss anywhere from four to eight weeks of the season. The Jaguars are already hurting for receivers. Justin Blackmon and Ace Sanders are both serving suspensions. Cecil Shorts has missed the first two games of the season with a hamstring injury and there is no time table set for a return. Without Lewis, the team is going to have to completely rely on a group of rookie receivers.
6. Jadeveon Clowney — LB — Houston Texans
Jadeveon Clowney was the first overall pick in the 2014 draft by the Houston Texans. The former South Carolina standout was lining up at outside linebacker in the Texans’ 3-4 scheme. He was paired on the same side as star defensive end, J.J. Watt. The two of them were so dominant in the preseason. After the poor season the team suffered in 2013, it looked like combination of Watt and Clowney were going to lift the Texans to a possible playoff run. Unfortunately, Clowney tore a meniscus in week one against the Washington Redskins and will miss the next four to six weeks of the season. The Texans are still off to a winning start, but the schedule is about to get much tougher.
5. Robert Griffin III — QB — Washington Redskins
The loss of Robert Griffin III would have been much higher on this list had Kirk Cousins not led the Redskins’ offense to a 41-10 victory in week two over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Griffin dislocated his ankle early in the matchup before being replaced by Cousins. It is possible Griffin could return in 2014. This could be where the real problem starts. If Cousins continues to perform the way he did against the Jaguars, there will be players in the locker room who would want Cousins to remain the starter. The possibility of having Griffin come back this season sets up the possibility of a split locker room. There is an old saying among football coaches: “when you have two quarterbacks, you have zero quarterbacks.”
4. Eric Decker — WR — New York Jets
Eric Decker was picked up by the New York Jets to be the major offensive weapon Geno Smith needed in order to develop as a young quarterback. The wide receiver was limited throughout training camp due to a hamstring injury. Decker aggravated that hamstring in the Jets’ week two matchup against the Green Bay Packers. The only problem is that it appears this time the hamstring injury is much more severe. Without Decker, the Jets have no legitimate receiving targets for Geno.
3. Ryan Mathews — RB — San Diego Chargers
It will not come as a surprise to a lot of people that Ryan Mathews is injured once again. In fact, last season was the first time in his career that he was able to play a full 16 game season. Mathews proved in 2013 just how important he is to the Chargers’ offense. He rushed for 1,255 yards; the most by a Charger since LaDainian Tomlinson was with the team. Mathews also led the NFL in games with over 100 rushing yards. The Chargers’ running attack was a major reason why the team was able to gain a playoff berth despite being in the toughest division in the NFL. This season was looking even better for the Chargers. In week two, Mathews sprained his MCL against the Seattle Seahawks. He is expected to miss four or five games. Luckily, the Chargers added running back Donald Brown for depth. Brown may not be able to completely replace Mathews, but he will do fine working in tandem with the Chargers’ other talented back Danny Woodhead.
2. Vontaze Burfict — LB — Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals’ star linebacker, Vontaze Burfict suffered a concussion in week one against the Baltimore Ravens. He was cleared to play in week two against the Atlanta Falcons. This may not have been a good decision. Burfict left the game in the third quarter after taking another hit to the head. It looked like the concussion resurged. The last thing the Bengals need is to lose their best defensive player. Burfict has led the team in tackles in each of his first two seasons. He even led the league in tackles last year.
1. Jamaal Charles — RB — Kansas City Chiefs
The possibility of Jamaal Charles missing time could spell the end of the Chiefs’ playoff hopes in 2014. Charles left the week two matchup against the Denver Broncos after taking just two carries. It is unclear whether he will miss any playing time. However, an injury like this one definitely hurts his ability to cut and run at top speed. Without a completely healthy Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs have no offensive firepower whatsoever.