The dreaded injury bug hit a couple teams hard in the first week of training camp, with Philadelphia’s
Jeremy Maclin and Baltimore’s
Dennis Pitta both lost for the season. Maclin went down with a torn ACL in his right knee suffered in a no-contact, 7-on-7 drill. Pitta has already had surgery on his hip, which he hurt in a back of the end zone collision. These are both significant injuries as neither team is particularly deep at the affected position. Let’s look at the Maclin injury first.
Maclin led the Eagles in receiving yards with 857 and caught seven touchdowns in 2012. That is a lot of production that Philadelphia needs to make up in a hurry.
DeSean Jackson likely will end up the beneficiary of more targets as he is their most established receiver, increasing his overall fantasy value. Jackson will continue to be their deep threat and will likely see more short passes and bubble screens in Chip Kelly’s new offense. Someone will have to fill Maclin’s shoes, though, from what is a relatively weak position group.
Jason Avant seems to be the likely guy to fill the vacated role as he finished with 53 grabs for 648 yards last year on 76 targets. The wideout hasn’t really been a big touchdown producer, with his season high being only three touchdowns in seven years in the league. I would think Avant may be able to get close to the 1,000-yard mark with a handful of touchdowns this season given the extra work. He may now be a viable fantasy option to stash on your bench while you see how things in Philly shake out.
The rest of the wide receiver group consists of
Riley Cooper (23 receptions, 248 yards, 3 TD last season),
Damaris Johnson (19 receptions, 256 yards),
Arrelious Benn (4 receptions, 26 yards), rookie B.J. Cunningham and Greg Salas, who had no stats last year. There are currently no usable fantasy players out of that group, but they may be worth keeping an eye on to see if one of them steps in and takes advantage of the opportunity. The Eagles may very well be in the market for depth at this position, which may negatively affect Avant and cast him back into fantasy irrelevancy if they bring in more bodies to compete.
Dennis Pitta going down is a huge blow to the Ravens, who had already traded
Anquan Boldin (65 receptions, 92 yards, 4 TD) to San Francisco earlier this off-season. Pitta had a great season last year with 61 receptions for 669 yards and seven touchdowns and looked poised to have a monster year. I think he had a legitimate shot at turning some heads this season and finishing close to the top-5. Instead, the Ravens have already gone to the scrap heap in a vain attempt to replace him, as
Visanthe Shiancoe has signed and is in camp.
He will join the team likely behind
Ed Dickson on the depth chart. Dickson is viewed as more of a blocking tight end, although he put up decent numbers in 2011 with 528 yards and five touchdowns. That production was well above his 225 yards and no touchdowns last year. Shiancoe was mired on the bench in New England behind Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and it’s not surprising that he saw the field in only four games last year. He totaled a whopping zero catches. The fact that he ended up in that situation begs the question: Can he still play? When you consider the issues the New England Patriots have at tight end this year, the fact that they seemingly had no interest in him makes me think the answer is, no.
I think one concrete fact can be taken out of this situation. Baltimore, as it currently stands, possesses no reasonable prospects at tight end this year. Don’t waste your time trying to figure out if Dickson or Shiancoe can exploit a favorable matchup or become a consistent performer. The chances of making anything out of this mess are very remote. If you insist on poring over this scenario, make sure you bring your rubber gloves and hip waders, as you will be waist deep is some awful filth and some really crappy numbers.