Biggest Week 15 injury questions for all 32 NFL teams: Drew Brees, Daniel Jones and Matthew Stafford

ByNFL Nation via ESPN logo
Thursday, December 17, 2020

Life on the line of scrimmage in the NFL is hard. Offensive and defensive linemen battle each other week in and week out, and by Week 15, there are bumps and bruises, sprains and strains that just won't go away. And teams are seeing the attrition with their linemen -- and with their quarterbacks. Drew Brees was cleared to practice but still has "a ways to go," Alex Smith is still dealing with a calf problem, and Matthew Stafford, like Brees, is nursing rib injuries.

Our NFL Nation reporters update the top injury question for every team heading into Week 15, with intel gathered directly from the source:



Buffalo Bills

Is wide receiver John Brown healthy enough to return to the field? The Bills designated Brown to return after he spent the past three weeks on injured reserve, and he is practicing with the team this week. As Buffalo looks to secure a playoff spot Saturday in Denver, Brown's return would be a major shot in the arm to an already-thriving offense. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

Miami Dolphins

With tight end Mike Gesicki likely out with a shoulder injury, No. 1 wide receiver DeVante Parker becomes even more important for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins' offense. Yet Parker is nursing a slight hamstring strain that forced him out of action early in Sunday's loss to the Chiefs. There's optimism Parker will be able to play Sunday against the Patriots, and he practiced in a limited capacity on Wednesday. It's important to Parker to play 16 games for the second consecutive season. -- Cameron Wolfe

New England Patriots

Running back Damien Harris was not on the injury report, which clears up what would have been a big potential question after he had left Thursday's loss to the Rams in the fourth quarter with a back injury. But passing back James White (foot) is a new addition to the injury report. After White, the focus turns to the offensive line, where three of the top seven players -- starting right guard Shaq Mason (calf) and offensive tackles Jermaine Eluemunor (ankle) and Justin Herron (ankle) -- were all limited in practice. The Patriots signed veteran Earl Watford to the practice squad on Tuesday for some added insurance. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets

Wide receiver Jamison Crowder is nursing two sore calf muscles, but he's expected to practice Thursday and should be cleared for Sunday. Quarterback Sam Darnold (ankle) showed up on the injury report, but he practiced fully and will play. The Jets still are without starting guards Alex Lewis and Greg Van Roten, and they have to face Rams star defensive tackle Aaron Donald -- hardly an ideal situation. -- Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens

The entire cornerback position is an injury concern: Three corners (Marcus Peters, Jimmy Smith and Davontae Harris) didn't practice Wednesday and another, Tramon Williams, was limited. The only healthy cornerbacks on the active roster are Marlon Humphrey and Anthony Averett. If needed, Baltimore can promote Pierre Desir from the practice squad. Peters and Smith both have a chance to play but they won't be at full strength. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

Go ahead and treat running back Joe Mixon as if he's ruled out for the rest of the season. The Bengals have not opened the 21-day period that allows Mixon to practice with the team without counting against the 53-man roster. There's no risk in doing so since the Bengals have three weeks left in their season. It's another sign that Mixon likely isn't coming back in 2020 after a mysterious foot injury he suffered earlier this season. -- Ben Baby

Cleveland Browns

Coach Kevin Stefanski said Tuesday he's confident cornerback Denzel Ward will be able to return to the practice field this week, which would clear the way for him to return Sunday after missing the past three games with a calf injury. -- Jake Trotter

Pittsburgh Steelers

Because the Steelers play on Monday night, they haven't had an official injury report for the week, but the biggest area of concern going into the prime-time matchup against the Bengals is the offensive line. Guard Matt Feiler was put on IR with a pectoral injury sustained in the loss to the Bills, and his replacement, Kevin Dotson, also exited early with a shoulder injury. Then right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor injured his ankle. The Steelers signed an offensive lineman off Kansas City's practice squad for depth, but the team is hopeful Dotson's injury is not long term. To be a more physical team, protect Ben Roethlisberger and establish the run, the Steelers need to get healthy on the O-line -- and quickly. -- Brooke Pryor


Houston Texans

The Texans lost safety Justin Reid for the season after he injured his hand in Week 14 against the Bears. Who will see more playing time in his place? Lonnie Johnson Jr., who made the switch to safety this offseason, should see more snaps with Reid on injured reserve. -- Sarah Barshop

Indianapolis Colts

Colts coach Frank Reich said left tackle Anthony Castonzo came out of last weekend's game at Las Vegas feeling pretty good with his knee, which caused him to miss a game the week prior. The belief is Castonzo will play against Houston on Sunday, but there always will be concern when the starter responsible for protecting quarterback Philip Rivers' blind side doesn't practice. The Colts were so desperate for help at left tackle after Castonzo left the game against the Raiders briefly that they slid talented left guard Quenton Nelson over to tackle for a few snaps. Nelson did fine playing the position, but the Colts would rather have Castonzo there. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

It's gain one, lose one for the Jaguars. The team put starting center Brandon Linder (ankle) on injured reserve, which means he's done for the season. However, they designated starting left guard Andrew Norwell (arm) to return, and coach Doug Marrone said he's likely to play Sunday. That's good news because his replacement (Ben Bartch) was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday. This has been Norwell's best season in Jacksonville and getting him back will be a boost to the run game and rookie running back James Robinson. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

The Titans continue to deal with injuries along the offensive line. This week it's Rodger Saffold nursing a toe injury and Dennis Kelly with a sore knee. Neither player practiced on Wednesday. The Titans' depth along the offensive line is already thin after having David Quessenberry become the third starter at left tackle this season. Tennessee can't afford to lose another player up front, so keep an eye on how they manage Saffold and Kelly to get them to game day.-- Turron Davenport


Denver Broncos

With left tackle Garett Bolles and tight end Noah Fant expected back to full strength after what coach Vic Fangio called "stomach issues" kept Bolles out of Sunday's win over Carolina and limited Fant to just a few plays, the position to watch the remainder of the week is running back. Melvin Gordon (shoulder), who has averaged 4.5 yards per carry over the past four games and 7.1 yards per carry over past two, and Phillip Lindsay (hip) were both listed as limited participants Wednesday. And with the Broncos playing on a short week -- they host Buffalo on Saturday -- how they work in Thursday's practice (the only full practice of the week) will be a big part of the decision about how much they play Saturday. For Lindsay, he has already worked through a toe injury and a concussion this season. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs, who were already digging deep into their offensive line depth, practiced on Wednesday without either of last weekend's starting tackles, Eric Fisher and Mike Remmers. Both have back injuries. The Chiefs already have a starting tackle, Mitchell Schwartz, on injured reserve. If Fisher and Remmers don't make it back for Sunday's game against the Saints, the Chiefs might have to go with an undrafted rookie, Yasir Durant, and a player who has yet to play this season, Martinas Rankin, at tackle at New Orleans. -- Adam Teicher

Los Angeles Chargers

Offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga is dealing with a concussion. He won't be out of the protocol until after Thursday's game at Las Vegas; Storm Norton will fill in. L.A.'s O-line has been hit hard by the injury bug. -- Shelley Smith

Las Vegas Raiders

With four starters out on defense in defensive end Clelin Ferrell (shoulder), linebacker Nicholas Morrow (concussion), cornerback Damon Arnette (concussion) and safety Johnathan Abram (concussion), Raiders coach Jon Gruden says it's a next-man-up-mentality on a short week with the Chargers set to visit on Thursday night. Injuries (and ineffectiveness) have decimated the Raiders' defense this season, and this is not an optimal start for new interim defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. So who does Gruden hope steps up? Three guys he mentioned by name: defensive end Carl Nassib, defensive back Daryl Worley and safety Dallin Leavitt. -- Paul Gutierrez


Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys' cornerback situation could be in a better place this week as Dallas prepares to host the 49ers. Chidobe Awuzie returned to a full practice after spending last week on the COVID-19 list. Anthony Brown (ribs) and Trevon Diggs (foot) were limited in practice as they work back from injuries. Saivion Smith, who started for Awuzie and Brown last weekend, is attempting to play with a broken hand. The Niners' biggest challenge to the Cowboys will be their run game, but having a closer-to-full squad of cornerbacks should help the defense. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants

Quarterback Daniel Jones now has an ankle sprain to go along with his hamstring injury heading into Sunday night's matchup with the Browns. And he didn't look especially good during the open portion of Wednesday's practice. Jones was officially listed as limited and Colt McCoy saw an increase in snaps. At one point, Jones' plant leg even buckled after he made a pair of throws. It seems more likely the Giants go with McCoy than Jones, barring a late-week turnaround. -- Jordan Raanan

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles' secondary is really banged up. Safety Rodney McLeod (knee) has been placed on injured reserve and corner Avonte Maddox (knee) is expected to miss time. Meanwhile, cornerback Darius Slay remains in the concussion protocol. His status for Sunday will be determined later in the week. What's known for sure is the Eagles will be down at least half of their starting secondary against Arizona. -- Tim McManus

Washington Redskins

Quarterback Alex Smith did not practice Wednesday because of a strained right calf muscle. He said he feels good, but he hasn't tested his leg since Sunday to get an accurate reading of his availability. Washington coach Ron Rivera said he's comfortable starting Smith even if he doesn't practice this week: "Smart player like him? Yeah." Dwayne Haskins took all the reps Wednesday. He played Sunday for the first time since Week 4. He has started doing some of the things away from the facility in terms of preparation that Washington wanted, but the team knows it'll take a while for that to click. Also, running back Antonio Gibson (turf toe) has improved, but he did not practice, either. He missed Sunday and that injury can be tricky, so Washington won't rush him back. -- John Keim


Chicago Bears

The Bears' defensive backfield is in the spotlight after first-year starting cornerback Jaylon Johnson sustained a shoulder injury in last weekend's victory over the Houston Texans. Johnson, drafted in the second round out of Utah, has been one of the league's top rookies, with 15 pass breakups, tied for fourth in the NFL. Johnson, officially listed as day-to-day, underwent multiple shoulder procedures in college, a reason many believe he fell to the Bears at pick No. 50. Starting nickelback Buster Skrine also remains in the league's concussion protocol, per coach Matt Nagy. Skrine was inactive in Week 14. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions

It's not certain whether quarterback Matthew Stafford (ribs) will play Sunday against Tennessee. He didn't practice Wednesday and said his plan, he hopes, is to be able to throw by the end of the week. Stafford joked he'd "tape a pillow to my ribs or something." He also said the only regimen is rest, ice, heat and movement to get him to heal. If he can't play, Chase Daniel will likely start in his place, with David Blough backing him up. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers

The Packers finished last Sunday's game without edge rusher Rashan Gary, who played just 19 snaps -- his fewest since Week 6 -- because of a hip injury. Gary had been in the midst of perhaps his best stretch of football in his two seasons, with 3.5 sacks in his past five games. He was listed as a limited participant on Wednesday, although that was only an estimation because the Packers held just a walk-through instead of a full practice to aid in recovery amid a shorter week, with the Panthers in town for a Saturday game. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

Linebacker Eric Kendricks (calf), tight end Kyle Rudolph (foot) and running back Alexander Mattison (appendectomy) missed their fourth consecutive practice on Wednesday as the Vikings begin preparation for the Buccaneers. Even though Rudolph's 93-regular season games-active streak was put to a halt last weekend, Minnesota got solid production out of its remaining tight ends. Blocking could be an issue against the Bears' defense if Rudolph remains sidelined against Chicago given that fullback C.J. Ham (quadriceps) also did not practice Wednesday. -- Courtney Cronin


Atlanta Falcons

The playoffs are officially unattainable for the Falcons, and it begs the question whether the team will shut down Julio Jones for the final three games as the wide receiver continues to deal with a nagging hamstring injury. Left guard James Carpenter returned to practice in limited capacity after missing Atlanta's past two games, which is a good sign for his potential return from a groin injury. While offensive lineman Kaleb McGary missed another practice dealing with a personal matter that caused him to miss the Chargers game, it's still early in the week. -- Courtney Cronin

Carolina Panthers

Coach Matt Rhule already has said he doesn't expect running back Christian McCaffrey to play but he does expect wide receiver DJ Moore to. Left tackle Russell Okung (calf) didn't practice on Wednesday, and it seems highly unlikely he will be ready to play in the frigid temperatures in Green Bay. Trent Scott will get the nod if Okung is out. Which begs the question: What about Greg Little, who has been inactive the past two games? Seems the Panthers need to figure out if he can be the future left tackle before the offseason. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints

Quarterback Drew Brees was designated for return to practice Wednesday. But coach Sean Payton cautioned that Brees won't be rushed back into game action as he continues to recover from 11 broken ribs and a punctured lung. So he'll need to feel great in practice this week to have any chance of playing against the Chiefs. "He's got a ways to go still," Payton told the Kansas City media after Wednesday's practice. "I think the significance of the injuries are such that you've gotta make sure he can function and feel confident." -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Not only is starting running back Ronald Jones recovering from surgery Tuesday to repair a broken finger, he was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday. If he can't play Sunday, the Bucs will lean on Leonard Fournette to start. On a positive note, cornerback Jamel Dean, who missed last weekend with a groin injury and prior to that was dealing with a concussion, did practice Wednesday but was limited. Considering the Bucs are set to face Falcons wide receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley this weekend, they certainly want him back. -- Jenna Laine


Arizona Cardinals

Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds missed Wednesday's practice with an ankle injury. If he can't play Sunday against the Eagles, the Cardinals will have to rely more on Kenyan Drake and spell him with the likes of Jonathan Ward, Eno Benjamin and D.J. Foster, who's currently on the practice squad. Edmonds has been an ideal complement to Drake this season, averaging 57.8 yards per game from scrimmage with four total touchdowns. The only running back other than Drake or Edmonds to have a carry this season is Foster, with one rush for 2 yards. -- Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams do not have any outstanding injuries after enjoying a long weekend following a 24-3 win over the Patriots on Thursday night, according to coach Sean McVay. Expect for the full roster to be available Sunday against the winless Jets. -- Lindsey Thiry

San Francisco 49ers

Despite playing the past three games, 49ers running back Raheem Mostert is still dealing with the lingering effects of the high ankle sprain that cost him the previous four games. He did not participate in Wednesday's practice, but there's still hope he will play against Dallas' dismal run defense this weekend in what should be a good matchup for San Francisco. "I think it hurt a little more than usual but the imaging was somewhat positive," coach Kyle Shanahan said. -- Nick Wagoner

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks are hoping to have starting right tackle Brandon Shell on Sunday against Washington and its loaded defensive front. Shell missed two games with a high ankle sprain, then returned last weekend only to leave the game for good before halftime. Coach Pete Carroll said Shell wasn't practicing Wednesday. The Seahawks are also dealing with injuries to Shell's top two backups, Cedric Ogbuehi and Jamarco Jones, heightening the importance of Shell's availability. -- Brady Henderson

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