by Vincent Verhei
Earlier this week, we looked at each team's total adjusted games lost to see which clubs had the best (Baltimore) and worst (Tampa Bay) injury luck in 2018. Today we'll break things down by position and find which teams suffered the worst (or most) injuries at a specific spot on the roster.
Overall it was a good year for quarterback health. Though total injuries were higher than ever in 2018, the average team suffered just 1.9 AGL at the quarterback position -- much lower than the 3.1 mark of 2017, and the lowest since 2012.
Remember, this looks at injuries only, and so Jameis Winston's suspension is not included.
San Francisco (13.3 AGL) obviously leads the way as Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a torn ACL in Week 3 and was lost for the rest of the year. The quarterback injury that affected the league most, however, was likely Alex Smith's broken leg. Even with a healthy Garoppolo, the 49ers would have had a tough time passing the Rams and Seahawks in the NFC West and may well have missed the playoffs anyway. Washington (10.2 AGL), however, was sitting at 6-3 with a two-game lead in the NFC East when Smith went down against Houston in Week 11. Washington won just one game from that point forward, finishing 7-9 and behind Dallas and Philadelphia in the division standings.
Speaking of Philadelphia, the Eagles (5.1) made the playoffs despite significant injuries to quarterback Carson Wentz for the second year in a row, this time due to back ailments. One of these years, maybe we'll get to see what Wentz can do in the postseason.
It was a good year for running back health, too. The average team suffered 4.4 AGL to its running backs, again the lowest since 2012, when the average was 3.9.
Once again we find San Francisco (25.3), Philadelphia (24.4), and Washington (22.1) at the bottom of the table. The 49ers guaranteed Jerick McKinnon $18 million in free agency, then watched as he tore his ACL in practice, knocking him out for the entire season. Backup Raheem Mostert missed the second half of the year with a broken arm, while Matt Breida was often banged up with knee, shoulder, and ankle issues.
Washington also lost a new running back for the entire season due to a torn ACL. In their case, it was Derrius Guice, the first-round draft pick out of LSU. Chris Thompson, one of the league's premier receiving backs, missed six games with rib and ankle injuries.
Joining San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Washington at the bottom are the Jets (21.7) and Falcons (16.5). The Jets lost Bilal Powell to a neck injury that was feared to be career-threatening, but the current free agent was recently cleared to return to the field, and hopes to sign with a new team for 2019. Backup Elijah McGuire missed eight games with foot and ankle issues. In Atlanta, Devonta Freeman played one game in September and one in October, missing the rest of the year due to knee and foot injuries.
This was the worst year for wide receiver health we have measured. The average team was hit by 9.9 AGL to wide receivers, passing the record of 9.4 set in 2015. This is likely due to several factors -- the long-term trend in rising injuries, the change in how we counted situational players this year, and the added snap counts wideouts are getting in the modern NFL.
The Houston Texans (21.9) won the AFC South despite getting only 16 total games out of Will Fuller (who suffered hamstring and hip issues before tearing his ACL), Bruce Ellington (back, hamstring), and Keke Coutee (hamstring). DeAndre Hopkins also suffered from ankle, foot, thumb, and groin injuries all season. He still played 16 games and caught 115 passes for 1,572 yards and 11 touchdowns.
In Miami (21.8), Albert Wilson played only seven games due to a torn labrum and hip issues. No other wideout on the team was out so often, but Jakeem Grant (shoulder, Achilles), DeVante Parker (finger, quadricep, knee, shoulder), Danny Amendola (shoulder, hamstring, knee), and Kenny Stills (groin) each had his own pains to deal with.
The torn ACL that sidelined Marqise Lee all season no doubt played a role in the decline of Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars (21.0). Rookie DJ Chark also missed more than a month with a quadriceps injury.
We couldn't talk about injured offensive players without bringing up Washington (19.8). Their biggest issues were the shoulder injury that knocked Paul Richardson out for nine games and the ankle problems that sidelined Jamison Crowder for seven.
In New Orleans, the Saints (18.8) nearly reached the Super Bowl despite a crew of wide receivers that consisted of Michael Thomas and some stragglers pulled out of the late-night line at Café Du Monde. Ted Ginn and Cameron Meredith played only 11 games between them, missing the rest of the year with knee injuries. This isn't even counting Dez Bryant, who signed with the Saints as an injury replacement in November, then promptly tore his Achilles before he could ever join them in a game.
San Francisco (17.6), which was dead last in both quarterback and running back AGL, was much better -- 27th -- in wide receiver injuries. The trio of Pierre Garcon (shoulder, knee), Marquise Goodwin (quadriceps, calf), and Dante Pettis (knee, foot) combined to miss 17 games, leaving undrafted second-year man Kendrick Bourne the team's top wideout by default.
Another new record here -- the average AGL of 6.7 topped the mark of 6.2 set in 2013.
No team had worse injury luck here than the Cincinnati Bengals (23.3), who got just nine total games out of Tyler Eifert (who suffered from back problems before breaking his ankle) and Tyler Kroft (foot).
Jacksonville (20.0) was also hit by injuries to its two top tight ends. Austin Seferian-Jenkins was struggling all year with what was vaguely referred to as a "core muscle injury;" it has since come to light that he had suffered not one, but two hernia tears in training camp before the season even started. Niles Paul was also lost for the year with a sprained MCL in October.
The L.A. Chargers (20.0) lost Hunter Henry for the entire season due to a torn ACL. The Broncos (18.5) and Seahawks (18.4) got only seven total games out of second-year player Jake Butt (also a torn ACL) and rookie Will Dissly (patellar tendon tear), respectively The latter injury may be one of the reasons Seattle used a sixth offensive lineman on 20 percent of offensive snaps. (This nugget and many more brought to you by Football Outsiders Almanac 2019, which will be available later this summer!)
The average team suffered 17.2 AGL to its offensive line, the most on record, passing the 16.7 set in both 2016 and 2017. This one is definitely not related to any change in how we counted situational players, since no "situational" lineman plays enough to get counted. Offensive linemen are getting hurt more often than ever before … which makes what's going on in Los Angeles even more amazing. The Rams had just 0.1 AGL by offensive linemen last season, after suffering just 0.8 offensive line AGL in 2017. That's two full seasons of football (plus playoffs!) and not even one total missed game by offensive linemen. That's ridiculous. We'll see what happens in 2019 with two new starters after the Rams declined a contract option on center John Sullivan, while left guard Rodger Saffold signed with Tennessee in free agency.
As for the offensive line with the most injuries, if you have been reading our stories on offseason needs and continuity scores, it will come as no surprise that there's a big gap between Arizona (47.8) and the rest of the league. We had six different players marked as starters who missed at least two games for Arizona … which is amazing when you remember that only five linemen start in any one game. If you count center A.Q. Shipley, who missed the whole year with a torn ACL, the Cardinals used a record 14 starters on the offensive line. Most of those starters, though came late in the year, so Arizona did not break the OL AGL record of the 2016 Minnesota Vikings (57.2).
Other teams with severe problems on the offensive line last year include Jacksonville (39.0 -- Cam Robinson missed 14 games with a torn ACL), Carolina (35.1 -- Matt Kalil and Daryl Williams played just one game between them due to knee injuries), Indianapolis (34.7 -- J'Marcus Webb missed 15 games with a torn hamstring, while Matt Slauson missed 11 games with a broken back), and of course Washington (33.0 -- Shawn Lauvao had calf issues before tearing his ACL, while Brandon Scherff played through MCL woes before tearing his pec).
The team average here was 9.4, up a hair from the 9.3 we saw last year, but otherwise down slightly from what we have seen in the last half-decade or so.
That news will do little to console the Oakland Raiders (30.9), who had the most injuries here in the league. Eddie Vanderdoes missed the entire season with a torn ACL, while Justin Ellis missed most of the year with a foot injury. (Khalil Mack also missed Oakland's entire season, perhaps due to finger injuries suffered while counting all of Chicago's money.)
The Colts (28.0) had terrible luck in the trenches on both sides of the ball. No Indianapolis defensive linemen missed much more than half a season, but five suffered at least 2.0 AGL: Jihad Ward (ankle), Tyquan Lewis (knee, toe, and foot), Denico Autry (shoulder, ankle, hamstring, ankle again, and back), Hassan Ridgeway (calf), and Al Woods (quadricep, foot).
Two players were about equally responsible for the bulk of Philadelphia's (25.7) poor showing here: Timmy Jernigan (back) and Derek Barnett (rotator cuff). Cincinnati (22.2) saw a pair of rotational linemen (Ryan Glasgow and Carl Lawson) tear their ACLs. Green Bay (21.6) lost Muhammad Wilkerson for 13 games with an ankle injury, and Mike Daniels for six due to a bad foot.
This is one spot where injuries were down significantly last year. The league average of 8.7 was the lowest since 2011. This may be a sign that linebackers are losing snaps to defensive backs; we could confirm that if we see a corresponding rise in defensive back injuries. (Young writers take note: this is a fine use of the classic literary device known as foreshadowing.)
Tampa Bay (28.6) had the most problems here. Kendell Beckwith missed the entire season after injuring his ankle in an auto accident, an accident that will also cost him the entire 2019 campaign. Kwon Alexander also missed the second half of the season with a knee injury.
For the Chargers (20.6), rookie Kyzir White missed 13 games with a knee injury, while Denzel Perryman tore his LCL in Week 11. Across town, the Rams (18.1) lost Dominique Easley for 13 games with a knee injury, and Mark Barron missed the first five games with an Achilles injury. (The Rams had moved Easley from the defensive line to outside linebacker before the season, which is why he's counted here.) The 49ers (16.3) were undone by the concussion that knocked Brock Coyle out for 15 games. They were also undone by the suspension and eventual release of Reuben Foster, but again, suspensions are not included in AGL.
OK, here we go.
By going through positions in their traditional order, we have unintentionally buried the lede of this story, but defensive back injuries skyrocketed in 2018. The average per team was 18.1, which shatters the previous high of 15.4 set in 2014. That 18.1 average would have led the league in 2002. This is what happens not only when the nickel defense becomes the NFL's base, but when teams routinely run six or even seven defensive backs onto the field at one time.
The Carolina Panthers (47.4) had the most defensive back AGL we have ever measured. Free-agent signees Ross Cockrell and Da'Norris Searcy missed the entire season with a broken leg and 14 games with a concussion, respectively. Both would have started if healthy. Nickelback Kevon Seymour suffered a shoulder injury that left him, like Cockrell, sidelined for the entire season.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (46.4) had the second-most defensive back AGL we have ever measured. Nobody here missed the entire year, but they did undergo the following season-ending injuries:
- CB Vernon Hargreaves: labrum tear, Week 1
- S Chris Conte: PCL tear, Week 3
- S Justin Evans: injured toe, Week 10 (he did play with the injury in Week 13 but was limited to 25 snaps)
The Philadelphia Eagles (40.9) had the fifth-most defensive back AGL we have ever measured. Here's a look at their season-ending injuries:
- S Rodney McLeod: torn MCL, Week 3
- CB Jalen Mills: foot sprain, Week 9
- CB Ronald Darby: torn ACL, Week 10
The Houston Texans (32.6) and Atlanta Falcons (29.7), the fourth- and fifth-most injured secondaries of 2018, also made the top 25 most injured secondaries of all time. Houston's most damaging injuries were to Kevin Johnson (who missed 15 games with a concussion) and Andre Hal (who missed six games while recovering from lymphoma, then two more with a shoulder injury; he has since announced his retirement). Atlanta lost two starters for the year by Week 3 -- Keanu Neal with a torn ACL, Ricardo Allen with a torn Achilles.
For those wondering, specialist (K/P/LS) injuries are not included in AGL.
The following table shows AGL at all positions for each team in the NFL in 2018.
|2018 AGL by Position|