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How Will NFL Teams Fill In For Their Lost Stars?

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The NFL preseason is only midway through and there’s already been numerous of big names going down to injury. Jordy Nelson, Kelvin Benjamin and Orlando Scandrick all are out for the season, while Arian Foster and Maurkice Pouncey will miss significant time of their own.

Attempting to replace those guys will be no easy task, but in this league, there’s no time to feel sorry for yourself because opponents surely won’t. With that being said, it’s time to see who’s next up for these five teams.

Davante Adams has to grow up fast – How do you replace 98 catches, 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns?

Quite frankly, you don’t; especially when you’re depending on a second year wide receiver. During Adams rookie campaign, he only caught 38 passes for 445 yards to go along with three touchdowns, but as the season went on, you could see Aaron Rodgers becoming more comfortable with the former second round pick.

In the postseason, Adams hauled in eight catches for over 100 yards with a touchdown.

With Nelson out of the picture, Rodgers fully expects for Adams’ numbers to skyrocket.

“When you go back and watch the film from last year, I mentioned in the spring, Davante was open a lot,” Rodgers said. “Davante ran some great routes, and he’s a talented guy. I think his opportunities go up, and everybody else kind of falls in line there.

Filling in for Nelson is without question a tall order, but Adams has the skill set and overall talent to hold his own.

Panthers need a collective effort – Green Bay isn’t the only team looking to replace a big time receiver. Carolina’s receiving core was already looked at as being a weak link, but with top wideout Kelvin Benjamin down with a torn ACL, the team is scrambling.

Unlike Green Bay, the Panthers don’t have a guy they’re fully confident in to single-handedly replace Benjamin, however, they may plan to combat Benjamin’s production by getting more out of their tight ends.

Ed Dickson only caught 10 passes a season ago, but Greg Olsen believes dual tight end sets is a good suggestion.

“Yeah we’ll see. I think that gives us some good flexibility, some big bodies that can fill in and can run and do some different things,” Olsen said. “Ed had a good camp. After getting over that groin (injury) he really had a good camp. He can do a lot for us and we’re all going to have to step up.”

A lot of people are looking at rookie Devin Funchess to replace Benjamin’s production, but that’s simply unfair to put all of that pressure on him at this point. The Panthers must do it by committee.

Cowboys have depth to replace Scandrick? – It’s never a good thing when your top cover guy goes down, which is something the Dallas Cowboys are forced to deal with. After finally breaking through in 2014, Dallas is hopeful they’re able to take that next major leap.

Yes, I’m talking about a Super Bowl.

After Scandrick went down, there were questions of whether or not Dallas would look to bring in an extra cornerback, but head coach Jason Garrett doesn’t think that’s necessary. 

“With this position, we’re less likely to go outside and look for Orlando Scandrick’s replacement,” Garrett said. “We feel good about the guys we have on the team right now.”

Cody Wallace has big shoes to fill – Out of all the guys next in line, no one has a tougher task than Cody Wallace in Pittsburgh.  When Steelers starting center Maurkice Pouncey went down against the Green Bay Packers last week with a left ankle injury, the O-line went to a state of flux.

Now it’s up to Wallace to replace the production of a four-time Pro Bowler.

On the bright side, Wallace did get some time in with the first team offense during training camp because Pouncey was on the PUP list.

“It definitely was a big help getting those snaps,” said Wallace. “I got a lot of time in there with the first group, working with the guards, working with Ben (Roethlisberger). We have been together for a long time now. I have gotten a lot of reps with the first group. It’s been good and hopefully there is a good comfort level there.”

Not only was Pouncey vital in protecting Roethlisberger, but he also played a major role in developing running lanes. Without Pouncey and Le’Veon Bell to start the season, it puts a lot of pressure on this unit to hold it’s own.

Running back by committee in Houston? – Over the past few years, veteran running back Arian Foster has proven to not be durable. The 29-year-old has missed 11 games over the last two seasons.

So, how does Houston go about replacing Foster?

It’s going to have to be done by committee because Houston doesn’t have a true every-downs back outside of Foster, which is why they worked out Pierre Thomas, but the two parties were unable to get a deal done.

Alfred Blue, Chris Polk and Kenny Hilliard are all viable options, but head coach Bill O’Brien seems to be impressed with Jonathan Grimes.

“Grimes has had a good training camp,” O’Brien said. “He’s strung about three good practices in a row here. He’s done a good job. He’s a smart player. He’s one of our core special teams players. He’s a guy that really knows our offense well. He plays a lot on third down, but now with Arian out, he’s playing more on first and second down in certain packages. Really dependable guy. We enjoy coaching him.”

With Brian Hoyer at quarterback, it’s essential for Houston to establish a ground game.

It’s not realistic to expect any of these players to fully replace the production of the guys in front of them, but in the same breath, these organizations don’t want to experience a major drop off either.


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.