Training camp has officially begun and reports of injuries have begun steadily rolling in across the league. This week the Colts lost two players for the entire 2012 season with ACL injuries: offensive lineman Ben Ijalana and inside linebacker A.J. Edds. Ijalana, a second-year pick from Villanova, tore his left anterior cruciate ligament for the second time in two years. Last season Ijalana played four games as a reserve and then was out for the year when he injured himself in the Tampa Bay game. Edds, a third-year linebacker out of Iowa, missed his rookie season with the Miami Dolphins with an ACL injury in the same knee. Last year he was claimed off waivers by the New England Patriots but was released after playing two games. The Colts signed Edds to their practice squad and then to their roster last season. He played in nine games and had twelve tackles. With so many new faces on the Colts roster, head coach Chuck Pagano cannot afford to lose returning players, especially with the transition to a 3-4 hybrid defense underway. Behind third-year inside linebackers Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner, Edds was the only other ILB with as much experience.
Related: Revamping the Colts Defense
Wednesday the Colts waive-injured Ijalana which means if he is not picked up by another team, he will be placed on the Colts injured reserve list. This is a huge setback for the Colts who drafted Ijalana in the second round of the 2011 draft at #49, after trading to move up four spots to acquire him. Ijalana has already undergone five surgeries as a pro: double hernia surgery prior to the 2011 draft, ACL surgery of the same knee, and he has just finished rehabbing and recovering from double hip surgery this offseason. Losing a second round draft pick after two years of nearly zero returns is a tough hit to the Colts offensive line.
Other Issues in the AFC South
Jacksonsville Jaguars have reported to training camp minus their two biggest offensive weapons: running back Maurice Jones-Drew and rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon.
The Jaguars’ first-round draft pick Justin Blackmon, a wide receiver out of Oklahoma State, is still unsigned and may not even be close to signing. The fifth overall draft pick has not reported to training camp and is the only remaining first-rounder to not have finalized his contract. It is reported that Blackmon’s offseason DUI arrest has the Jaguars rethinking their contract wording. The Jaguars want protection in the contract should Blackmon have another off-field incident. Blackmon and his agent Todd France want no such clause in the contract.
Veteran running back Maurice Jones-Drew is also having contract issues. He has not reported to training camp or the mandatory three-day minicamp because he wants a new contract even though has two years left on his current contract. His situation is reminiscent of the Titans’ situation with running back Chris Johnson last season. Johnson also held out for a bigger contract, not showing up for training camp. He eventually signed a four-year, $53.5 million deal but his productivity definitely suffered. Is MJD on the same path as Johnson?
The Texans have already suffered their share of close calls with injuries. Wide receiver Andre Johnson who had multiple hamstring injuries and missed most of last season, left practice Sunday with another injury. The MRI showed Johnson had sustained a pulled groin but would be out only a week of practice. Johnson was running with the team athletic trainer Wednesday. Head coach Gary Kubiak says that A.J. could return as early as next Monday. Also on Wednesday, left tackle Duane Brown left practice with what appeared to be a left ankle injury. He was taken to the hospital for x-rays which showed Brown had a “bruised lower leg injury.” Brown should miss only a few practices, much to the relief of the Texans.
Thursday morning defensive end J.J. Watt left practice with a dislocated elbow. The elbow was immediately popped back in place and Watt has begun rehabbing. His return is unknown but x-rays are now negative. Tim Jamison will take his place in the meantime and Kubiak says the Texans may look to sign a free agent.
On Monday, 25-year old wide receiver O.J. Murdoch was found dead from what appeared to be self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the head in a suicide attempt. Murdock had been signed by Tennessee as an undrafted free agent last year but spent the season on the injured reserve list with an Achilles injury. He had not reported to training camp and had been excused for “personal reasons” which were not disclosed.
It looks like the AFC South has its share of drama already as training camp is underway. Which AFC South team do you think should be the most concerned?