Injuries continue to lambast NFL rosters from coast to coast, with far-reaching implications in both the short and long term. In particular, the Bears announced on Saturday morning that rookie wide receiver Kevin White requires surgery on his lingering shin injury, which will wipe away at least the first six games of the regular season. While the time line wasn't initially a shocker, general manager Ryan Pace soon announced that White may miss the entire season. With such a wide-ranging timetable, the potential exists for Jay Cutler to be without his expected Brandon Marshall replacement for much of the year, meaning it's difficult to trust in any Chicago pass catchers outside of Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett. Speaking of Jeffery, he was absent from Thursday's preseason opener due to a strained calf. Expected to miss the upcoming week of practice as well as next Saturday's contest at Indianapolis, he'll nonetheless aim for active status in Week 1. Among those in the periphery of the aerial attack, veteran Eddie Royal and third-year wideout Marquess Wilson are the prime candidates to flash on occasion in place of White.
Preceding White's imminent procedure was C.J. Spiller, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Friday. Prior to logging a DNP in Thursday's outing, he was seemingly absent with an innocuous injury, but his next appearance in a Saints uniform will be delayed, with an expected return in the season opener. In the meantime, Khiry Robinson, Tim Hightower, and Edwin Baker are the candidates to provide a varied option to Mark Ingram's bruising style. Nonetheless, if Spiller's rehab spills into the regular season, none of the aforementioned options can replace his pass-catching ability out of the backfield.
Additional ailments litter the landscape, so let's take a tour of the league as a whole:
- C.J. Anderson was removed from Friday's game with a left ankle injury, which he termed minor in the immediate aftermath. According to the running back, he said, "It's no big deal at all. I wanted to go back in." While his practice participation in the coming days will provide a more telling picture, he remains the clear-cut No. 1 back in Denver, despite the performances of backups Ronnie Hillman (eight carries for 66 yards and one catch for 11 yards) and Montee Ball (eight runs for 26 yards and one reception for seven yards) in the exhibition opener
- Meandering to Oxnard, CA, Darren McFadden was activated from the PUP list Saturday, making his long-awaited debut at Cowboys training camp in what he expected to be a "full" capacity. However, his workload included individual drills, with the intent of easing him into the fold, likely to avoid any possibility of a setback with the strained hamstring that kept him out of the first 11 practices of camp. If all goes well leading up to the Cowboys' next game on Sunday, Aug. 23 at San Francisco, the seven-year pro could record his first snaps of this preseason. Meanwhile, backfield mate Lance Dunbar also worked on the side Saturday, taking the first steps in his return from a week on the pine due to an ankle issue. While Joseph Randle has already staked a claim to DeMarco Murray's departed shoes, the clash for RB reps in Dallas can begin in earnest.
- Elsewhere in the NFC East, Washington head coach Jay Gruden announced Saturday his belief that DeSean Jackson and Jamison Crowder (hamstring) may be able to suit up in the third preseason game on Saturday, Aug. 29 at Baltimore. Sidelined since Aug. 6 due to an AC sprain in his right shoulder, Jackson was handed an initial recovery timetable of 1-to-2 weeks, but caution appears to be ruling Gruden's decision-making process. Because the final exhibition is generally reserved for parsing out the final job battles, the aforementioned contest against the Ravens is likely the last hurrah for Jackson to make his presence felt during exhibition season.
- Meanwhile, Washington suffered another hit within its TE corps, losing Logan Paulsen for the season due to turf toe. Once he undergoes surgery on his big toe Monday, he'll join Niles Paul (ankle) on injured reserve for the coming campaign. The depletions leave Jordan Reed as the unquestioned top option at the position, but he's dealing with a hamstring issue as well. No matter, he hopes to make his debut Thursday versus the Lions, at which point he'll aim to avoid in-season injuries for the first time in his career.
- Moving down the eastern seaboard, Julius Thomas sustained a broken finger in Friday's game, which is expected to sideline the tight end for the remainder of the preseason. His absence delays the development of a rapport with sophomore signal caller Blake Bortles, and there's currently no guarantee that Thomas will achieve active status by Week 1. Thomas' healing process will be one to watch closely as the regular season approaches.
With Saturday's three-game slate complete, only the Colts and Eagles have yet to suit up this preseason. The following are quick hits to ponder while poring over boxscores:
San Francisco at Houston
- Texans head coach Bill O'Brien deemed Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett co-starters in advance of the preseason opener, but Hoyer got the nod Saturday, directing an opening 87-yard touchdown drive that culminated in a 58-yard strike to Cecil Shorts. Mallett took over for the rest of the first half, and while he completed 10-for-11 passes for 90 yards, he failed to put points on the board.
- Arian Foster's interim replacement, Alfred Blue, dashed left and right on the Texans' first two drives, taking nine carries for 59 yards. However, the four other backs to garner work managed 31 rushes for 77 yards, which was good for a measly 2.48 YPC.
- On the other side, there were scant lines of note outside of Australian import Jarryd Hayne. Among his eight all-purpose touches, he picked apart the Texans for a 53-yard run down the left sideline and handled the second-half kickoff en route to a 33-yard return.
Tampa Bay at Minnesota
- In his professional debut, Jameis Winston played the entire first half, completing 9-for-19 for 131 yards and one interception, while adding a rushing touchdown. The end result of his eight drives wasn't overly impressive – punt, punt, field goal, interception, punt, punt, the touchdown, and a Hail Mary pass to enter halftime – but he did flash some of the talent that translated to his selection first overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, namely a 40-yard connection with Vincent Jackson to avoid a third consecutive punt to start the contest.
- Winston's counterpart, Teddy Bridgewater, fared far better, putting the Vikings in position for a 46-yard field goal and a Zach Line touchdown run from one yard out among three drives. Overall, Bridgewater was 7-for-8 passing for 86 yards, which equated to a 111.5 quarterback rating.
Kansas City at Arizona
- Opening with a flourish, the Cardinals used a no-huddle offense under the direction of Carson Palmer (knee) to march 80 yards in 3:28 for the first touchdown of the game. Along the way, Palmer hit John Brown for 14 yards and threaded the needle to Andre Ellington (hamstring) for 57 yards, with the oft-injured back completing the drive on a two-yard lunge. Palmer and Ellington were promptly removed from action to avoid any setbacks with their health, but the first-team offense's test with a new wrinkle likely yielded the intended results in the mind of head coach Bruce Arians.
- With injuries afflicting Arizona's backfield from top to bottom – Ellington, David Johnson (hamstring), and Marion Grice (hamstring) – the first two backs in terms of carries, Kerwynn Williams and Robert Hughes, teamed up for 16 rushes and 37 yards on the ground. Blah.
- The Chiefs didn't emerge unscatched, as De'Anthony Thomas (calf) and Knile Davis (knee) both left with respective injury concerns. Their extents aren't known, but the team should clarify the ailments in short order.