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Pro Football Doc: Top 5 TE injury questions heading into NFL season

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Now onto the final skill position group after chronicling the top injury issues for quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. For the rest of the players go to www.profootballdoc.com to download the free comprehensive report.

TE Top 5 injury questions:

1. George Kittle

The sensational former Iowa tight end had a rough 2020 campaign and is looking to bounce back. Kittle missed two of the first three weeks with a knee injury, then suffered a cuboid fracture in Week 8 against Seattle. He was placed on IR and missed six weeks with the injury. He returned to play the final two games of the season, finishing last year with 48 catches for 634 yards and two touchdowns. The 27-year-old had finished each of the previous two years with at least 1,000 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns before last season. With the injuries behind him, Kittle should be ready to return to his former Pro Bowl self. There should be no carry over or worry for re-injury.

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2. Kyle Rudolph

The Giants’ new free agent signing missed the final four games of the 2020 season with a foot injury, which he suffered in Week 13 and was placed on IR. Rudolph finished 2020 with 28 catches, 334 yards and a score. During the standard physical when signing, his new team discovered issues with said foot — likely a Jones fracture — which required surgery. It has also led to a PUP stay to start camp. This situation highlights the importance of offseason physicals, as the discovery gave Rudolph time to address the injury before the season began. He should be healthy for Week 1 and is soon to be activated off PUP. However, he will have little time to get comfortable with his new team. Evan Engram will retain the starting role, but Rudolph could carve out more of a role in 2TE or goal line looks as the season goes on and he gets more practice and acclimation time.

3. O.J. Howard

Howard is a valuable pass-catching tight end, but he missed most of 2020 after suffering an Achilles tendon tear in Week 3. The good news is he was not on the PUP list to start training camp. Certainly, he will need to work his way back to full strength, but we are optimistic that he will make a strong return, especially as the season progresses. The fifth-year TE finished last year with 11 catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns. He reached at least 400 receiving yards in each of his first three seasons and will look forward to a full season with future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. He could be a late round bargain in fantasy.

4. Blake Jarwin

The Cowboys tight end suffered an early season ACL tear and needed surgery. The young pass catcher goes from a bona fide starter to fighting for snaps due to the emergence of Dalton Schultz. Jarwin has passed his physical and should return to form but not until later in the 2021 season. Expect him to split snaps and fight for time, especially early on. Jarwin is poised to have a more productive second half of the season after scoring three touchdowns on 365 receiving yards in 2019.

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5. Jonnu Smith

Smith endured a rather healthy 2020 season, only missing one game with a knee issue before making a big splash with the Patriots in free agency. At the start of mandatory minicamp, Smith pulled up late with an apparent hamstring injury. Although this isn’t a great early start for the new New England tight end, the lack of acclimation and practice will be more of an issue than the hamstring injury itself. He has recovered well and looked great in the Patriots’ first preseason game. Reports are he suffered an ankle injury in said game, but we believe this is a non-issue going forward although he may miss some practice time. Fellow free agent signing TE Hunter Henry is dealing with a shoulder injury, which could give Smith the nod early in the year.

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