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Top 10 Injuries of the 2023 NFL Season

Tucker Maus
02/17/2024 12:56PM ET

Injuries are an unfortunate reality of the National Football League, and something that teams inevitably have to deal with every season. The 2023 NFL season was no exception, as injuries played an important role in shaping the outcomes for several teams. From franchise quarterbacks to promising rookies, each injury left its own indelible mark on the season. In this list, we'll explore the top ten most significant injuries that occurred during the 2023 season, discussing the effect of their losses and what their return means for the upcoming 2024 season.


Note: This list only includes players that missed at least nine games, or in other words, more than half of the regular season. Each team was limited to having only one player listed.

 

Aaron Rodgers, QB, New York Jets

We must first acknowledge that the loss of offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker to a torn Achilles tendon was certainly one of the more notable reasons why the Jets had such a woeful offense this year. But this was overshadowed by an even more impactful injury that occurred during their opening game. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had also suffered a torn Achilles on what was only his fourth snap, forcing him to miss the remainder of the 2023 season.


Zach Wilson, Trevor Siemian, and Tim Boyle had each filled in for Rodgers at different points in 2023, and, put simply, the Jets' season was disastrous as a result. Despite Rodgers' initial intent to make a return before the end of the season, the Jets' playoff hopes were dashed after a decisive 0-30 loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 15. Consequently, the team decided that they wanted Rodgers to prioritize his rehabilitation for the 2024 season.


As we approach free agency, the Jets face numerous re-signing decisions. Safeties Jordan Whitehead and Chuck Clark, defensive tackles Quinton Jefferson, Al Woods, and Solomon Thomas, as well as their center Connor McGovern, one of their starting tackles Mekhi Becton, their kicker Greg Zuerlein, and punter Thomas Morstead, are all scheduled to become unrestricted free agents at the start of the new league year on March 13. However, any of these potential losses pale in comparison to the prospect of having a healthy Aaron Rodgers back in action.


Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota's 2023 season was characterized by many ups-and-downs, starting with a dismal 1-4 record, followed by a five-game winning streak. However, their momentum was abruptly halted when Kirk Cousins suffered a devastating Achilles injury during Week 8’s game against the Green Bay Packers. Although Joshua Dobbs initially stepped in as Cousins' replacement and showed promise, his effectiveness waned quickly. This led to his benching in Week 14 in favor of Nick Mullens, who did not perform much better.

 

Cousins' injury was particularly unfortunate given his stellar statistical performances when he was on the field. It wouldn’t have been a stretch to say that his presence could have easily propelled the Vikings into the playoffs.

 

Compounding matters, Cousins is now poised to enter free agency as an unrestricted free agent, adding uncertainty to his future with the team. Moreover, star wide receiver Justin Jefferson's impending contract negotiations further complicate the team's offseason plans.

 

While there is reported to be interest on both sides for Kirk Cousins to be re-signed, we can’t be certain how it will shake out. On the bright side, Cousins is reportedly ahead of schedule with his recovery. As offseason developments unfold, the question of which team Cousins will suit up for remains unanswered.


Anthony Richardson, QB, Indianapolis Colts

The only rookie to make this top ten list, quarterback Anthony Richardson only played in four games during his rookie season. The public didn’t have high expectations for the Colts this year, but upon seeing Richardson’s play right from the bat in Week 1, a lot of excitement began to build surrounding the team. While certainly not perfect, he was an extremely entertaining player to watch in the first four games of his career. The biggest concern going forward is that he suffered multiple injuries from his scrambling in only his first four games. It was a Grade 3 AC joint sprain that ended his season prematurely, which he suffered during Week 5 against the Tennessee Titans


In Richardson's absence, backup Gardner Minshew stepped up to lead the Colts' offense with commendable play, leadership, and energy. The Colts were in playoff contention all the way up to the final game of the year, which was a play-in game with the Houston Texans. They ended up losing and narrowly missing the playoffs, but it’s hard to be upset with how well they did this year, given the circumstances. 


Anthony Richardson just began throwing again, which reportedly puts him 6–8 weeks ahead of schedule in his recovery. Next year will be one to watch for the development of Richardson into what the Colts believe could be their franchise quarterback for years to come. The only fear that some have is just how injury prone Richardson might be with his style of play.


Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns

The Browns faced significant setbacks when they lost their starting quarterback Deshaun Watson and star running back Nick Chubb for the majority of the season due to injuries. Chubb endured a devastating knee injury, tearing both his ACL and MCL in Week 2 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite this adversity, the Browns were impressively still able to make the playoffs, a testament to the leadership of 2023 Head Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski. This achievement was aided by their formidable defense, spearheaded by Defensive Player of the Year Myles Garrett, as well as the contributions of backup quarterback Joe Flacco, who earned the award for Comeback Player of the Year.

 

Known for their strong emphasis on running the ball, the Browns heavily rely on the exceptional talents of Nick Chubb, widely regarded as one of the best pure runners in the NFL. While Jerome Ford performed admirably in Chubb's absence, it's undeniable that Chubb's presence as a workhorse and game-changer is unparalleled.

 

With all of that being said, there is a possibility that the Browns elect to move on from Chubb before next season. His contract has a potential out this year, meaning they could cut him and save $10 million in cap space. This will likely only happen if there are concerns with his knee going forward, but there is legitimate cause for worry because this was Chubb’s second major injury to the same knee. He had previously suffered a devastating knee injury back in college when he played at Georgia in 2015, tearing his MCL, PCL, and LCL, as well as dislocating his knee.


Grady Jarrett, DT, Atlanta Falcons

While Grady Jarrett may not boast the same level of recognition as some other players in the league, Grady Jarrett's impact on the field cannot be understated. Jarrett has served as the backbone of the Falcons defense for over five years, consistently ranking among the top ten interior defensive linemen each year.

 

Atlanta’s defense was off to a great start this year, and a big part of that was the deadly combination of Jarrett and fellow defensive tackle David Onyemata. It was a huge blow when Jarrett tore his ACL at the start of the game against the Tennessee Titans in Week 8. 

 

The Falcons defense went downhill without having Jarrett on the defensive line, on average giving up more rushing and passing yards for the remainder of the season. Atlanta will surely look forward to having him return next year in 2024, as one of the key leaders on their defense under new head coach Raheem Morris.


Jaelan Phillips, Edge, Miami Dolphins

Many thought this would be a breakout season for Jaelan Phillips, but his season was marred by injuries throughout the first two months of games, dealing with back and oblique injuries. Once he returned from those, he was having a good year with 6.5 sacks and one interception in the eight games he played in. The Dolphins defense was performing much better in the middle of the season, and while part of that was getting cornerback Jalen Ramsey back from injury, Phillips was another big part of the reason why. 


Unfortunately, he ended up tearing his Achilles in Week 12 against the New York Jets. This occurred at MetLife Stadium, a location infamous for having a higher rate of non-contact injuries to players. 2024 will be a very important season for Phillips to prove he is able to come back from a major injury such as this, as it will be the final year of his current contract.


The Dolphins and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio mutually decided to part ways, allowing Miami to bring in Anthony Weaver from the Baltimore Ravens. Weaver had numerous head coaching interviews during this hiring cycle, but he wasn't able to land one of the positions. Instead, he will head to Miami as defensive coordinator, where he will look to bring a similar defensive scheme from Baltimore that he described as “extremely multiple and flexible.” Jaelan Phillips will undoubtedly play a big part in Weaver’s plan to improve Miami’s defense.


Uchenna Nwosu, Edge, Seattle Seahawks

Another very important player to his team’s defense, the Seahawks losing Uchenna Nwosu in the Week 7 game against the Arizona Cardinals was a huge loss. He suffered a torn pectoral muscle during the first half, and this resulted in him being placed on injured reserve for the remainder of the season.


Nwosu brought a lot of value to the team, from getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, to being a dominant presence against the run. The Seahawks defense started out the year as top three in rushing defense with Nwosu on the field, but then finished the 2023 season as the second worst. 


The Seahawks moved Dre’Mont Jones to the edge to help replace Nwosu, and young edge rusher Boye Mafe stepped up and had a great performance in his second season. I think Mafe put it best when speaking on Nwosu: “There’s a reason that he was ‘that guy’ for us, and it’s not even just how he played. It’s also the mentality he had and the mental aspect of the game. Being out there with him, he’s one of those people that likes to give you tips and tendencies. Just being out there with him was easy."


Matthew Judon, Edge, New England Patriots

The primary challenge the Patriots faced in 2023 stemmed from their struggling offense, which ranked among the league's worst. However, their defensive prowess could have been significantly stronger if not for two major injuries early in the season. In Week 4, the team suffered setbacks on their defense with the loss of their first-round rookie cornerback, Christian Gonzalez, who suffered a torn labrum. Gonzalez had shown immense promise, quickly looking like a top-tier cornerback in his initial four games. Additionally, the Patriots were dealt another blow during the same game when their standout edge rusher, Matthew Judon, sustained a lower bicep tendon tear.

 

Matthew Judon has arguably been the best player on Patriots over the past three seasons, initially signing a lucrative contract with New England after the Baltimore Ravens let him walk in free agency. Despite not reaching double-digit sack numbers in his first five seasons with the Ravens, Judon immediately made his presence felt upon joining the Patriots. He earned Pro Bowl honors in 2021 with 12.5 sacks and replicated his success in 2022 with 15.5 sacks. In just the first four games of the 2023 season, Judon displayed his dominance by totaling four sacks before his injury.

 

With the return of Gonzalez and Judon in 2024, the Patriots anticipate a significant improvement in their defensive performance. As the Patriots transition to life after Bill Belichick, new head coach Jerod Mayo and the rest of the staff will focus on bolstering their offense, while also anticipating a rejuvenated defense to anchor the team in the upcoming season.


Trevon Diggs, CB, Dallas Cowboys

When the Cowboys lost cornerback Trevon Diggs to a torn ACL in Week 2, some fans were worried about how well the secondary would perform without him. Which makes sense, he made first-team All-Pro in 2021 and led the league in interceptions with an absurd 11 total. In 2022, Diggs was voted to the Pro Bowl after another solid season as one of the league's top cornerbacks.

 

Diggs had been playing fantastic in the first two games of 2023, and the Cowboys defense was easily looking like the best in the league. People were unsure as to how much the Cowboys defense would decline without Diggs on the field. Dallas concluded that moving slot cornerback DaRon Bland to the outside would be the best move, and this ended up being a brilliant decision. Bland had an elite season in place of Diggs, and astoundingly broke the NFL record for the most pick-sixes in a single season with a total of five. Not only that, he was also locking down many top-end wide receivers throughout the year. Bland won first-team All-Pro, finishing as a top-two cornerback in the league.

 

Many will be very interested to see how well Dallas does having two elite cornerbacks, Diggs and Bland, both playing on the field at the same time. It should be noted that they are losing their defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn, who was hired as the new head coach for the Washington Commanders. Quinn played a big part in turning around the Cowboys defense back in 2021, helping them become the top five unit they have been for the last couple of seasons. But new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will have all of the tools in place for Dallas to continue to have a powerhouse defense, especially with Trevon Diggs returning in 2024.

 

Tre'Davious White, CB, Buffalo Bills

In what would be the second time in three seasons, cornerback Tre’Davious White had suffered yet another season-ending leg injury this year. It has been so disappointing because he was considered one of the league’s premiere cornerbacks in 2019 and 2020, and these types of major knee injuries can take their toll.


In Week 4, White sustained a torn Achilles while playing against the division rival Miami Dolphins. The outside cornerback spots were subsequently held by Christian Benford and Dane Jackson, but Buffalo still wanted to look for a veteran presence to help shore up that position group. This prompted them to trade for Green Bay Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas, along with a fifth-round pick, in exchange for a third-round pick. It was a bargain for a cornerback of Douglas’ caliber, and he was just what the Bills needed to help fortify their secondary.


As White focuses on rehabilitation, the Bills hope for his return to top form in 2024. With White, Rasul Douglas, and nickel corner Taron Johnson, the Bills hope to have a formidable defense yet again in 2024, provided White can maintain his health.