It feels like the “Next Man Up” motto has never been used more in the first quarter of an NFL season than in 2020, as rosters have been in a constant shuffle during this bizarre, unprecedented year.
With all of the changes, I’ve connected with my sources across the league and accumulated my own scouting reports on players suddenly thrust into bigger roles in Week 4. Here’s what I’ve gathered on six notable fill-ins:
Replacing: Chris Carson (knee)
Carson suffered a first-degree strain to his knee last week and has a chance to play on Sunday, but Hyde could be in line to carry a bulk of the load as an excellent backup with starter ability. Now, it must be noted that Hyde has been limited in practice with a shoulder ailment of his own. Assuming he’s good to go, the Seahawks hope Hyde can re-channel his 2019 production with the Houston Texans, when the back set career highs in carries (245) and yards (1,070) while scoring six touchdowns. As a physical, two-down back who can be a checkdown option for Russell Wilson, Hyde fits well into what Seattle wants to do on offense. Having had no more than seven carries in a game this season, Hyde — who has had some fumbling issues due, in part, to his upright running style — could easily double his usage Sunday in Miami. I would expect the Dolphins to jam the holes inside the tackles and force him to bounce outside, but if Seattle’s offensive line can control the trenches to help Hyde run downhill, the veteran should have a good performance.
Replacing: Chris Harris(foot)
Losing Harris is a big blow to this unit, as the four-time Pro Bowler played 92 percent of the team’s defensive snaps in Weeks 1-3. King, who has started in 21 of his 50 NFL games over four seasons, has logged the fourth-most defensive snaps of the Chargers’ cornerbacks in 2020. He will man the starting nickel spot against the Buccaneers. He is a physical, instinctive press corner and is best in zone coverage. His weakness is deep speed. King could get in trouble against Tampa Bay slot receiver Scott Miller, especially if the Bolts get him into extended man coverage.
Replacing: Tarik Cohen (knee)
Though Patterson won’t supplant Cohen completely, the former first-round wide receiver can do a lot of the same things within the Bears’ offensive scheme. Patterson has shown some instincts as an inside rusher with Chicago, but thrives on the outside and in space as a big, physical and fast player. Patterson, a return specialist, has bought into being a running back and will do some damage as a versatile weapon out of the backfield if the Bears can control the line of scrimmage vs. the Colts.
Replacing: Dallas Goedert (ankle)
It’ll be hard to replace Goedert’s production and contribution as a blocker. The Eagles have to hope Rodgers can bring his 2015 form to Sunday’s prime-time game in San Francisco. With the Green Bay Packers that season, he posted career highs across the board, including eight TDs. He’s battled injuries since coming to Philly and has landed on IR in each of the past two seasons. This year, Rodgers has played 33 offensive snaps for the Eagles with a pair of receptions for 15 yards. The 6-foot-4, 257-pound veteran has good hands and instincts as a receiver and the ability to find holes in the defense. I see his impact on this struggling offense being minimal.
Replacing: Andrus Peat (ankle)
Ruiz looked good in camp before suffering an ankle injury after getting rolled up on in practice in late August. After playing just six offensive snaps in Week 2, the rookie logged 48 snaps at the guard position against Green Bay in Week 3. Taken 24th overall in the 2020 draft, Ruiz is strong with a good anchor in pass protection and he can hold the line, a critical point of emphasis for the Saints because a strong interior will alleviate inside pressure on Drew Brees. In this young season, Ruiz has posted the Saints’ second-highest pass-blocking grade (75.9) behind tackle Terron Armstead, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s a great sign, considering he’s still getting some of the dust off.
Replacing: Christian Kirksey (shoulder)
Summers recorded a team-high nine tackles over 44 defensive snaps after replacing Kirksey in last week’s win over New Orleans. The second-year pro is very fast, instinctive and smart, which allowed him to make the defensive calls (typically Kirksey’s role) without a hitch. Summers’ smaller frame (6-1, 241 pounds) hurts him at times when the opposition runs straight at him, and he missed some open-field tackles vs. the Saints. He should be a big contributor in coverage against the pass-heavy Atlanta Falcons on Monday night.
Follow Charley Casserly on Twitter @CharleyCasserly
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