NFL Analysis


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2023 NFL Week 12 Injury Takeaways: How Teams Are Replacing Star Tight Ends

Darren Waller celebrates vs. Washington Commanders
New York Giants tight end Darren Waller (12) celebrates his touchdown reception during the first half against the Washington Commanders at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

After Week 12, we start to find out which teams are contenders and which are pretenders. Unfortunately, we saw MetLife claim another Achilles tendon during the holiday weekend, and we are hoping Jaelen Phillips has a speedy recovery. 

This week’s theme is teams snagging victories without their top tight ends.

Week 12 Injury Analysis

Before the 2023 season, SIS used an injury prediction model that predicts the likelihood of a player missing at least one game during the season. 

So far, six of the top 10 tight ends the model predicted most likely to miss a game have missed at least one.

Top 10 TEs Injury PredictionInjury
Taysom HillActive all season
Darren WallerHasn’t played since Week 8, Hamstring
Juwan JohnsonMissed Weeks 4-7, Calf
Logan ThomasMissed Week 3, Concussion
Jelani WoodsHas yet to play this season, Hamstring
Tyler HigbeeActive all season
Mark AndrewsMissed Week 1, Quadriceps. Hasn’t played since Week 11, Fibula Fracture
Daniel BellingerActive all season
Dallas GoedertHasn’t played since Week 9, Forearm Fracture
Hunter HenryActive all season

The biggest names on this list are Darren Waller, Mark Andrews and Dallas Goedert, who did not suit up this past weekend. We wanted to look at how their respective teams performed and what changes they have made without them.

Darren Waller, New York Giants

The New York Giants are firmly out of the playoff race. Still, we can get an insight into what a vital piece they have been missing in the chaos around the quarterback position.

For the last four weeks, Waller has been sidelined with a lingering hamstring issue. The Giants’ use of 11 personnel jumps 20 percentage points when he is off the field. In turn, the use of 12 personnel drops 23 percentage points. 

Without Waller, the Giants almost exclusively run sets with only one tight end. New York’s quarterbacks target the short middle of the field 39 percent of the time with him on the sideline, compared to 45 percent when he is on the field.

The offense, as a whole, has struggled without him, but especially the passing game. With how the roster is constructed, Waller was operating as the No. 1 pass catcher, and the Giants still haven’t found his replacement.

Waller On the FieldWaller Off the Field
EPA/60 Plays-10-19
EPA/60 Pass Plays-8-23

One interesting impact is Saquon Barkley’s improvement without Waller. This season, Barkley averages 3.2 yards per carry with Waller, but that figure jumps to 4.9 yards per carry with Waller sidelined. 

Dallas Goedert stiff arms Jevon Holland
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert (88) is pushed out of bounds by Miami Dolphins safety Jevon Holland (8) during the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles are another NFC East team operating without their top tight end. Goedert is recovering from surgery on his fractured forearm suffered in Week 9. He’s pushing to make a quick comeback as the Eagles look to continue their winning ways.

The most significant difference for the Eagles without Goedert is their lack of success when using 11 personnel. 

Eagles 11 Personnel Usage and Success in 2023

Usage %Usage % RankSuccess %Success % Rank
Weeks 1-971%8th47%4th
Weeks 10-1258%24th30%32nd

Philadelphia's coaching staff realized its struggles and pivoted to using four wide receivers and zero tight end sets more than any team in the league in the last three weeks. Instead of trying to replace his production with another tight end, using different wide receivers has been beneficial.

While the Eagles have gotten creative to work around Goedert’s injury, we don’t know how sustainable their success without him is. In a small sample size, Jalen Hurts’ completion percentage goes from 71 percent to 57 percent, with Goedert sidelined. 

While it’s not nearly as many snaps, the changes in EPA for the Eagles with Goedert sidelined are similar to Waller’s impact in New York.

Baltimore Ravens TE Mark Andrews was injured on this tackle against the Cincinnati Bengals
Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews (89) runs after a catch during the first quarter against Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson (55) at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens are another contending team that recently lost their tight end. The jury is still out on whether Andrews will return this season. He underwent surgery on his fractured fibula and injured ligaments in his ankle. 

It might take a deep playoff run to see him on the field again, and this team has that capability. 

Lamar Jackson throws to the short middle of the field 50 percent of the time when Andrews is on the field this season. That number goes to 38 percent when he is sidelined. 

Even though he has only been inactive for two games, the Ravens have taken a lot of snaps with him off the field. This is because the Ravens use two running back sets without a tight end more than any other team. 

To our surprise, the Ravens’ EPA/60 is actually slightly better with Andrews off the field.

That’s not to discredit Andrews’ ability. This season, he has the second-highest EPA per target among tight ends with at least 40 targets. That sandwiches him between the leader, George Kittle, and Travis Kelce. He also ranks fourth in first down percentage with those same qualifications. 

It’s the fact the Ravens have an extremely high-level backup tight end, Isaiah Likely, who the team feels comfortable with filling in. Unlike the Eagles, the Ravens haven’t altered their schemes without Andrews. Their personnel group usage has stayed consistent, showing trust in their backup.

Likely led the Ravens in receiving yards this past week, and time will tell if he can sustain his success without Andrews. He has been in Andrews’ shadow, but with defenses now game-planning for him, it’ll be interesting to see how he finishes the season. 

Each Team Is Adapting

All of these teams lost their starting tight end and have replaced their production in different ways. 

The Giants are hurting the most. They don’t have the supporting cast or backups to replace Waller’s presence. The Eagles have shifted to different personnel groupings, and the Ravens trust their backup to carry the load. 

Each offense has different strengths and weaknesses, and it comes down to the coaches having a great understanding of their roster to come up with a game plan. 

This article was authored by Brett Barnes.