The New York Jets could be without as many as three linebackers when they kickoff the 2016 season Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Coach Todd Bowles announced David Harris and Bruce Carter are both questionable with shoulder injuries, while rookie outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins is doubtful with a calf injury. Harris and Carter were both limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday, while Jenkins hasn’t practiced all week.
Harris’ absence would leave an enormous void in the middle of New York’s defense. The “Hitman” has racked up at least 100 total tackles in each of the past four seasons. He sustained the injury on the final play of the first half during the Jets’ third preseason showdown with the New York Giants. Harris has been an iron man for the Jets and hasn’t missed a start since 2008.
Harris’ absence would be magnified if Carter can’t play. Carter, who was signed by the Jets during the offseason, is listed as Harris’ backup on the team’s depth chart. That means veteran Erin Henderson, first-round pick Darron Lee and Julian Stanford could play an enhanced role Sunday afternoon.
Jenkins, a third-round pick out of Georgia, earned a starting job on the outside during training camp. Jenkins is expected to serve as an edge-sealing outside linebacker who will help contain the run. He’s not as effective as a pass rusher, but Gang Green has explosive rusher Lorenzo Mauldin opposite him.
It’s important to note the NFL has changed the way teams are told to report injuries. Gone is the “Probable” label, leaving only “Questionable” and “Doubtful” as designations. Questionable has become a broad term. But, given Harris’ and Carter’s limited participation in practice, there’s a decent chance neither player takes the field this weekend.