I saw Michael Vick on one of the jillionteen chatterbox shows on sports TV recently. He was talking about his comeback to the NFL and how important that was to him and how important it was for him to be able to own up to the actions that led to his banishment. While I thought that message was potentially an important one for younger players who seem unable to avoid “off-field circumstances” that can adversely affect their NFL careers, it also got me thinking about some NFL players who need for the 2018 NFL season to reinvigorate their careers.
These important “comeback years” come in two flavors. Let me first consider players who need to rebound from injury to reoccupy their high-level status in the NFL hierarchy. [Aside: This is off the top of my head; there are surely players of note that I have left out of this discussion; that is because I did not think of them immediately and for no other reason…]
- Odell Beckham, Jr.: He has lots of “scratchy” traits that can be accommodated in the locker room simply because of his greatness as a WR. But if he comes back in a state that does not allow him to be great …
- Eric Berry: He is a top-shelf safety – – probably one of the three best in the league. The Chiefs will be thrilled to have him back in their secondary.
- Dalvin Cook: It sure seemed as if the Vikes had a top-shelf running back on the roster until the injury gods intervened.
- Julian Edelman: No one is “irreplaceable”. Nevertheless, he is important enough to the Pats’ offense that his return is very important to the team.
- David Johnson: He is one of the current “top 3 running backs” in the NFL. Having him in the backfield has to enhance the Arizona Cards’ offense.
- Andrew Luck: The vector heading for the entirety of the Colts’ franchise depends on Luck’s ability to play QB the way he did in the first 3 seasons of his career.
- Clay Matthews: No offense, but even when healthy, he has been way over-hyped for the last two seasons. Can/will he discard that statistical negativity and forge ahead with his career?
- Aaron Rodgers: If I need to explain to you why this entry is on this list, you probably ought not to be reading this rant.
- Richard Sherman: All eyes in NoCal and in Seattle will be on him to see how he does against the Seahawks twice this year. The first direct confrontation will be on December 2nd when the Niners visit the Seahawks. Should be interesting…
- Deshaun Watson: Even if you hate the Houston Texans, you must realize that his return to the field at anything near his level of competence from last year will be a huge boost for the Texans…
- JJ Watt: Everything I said above about Deshaun Watson and his value to the Texans applies to JJ Watt in spades…
At the same time, there are several NFL players who had down years in 2017 for reasons that have nothing to do with injury and who need to rebound their careers onto a positive vector heading for 2018:
- Dez Bryant: He no longer “gets separation” the way he used to and he is no longer the constant long-ball threat he was in the “Tony Romo Days” in Dallas. Nevertheless, he can be a load-and-a-half to deal with inside the 10-yardliine for defensive coordinators.
- Amari Cooper: What happened here? After 2016, some may have been ready to suggest that Amari Cooper might be the heir-apparent to Jerry Rice as the best WR of all time. After 2017, no one who thought that would want to stand up and acknowledge the same…
- Joe Flacco: We are no longer debating if he is an “elite QB” because it is clear that he is not. The question now is whether he can remain a viable starter in the NFL.
- Marcus Mariotta: Did the 2017 NFL season represent a misstep on his part or was 2017 the cap on his abilities as an NFL QB? I think it is the former – but he needs to show me how wrong I would be to assert the latter.
Finally, here is a cogent comment from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:
“Idle thought: I’m relatively curious about next week’s NFL draft, if only to find out where the best quarterbacks land. That doesn’t mean I still don’t see any reason to treat it like Easter Mass at the Vatican.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………