NFL stars looking to rebound from a rough 2018

Whether it was due to injury, age or just subpar play, many NFL players are looking to rebound after disappointing 2018 seasons. Here’s a look at 25 players hoping to bounce back.

Ezekiel Ansah, DE, free agent

Ansah had an injury-plagued year in 2018, likely his last in Detroit. He played only seven games, recording four sacks, and he struggled to find a market as a free agent this offseason due to a shoulder injury.

Vic Beasley, DE, Falcons

Beasley led the league with 15.5 sacks in 2016, but that production looks more like a fluke after his last two seasons. He had only five sacks in each of the last two seasons and also had just 20 tackles last year as a situational pass rusher. Atlanta desperately needs a rebound from him this year.

Randall Cobb, WR, Cowboys

At one time Cobb was Aaron Rodgers’ top receiver, but he’s struggled in Green Bay over the last three years. After playing only nine games due to injuries last season, he signed with the Cowboys to replace Cole Beasley as the team’s slot receiver.

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals

Dalton’s last winning season as a starter was 2015. Last year he went 5-6 in 11 starts before a season-ending thumb injury. He also threw 11 interceptions during his time on the field. Bengals fans hope new head coach Zac Taylor can help Dalton take a step forward.

Joe Flacco, QB, Broncos

The writing was on the wall for Flacco in Baltimore after the team drafted Lamar Jackson. Despite adding several new receivers, Flacco went 4-5 as a starter with just 12 touchdown passes before giving way to Jackson due to a hip injury. Denver traded for Flacco in the offseason, but he’s in a similar situation after the Broncos drafted Drew Lock in the second round.

Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars

Jacksonville’s return for selecting Fournette fourth overall in the 2017 draft hasn’t been great thus far. He had more than 1,000 yards rushing in his rookie season but averaged only 3.9 yards per carry. Last season was worse, as he played only eight games mostly due to injuries and had a terrible 3.3 yards per rush attempt. Fournette also had minor legal issues during the offseason.

Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons

Freeman has struggled to stay healthy over the last two seasons and played only two games last year due to foot and groin injuries. He’s still young enough to rebound going into his age 27 season, and the Falcons need him to be healthy after Tevin Coleman left in free agency.

Jimmy Graham, TE, Packers

Green Bay expected big things from Graham after signing him last offseason, but he was a relative disappointment with only 636 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Graham deserves credit for gutting out a thumb injury late in the year, but the expectation that he’d replace Jordy Nelson’s production didn’t come to fruition.

A.J. Green, WR, Bengals

Green has missed significant time in two of the last three seasons, sitting out seven games last year due to a toe injury. For the second straight year, Green’s production when he did play was also down significantly with only 77 receiving yards per game after averaging at least 80 yards from 2012-2016.

Full 25

By: Seth Trachtman

 

Falcons Beat Bucs On Back Of Devonta Freeman To Move to 9-5

Written by Chris Wesseling at NFL.com

Devonta Freeman overcame a pair of fumbles to pound out a season-high 194 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown, leading the Atlanta Falcons (9-5) to a 24-21 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers(4-10) in Week 15. The Falcons held on for the win after Patrick Murray missed a 54-yard field-goal attempt as time expired. Here’s what we learned from Monday night’s action:

1. The final two weeks of the NFC South’s season set up as a round-robin tournament to establish playoff seeding among three contenders. Due to tie-breaker advantages, the Falcons will succeed in defending their division crown if they win out. If they lose next week at New Orleans, however, they will have to beat the Panthers at home in the regular-season finale to prevent the Lions, Cowboys or Seahawks from sneaking in via a late-season winning streak.

2. Atlanta’s victory officially eliminates Green Bay from the playoff picture, which leaves the Packers with little incentive to risk re-injury to Aaron Rodgers’ surgically repaired throwing shoulder going forward. Re-signing No. 3 quarterback Joe Callahan on Monday, coach Mike McCarthy acknowledged that Rodgers is “sore” after taking too many hits in Sunday’s return to game action. “We’ll see what tomorrow brings,” McCarthy added. Monday night’s result is going to bring ill tidings in McCarthy’s Christmas stocking.

3. Freeman was the Falcons’ leading rusher and top receiver. Channeling Le’Veon Bell, he made defensive backs pay at the tackle point, lowering his shoulder and driving for extra yardage. After staking his team to a 10-point lead via a 32-yard touchdown scamper in the middle of the fourth quarter, he also came through with a crucial third-down conversion just before the two-minute warning.

4. Twenty is the magic number for Dan Quinn’s club. The Falcons are now 9-0 when they score at least 20 points as opposed to 0-5 when they fail to reach that mark. That said, winning five of the past six has obscured some troubling signs for Matt Ryan’s aerial attack. Entering Week 11, the 2016 MVP had thrown for at least 224 yards in 50 consecutive games. He has now been held under that threshold five times since mid-November. The Ryan-to-Julio Jones connection that was the NFL’s most productive last season has generated a paltry passer rating of 31.4 over the past three weeks, the worst stretch of Jones’ career. As we pointed out last week, Ryan is too often forced to squeeze the ball into tight windows in Steve Sarkisian’s offense whereas Kyle Shanahan’s brilliant scheming frequently led to wide open targets for an offense that averaged 11 more points a year ago.

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Which RB Will Make Your Fantasy Team Better?

Written by Drew Loftis and Jarad Wilk at New York Post.com

The hardest task in a routine fantasy football draft is choosing which running backs to take and when to take them. Post fantasy Madman Drew Loftis and Roto Rage Jarad Wilk debate which of these RBs is the best addition to your roster:

Melvin Gordon vs. Devonta Freeman

Drew: Both these guys go near the turn in the first two rounds. Picking that high, I go with safest guy. There is no one to challenge Gordon in the San Diego backfield. If healthy, he is the go-to guy. Freeman gets the bulk of carries, but Tevin Coleman steals a fair amount. That makes touchdowns more fickle, and it introduces a performance variable that doesn’t exist for Gordon: If Freeman doesn’t perform well, Coleman could get extra work. That factor doesn’t exist for Gordon.

Jarad: Even with Coleman in the picture last season, Freeman ranked second in the league in red-zone touches (62). He also had a team-high 17 targets in the red zone. Freeman also just signed a massive five-year, $41.25 million deal, so he will continue to be the focal point of the Falcons’ rushing attack. Gordon may have no competition, but he also has trouble staying on the field — missed three games last year, two the year before. Last season, Freeman had more yards per carry (4.8 to 3.9), more total touchdowns (13 to 12), more targets (65 to 57), a better catch percentage and more total yards (1,541 to 1,416). Freeman is the way to go.

Leonard Fournette vs. Todd Gurley

Drew: This a what-we-know vs. what-we-don’t-know argument. We know, after last season, Gurley is not QB-proof. In fact, if we go back to his first season — when he produced four consecutive 100-yard games after his first start – he has exactly one 100-yard game and two games with two TDs. Considering one of those two-TD games came in that one 100-yard game, that give you exactly two strong fantasy games in the past 24. We’re not sure what to expect from Fournette, but we will gamble the volume he receives gives a better opportunity to best Gurley’s consistent inefficiency.

Jarad: After a solid rookie campaign, 2016 was a huge disappointment for Gurley after being drafted as a top-five running back. There is, however, reason to be optimistic — he is just 22-years-old, has remained healthy, the O-line is slightly improved and he saw plenty of touches, as well as targets. The Rams also have a new, very young (31) coach who already has said he expects big things from Gurley and a bounce-back is not out of the question. Fournette, though very talented, is also an unknown playing for the Jaguars, who haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2011 and haven’t won more than five games since 2010.

Devonta Freeman Agree To Five Year Deal With Falcons

Written by Vaughn McClure at ESPN.com

The Atlanta Falcons and two-time Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman have agreed on a five-year contract extension the team announced Wednesday.

The deal is worth $41.25 million and includes a $15 million signing bonus, agent Kristin Campbell told ESPN.

In terms of average per year, Freeman’s $8.25 average would exceed any current running back with multiyear deals. Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy would now be second at $8.010 million, followed by Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin at $7.15 million. Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell with make $12.12 million this year under the one-year franchise tag.

Freeman, a 2014 fourth-round draft pick out of Florida State, was moving into the final year of his rookie contract and was scheduled to make almost $1.8 million this season. General manager Thomas Dimitroff said getting a deal done with Freeman was “100 percent” the focus this week heading into training camp.

“We are very pleased that we were able to get this extension done,” Dimitroff said. “Devonta embodies everything we are looking for in a Falcon, and we are proud that he’ll be able to spend his career here in Atlanta.”

Freeman emerged as a key figure in the Falcons’ high-octane offense. He amassed 3,175 yards from scrimmage and 27 touchdowns over the last two seasons. Freeman became the first Falcon to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons since Michael Turner accomplished the feat in 2010-11.

Talk of a new contract for Freeman initially surfaced before the Super Bowl, when Campbell told NFL Network she wanted to see Freeman paid like an elite running back. Freeman maintained patience throughout the process and didn’t hold out of any offseason activities.

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