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

 

NFL Players Who Became Stars This Year

Written by Dan Graziano at ESPN.com

An NFL season reveals a lot. Teams and players undergo changes, evolve, figure out who they are and who they aren’t. The stars of the prior year can fade into obscurity. Last year’s draft busts can hit their stride.

But each year produces a fresh crop of “star” players — players who capture the public’s attention with their performances and the impact they have on their teams and the playoff races. 2016 was no exception, and a group of fresh young stars emerged from this season ready to help lead the league into the future.

Here’s a look at some players who started the NFL season with question marks, but graduated into full-blown stardom.

Jay Ajayi, RB | Miami Dolphins

Who he was in August: One of a few committee running backs in Miami — and not on real solid ground with the new coach, either. Adam Gase left Ajayi home when the team went to Seattle in Week 1, benching him for attitude-related reasons in an effort to get him on board with the team’s plans for the position.

What he did: Handled all of that well enough to get another shot once Arian Foster got hurt. He ran for 204 yards against the Steelers in his first start, Week 6, then ran for 214 the following week. From Week 6 forward, Ajayi led the NFL with 1,155 rushing yards.

Who he is now: Certainly the starter for the Dolphins moving forward, and a back who has demonstrated enough that the team can run its offense through him.

Vic Beasley, OLB | Atlanta Falcons

Who he was in August: A first-round pick who’d shown some promise but not much consistency in a rookie season when he finished with just four sacks. The Falcons decided in the offseason to change his position in their defense to free him up to rush the passer more.

What he did: Led the NFL with 15.5 sacks in his second season and rejuvenated a Falcons pass rush that had been dormant for years. Atlanta finished 11-5, earned the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs and is headed to its first Super Bowl in nearly two decades.

Who he is now: Sacks are a money stat, and Beasley is the 17th player in NFL history to record at least 15.5 in a season at age 24 or younger. This sets him up for long-term stardom if he can continue to produce at the same level in the years to come.

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