Free-agency moves and decisions in the draft, questionable or otherwise, have primed certain players for even bigger roles this season.
There is no doubt that Benjarvus Green-Ellis can expect an expanded workload now that he has joined a team likely to place more value on his talents as a runner, rather than as a pass-blocker. Here are five players set for bigger roles in 2012:
Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts
Robert Mathis is set to emerge from Dwight Freeney's considerable shadow this season, as the pair transition to outside linebackers in Chuck Pagano's hybrid 3-4 scheme. Mathis has the body type to be a more immediate success in the role than Freeney.
After excelling in a situational role last season, expect Mathis to be even more productive and overtake Freeney as the Colts' chief pass-rush threat in the new system.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals
It's a reasonable bet that Green-Ellis can expect more carries in Cincinnati than he ever got with the New England Patriots. The durable, between-the-tackles runner can become the focal point of the Bengals' ground game and the ideal complement to Andy Dalton and A.J. Green.
Marvin Austin, New York Giants
After sitting out his rookie season with an ACL injury, defensive tackle Marvin Austin is expected to be a key contributor for the New York Giants this season. Despite adding veteran Shaun Rogers to the interior rotation, the Giants will be expecting the 6'2" 312-pound Austin to quickly become a disruptive 3-technique and help improve Perry Fewell's defense.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles felt comfortable trading Asante Samuel, because they can simply put Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in his place. The ex-Arizona Cardinal is a better fit for the press man-to-man coverage techniques favored by defensive coordinator Juan Castillo.
Playing across from the superb Nnamdi Asomugha, only increases the likelihood of Rodgers-Cromartie seeing more action this season.
Josh Morgan, Washington Redskins
Josh Morgan has an excellent chance of becoming a vital contributor in the Washington Redskins' Robert Griffin III-led offense this season. Mike Shanahan recently indicated that Morgan will join fellow free-agent acquisition Pierre Garcon and youngster Leonard Hankerson, as the Redskins' three main weapons at the wideout position.
Morgan was largely used as a third receiver during his time with the 49ers. He is a resourceful possession receiver, particularly adept at attacking the middle of a defense. Those attributes will make Morgan invaluable to a passing game directed by a rookie quarterback.
Expect each of these players to see plenty of action for their teams this season. The likes of Rodgers-Cromartie and Morgan are under the most pressure, with their respective teams having cleared out incumbents to make room for them.
Mathis can determine the success of the new-look Colts defense, while Austin will benefit from being surrounded by talented, veteran supporting casts.
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