Five NFL Players That Could Be Given Bigger Roles This Season

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistMay 11, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 07:  Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie #23 of the Philadelphia Eagles catches a pass during practice before playing against the Chicago Bears at Lincoln Financial Field on November 7, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

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.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 27:  BenJarvus Green-Ellis #42 of the New England Patriots scores a 1-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 27, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

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.

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 26: Josh Morgan #84 of the San Francisco 49ers hauls in a pass against Bradley Fletcher #32 of the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on December 26, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Rams beat the 49ers 25-17. (Photo by Dilip
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

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.