10 NFL Stars That Didnt Win Awards Last Year, but Will Rebound in 2012
No player can perform at peak levels for every season of their NFL careers.
If such a feat were possible nobody would get injured or ever retire (and no Brett Favre doesn't count.)
For the following 10 players, 2011 was a low point in a career otherwise filled with success.
Whether due to injury or poor production, these players simply did not play at the levels they are capable of.
2012 will change that.
It will be an opportunity to return to the elite levels these players have exemplified since joining the NFL.
Let's start with a man only one year removed from an early retirement...
10. Carson Palmer
The talk of Carson Palmer's surprising "retirement" has subsided.
He has spent a season with the Oakland Raiders and had an opportunity to digest the playbook and build relationships with the receiving core.
2012 must be Palmer's time to return to an elite level.
He was unspectacular but decent in 2011, registering 2,753 passing yards, 13 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions in just 10 games of action.
Look for a return to the Pro Bowl-caliber play that Palmer exuded from 2005-07.
9. Ndamukong Suh
It's amazing how quickly the perception of Ndaumkong Suh shifted from his rookie campaign to his sophomore season.
He went from NFL darling and resident breakout star to a dirty player, who at times, could be handled at the line of scrimmage.
Suh's temper certainly needs to be controlled, but he's too talented to disappoint in back-to-back seasons.
Double-digit sacks are clearly on the horizon for Suh as he focuses on football and opposing offensive lines have to give added attention to Nick Fairley (assuming he gets his off the field issues straightened out.)
Suh has dominant rushing abilities for a defensive tackle and a surprisingly athletic skill set.
Detroit will lean on him early and often as 2012 unfolds.
8. Clay Matthews
Clay Matthews was not terrible in 2011.
In fact, by all accounts, he was pretty good.
Matthews racked up 37 tackles and six sacks while adding nine pass deflections to his stats sheet.
But he was not the monster that dominated games in 2010 and sacked the quarterback 13.5 times.
Matthews did not take over games or showcase his tremendous motor as frequently as he had just a season prior.
Perhaps, all he needs in 2012 is a little change in scenery.
Rookie outside linebacker Nick Perry should play the left side of the field in 2012, allowing Matthews to revert to his natural right side.
He has the ability to return to the summit he found in 2010 and logic says he will rebound nicely this season.
7. Jay Cutler
The Chicago Bears may be flying slightly under the radar, but they are primed for a big 2012 campaign.
Jay Cutler was on fire towards the middle of the 2011 season...then he got hurt.
In 2012, he should pick up right where he left off before that unfortunate setback.
Cutler has pieces around him that will help him reach his utmost potential.
The offensive line will have to give him some time to throw the ball, but assuming that happens (at least to some degree), Cutler should have the second 4,000 passing yard season of his career.
6. Jamaal Charles
The Kansas City Chiefs have brought in Peyton Hillis to complement Jamaal Charles in their backfield.
That could be scary for AFC West opponents.
Charles has had well over a year to heal from the debilitating knee injury he suffered last season and looks poised to showcase the immense talent he displayed in 2009 and 2010.
In those seasons, he rushed for a combined 2,587 yards and averaged 6.2 yards per carry.
Charles is a mutifaceted weapon that will have plenty of chances to stretch out defenses with the bruising Hillis handling the tougher carries.
The Chiefs passing game is still relatively weak, having ranked only 25th in the league last season.
Being able to lean on their best offensive weapon again in 2012 should bode well for the offense as a whole.
And of course, help Charles return to the top of rushing charts.
5. Nnamdi Asomugha
The Philadelphia Eagles go out and sign one of the best man coverage cornerbacks in the entire league and then are surprised when he struggles adjusting to a zone-heavy scheme?
This flawed logic aside, 2012 should mark the return of the shutdown corner we all saw in Oakland for so many years.
The Eagles have parted ways with Asante Samuel, and that means it's just Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie handling the corners.
More man coverage will play to Asomugha's strengths and allow him to settle into his comfort zone and find an all important rhythm early in the season.
An added bonus is the fact that Asomugha should have a slight chip on his shoulder after underperforming in 2011.
That can only mean good things for Philadelphia's secondary.
4. Michael Vick
Something was simply off with Michael Vick last season.
He was not the same rejuvenated star the world saw in 2010.
Perhaps, it was the lackluster effort from DeSean Jackson or the weight of the "dream team" pressing on his shoulders.
For whatever reason, Vick was not as impressive.
His interceptions more than doubled from the year prior, and he ran for only one touchdown.
2012 will mean a chance for Vick to show his ability to consistently deliver big-time performances for the Eagles.
At 31 years old, he still has all the necessary speed and agility to play at the level he has always been capable of, now he just has to take the field and prove it.
Maintaining a high completion percentage and limiting turnovers will be the keys to Vick performing at his apex.
3. Adrian Peterson
Injury or no injury, Adrian Peterson is still the main cog in the Minnesota Vikings offense.
He will rebound from his 2011 setback because Peterson has the resolve and determination to do so.
As his Vikings floundered to a 3-13 record last season, A.P. still found a way to maintain his elite level of play up until his injury.
Quarterback Christian Ponder is young and still learning how to be a starter in the NFL. Teams will attempt to exploit this weakness and continue to focus on the league's best running back as they have for so many years.
This means 2012 should be another good test for the Vikings star, but all signs show that he's perfectly suited to the task.
Drafting Matt Kalil to man the left tackle position should be a nice boost to the offensive line and help Peterson find easier holes to run through.
2. Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning almost has to be on this list by default.
It is well-documented that he did not play last season because of neck issues and is now a member of the Denver Broncos.
Once you get past the spectacle that has been the last 12 months for Manning, you can begin to realize that he actually has a lot to prove in 2012.
Can he rebound from neck surgery and regain his place among the NFL's elite signal-callers?
Smart money never bets against Peyton and his motivation to succeed in Denver is overwhelming.
He has found production out of receivers far worse than Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas throughout his career.
From 1998-2010, Manning had only two seasons where he did not reach the 4,000-yard passing mark, and 2012 should be a return to that stellar form.
1. Chris Johnson
2011 was an aberration for Chris Johnson.
It had to be right?
This is a former 2,000-yard rusher—a man with the speed to go the distance on every play—a player in the prime of his career.
Yet, once Johnson got his big payday, he forgot how to play. His production last season is almost too pathetic to recite.
In six contests, he even managed to run for less than 50 total yards.
In 2012, Johnson needs to rebound to give the Tennessee Titans any hope of making a playoff run.
He believes he's still the top running back in the NFL.
This will be his chance to prove it.