6 NFL Players Who Will Finally Prove the Critics Wrong in 2012
Every year, there are players who, despite an enormous amount of scrutiny for failing to live up to lofty expectations, respond with career years.
Last year, Eli Manning was a perfect example of this. After declaring himself to be an "elite" quarterback and taking a lot of backlash for his remarks, all he did was turn around and win himself another championship.
Here are six players who will silence their critics in 2012.
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Romo is a victim of the empty label of not being a "winner." The truth is, Romo is a huge reason why the Dallas Cowboys are even competitive in a lot of their games.
Sure, he has made his share of head-scratching mistakes that have cost the Cowboys a few games, but there is no question that he has the talent and the tools around him to get the job done.
With a pair of extremely talented receivers at his side and a young, up-and-coming offensive line to protect him, Romo is set to have his best season yet as a pro.
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As the lead back in the Jets' trademarked "Ground and Pound" offense, one would expect Shonn Greene to put up huge numbers and score a ton of touchdowns.
However, after showing flashes of greatness in the 2009 playoffs, Greene has yet to prove that he can be the foundation-type back the Jets are looking for. While he eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark last year, he had just six touchdowns, matching Mark Sanchez's rushing total.
While Greene had his share of blame for the Jets' lackluster running game, his offensive line dealt with injuries all season, particularly at the center and guard position. Nick Mangold missed two games early in the season and right guard Brandon Moore was rated one of the worst run-blocking guards in football by Pro Football Focus, despite not allowing a sack all season.
As the Jets get back to their run-first roots, Greene will be able to get the carries he needs to wear down defenses and put up yards with a healthy offensive line in front of him.
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Like Tony Romo, Joe Flacco is often criticized for not doing more with the talent he has, both within himself and on his team.
To get an idea of just how talented Flacco is, all you have to do is take a look at this year's AFC Championship game. If Lee Evans hangs onto the ball, Flacco goes from "underachiever" to "winner" in the public eye.
His supporting cast is a bit overrated as well. His offensive line, particularly at the tackle position, struggles in protection. Anquan Boldin is not the same player he was a few years ago, and Cam Cameron's system is more suited to the 1960's than today's NFL with his simple route combinations.
Now that the Ravens are much depleted from offseason moves, this will be Flacco's chance to shine and prove to his critics that he is a strength of this team, not just a role player.
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Every year, there seems to be a new, unusual issue for the San Diego Chargers. One year, they are struck with the injury bug, only to field one of the worst special-teams units in league history the following year.
Last year, Philip Rivers turned into a turnover-machine and made enough "derp" plays to leave your forehead beet-red from so many face palms.
Call it a gut feeling, but this is the year the Chargers make a run. They have used up every excuse in the book to blame their shortcomings on and they are out of excuses.
They may not make the Super Bowl, but this is the year the Chargers cruise into the playoffs like most teams with elite quarterbacks do every year.
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Now, I am not around Brandon Marshall every day, but when a team trades who is arguably its best player for a couple of third-round picks, it usually indicates that talent is not the only problem and that Marshall was just not a fit on the team.
However, now that Marshall is reunited with his BFF from his days in Denver, Jay Cutler, Marshall is set to have a bounceback season after spending his time in Miami catching passes from mediocre quarterbacks.
Not only will he be back with Cutler, but Cutler is clearly a better quarterback and much more mature than he was in his Denver days. Cutler's experience could be just what the troubled receiver needs to get his career back on track.
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At one point, Levi Brown was probably the worst starting left tackle in the league. He was difficult to watch and was clearly the biggest issue on the Arizona Cardinals offensive line, despite being a first-round pick back in 2007.
However, Brown played exponentially better in the second-half of the season. He allowed just one sack in the final eight games of the season, which likely played a huge part in the Cardinals' decision to re-sign him.
At age 28, perhaps this is a sign of Brown "getting it" and developing into the caliber of player the Cardinals thought he would eventually become.