2013 NFL Predictions: Projecting Stats for New Faces in New Places
Are you ready for some football?
The 2013 NFL season kicks off Thursday night, and storylines abound as another year of exciting action prepares to get underway.
Among those storylines is the impact that a number of prominent players will have in their new surroundings. How will these new faces fare in their new team colors?
Let's take a look by projecting some stats for some of this year's biggest address-changers.
Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals won their first four games in 2012. But a combination of injuries and anemic quarterback play led to an epic free fall. The Redbirds won only one of their last 12 contests.
New general manager Steve Keim and first-year head coach Bruce Arians took steps to insure that wouldn't happen in 2013, trading a late-round draft pick to the Oakland Raiders for quarterback Carson Palmer.
Granted, Palmer, 33, isn't the player he once was, but he managed to top 4,000 passing yards last year for a Raiders team that lacked a solid offensive line and was led by tight end Brandon Myers in receiving yards. Palmer will get at least one of those advantages this year, throwing passes to wide receivers Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald in an offensive scheme designed to challenge defenses vertically.
The Cards offensive line, on the other hand, allowed the most sacks in the NFL last year. The return of tackle Levi Brown helps, but the season-ending injury to first-round pick Jonathan Cooper does not. How much time that line affords Palmer is going to go a long way in determining what sort of year both he and the Cardinals have.
Projected Stats: 340-of-572 for 3,960 yards, 26 touchdowns, 19 interceptions
Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
In 2012, Alex Smith completed over 70 percent of his passes and posted a passer rating of over 100 in 10 starts for the San Francisco 49ers. His reward for that type of production? A benching and a ticket out of town.
A Week 10 concussion opened the door for Colin Kaepernick, and after Kaepernick led the 49ers to the Super Bowl, San Francisco dealt Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs in the offseason. At first glance, Smith would appear to be a solid fit for head coach Andy Reid's West Coast offense.
Smith may not have a cannon for an arm, but he doesn't need one in Reid's scheme. Smith also makes good decisions with the football—particularly important in the West Coast offense. The Chiefs also plan to feature Smith's underrated mobility, by utilizing some "pistol" looks implemented by offensive consultant Chris Ault.
Smith has certainly made an impression on his new coaches. In fact, offensive coordinator Doug Pederson went so far as to call Smith "the best [quarterback] in the league," according to Randy Covitz of The Kansas City Star.
Pederson needs to lay off the Kool-Aid a touch. OK...a lot.
However, if the Chiefs are smart and allow Smith to play within himself (as Jim Harbaugh did in San Francisco), the 29-year-old is a smart, accurate signal-caller who is light years better than what the Chiefs had under center in 2012.
Projected Stats: 310-of-481 for 3,521 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 220 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown
Steven Jackson, RB, Atlanta Falcons
No active running back in the NFL has more career rushing yards (or carries) than Steven Jackson of the Atlanta Falcons. The 30-year-old back has tallied over 10,000 yards on the ground over nine NFL seasons, including eight straight years of over 1,000 yards.
Unfortunately for Jackson, who has played his entire career up to now in St. Louis, most of that effort was essentially wasted on terrible Rams teams.
Now in Atlanta as a member of a legitimate Super Bowl contender, Jackson recently told Jim Corbett of USA Today that he feels rejuvenated: "I feel fresh. This whole gloom and doom of a 30-year-old running back, I haven't felt it. And if I do feel it, I'll truck right through it.''
Granted, Jackson's heavy wear-and-tear is cause for some concern. However, Jackson has been a durable pro, who has only missed two games over the past four seasons. And, for the first time in years, Jackson won't constantly be staring at eight-man fronts, thanks to the bevy of weapons in the Falcons passing game.
Assuming he can stay healthy, Jackson should thrive in his new home.
Projected Stats: 249 carries, 1,055 rushing yards, 54 receptions, 470 receiving yards, 12 total touchdowns
Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins
Wide receiver Mike Wallace hit the free agency lottery this year, signing a five-year, $60 million contract to depart the Pittsburgh Steelers and become the top wideout for the Miami Dolphins.
Since Wallace arrived in Miami, however, things haven't quite gone according to plan. As Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported last month, Wallace struggled in OTAs. Chemistry between Wallace and quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been slow to develop.
Wallace, for his part, says that he has plenty of faith in the duos ability to connect, according to Chris Perkins of the Orlando Sun-Sentinel. “Like I say every day, he wants to be the best, man, and he works like it,” Wallace said. “You have a lot of work to put in to get there, but he’s on the right track with his mindset."
The chemistry between Wallace and Tannehill will all but certainly get better the more time they spend together, and Wallace remains one of the more dangerous deep threat wideouts in the NFL.
However, much like Brandon Marshall's first year in South Florida, the odds of Wallace's production approaching his price tag in 2013 just aren't very good.
Projected Stats: 65 receptions, 970 yards, 7 touchdowns
Wes Welker, WR, Denver Broncos
Over the past six years, there hasn't been a more prolific wide receiver in the NFL than Wes Welker. Over that span, the 32-year-old caught 672 passes, topping 1,000 yards in five of six seasons.
Despite that ridiculous productivity, the New England Patriots made a contract offer in the offseason that wasn't to Welker's liking. The 10th-year veteran balked, instead choosing to sign with the Denver Broncos.
On one hand, it's a great situation. Denver was one of the few destinations that Welker could have landed in without experiencing a big drop-off at quarterback. They say that Peyton Manning fella is pretty good.
Welker also joined an already formidable Broncos passing game. In fact, with Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, Manning may well now have the NFL's best WR trio at his disposal. With that said though, it's that depth at receiver which may hurt Welker statistically this year. There are a lot of mouths to feed in Denver, and only one football.
That makes another 100-catch season for Welker unlikely.
Projected Stats: 87 receptions, 1,007 yards, 7 touchdowns
Danny Amendola, WR, New England Patriots
You can't really mention Wes Welker without also mentioning Danny Amendola. In fact, the 2013 offseason has likely linked the two forever.
With Welker moving on to Denver, the New England Patriots wasted no time in acquiring his replacement, signing Amendola to a five-year, $31 million deal the same day that Welker inked his contract with Denver. It's not hard to see why the Patriots were drawn to Amendola. He's essentially a younger, more athletic version of Welker. The pair even attended the same college.
However, there is one very large question mark where Amendola is concerned: durability. The fifth-year pro has played in all 16 games only once. Over the past two years, shoulder and elbow injuries cost Amendola 20 of a possible 32 games.
The 2013 preseason was the perfect microcosm for Amendola. In the second preseason game, Amendola showed the damage he can do, racking up six catches for 71 yards and a score in just over a quarter. Amendola was then sidelined for the third exhibition contest, held out due to an "undisclosed" injury.
And that is the rub. If Amendola plays the entire season, he could be huge. But the injury risk can't be ignored.
Projected Stats: 91 receptions, 1,004 yards, 7 touchdowns
Osi Umenyiora, DE, Atlanta Falcons
After coming up one game short of the Super Bowl a season ago, the Atlanta Falcons apparently aren't messing around in 2013. One of the Atlanta's weak spots last year was a pass rush that among the NFL's worst, and the Falcons attempted to bolster that pass rush with a swap of veteran ends.
Out went John Abraham, and in came Osi Umenyiora, who played his first nine seasons with the New York Giants. Umenyiora racked up 75 sacks over his time with Big Blue, but due to a combination of injuries and a reduced role defensively the 31-year-old hasn't cracked double-digits in sacks since 2010.
Umenyiora added an eye-popping 10 forced fumbles to his 11.5 sacks that year. If he can stay healthy, a return to a full-time role should mean a big year for the first-year Falcon.
Projected Stats: 48 total tackles (34 solos), 11.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles
Dannell Ellerbe, LB, Miami Dolphins
There wasn't a more active team in free agency this year than the Miami Dolphins, and part of that spending spree was a face lift for the linebackers.
The Dolphins signed Dannell Ellerbe, who tallied 92 tackles for the Baltimore Ravens last year, to a $35 million deal early in free agency. Ellerbe, who was thought to be Ray Lewis' replacement in Baltimore, will slide into a role as the quarterback of the Miami defense at middle linebacker.
It's a role that produced over 130 tackles and 100-plus solos for Karlos Dansby in 2012. Ellerbe may not quite reach those heights, but the up-and-coming 27-year-old is going to be plenty busy in 2013.
Projected Stats: 127 total tackles (95 solos), 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 interception
Darrelle Revis, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
You have to give the Tampa Bay Buccaneers credit. When it comes to patching up the NFL's leakiest pass defense from 2012, the Bucs didn't mess around.
The Buccaneers sent two draft picks (including a first-rounder) to the New York Jets for star cornerback Darrelle Revis, who the team promptly signed to a six-year, $96 million dollar contract.
That's a lot of cheddar for a player who missed almost all of the 2012 season with a torn ACL. However, according to what head coach Greg Schiano told Jim Corbett of USA Today, it appears that the beaches of "Revis Island" will be open for business in Week 1.
"As long as there are no setbacks, that's the plan," Schiano said when asked if Revis would start in Week 1 against (of all teams) the New York Jets.
Frankly, statistics only tell part of the story with Revis. The worse his tackle numbers look, the better he's probably playing. After all, it's hard to make stops if the opposing quarterback is terrified to throw in your direction.
Projected Stats: 47 total tackles (40 solos), 5 interceptions, 1 forced fumble
Bernard Pollard, SS, Tennessee Titans
If there's one team in the NFL glad that the Tennessee Titans aren't on their schedule in 2013, it's the New England Patriots. You see, that means the Patriots won't be getting a visit from Bernard Pollard this year.
Over Pollard's career, he's been "responsible" for injuries to Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Shane Vereen. As a matter of fact, as the folks at Kissing Suzy Kolber pointed out, he was also the last player to tackle Aaron Hernandez in an NFL game. Seriously.
Pollard spent 2012 manning the strong safety spot for the Baltimore Ravens, amassing 98 tackles before being let go in the offseason. A punishing hitter, Pollard now finds himself at the back end of a Titans defense that allowed the most points per game in the NFL last year.
Given the question marks facing the Tennessee linebackers this season, there should be no shortage of tackle opportunities for the eighth-year veteran. A 100-tackle season may not bode well for the team, but it's a real possibility for Pollard.
Projected Stats: 103 total tackles (77 solos), 2 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions