NFL's Potential 2009 Breakout Players: Offensive Edition

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NFL's Potential 2009 Breakout Players: Offensive Edition
(Photo by Jonathan Willey/Getty Images)

Arizona Cardinals - Chris "Beanie" Wells

Yeah, shocker pick here, I know.  But on an offense as stacked as the Cards', I had to pick somebody. Wells was brought in to replace Edgerrin James as the feature back and I think he has the potential to fill that role quite well. 

He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and can run it up the gut with a great combination of speed and power.  The only thing holding him back from being a statistical juggernaut is possibly having to split the carries with fellow RB Tim Hightower.

 

Atlanta Falcons - Jerious Norwood

Norwood was impressive in relief on Michael Turner in the run game, as well as on special teams.  The Falcons have been talking about getting him more involved to help spell Turner and keep him around for longer. 

We could very well see Norwood become the Derrick Ward to Michael Turner's Brandon Jacobs.  If he can make enough plays early, we should see a lot more out of the elusive speedster.

 

Baltimore Ravens: Ray Rice

Rice did well in limited play last year as part of the three-headed monster that was Baltimore's running game.  So far in OTAs he's been lining up with the first-team offense and has been drawing rave reviews. 

I have often compared him to Philly's Brian Westbrook because of his versatility and he has been bulking up to further prepare for the feature back role.

 

Buffalo Bills - Trent Edwards

In his third year as the starter, Edwards looks to build on the momentum he had going into week seven of last season.  The addition of Terrell Owens gives him a nice compliment to Lee Evans and helps take the pressure off the running game. 

By now, Edwards should have a grasp on the offensive system he plays in and if he can continues to be an accurate passer that protects the ball, he will have a big year.

 

Carolina Panthers - Jeff Otah

As a rookie, Otah was nothing short of spectacular when he was on the field.  His overwhelming power and quick feet made him a force in the running game and better then expected in pass protection. 

Carolina already has a few standouts on their O-line to help him out so this should be the year we really see him step up and play to his full potential.

 

Chicago Bears - Greg Olsen

In his second season, Olsen led the team with five touchdown receptions and showed great speed and ability to stretch the field.  His penchant for getting open will help new quarterback Jay Cutler adjust to the offensive scheme Ron Turner runs, which focuses more on the running game and tight ends and less on taking shots down the field.

 

Cincinatti Bengals - Chris Henry

All the talk about how Chad Ochocinco will play this year has really overshadowed the steps Chris Henry has been taking to become a better overall player.  He and quarterback Carson Palmer have been developing good chemistry in the offseason and that should translate well during the regular season.

 

Cleveland Browns - Mohamed Massaquoi

Massaquoi has been touted as the best route-runner coming out of this year's draft and with all the drama at the position he could very well develop into a consistent threat for this stagnant offense.  The departure of TE Kellen Winslow will also help increase the amount of balls thrown in Mohamed's direction.

 

Dallas Cowboys - Patrick Crayton

Crayton has quietly been an effective piece of the Dallas offense for a few seasons now.  I would go as far to say that he has been the third most consistent player on that side of the football.  If Roy Williams and quarterback Tony Romo can't develop chemistry early, he may turn to Crayton more often since they have played together longer.

 

Denver Broncos - Jabar Gaffney

Always hiding behind the shadow of players like Randy Moss and Wes Welker, Gaffney has never been super productive statistically.  However, he followed his old offensive coordinator to the Broncos and is already well immersed in the system, while his new teammates will take time to learn it.  Also, he has been lining up as the No. 1 wide receiver in Brandon Marshall's absence.

 

Detroit Lions - Brandon Pettigrew

It is nice to finally see the tight end position get the respect it deserves.  Detroit hasn't had a solid player at tight end in I don't know how long.  Pettigrew is a great blocker and has ever improving hands.  If Matthew Stafford gets the nod to start at some point next season, we should see the chemistry these two have developed in the offseason translate into production at the next level.

 

Green Bay Packers - Brandon Jackson

Quietly, Jackson looked solid in relief of Ryan Grant last year and the emergence of quarterback Aaron Rodgers will help open up running lanes for the No. 2 running back.  On an already explosive offense, his emergence would push them from good to great, and could very well propel them to an Arizona Cardinal-like rise in the standings.

 

Indianapolis Colts - Pierre Garcon

Most people would be inclined to put first year running back Donald Brown here but I think if Joseph Addai can stay healthy, Brown won't see the field as much as we think. 

Garcon appears to be the leader in the race for the No. 3 wide receiver spot and was productive the times he was on the field.  It always helps to have a legend throwing to you as well.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars - Maurice Jones-Drew

How could I not put this guy here, honestly?  MJD has been a beast ever since he was drafted and learned well from stud Fred Taylor.  A healthy O-line will rejuvenate David Garrard, which will give him time to pass to Torry Holt, which will open up running lanes for Jones-Drew.  The domino effect should translate to a breakout year for the "little" guy.

 

Kansas City Chiefs - Jamaal Charles

Charles averaged 5.3 yards per carry last year only less then 70 carries.  Larry Johnson seems less and less inclined to play for Kansas City as the years go by.  They should consider working Charles into the offense a bit more.  If Matt Cassel can continue his above-average play, more running lanes will be open and Jamaal is the type of player that has enough all around game to take advantage.

 

Miami Dolphins - Davone Bess

I loved watching this guy play in Hawaii and he had one of the greatest first seasons ever by an undrafted wide receiver last year.  With no true No. 1 wide receiver emerging just yet, Bess will get his fair share of looks as long as he keeps making plays when the ball is in his hand.

 

Minnesota Vikings - Bernard Berrian

Berrian has never broken the 1,000 yard mark in a season, but he has made steady improvement throughout his career.  Last season he quietly averaged over 20 yards per reception and showed elite speed and ability to get open.  If he can continue his progression, the natural next step is to finally get over the 1,000 yard hump.  It could help to have a future Hall of Famer throwing to him.

 

New England Patriots - Brandon Tate

The rookie out of Northern Carolina played second fiddle to Hakeem Nicks because of injuries, but when he was healthy he was clearly the best receiver on that team.  If he can stay in good health he could make some big plays and perhaps steal some catches from journeyman Joey Galloway this year.

 

New Orleans Saints - Pierre Thomas

By now we all know the story of Thomas.  He stepped up and finished the year strong as the Saints slowly worked vet Deuce McAllister out of the lineup.  The league's No. 1 offense should continue rolling this year, especially if Thomas can keep playing like a true feature back.

 

New York Giants - Kevin Boss

"The Boss" has been my favorite offensive player on New York's roster since he took over for an injured Jeremy Shockey.  He has been a great blocker in the run game and has shown a penchant for coming up big when it mattered most.  With all the attention focused on how the inexperienced WR corp will do, I think Boss will emerge as Eli Manning's most trusted target next year.

 

New York Jets - David Clowney

I believe Clowney has what it takes to win the No. 2 role over his competition.  Whether or not that is saying a lot I'm not so sure.  Clowney only had one catch last season, but it was for 26 yards so he at least made the most of it.  I think the raw potential he has, combined with the opportunity to shine he will be given should help him emerge.

 

Oakland Raiders - Johnnie Lee Higgins

Higgins showed amazing speed and elusiveness in the return game and great hands when catching the deep bomb from J-Marc last year.  If new coach Tom Cable can continue working Higgins into the offense, especially with opposing teams focusing on the run game, the wide receiver should emerge as a legit No. 1 this year.

 

Philadelphia Eagles - DeSean Jackson

Jackson had an impressive rookie season and built chemistry with McNabb early.  His speed and jumping ability is what helps separate him from the crowded WR corp of the Eagles.  It's not a stretch to think Jackson will break the 1,000 yard receiving mark in only his second year.  Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy will help keep opposing defenses honest.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers - Rashard Mendenhall

A brutal blow by Ray Lewis KOed Mendenhall for the rest of the season after the rookie had been talking so much trash heading into the game.  I'm not going to lie, I liked it.  This year, Mendenhall should pick up where he left off and live up to his impressive potential as long as he doesn't run his mouth anymore.

 

San Diego Chargers - Darren Sproles

A lot of people would argue that Sproles already emerged last year, but a little over 600 total yards doesn't really jump out at me.  If LT can't stay healthy or doesn't return to form, Sproles could easily seize the feature role and come up with some more signature big plays.  San Diego seems to be a regular backfield superstar breeding ground at this point.

 

San Francisco 49ers - Josh Morgan

Morgan played exceptionally well when he was on the field last season and with defenses more focused on stopping Frank Gore, Isaac Bruce, and Michael Crabtree, he should have favorable coverage.  Even though San Francisco seems suddenly stacked at the position, Morgan has the talent to stand out and earn himself a starting spot.

 

Seattle Seahawks - Max Unger

His ability to play multiple positions on the line will mean he should see plenty of playing time.  Even though line play isn't the most exciting or glamorous, I believe Unger has the strength and awareness to stand out in his first professional year.  Matt Hasselbeck better hope so anyway.

 

St. Louis Rams - Donnie Avery

Heading into the season as the default No. 1, Avery should be able to carry over the relative success of his rookie season and become a solid contributor.  Having Steven Jackson in the back field to draw eight men in the box does nothing but help the young speedster.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Derrick Ward

This will be his first year as the No. 1 back and he will be playing behind a pretty solid run-blocking line similar to the one he had in New York.  As long as he has someone to split the carries with so he doesn't wear down too quickly, I think Ward could have a big season. I wish him the best of luck.

 

Tennessee Titans - Justin Gage

Even though he suddenly has a bit of competition, Gage has all the tools to take the next step this year.  Last season, he amassed 651 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 19.1 yards per catch.  We should see those numbers increase as he and quarterback Kerry Collins continue developing chemistry.

 

Washington Redskins - Jason Campbell

In his third year as the starter, it is do or die time for Campbell.  He showed glimpses of greatness early last year, but he will have to learn to be more consistent both as a player and as a leader.  If he can do that, maybe he will change some front office minds and keep his job.

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