NFL Predictions: The Top 10 Turnaround Players to Watch for in 2010
With the New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts and many other high-rising teams taking up much of the spotlight in 2009, there was little time to discuss the performing players who failed to live up to their names.
However, here we are in the 2010 offseason, and we find ourselves looking at a group of players who may be facing a "make it or break it" year in terms of their NFL careers.
Here's a look at the most under-perfoming players of 2009, given their high anticipation for the season, and why there is good reason to pay close attention to them this year.
10. QB Chad Pennington, Miami Dolphins
2009 Stats: 1 TD pass, 2 interceptions, 413 yards
It wasn't a kind year for Pennington. A devastating injury in the early stages led his 2009 campaign to crumble to pieces, leaving him in a state of despair, as he was no longer sure just where he fit into the Dolphins' plans.
Recently, Chad re-signed with Miami, but it is unlikely that he will be the starter over Chad Henne. With that said, as a massive Pennington fan I do feel that it is a bit unfair the way Chad has been treated, given he did lead Miami to a promising 2008 year, in which his mechanics and talent were on full display.
Now, Chad will have to fight for the starting job, and if Chad does fail or become injured, it is likely we'll see ol' No. 10 step in under center. Before and if that happens, keep an eye out for Pennington whenever he does manage to receive a snap. If his talent and skills are on display early, he may develop a case for becoming a starter.
9. RB Marion Barber, Dallas Cowboys
2009 Stats: 7 touchdowns, 932 yards
Recently Barber has been the subject of some speculation as to whether or not his future with the Dallas Cowboys is indeed safe. For the most part though, all signs point to Marion being a Cowboy in 2010, and it is unlikely that he will sign with somebody else.
Stat-wise, Marion didn't have a horror year, but he didn't have an overly great one either. Looking at Marion's career stats, Barber does fail to top 1,000 yards most seasons. But given his speed and catching ability, I fail to see why Barber doesn't manage to rack up the stats a little more.
Maybe it's due to Marion and Felix Jones sharing handoffs equally. But Barber's stats need to improve if he has any hope of being considered as a top running back in the future.
It's tough to say if things will drastically improve for Barber this season, as he is the type of running back who can be hot and cold at times. With that said, Barber does provide Dallas with the crucial touchdowns they need, so that is a bonus.
8. RB Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants
2009 Stats: 5 touchdowns, 835 yards
Unlike Marion Barber, Jacobs has basically slipped off the radar in the NFL. From a great running back who was feared for his power and strength, to a guy who is barely motivated at all and seems to be lacking that spark he once had.
By looking at Jacob's 2009 stats, a clear story is told. Instead of Jacobs taking on a leadership role for the Giants, Jacobs seems to be taking a laid back approach and is not producing the stats he once did.
Yes, Eli Manning was hurt for much of last season, but I fail to see how that gives Jacobs an excuse to play so poorly. His 835 yards aren't bad, but considering the talent we have seen from him, he is light years away from getting back to his usual form.
This year is unpredictable for Jacobs. He could either play really well or once again have a dismal season. If Jacobs does fail, a case could be made for Brandon to be further demoted on the roster, or worse yet traded. Tom Coughlin is a coach on the hot seat, and Jacobs isn't helping the cause.
7. RB Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
2009 Stats: 4 touchdowns, 929 yards
Yep, another running back. Before people get too critical of my decision here, I do recognize just how improved Forte has become, but given that Lovie Smith's offense struggled a ton last season, Forte simply wasn't meeting par.
One positive that can be brought from Forte is his youth. Entering his third NFL season, Forte now has learned the basic fundamentals of the NFL and is seemingly in sync with newly found quarterback Jay Cutler.
A negative when considering Forte is that he isn't all that consistent. On some occasions he plays great football and puts crucial points on the board for Chicago, while other times he has a quiet game that doesn't help the Bears out at all.
This can be expected from a young running back, and expect Forte to change over time. As for 2010, I also expect to see Forte make more of a name for himself, as the Bears look like a confident team in the NFC North.
6. Terrell Owens, Free Agent
2009 Stats: 5 touchdowns, 829 yards
It's safe to say that Owens is in the later stages of his career. Growing long in the tooth, Terrell does still have what it takes to score the same prolific touchdowns like he once did, but he doesn't have the same cause to go raising a ruckus amongst teams, as he is simply not in high demand anymore.
As a free agent, Owens looks promising for many teams that are looking for a talented wide receiver. But funnily enough, Terrell has struggled to sign with a team, even though many fans believe a possible Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens reuniting is in order.
Whatever your opinion on that situation is, fair enough. The important thing to consider is that Owens needs the NFL, and the NFL needs Owens. He provides us with great moments, funny catch phrases, and the odd bad press conference that leaves the media buzzing.
Terrell's 2009 stats aren't doing him any favors, but they are at least decent enough for him to find a new home. For those that believe Terrell will sit in the Free Agency column for a while, think again. Don't be surprised to see an overnight deal reached very shortly, that sends Terrell packing.
Lets just hope that we see much more of Terrell in years to come.
5. QB Jake Delhomme, Cleveland Browns
2009 Stats: 18 Interceptions, 8 touchdowns, 2,015 yards
When looking at Delhomme, his stats tell a story.
Yardage-wise, Jake went reasonably well in 2009, but when you look at his interceptions-to-touchdown ratio, well... let's just say there's a lot left to be told.
Fortunately for Jake, he has a fresh start with the Cleveland Browns. Eric Mangini has placed all of his faith in Jake, and given the right outcome, Delhomme could succeed in Cleveland.
If another failing occurs however, Jake will be criticized until the cows come home, as people have heard so much speculation now that they simply won't rest unless he succeeds.
But how will Delhomme go this season? It's tough to say, but I think he will do all right. The Browns don't have the greatest wide receiver core going, but they do have a solid run game that will benefit Delhomme immensely. Let's just hope instead of interceptions, Jake is throwing touchdowns.
4. RB Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons
2009 Stats: 10 touchdowns, 871 yards
Like Chad Pennington, Turner was also bitten by the injury bug last season. A bad knee injury set Turner back for the majority of 2009, and although he did play some games, he was a different running back.
When looking at the top running backs of the league (Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson), one name seems to just be missing: Turner. His rushing ability is amazing, and when he piles over defenders he looks like a young Jim Brown.
Expect Michael to come out with bang. The Atlanta Falcons are looking to win back the NFC South from the New Orleans Saints, and with Turner 100 percent I like their chances. Hard hits and fast play will be present again with the Falcons, so make sure you keep an eye on Michael Turner.
3. QB Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
2009 Stats: 27 touchdowns, 26 interceptions, 3,666 yards
Like Jake Delhomme, the yardage stat doesn't tell the bad story for Cutler. Last year looked promising for Jay, as the Chicago Bears had found what looked to be a solid quarterback, and were looking forward to possibly rallying the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North.
Unfortunately things didn't turn out that way, and Cutler plummeted game after game with more interceptions. Toward the end of the season, Jay's season did become a bit like a joke, but Cutler showed promising signs against the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers, so things did begin to look okay for the most part.
Right now, people are quick to criticize Cutler, but they have to realize he can do only so much with an offense. As mentioned, Matt Forte is developing, and the Bears still lack a good wide receiver core.
This year I hear you ask? Well I expect Jay to do well. He knows the Bears' roster, plans and future, and has confidence out of Lovie Smith showing confidence in his ability. Jay may not have an MVP or even a Pro Bowl year, but he is set for a very solid and stable 2010.
2. QB Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
2009 Stats: 22 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 2,916 yards
Some will disagree with this pick, but given the hype around not only the Atlanta Falcons but also 2008 Rookie of the Year winner Ryan, he failed to deliver what was expected.
Much of this may have to do with the New Orleans Saints' presence, or the fact that Ryan suffered from the usual scenario of a great rookie year and a mediocre second season. Whichever one it may be, Ryan needs to step it up to that extra level in 2010 to ensure the Falcons have the best chance to win the NFC South.
1. Matt Cassel, Kansas City
2009 Stats: 16 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 2,924 yards
Like Matt Ryan, Cassel's stats weren't all bad, but you do have to take into consideration just how much was expected from him.
Given, changing the Chiefs' poor organization into a top-flight contender is no easy task, but Cassel's stats didn't live up to those of the gun-slinging Tom Brady, replacing the New England Patriots as we once knew them.
No, Cassel struggled for the most part, and although the Chiefs got some wins over big teams such as the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cassel noticeably felt the pressure of the weight of the Kansas City Chiefs being put on his shoulders.
Don't expect Matt to make a drastic change, but do expect to see him a lot more calm and composed as he steps under center. He now knows not what to expect from the Chiefs as a team, and with the draft approaching, the Kansas City Chiefs could just yet get a player that helps Cassel out a lot.
Right now Matt is on deck for a great season ahead. He just needs to reevaluate this offseason, practice, and go in cool and calm come September.