Vincent Jackson and 9 More NFL Superstars Who Have Run out of Excuses
The NFL preseason is well underway, and it's coming fresh off the heels of one of the most hectic and chaotic free-agency periods in recent memory.
With the beginning of the preseason and the regular season just a little less than a month away, teams have some time to figure out realistic expectations for free-agent signings as well as some returning question mark players.
This list features some of the biggest names who have the most to prove on the field in 2011 and, have quite frankly, run out of excuses for their on-the-field or off-the-field actions.
10. Lee Evans
Once the premier deep threat in the Buffalo Bills pass attack back in the early to late 2000s, Lee Evans finds himself a member of the Baltimore Ravens heading into the 2011 NFL season.
Evans has struggled in recent years, with 612 being his highest receiving yard output between 2009 and 2010. The one-time Wisconsin Badger has been a victim of the Bills constant search for a quarterback. But to be fair, as great as Evans was once regarded, he should be able to produce—despite a shaky quarterback situation. I mean, hey, Dez Bryant's numbers were close to Evans' 2009 season in just 14 games with Jon Kitna throwing him the ball for the majority of last year in Dallas.
The former Bill finds himself in a great situation to remind the AFC why he was such a deep threat several seasons ago with Anquan Boldin taking away some of the opposing defense's attention on the 5'10" receiver. Joe Flacco will have another solid season at quarterback, and defenses will continue to have to respect the running game with Ray Rice as the feature back.
Evans is in the perfect situation to return to his old form, the question is: Will he be able to do so?
9. Chad Henne
The way things were going in free agency this offseason, it looked like Chad Henne was going to be out of a job in Miami, and Kyle Orton would be the new Dolphins quarterback.
Lucky for the Michigan alum, the Broncos and Dolphins weren't able to work out a deal. But the message was sent by the Miami front office to Henne that it's time to prove he's the future at the quarterback position for this team.
Henne will have superstar receiver Brandon Marshall to look to in the passing game, but gone are the days of the two-headed rushing attack of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams to take the pressure off the starting quarterback, as they signed with Philadelphia and Baltimore, respectively.
The Pennsylvania-born QB will need to prove his worth to the Dolphins management in 2011, coming off a season where he passed for 300 yards or more in just three games.
8. Marion Barber
The downfield, bone-crushing running style of Marion Barber was adored by Dallas Cowboys fans during his years in Big D, but both the front office and season ticket holders knew the time would come where that style would catch up with their 2005 draft pick.
"The Barbarian" played in just 13 games for the 'Boys last season, and despite being the starter in most of those games, Barber rushed for 50 or more yards in just two contests. He failed to rush for 100 yards in any games in 2010 and posted just four touchdowns.
Barber finds himself a member of the Chicago Bears rushing attack, with starter Matt Forte and veteran Chester Taylor fighting for the rock. Barber looked like his old self in the Bears' first preseason matchup, posting 45 yards on just seven carries.
Barber will have less pressure on his performance in Chicago with Forte the clear starter, but he'll look to flourish in his change-of-pace role when given his opportunities in 2011. If the former Golden Gopher fails to do so, however, it would be interesting to see what his new team chooses to do with him in the offseason.
7. Roy Williams
Also new to the Chicago Bears roster is fellow Cowboy castaway Roy Williams. Despite being regarded as the best Detroit Lions receiver before Calvin Johnson arrived on the scene, Williams is now most famous for being Dallas owner Jerry Jones' worst trade acquisition in his time with the team.
Just when all the analysts and NFL insiders were ready to write off the former Texas Longhorn forever, Williams came back and had a quietly productive year in what was a lost season for the 'Boys.
The 2004 seventh-overall draft pick had no big yardage games outside of his Week 3 performance against the Houston Texans, but he did pull down five touchdowns and was able to log some key receptions for Dallas over the course of the 2010 season.
It's being reported that Williams has a reasonable chance to be the No. 1 receiver in Chicago. He'll be reunited with Mike Martz, who called the offensive plays for the Lions during Williams' tenure in Detroit. There's a fair chance with a decent running game and Jay Cutler at quarterback that Williams bounces back to relevancy, but he didn't exactly thrive in the last high-powered offense he found himself in.
6. Marshawn Lynch
Despite his off-the-field issues over the years and under-performance during much of his time in Buffalo, nobody can ever take away that amazing postseason run Marshawn Lynch had to stun the New Orleans Saints.
That being said, one remarkable run doesn't save a career. Lynch is still just 25 years old, which means he has a fair amount of shelf-life left as a running back. He finds himself the clear starter for coach Pete Carroll's Seattle Seahawks.
Yes, Tarvaris Jackson is their starting quarterback, so there will be a considerable amount of focus by defenses on Lynch, but he needs to produce this season. He posted 573 yards and six touchdowns for his new team last season—his highest outputs in either category since 2008.
Lynch was once a 12th-overall pick and a highly touted runner out of college in 2007. It's about time he lived up to the expectations analysts and coaches had for him.
5. Reggie Bush
Speaking of not living up to draft-day expectations, after yet another underwhelming season for Reggie Bush in New Orleans, the Saints decided it was time to cut ties with their former 2006 first-round draft pick.
A leg injury suffered against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2, as well as his Heisman Trophy controversy, clouded much of Bush's fifth NFL season. He failed to rush for more than 70 yards after returning from injury against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving.
If anything, the former Trojan standout rusher is in a worse team situation than last season. With Chad Henne's play at quarterback far from consistent, Bush will see plenty of defenders in the box to ruin his hopes at long breakaway runs.
This could be argued as a late call on Bush already, as many have written off his NFL career into the realm of mediocrity. If the former Saint wishes to finally prove he was worthy of being regraded as the best player in the 2006 draft class, this season is as a good a time as any.
4. Donovan McNabb
After a disastrous season with the Washington Redskins, it seemed as if most of the NFL world had bought into Mike Shanahan's belief that McNabb was washed up and no longer worthy of being a starting quarterback.
People tend to forget before moving to the nation's capital, the longtime Eagle had a 3,553-yard, 22 touchdown season in his final year with Philadelphia.
Back when the rumors were swirling that Philly wanted to move McNabb, Minnesota was one of the top possible landing spots for the quarterback. He now finds himself donning the purple and yellow in 2011.
With Percy Harvin to throw to and Adrian Peterson lining up in the backfield, there's reason to believe that McNabb proves to all the naysayers that he still has a few good years left in this league.
3. Alex Smith
Now it's true Alex Smith isn't near the talent of a quarterback like Donovan McNabb, but when the San Francisco 49ers have have to debate signing Daunte Culpepper for insurance, you get moved up toward the top of this list.
Smith supporters (if there are any left) point to the revolving door at offensive coordinator during his time in San Fran as one of the possible reasons for his lack of progression in the NFL, but that doesn't excuse his overall mediocrity through six NFL seasons.
The 49ers have started Shaun Hill over this guy in the past. That tells you how much they believe in their penciled-in starting quarterback.
With Daunte Culpepper possibly coming to town to take Smith's job, it's time for the former No. 1 overall draft pick to at least show some flashes of potential.
Not that it hasn't been for the past few seasons with Smith, but this is absolutely do-or-die time for the Utah alum. If he fails to produce even throughout the preseason, Smith will find himself warming the San Francisco bench—or the couch in his living room.
2. Albert Haynesworth
Here's a guy who was once the top free agent in the pool when he left the Tennessee Titans in 2008 and signed a $100 million deal to come to Dan Snyder's Washington Redskins. Well, we all know how that worked out.
Haynesworth and new coach Mike Shanahan couldn't get along and big No. 92 played in just eight games for the 'Skins in 2010.
Ever the opportunists, the New England Patriots gave Snyder a call, and a deal was struck to send Haynesworth packing to Foxborough for a fifth-round draft pick in 2013.
The new Patriot will line up alongside veteran Vince Wilfork and play with fellow new New Englanders Shaun Ellis, Marcus Stroud and Andre Carter. On paper, this reworked Belichick defense could be quite an intimidating force.
Reports out of the Foxborough area have been mostly positive of Haynesworth in practice, but it will take more than a couple good practices in shells before he regains respect around the league.
1. Vincent Jackson
Between his holdout during the 2010 season and his lawsuit during the lockout in 2011. it's a miracle the San Diego Chargers kept this guy on the roster. In fact, they handed the controversial wide receiver a one-year, $11 million contract.
There's no question that Jackson is a necessity for the Chargers, given their lack of wide receiver depth. But for all his antics and lawsuits, the Colorado-born wideout has just two 1,000-yard receiving seasons during his six years in the NFL.
V-Jax lines up with one of the best tight ends in the NFL today, Antonio Gates; has an elite quarterback, Philip Rivers, throwing him the ball; and the tandem of Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert to direct attention away from the passing game. With an offense as talented as San Diego's and their recent history of having a consistent, explosive offense, this guy should have more than just a couple of 1,000-yard years.
Analysts would argue he has a knack for getting in the end zone, but he still has no double-digit touchdown years in his career—despite being the top wideout on his team for multiple seasons.
Jackson believes he is one of the top-tier, elite receivers in the game. It's about time he convinced everyone else the same.