NFL: 5 Candidates for the 2011 Comeback Player of the Year Award
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With the 2011 regular season quickly approaching, there are a number of players heading for the season-ending Injured Reserve list and a good chunk of players coming off of injuries from last year.
In addition, there are several players who have spent a significant amount of time out of football (i.e. Plaxico Burress, Larry Johnson), trying to make a triumphant return. It should be extremely interesting to see who comes out this year as the NFL's 2011 Comeback Player of the Year (CBOY).
The CBOY award has been dominated in the past 10 years by quarterbacks, with Chad Pennington winning it twice with both the Jets and Dolphins, as well as Tom Brady, Michael Vick, Jon Kitna and Tommy Maddox all winning it once.
The CBOY winners have been varied between those coming back from serious injuries, such as Tom Brady and Chad Pennington, to those who spent a considerable amount of time out of the NFL, like Tommy Maddox and Michael Vick, to those coming off a down year, like Jon Kitna and Greg Ellis.
This year promises for some exciting competition for this award.
5. Lee Evans, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Lee Evans finally getting pulled down by Brandon Flowers
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Poor offensive line and quarterback play coupled with unimaganative play calling by the Bills' coaching staff led to average production by the former Wisconsin Badger. It also didn't help that Evans almost never had a receiver or even tight end next to him to draw coverage until the emergence of Steve Johnson in 2010.
Evans is now in an ideal situation where defenses have to respect the threat of possession receiver Anquan Boldin, tight ends,Dennis Pitta and Ed Dixon as well as Ray Rice out of the backfield. Joe Flacco is a quickly maturing QB with a strong arm who can greatly utilize the speed of Evans.
For Evans to approach 1000 yards receiving and 10+ touchdowns is not out of the question.
4. Donovan McNabb, QB, Minnesota Vikings
Donovan McNabb dropping back to throw a bomb
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Between terrible O-line play, a lack of receiving options outside of Chris Cooley and a lack of confidence from Mike Shanahan, McNabb, who is a six-time Pro Bowler, has to be wishing 2010 was just a bad dream.
McNabb's situation is not completely ideal in Minnesota, but it is an improvement.
Despite losing Sidney Rice, McNabb will still have Percy Harvin, a moderate receiver in Bernard Berrian, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and rookie right end Kyle Rudolph. Adrian Peterson will force defenses to put 8 defenders in the box a majority of the time.
A strong defense and strong run game should help McNabb return to being a good starter, if not to Pro Bowl form again.
3. Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
Matt Stafford dropping back under a Chicago D-line rush
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Stafford has performed spectacularly when actually playing, but has been hampered terribly by injuries in his first two seasons. Despite suffering two major shoulder injuries in 2009 and 2010, Stafford looks sharp and his arm looks back to normal for the 2011 regular season.
While not too much can be taken from preseason play, Stafford looks poised for a big year and will likely do some damage to defenses with receiving options like receivers Calvin "Megatron" Johnson and speedster Nate Burleson, as well as tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler.
Look for Stafford to put up Matt Schaub type numbers this year.
2. Plaxico Burress, WR, New York Jets
Plaxico Burress stretching out to reel in a catch
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After letting Braylon Edwards walk during free agency, the Jets turned around and signed the newly-free Plaxico Burress, hoping he would provide a big red-zone target for third year QB Mark Sanchez.
Plaxico Burress, who spent the last two years in prison for shooting himself in the leg in a New York nightclub, was an extremely valuable red zone threat for both Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger before him.
Burress is not being asked to be a possession receiver, but, in his limited play during the preseason, he appears to have the same capability to out-jump and out-reach defensive backs in order to make big plays that he did before.
2010 CBOY Michael Vick is proof that fans and writers love a story of redemption, and this is a great opportunity for Plax to re-establish his reputation.
Age and injuries will be his biggest limitations in 2011.
1. Elvis Dumervil, DE, Denver Broncos
Elvis Dumervil destroying Andrew Walter
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Elvis Dumervil was a steal for the Denver Broncos in the 4th Round of the 2006 NFL Draft.
For his first four years in the league, Dumervil racked up 43 sacks including 17 sacks when he went ballistic in 2009.
Dumervil has not skipped a beat in switching from a 4-3 defensive end with his hand on the ground to a 3-4 outside linebacker standing up, and he will likely have no issues going back to a 4-3 defensive end.
Dumervil's outstanding career thus far was put on hold after tearing his pectoral muscle in camp last year and missing the entire 2010 season.
Dumervil will still be a force after recovering, and, luckily, will not lose much burst in his explosive first step. While his size (5'11, 260 lbs.) could be considered a disadvantage most of the time, he uses it as an advantage to get leverage and dip underneath mammoth tackles like Max Starks and Joe Thomas.
Look for Dumervil to put up somewhere around 14-16 sacks this year, especially with rookie Von Miller drawing attention as a viable pass rusher from outside linebacker.
There is a high likelihood Dumervil could be the 2011 Comeback Player of the Year.