Philip Rivers beat out a strong field for NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2013. Who can follow his lead for the 2014 season?
Sam Bradford – St. Louis Rams
There is no question that the success of the St. Louis Rams now focus squarely on the right arm of quarterback Sam Bradford. The talent level for the team is sky high but as last year proved they remain handcuffed at the quarterback position. Bradford was off to a good start last year, posting 1,687 yards and 14 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions through seven games. Then, tragically, he tore his ACL. Leading the Rams to the playoffs in the brutal NFC West coming off that injury would make him a runaway for the award.
Robert Griffin III – Washington Redskins
After snatching Rookie of the Year away from Andrew Luck in 2012, Robert Griffin III experienced a trying sophomore season in which he had to overcome an early return from a bad knew injury and then a 3-13 finish for his Washington Redskins. Touchdown passes were down, interceptions were up and as a result his coaching staff was fired. RGIII has a clean slate ahead of him under Jay Gruden with new weapons. Showing growth as a passer and getting Washington back on track would certainly catch the attention of voters.
Maurice Jones-Drew – Oakland Raiders
An afterthought of a player at an afterthought of a position. Maurice Jones-Drew was once the best running back in football. Suddenly the three-time Pro Bowler was dumped from the only team he ever knew in Jacksonville and is trying to resurrect his career with the Oakland Raiders, his original hometown team. At age 29 it’s hard to see him having much left. However, recent additions to the offensive line coupled with a good chance to win the starting job over the often-injured Darren McFadden could give MJD one last shot at being the feature back in a run-oriented offense. Considering what he’s been through, that is a great NFL comeback story.
Reggie Wayne – Indianapolis Colts
The career is winding down for All-Pro receiver Reggie Wayne. After carrying the torch following the retirement of Marvin Harrison and ushering in the Andrew Luck era, Wayne endured a tough 2013 when he tore his ACL. Expectations for the 35-year old are reserved. Nobody expects him to return his dominant form, nor does he need to with the emergence of T.Y. Hilton and addition of other targets. Still, don’t be surprised if the wily vet puts together one more run before deciding to hang up the spikes.
Geno Atkins – Cincinnati Bengals
After posting 12.5 sacks in 2012, expectations were high for defensive tackle Geno Atkins heading into last season for the Cincinnati Bengals. Instead his year ended abruptly after nine games due to a knee injury. At age 26 there is no reason to assume he can’t come back to his old self. However, the loss of coordinator Mike Zimmer is the ultimate wild card. If Atkins can overcome both hurdles to post another strong NFL campaign he could become the first defensive player to win the award in seven years.