Every player in the NFL can have an off year from time to time. The question is can they rise back up? Who are Comeback Player of the Year hopefuls?
Robert Griffin III – Washington Redskins
After lighting the field afire in 2012 en route to Rookie of the Year and a playoff berth, Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III crashed back to Earth last season. He played fewer games, finished with fewer yards (rushing and passing), threw fewer touchdowns and more interceptions than as a rookie. Washington finished 3-13 and the head coach Mike Shanahan was fired. The pressure is now on RGIII to recapture his old form under a new staff in a new offense.
Matt Schaub – Oakland Raiders
As bad as things were for RGIII, 2013 was even worse for Matt Schaub. The two-time Pro Bowl veteran went from the leader of a Super Bowl contender to public enemy #1 in the space of eight games. Throwing a record-setting number of interceptions for touchdowns can do that. The Houston Texans benched him and then traded him to the Oakland Raiders. At age 32 he is coming back this NFL season with the urgency to prove what happened was a fluke, not the reality. Oakland did a good job adding some help on offense. Whether it’s enough remains to be seen.
Doug Martin – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After ripping up the NFL in 2012 for over 1,900 yards and 12 touchdowns, it looked like Doug Martin was the next big thing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Six games into last season that hope took a grievous blow. Not only did he average just 3.6 yards per carry, he eventually went on injured reserve with a torn labrum. Worse yet, while he was recovering the Bucs got a new head coach in Lovie Smith who promptly brought in a new offense and a new running back in rookie Charles Sims. Martin went from potential franchise player to fighting for his job. If he’s healthy, he is the favorite to start and can get back on track under a coach who loves to run the ball.
Henry Melton – Dallas Cowboys
A Pro Bowler and considered one of the best defensive tackles in the game two years ago, it took just three games for the rise of Henry Melton to reach a screeching halt. Tearing his ACL in Pittsburgh, Melton was eventually allowed to enter free agency by Chicago. Many wondered if he could find a team that would take a chance on him given the uncertainty around his knee. Eventually he landed with the Dallas Cowboys and his former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, the same man who made him a star. Melton needs to get cleared for action before anything else, but if his relationship with Marinelli produces like before, he could have a resurgent year in the NFL. That is something Dallas is desperately hoping for.
Jerod Mayo – New England Patriots
Probably one of the most overlooked and underappreciated linebackers in football. Nobody knew what Jerod Mayo meant to the New England Patriots until he was gone. A two-time Pro Bowler, his absence on the field was a major factor in the Pats defense sinking to 30th against the run. Getting him back is going to have an effect pretty early and potentially help turn the defense into a force thanks to their free agency additions in the secondary. In the end that might end up landing the credit, but if the voters watch closely, they may end up finding Mayo at the heart of it.