Though last season is barely over, the start of training camp can’t get here quickly enough for players seeking to rebound from injuries and difficulties in 2014. FOX Sports senior NFL writer Alex Marvez lists 15 players who should be primed for bounce-back performances in 2015.
Kiko Alonso, LB, Bills
Alonso didn’t have the chance to follow up on his stellar rookie year after suffering a knee injury during an offseason workout. His return should further boost what was already the NFL’s second-ranked defense in 2014.
Getty ImagesAl Messerschmidt
Sam Bradford, QB, Rams
Bradford displayed earmarks of being a true franchise passer before suffering his second season-ending knee injury last August during a preseason game. The Rams want Bradford to return in 2015, but with a restructured contract.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
Jairus Byrd, S, Saints
The Saints’ prized free-agent signing in 2014 played in only four games because of a knee injury. A healthy Byrd ballhawking in the secondary will help New Orleans improve the NFL’s 31st-ranked defense.
Diamond Images/Getty ImagesDiamond Images
Victor Cruz, WR, Giants
The Giants hope Cruz will be able to perform his celebratory salsa touchdown dance once again after their former top wide receiver suffered a torn patella tendon during a Week 6 loss against Philadelphia.
Getty ImagesAl Bello
Nick Foles, QB, Eagles
After initially failing to build upon his breakthrough 2013 season, Foles missed the final eight games of 2014 with a clavicle injury. He is now the subject of offseason trade rumors with the Eagles possibly targeting Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota in the draft.
Getty ImagesThomas B. Shea
Greg Hardy, DE, Panthers
Even after winning his appeal on Monday, Hardy still faces NFL discipline for a 2014 domestic-violence incident. How many games he must miss in 2015 will affect the market for what would otherwise be the top available free-agent pass rusher.
Getty ImagesGeorge Gojkovich
Derrick Johnson, LB, Chiefs
Kansas City’s defensive leader suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury in the 2014 opener but will be back for his 11th year with the team. Johnson needs 15 tackles to break Gary Spani’s all-time franchise record with 1,000.
Getty ImagesPeter G. Aiken
Marvin Jones, WR, Bengals
Though the injuries suffered by star wide receiver A.J. Green hurt Cincinnati’s passing game last season, Jones’ year-long absence shouldn’t be minimized. Ankle and foot ailments prevented him from building on his 10-touchdown 2013 output.
Getty ImagesGeorge Gojkovich
Sean Lee, LB, Cowboys
Lee’s bad luck with injuries continued last year as he missed the entire 2014 campaign with a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in an offseason practice. If he can stay healthy, Lee should regain his status as one of the NFL’s best linebackers.
Getty ImagesJamie Squire
Eli Manning, QB, Giants
After a dreadful 2013 season, Manning rebounded with a 30-touchdown, 14-interception showing in a new West Coast offense. Manning should be able to continue building with the continuing emergence of Odell Beckham Jr. and expected return of fellow wide receiver Victor Cruz.
Getty ImagesJim McIsaac
Robert Mathis, LB, Colts
The double-whammy of a four-game PED suspension and torn Achilles tendon suffered while training kept the NFL’s 2013 sacks leader from defending his crown. The Colts could use a healthy Mathis to boost what was a spotty pass rush in his absence.
Getty ImagesAndy Lyons
Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings
After missing almost all of last season following a child-abuse charge for which he later pleaded no contest, Peterson is poised to play again once his NFL suspension is lifted. The big question: Will it be with the Vikings?
Getty ImagesMichael B.Thomas
Daryl Washington, LB, Cardinals
He still needs NFL reinstatement from a season-long drug suspension and faces further league discipline for a domestic violence incident. If those obstacles can be overcome, Washington could re-emerge as one of the league’s top inside linebackers.
Getty ImagesWesley Hitt
Patrick Willis, LB, 49ers
The 49ers were without the services of their top two inside linebackers for the final 10 games of 2014 when Willis (toe) joined NaVorro Bowman (knee) on injured reserve. Willis is 50 tackles from reaching 1,000 for his career.
Getty ImagesEzra Shaw
Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers
San Diego’s offense suffered a major blow when it lost its most versatile running back to a leg injury in Week 3. Woodhead’s value will increase even more in 2015 with running back Ryan Mathews set to become an unrestricted free agent.