Players who need to finally show their worth in 2015
Alshon Jeffery proved himself last year as a prime target in Chicago. Everson Griffen showed his stuff as a sackmaster in Minnesota.
Both moved from the ”show us what you’ve got” category to Pro Bowl consideration.
Here’s a road map to players who need to make the same kind of on-field statements this year – an All-Prove It Team, if you will – or could find themselves spending plenty of time away from the field.
QB-Robert Griffin III, Redskins.
Injuries, inconsistency, some strange coaching decisions by the previous regime have all plagued RG3 since his 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Is he a franchise QB?
RB-Darren McFadden, Cowboys; Joseph Randle, Cowboys.
The league’s top rusher has left Big D for Philly. That places ample pressure on McFadden, recently a disappointment in Oakland, and the inconsistent Randle to boost the running game behind the NFL’s best blocking unit.
WR-Dwayne Bowe, Browns; Tavon Austin, Rams.
Bowe never could lift the Chiefs’ aerial game beyond mediocre, and there are questions about his work ethic.
Austin can be dynamic. He hasn’t been and might not even start in St. Louis in his third pro season.
TE-Tyler Eifert, Bengals.
Cincinnati has built a nice receiving corps on the outside. Eifert needs to step up in Year 3 after an injury-ruined season.
OT-Eric Fisher, Chiefs; Andre Smith, Bengals.
The top overall selection of the 2013 draft has been just short of a flop so far. He must settle in as a starter and contributor now.
Smith is in the final year of his contract and has yet to show he is worth the big money.
OG-Richie Incognito, Bills; Jonathan Cooper, Cardinals.
Incognito gets his last chance after the bullying scandal. If he can’t play for Rex Ryan in Buffalo, forget it.
Cooper was the seventh overall selection in 2013 and was hurt all season. He played in 14 games last year, now he has to show his worth.
C-Gino Gradkowski, Broncos.
This one is simple: Gradkowski is snapping to the most demanding of quarterbacks. Step up or step out.
DE-Michael Johnson, Bengals; Adrian Clayborn, Falcons.
Johnson was a bust in his only season in Tampa after signing a huge contract. He’s back where he established himself and must do so again.
Clayborn had two productive seasons with the Bucs, two injury-ravaged ones. Atlanta desperately needs him to come through as pass rusher.
DT-Sylvester Williams, Broncos; B.J. Raji, Packers.
Williams moves in to replace departed Terrance Knighton, a force on Denver’s D-line. Does Williams bring more pot roast, or a cheaper grade of beef?
Raji missed 2014 with a right biceps injury. He played five physical years in the trenches before last season and must prove he has something left.
OLB-Quinton Coples, Jets; Sean Lee, Cowboys.
There might not even be a starting job for the Jets’ top selection of 2012 under new coach Todd Bowles. He needs to be more active, more versatile.
Injuries have stymied a Pro Bowl-caliber career for the leader of the Dallas defense. He returns from a wrecked knee that cost him all of 2014.
ILB-Dannell Ellerbe, Saints; Manti Te’o, Chargers.
Parlaying his big postseason in 2012 with the champion Ravens into a huge payoff in Miami didn’t work. He was mediocre, then injured. Now what in the Big Easy?
Te’o was a game changer in college. He’s been average and injury prone in the NFL.
CB-Dre Kirkpatrick, Bengals; D.J. Hayden, Raiders.
Terence Newman has left Cincinnati. Kirkpatrick, a 2012 first-rounder, improved his game a bit through the last two seasons. Time for a big move.
Hayden was a risky high pick in 2013 after a near-fatal injury. Oakland has some defensive talent in front of him, so he needs to come through.
S-Matt Elam, Ravens; Chris Conte, Buccaneers.
Elam is another first-rounder (2012) on this squad. He lost his starting position last season, so he’s in prove-it territory.
Conte played plenty for four years on a Bears defense that didn’t scare anyone. Now he goes to a Bucs D that doesn’t scare anyone.
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