By Sam Spiegelman
Each season there are players coming off injuries or down years. This year it seems as if there's a surplus of such names.
Many big names did not live up to expectations in 2013, but after changes made in the offseason - roster upgrades, coaching changes or simply getting healthy - they appear to be heading back to stardom. Here's a look at 10 players primed for bounce-back seasons:
1. Joe Flacco
The 2012 Super Bowl champs didn't even make it back to the dance last season, largely because of an offense that took a step major step backward. Ray Rice wasn't himself, and Flacco played like he was trying to be the most overpaid quarterback in the league.
Former Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak is now the Ravens' offensive coordinator, and reports suggest Flacco's stock could be on the rise.
Will he finally live up to the money? He has Torrey Smith and Steve Smith, plus a healthy Dennis Pitta to start off the season.
2. Eli Manning
Injuries derailed Manning's 2013 campaign, and it's no wonder the New York Giants couldn't put points on the scoreboard.
Now Manning is back to full health, and has new weapon to jump-start his bounce-back campaign. Rueben Randle came on strong down the stretch, and Odell Beckham Jr. is a much-needed downfield threat. And with the Giants bolstering their offensive line and adding depth at running back, Manning won't be faced with as much pressure to carry the load.
3. Robert Griffin III
DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed, Alfred Morris and an innovative new head coach - RGIII's injury riddled 2013 already feels like a distant memory.
The Skins' quarterback has had the time to heal and has a wealth of new weapons to work with in Jay Gruden's scheme. Gruden helped mask Andy Dalton's deficiencies, so imagine how much more creative he can be with a true talent like Griffin and more than just one talented wide receiver.
4. Mike Wallace
Earlier this offseason, there was speculation that Wallace could be traded. Now all indications are that Ryan Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins offense are beginning to click, and the most dangerous weapon there is Wallace.
If Tannehill can actually step a step forward in Year 3, Wallace is going to be the benefactor. He's unquestionably the best weapon on that offense, and perhaps he's finally developing a chemistry with his quarterback.
5. Hakeem Nicks
New offense. Better quarterback. Finally healthy.
Nicks now is hauling in passes from Andrew Luck and has a chance to make amends for back-to-back down years. Nicks was hindered by a rash injuries in 2012 and into 2013, and last year was product of Manning's regression. Luck could be on the verge of going from great to elite this year, and Nicks will be one the beneficiaries.
6. Chris Johnson
Remember when the New York Jets sported a backfield tandem of LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene. Expect a similar type of timeshare between Johnson and Chris Ivory, who provide a bit of thunder and lightning in the team's new-look running attack.
Johnson got one of the better deals for running backs available this offseason, and the Jets are going to make sure they get their money's worth. Johnson managed another 1,000-yard season despite playing through injury, and with the ground-and-pound focus in New York, he should be in store for another.
7. Arian Foster
Injuries made us forget about Foster, who wasn't around too much during the Texans' awful 2013 season. But he's now teamed up with offensive-minded Bill O'Brien, who is going to find ways to make Foster the focal point of the offense through both the running game and the passing game.
Foster is still young and now healthy, and even with journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick under center can find ways to make plays.
8. Lamar Miller
Miller and Giants back David Wilson seemed prime for breakout campaigns in 2013, but neither met those lofty expectations. While the Dolphins' signing of Knowshon Moreno looked like trouble for Miller's stock in 2014, it appears Miller is light years ahead of Moreno, who's battling an injury.
The hype, yet again, is high for Miller. This year, though, it looks as if he may be able to live up to it.
9. Rob Gronkowski
If Gronk isn't healthy this year, he may never be. For more than a year Gronk has been sidelined with a multitude of injuries, and he always seems to be rushed back before he's ready.
He's been rehabbing for quite some time now, and being at 100 percent might just be the key for Gronk to return to dominating defenses and putting indents in NFL end zones across the league.
10. Trent Richardson
Will this be his year?
With so many weapons on the Colts' offense, it's beginning to look like the Broncos of the Mid-West. With so many receivers opposing defenses have to key on, Richardson might find himself with plenty of open running lanes. Plus, he's finally had a year to get accustomed with the playbook.
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