By Sam Spiegelman
Certain players seem to always have an obstacle in their way before people give them credit. For instance, how many quality seasons did Alex Smith have to go through in San Francisco and then Kansas City before being donned a legitimate NFL starter?
Well, that still remains a touchy topic.
Aside from Smith, there are a bunch of other players critics remain skeptical of - whether they're actually deserving of being called an NFL star.
Here are six players with a lot to prove in terms of their reputation in 2014:
1. Nick Foles
Foles threw for 27 touchdowns and two interceptions in his first season as a starter in 2013, leading the Eagles to a NFC East title and a playoff appearance. Even though Michael Vick is no longer his back up, there is still reason to believe Foles cannot replicate his 2013 numbers.
Sure, the interception total is bound to increase with a full 16-game slate, but his touchdown total should also grow in Chip Kelly's high-octane passing attack. A similar TD:INT ratio should do the trick for Foles.
2. Eddie Lacy
The reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year was outstanding in his first season with the Packers, but sophomore slumps have become an annual trend in the league.
Alfred Morris, Doug Martin, Trent Richardson and Vick Ballard were all backs that regressed in their second seasons. As did DeMarco Murray back in 2012. The question is whether Lacy falls into that trap with lofty expectations in 2014.
3. DeSean Jackson
Coming off a career year in 2013, Jackson has switched uniforms and switched offenses, and there's a major question mark as to whether he can be as productive in another system with a different quarterback playing a different type of role.
Jackson has made a living being a deep threat, but he needs to run different routes and contribute in other ways with the Redskins. Otherwise, we'll know he was simply a product of Kelly's offense last year.
4. Robert Griffin III
Sticking with the Redskins, Jackson's quarterback, RGIII, is entering a prove-it sort of year in Year 3.
RGIII played through an injury in 2013, which plagued his production and made us question whether he was on track to be the elite quarterback many assumed he would develop into.
Now Griffin is learning a new offense but has a wealth of talent around him, but must show signs of improvement as a passer.
5. Josh McCown
McCown's incredible stint with the Bears last season made a lot of us forget that Jay Cutler was actually the team's starting quarterback. His season led to a contract with the Buccaneers, where he's also entrenched as the starter.
However, second-year player Mike Glennon is waiting in wings should McCown slip up and regress in another system. The pressure is on McCown to continue his late-career production.
6. Trent Richardson
This is a make-or-break kind of year for Richardson, the former No. 3 overall pick who the Colts sent a first-round pick to Cleveland to acquire.
Richardson had a spectacular rookie season and has showed glimpses of being an NFL workhorse, but has struggled mightily since donning a Colts uniform.
Richardson has had a full year to get comfortable with the Colts playbook and develop chemistry with Andrew Luck and his teammates. If he can't succeed in this quality offense this year, he may be destined for the "bust" label.
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