10 NFL defensive players primed for bounce-back seasons

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10 NFL defensive players primed for bounce-back seasons
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 17: Outside linebacker Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos gets around the block of offensive tackle Eric Fisher #72 of the Kansas City Chiefs to pressure quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 17, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Chiefs 27-17. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 27 Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (58) hits Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) from behind causing a fumble during the fourth quarter. The Denver Broncos vs. the Washington Redskins at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver on October 27, 2013. (Photo by Tim Rasmussen/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
ENGLEWOOD, CO - JUNE 12: Denver Broncos Derek Wolfe (95) runs through drills with DeMarcus Ware (94) during OTA's June 12, 2014 at Dove Valley. (Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 02: Quarterback Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks for an open receiver under pressure from outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware #94 of the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 2, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JUNE 12: New England Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis during the team's organized team activities. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 15: Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers is brought down by Darrelle Revis #24 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during a game at Raymond James Stadium on December 15, 2013 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 29: Brian Cushing #56 of the Houston Texans causes Marshawn Lynch #24 of the Seattle Seahawks to fumble in the first half at Reliant Stadium on September 29, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 30: Running back Deji Karim #35 of the Jacksonville Jaguars takes a hardhit from linebacker Brian Cushing #56 of the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on October 30, 2011 in Houston, Texas. Houston won 24-14. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 6: Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers makes a tackle on Reggie Bush #21 of the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on October 6, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo Tom Lynn /Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 05: Quarterback Joe Webb #14 of the Minnesota Vikings is hit by outside linebacker Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers after throwing the ball in the second half during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Lambeau Field on January 5, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 21: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Jason Pierre-Paul #90 of the New York Giants sacks Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins in the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium on October 21, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants defeated the Redskins 27-23. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 6: Geno Atkins #97 of the Cincinnati Bengals sacks quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots in the first quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on October 6, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 13: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers tries to avoid being sacked by Geno Atkins #97 of the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on November 13, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Steelers won 24-17. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 20: Cornerback Antonio Cromartie #31 of the New York Jets is introduced against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium on October 20, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Pereira/New York Jets/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 22: Troy Polamalu #43 of the Pittsburgh Steelers dives in to hit Matt Flynn #10 of the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on December 22, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Steelers defeated the Packers 38-31. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 13: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Jeremy Kerley #11 of the New York Jets in action against Troy Polamalu #43 of the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 13, 2013 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Steelers defeated the Jets 19-6. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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Each season there are NFL defensive players coming off injuries or down years. This year it seems as if there are 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. Von Miller

When healthy, Miller is arguably the league's top edge rusher. But ACL injuries don't recover at Adrian Peterson-esque speed unless you're, well, Adrian Peterson.

If Miller is healthy for Week 1, he has a chance to be the featured pass-rusher on a loaded defense, one that can be aggressive because the Denver Broncos will likely have large enough leads to take more defensive risks.

2. DeMarcus Ware

Speaking of the Broncos, their newest pass-rushing threat will be the beneficiary of a healthy Miller opposite him. Ware, when healthy, has been one of the league's premier edge rushers, but last year he was not himself.

Ware averaged 15.5 sacks per season from 2008-2012, and last year's injury riddled season should be considered an aberration.

3. Darrelle Revis

Revis spent most of his first season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers returning to full health coming off of knee surgery and displayed some rust early on. Revis improved throughout the year, and is now considered to be 100 percent.

Moving on to the New England Patriots, Revis has a chance to be the No. 1 guy in a Bill Belichick-designed unit. The Hoodie helped revive Aqib Talib's career, and Revis has an even higher ceiling.

4. Brian Cushing

Two major knee injuries in as many years have plagued Cushing's career, but with a star-studded defense being run by Romeo Crennel, Cushing has a chance to be thrust right back into the thick of things and play the role of defensive captain.

Cushing racked up 48 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a pick and a forced fumble in seven games last season. If he can stay healthy for 16 games, those numbers could balloon.

5. Clay Matthews

Even though Matthews missed only six games due to a thumb injury, he never truly returned back to form. And the Green Bay Packers' defense wasn't the same with Matthews far from full strength.

With the addition of Julius Peppers, there's some pressure being taken off Matthews, which should bode well for his sack numbers and his ability to wreak havoc in opposing backfields.

6. Jason Pierre-Paul

JPP is coming off back-to-back down years, and it's no coincidence the New York Giants' defense hasn't been as effective as a whole either.

Pierre-Paul hasn't been fully healthy for two seasons, and the Giants haven't had the best personnel fitted in around him either. If the Giants are going to revert to their old form, Pierre-Paul will need to be the defensive line's anchor.

7. Geno Atkins

Arguably the best pass-rushing defensive tackle in the NFL, Atkins' absence from the Cincinnati Bengals' defensive line had a domino effect throughout the entire unit.

Atkins racked up six sacks through nine games last season before a torn ACL forced him to the sidelines. If healthy, he can single-handedly change games.

8. Antonio Cromartie

Cromartie can be one of the league's best physical cornerbacks, but he does struggle when he's forced to take on No. 1-type receivers. Now that he's left New York and is with the Arizona Cardinals, he has the luxury of Patrick Peterson covering opposing offense's top threats.

9. Troy Polamalu

Polamalu wasn't the same difference-making safety we've come to know and love last season after coming off of multiple injuries. All indications are Polamalu is rounding back into form this offseason.

10. Dwight Freeney

The 33-year-old Freeney barely got an opportunity to rush the passer for the San Diego Chargers, suffering a torn quadriceps a month into the season. But Freeney returns to a revamped Bolts D in which he'll have plenty of opportunities to bounce back.


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