It’s an award that few usually get remembered for. In fact, a good percentage of the time, a player that is named the NFL’s comeback player of the year usually doesn’t go on to even greater success.
Sometimes, it’s fitting, like when Tom Brady came back from a full season after injury in week 1. But sometimes, it’s a player like Chad Pennington, who probably deserved it, but then floundered back to mediocrity the following seasons.
This year, there are many such contenders of both kinds. Let’s take a look at a few of them now.
Peyton Hillis, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
After a breakout season in 2010, last year was a nightmare for Hillis as he suffered from everything, up to and including strep throat and the Madden Curse. After a short-term contract and playing behind a stellar offensive line in Kansas City, Hillis has a great shot at making people remember him again in 2012.
Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans
I wrote an in-depth piece about what happened to Johnson last year and if he was on the decline about a week ago. The bottom line for him is that with what he is being paid, he’d better produce or he’ll be looking for a new home real soon. A new offensive coordinator and a scheme that appears to fit him better give him a shot at reclaiming his former glory.
Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans
After multiple seasons now of Andre Johnson missing huge chunks of time due to injury, and already being limited in preseason, Johnson has both the skills and offensive scheme to reclaim his throne as the best pass catcher in the league in 2012. All he has to do is stay on the field for all 16 games and he’ll produce in the high-powered Texans offense that is returning the next guy on this list.
Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans
It’s hard to put a guy on here that had his team sitting at 7-3 and steamrolling teams last year when he went down. But statistically, it wasn’t exactly a season up to par with Schaub’s numbers of the past. An elite running back and rejuvenated defense will do that for you. But with the Texans currently healthy and looking posed for a deep playoff run, this is the year to make it happen.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
While missing 14.5 games in 2011, the Chiefs running game floundered after Charles tore his ACL. Now, with fellow comeback player candidate Peyton Hillis there to help relieve some of the workload, Charles and Matt Cassel (who could also be on this list) can get back to what they do the best and that’s putting up some yardage.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
This has to be one of the most watched and talked about situations of the early 2012 preseason. AP has returned to practices, and even put on the pads, but coaches are instructing that he is not to be touched. Having his knee completely rebuilt last New Year’s Eve is something that should be taken cautiously. But if it’s the same old Peterson we’ve become accustomed to, this one is a likely candidate.
Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders
I wrote about “Run DMC” yesterday and how he looked in his first game action since his lisfranc injury last year. There is little doubt about McFadden’s talents, he just has to stay on the field. He has yet to play a full season in his first four years in the league. With Carson Palmer there from day one, if McFadden can stay on the field, expect him to put up big time numbers in 2012.
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
It still feels weird to type anything other than “Indianapolis Colts” next to this name, but the times they are a-changin’. This has to be the overwhelming favorite for this award heading into the season. The Broncos went from a media darling last year to …well, a media darling of a serious matter this year. Manning lacked zip, but his control, accuracy and presence in the pocket looked par for the course in his preseason opener. If there were a power rankings for this award, Manning would lead the pack.
There are several others to keep an eye on such as Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Eric Berry, Mario Williams and many others. But the above listed names would be the ones I’d keep my eyes on if I was a betting man. Which, of course, is why I’ll be wrong. But if you asked me today, it’ll be one of them.
Filed under: NFL