Many players had disappointing seasons in 2018. Many players had injuries or just didn’t play to the level they have in the past. Which five guys stick out the most as contenders to win the Comeback Player of the Year though?
Le’Veon Bell, running back for the Jets, took last year off in protest to the Steelers refusing to give him a long term deal. Bell decided it would be better for him to not play, as he didn’t want to risk injury when he hit free agency the next year. In the offseason, the Jets signed him to a big deal, and Le’Veon finally got his money.
Steelers fans voiced their displeasure for Bell the entire year, and it helped lead to a poor locker room for Pittsburgh. Nearly everyone on the Steelers and the media criticized Bell for not playing for his teammates. Also, when he signed his deal, he received a lot of criticism for the deal he signed, saying that if he had played, he would have earned more.
This criticism of Bell should fuel him. Everyone has forgotten how good Bell is as a running back, and this new motivation should push him to get a lot better. Bell also had a year off, which should make him fresh. If Bell comes with an attitude to prove the world wrong, he could prove he is still in the discussion for one of the best players in the league.
Neal was one of best young safeties in the league his first couple of seasons in the league, but his season was cut short early last year when he tore his ACL in the first game of the season. Luckily for Neal, he will have had enough time to recover, so he can participate in all activities this offseason. He will be plenty healthy to have a big year.
Neal also is getting close to needing an extension on his contract, so he should be plenty motivated to play well. After seeing the contracts of his safety counterparts such as Tyrann Mathieu, Earl Thomas, and Landon Collins, Neal will need to play at an elite level to get paid. Atlanta’s defense is significantly better with Neal, and he should continue to play well next season.
Like Neal, Freeman’s season was really short last year. Freeman only played two games all of 2018, and that really hurt the Falcons offense. When Freeman plays well, everyone gets a lot better on the offense.
The Falcons were really bad in the run game last year since they didn’t have the depth at running back.
Freeman will be asked to do a lot for the Falcons this year. They have high expectations this year, with Dan Quinn potentially being on the hot seat. They will rely on Freeman being healthy for 2019, and if he is, he should produce at a very high level.
After being an MVP candidate in 2017, Wentz tore his ACL right before the postseason. This was a massive blow to the Eagles at the time, but Nick Foles still led them to the Super Bowl.
Wentz spent the offseason rushing his way back to playing at the start of the season, but he wasn’t healthy. Wentz then later hurt his back, and Foles had to take over again. Wentz has had massive troubles staying healthy. He has missed time in all three seasons as quarterback for the Eagles.
That being said, Wentz should have massive motivation this offseason. Foles left, and now he must stay healthy to win. This Eagles team has huge aspirations this year, and need Wentz there to win.
Couple that with a brand new contract that keeps him in Philadelphia, and Wentz is bound for a big year. The Eagles acquired Desean Jackson, Miles Sanders, and Jordan Howard to help Wentz. Everyone is back one more time, and Wentz will have every opportunity to succeed. Wentz has produced at an MVP level before, he just needs to stay healthy.
Cooper Kupp was on his way to having a huge season last year, but he tore his ACL in the middle of the year. Kupp was having the best seasons of his career and was influential in the success of Jared Goff. After Kupp got hurt, the offense was a lot worse, since he opened up the middle of the field.
Kupp has had a long time to recover and is surrounded by many weapons. Everyone is back, plus Daryl Henderson was drafted to the offense as well. Sean McVay will find many creative ways to use him.
Also, Kupp is in the last year of his contract and is looking to get paid next offseason. Receiver contracts are booming, and Kupp will want some of that money. With Todd Gurley possibly being limited next year, they will need Kupp’s production to still poise an elite offense. As long as he can stay healthy, he will only continue to get better. Look out for a Pro Bowl year from Kupp.