Due to some dramatic moves in free agency, potential trades and the NFL draft, some players who held starting jobs last season may find themselves either benched or playing in a limited capacity in 2015. Here are five players who potentially fit into this category.
1. Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel, Quarterback, Cleveland Browns
The Browns have been in constant need of a functional starting quarterback for years. There were already reports that the team tried to score quarterback Sam Bradford shortly after the Philadelphia Eagles traded for him, but that trade didn’t happen. The Browns could attempt to move up the draft order in a desperate bid to land Marcus Mariota.
If that doesn’t work out, they possess two first-round draft picks and may consider offering one or both to acquire another team’s quarterback, perhaps Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers. Regardless, McCown isn’t a sure thing, and Manziel must dig his way out of the hole he created in 2014 when given an opportunity to be the team’s starter.
2. Geno Smith, Quarterback, New York Jets
Geno Smith, who was drafted by the Jets in the first round of 2013, has been given two seasons to prove he can be the trusted face of the franchise. So far, though, his performance has been cold more often than hot, tossing 34 interceptions to his 25 touchdowns. Smith being benched multiples times in favor of Michael Vick last season was a big warning that the young talent was walking on thin ice.
With new head coach Todd Bowles in town, it seems Smith’s starting job is nowhere near safe moving forward. Like the Browns, the Jets could try to to score one of the top prospects in the draft. If that doesn’t happen, Ryan Fitzpatrick could edge out Smith when the quarterback competition begins this summer.
3. Andre Ellington, Running Back, Arizona Cardinals
Given the chance to show he could be the Cardinals’ workhorse and tote the ball 20-30 times per game, Andre Ellington didn’t back up the hype, then sustained an injury near the end of the season. His average yards per carry plummeted from a 5.5 mark in 2013 to a meager 3.3 in 2014.
Arizona’s front office remains quiet, but the team’s brass could be working behind the scenes to make a trade for Adrian Peterson, who is to be reinstated to the NFL on Friday. Or, there could also be a draft selection in the cards for the Cards. Ellington just doesn’t have the bruising build of a running back who can consistently rack up 1,000-plus yard seasons, so Arizona may turn elsewhere.
4. LeGarrette Blount, Running Back, New England Patriots
LeGarrette Blount led the team in rushing once he signed with the Patriots late last season, so it’s reasonable to think he will resume the starting duties. But with both Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley moving on to new teams, the Patriots are likely to draft a young player and give him a shot. Plus, Jonas Gray, who torched the Indianapolis Colts for 202 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns in a random Week 11 outing, may take more snaps in 2015.
5. Dwayne Bowe, Wide Receiver, Cleveland Browns
Dwayne Bowe couldn’t score a a touchdown to save his life last year, and the expensive receiver got ousted by the by the Kansas City Chiefs after the team nabbed Jeremy Maclin in free agency. The Browns signed Bowe, whose production has declined for three years. He’s managed just eight total touchdowns while tallying less than 1,000 yards each season.
The Browns also added Brian Hartline, and they still have Andrew Hawkins in the mix. And, as long as Cleveland doesn’t trade both first-round picks for a quarterback, the team would be smart to use on selection on a top wide receiver like DeVante Parker. If the rookie emerges, Bowe will settle into the heap with the rest, losing his former No. 1 wideout status.
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