Let's face it – even good players have down years. It's nearly impossible to play that the astronomical level some in the NFL play at year in and year out without hitting a bump in the road or two. It happens to all of them at one point or another. Last year, some players who are considered elite struggled mightily. Eli Manning had a down season that culminated with the Giants missing the postseason. Tony Romo led his Dallas Cowboys to a third consecutive 8-8 season and a 4th season out of the playoffs. Bad seasons even happen to good players.
But the good thing about football – or any sport really – is that you may find yourself in the NFL gutter one year, but you may find yourself on top of the mountain the very next season. It may be that the team shores up a weak link on the line that gives a QB that extra second or two of protection that means the difference between a sack and throwing a touchdown. Perhaps it's bringing in a second running back to share the workload which keeps both players fresh and healthy. Or maybe it's changing out a head coach that a player could never connect with that allows them to finally realize their potential.
The point is that a down year for a player isn't necessarily the harbinger of doom and despair some make it out to be. Every player in the NFL, at one point or another, is going to struggle and have a down season. But many of them are able to bounce back the following year and post a solid season.
The 25 players outlined here all struggled in 2013. Some because of injuries, some because of personnel problems on their team, and others – well – just because guys struggle sometimes. But every single one of the players on this list are looking to, and very likely will, have a rebound year in 2014 and be forces on their respective teams.
25 25. Roddy White - Atlanta Falcons
24 24. Donald Penn - Oakland Raiders
23 23. C.J. Spiller - Buffalo Bills
22 22. Joe Flacco - Baltimore Ravens
21 21. Doug Martin - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
20 20. Darren Sproles - Philadelphia Eagles
19 19. Darrelle Revis - New England Patriots
18 18. Julio Jones - Atlanta Falcons
17 17. Antonio Gates - San Diego Chargers
16 16. Hakeem Nicks - Indianapolis Colts
15 15. DJ Hayden - Oakland Raiders
14 14. Darren McFadden - Oakland Raiders
13 13. Mike Wallace - Miami Dolphins
12 12. Trent Richardson - Indianapolis Colts
Richardson has been awful since he hit the NFL. He's been so awful that the Browns of all people shipped him out of Cleveland for a song and a dance. He didn't fare much better in Indianapolis though. But he and the team say that a full offseason of learning the Colts' complex offensive schemes is paying dividends and that Richardson will be a dominant back in 2014.
11 11. LaMarr Woodley - Oakland Raiders
10 10. Robert Griffin III - Washington Redskins
9 9. Da'Quan Bowers - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
8 8. Matt Ryan - Atlanta Falcons
7 7. Maurice Jones-Drew - Oakland Raiders
6 6. Eli Manning – New York Giants
5 5. Arian Foster – Houston Texans
4 4. Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos
3 3. Steven Jackson – Atlanta Falcons
2 2. Chris Johnson – New York Jets
1 1. Matt Schaub - Oakland Raiders
If ever there was a player in need of a bounce back and redemption, it would be Schaub. After enduring a train wreck of a season in 2013 – a train wreck that included 4 straight games with a pick-6, and 14 overall before his benching – the Raiders brought him in to lead the team. And many still consider them crazy for doing it. But early reports out of camp have been glowing, saying that Schaub looks more like the QB who posted 5 straight seasons with a 90+ QB rating and less like last year's dumpster fire. With a rebuilt line and plenty of weapons at his disposal, Schaub looks well position to bounce back in 2014.
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