Grey-haired veterans bounce back to their former stellar form – that doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s a huge boost for any team. Which players, who went through difficult and relatively unproductive seasons in 2021, are ready for a major recovery in the upcoming season?
Before I start, I have not included players who were simply injured for all or most of 2021. That would be some sort of excuse.
For example, Christian McCaffrey, Khalil Mak, Za’Darius Smith and others severely injured last year were not included in the list. Okay, let’s get to my list.
A season ago, Robinson played in 12 tournaments. Three have been missed with a hamstring injury, two with COVID-19, but the day off for Robinson may have been due to exhaustion from the painstaking years spent with bad quarterbacks. ARob has made over 100 catches and 1,200 yards with Mitchell Trubisky in 2020 – a small miracle – but the combination of Andy Dalton, Nick Fowles and rookie Justin Fields was too big to bear.
Now, like his new quarterback, Robinson is migrating from NFC North to the bright lights of LA to team up with Matthew Stafford and alpha Cooper Kupp in Sean McVeigh’s carefully planned offense, a scheme that was only completed outside DVOA Football Outsiders Offensive once in the last five seasons.
On the spectrum of talent, Robinson is rightfully at the top of the NFL. At around 6ft 3in and weighing 220lbs, he is an agile trail runner, exudes confidence in competitive catch scenarios, and is a deceptive post-catch weapon. Without all the spotlight on him, and most importantly, with undoubtedly the best quarterback he has ever played at collegiate or pro level, the stars have finally aligned for Robinson to be punctuated to the nth degree in 2022.
I almost didn’t include Landry in this article because I do think he lost a step or two and he entered the league as a lower-level player for the receiver position. However, Chris Olav’s first-round pick could extend Landry’s career and make him a more effective weapon in his first post-college season in Louisiana.
At his best, Landry is an absolute receiver of bottom possession. Not the fastest, not the fastest, but possibly the most durable with unexpectedly strong post-catch skills and of course, a gigantic catch radius – the dude has over 10″ arms. Jameis Winston is one of the most aggressive outfield shooters right now, but showed a bit more conservative play before he tore a ligament in his knee last season. And with Landry, Michael Thomas and Deonte Harris, the Saints will have to mostly live downstairs, moving the ball methodically around the field before eventually taking the defense off Olave’s go-ball.
Even though it seems like Cox has abruptly stepped off the borderline superstar pedestal, he can still bring it on. Pretty quietly, Cox registered a respectable 44 pressures in 2021. Now, aside from the cranky, explosive Javon Hargrave and the long exemplar of Josh Sweet’s athleticism, Cox will play alongside a 6-7 and 340-pound adult in the first round of selection. Jordan Davis. During the Howie Roseman era, the Eagles had a strong defensive front. With this group, choose your poison. Can’t game plan stop everyone.
And it’s not that Cox is well over 30. In December, he will be 32 years old. A resurgent season is coming up for a longtime player on the inside of the Eagles.
Given the rapid progress in medical and rehabilitative treatment, we all assume that all players can recover without problems after an ACL tear. It is not always so. Sutton was injured back in the second week of 2020 and hasn’t been completely himself for part of 2021. Given his slower recovery, coupled with the quarterback’s erratic play, Sutton’s 58-handling, 776-yard season was truly encouraging.
Nearly 6-4, the 220-pounder with deceptive speed, mammoth tackle radius and thunderous YAC talent should be back 100% in 2022 to regain his 2019 form when he made 72 passes for 1,112 yards with six points. And now he has Russell Wilson tossing him moonballs across the field. With the arrival of Jerry Judy in Year 3 and a well-balanced offense thanks to compact one-twos from Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams, Sutton will find himself in more favorable situations more than ever before in his NFL career. This season he will set career records.