As the 2012 season approaches optimism is in the air no matter what team you are pulling for, heck even the Dolphins said they should win the AFC this year! So as we look forward to this season, I am going to share a short list of players that will be better in 2012.
Sam Bradford, St Louis Rams - After the season that Cam Newton had last year, we can quickly forget just how special Sam Bradford was as a rookie in 2010. Last year was a different story for Bradford and the Rams though. Spagnuola was already on the hot seat going into the season last year, so they brought in Josh McDaniels to help spark the offense and it just didn’t work. Between the injuries to the team and the transition to the new system, the offense was out of sync all year. To compound matters, Bradford got pounded and seemed to lose his confidence. This year Bradford is healthy and the Rams have new direction under Jeff Fisher. We can expect the Rams will get back to a more conventional offense, which should help their running game. Ultimately forcing the defenses to respect the whole field. I am still not certain that the Rams have given Sam a legitimate number one receiver yet, but with Salas, Pettis, Quick, Givens and Alexander you have a solid group of young and healthy receivers that can contribute. If Amendola and Smith can show that their injuries are behind them, they too could be big time difference makers in that group. Add to the mix rookie running back Isaiah Pead out of Cincinnati and you could be looking at a wide assortment of weapons. They still need one of those receivers to emerge as a go to guy and the offensive line needs to play better, but until that happens they will struggle. I still feel Bradford shows progress this year. Expect around 3,500 yards and 22 touchdowns.
- Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears - Cutler is such a polarizing figure because his personality doesn’t seem to fit the mold. People will also look at the Bears struggles and use it as an opportunity to bash Cutler, but it isn’t warranted. Cutler has spent three miserable years in the place where receivers go to die. Yet all he has done is throw for 225 yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game. Not bad for a guy that has almost zero help outside of Matt Forte. This year the Bears have added Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery to their receiving core and I believe it will pay immediate dividends. Even if Marshall has a slow start or a down year, he will still be a massive upgrade. Last year in Miami he had his worst season since his rookie year, and he still pulled in 81 grabs for 1,214 yards, 6 TDs and 53 first downs. That is more than double what Chicago’s best receiver posted in 2010. Additionally this should allow new offensive coordinator Mike Tice to use Devin Hester in a more natural role in the offense, moving him around the formations and putting him in the slot where he can become a match-up nightmare. Cutler will play well, and put up numbers that will remind people how stupid it was for Denver to trade him. Look for around 4,000 yards and 25+ touchdowns this season.