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Who is Due to Bounce Back From Injuries in 2015?

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The trouble with football is the knowledge that each season deprives us of watching the talents of multiple star players due to injuries. Some years are worse than others, but it never fails to be a bummer.

That said, seeing a guy bounce back into his previous form is quite the reward. The average fan has little idea how much work and rehab go into simply getting back onto the field, much less returning to a high level of play. One of the benefits of being close to the game is gaining an appreciation for that aspect of a player’s preparation.

Here are some of the top players who will be counted on to rebound from their injury-plagued 2014 campaigns this fall:

-Victor Cruz, WR, Giants: Cruz’s season-ending knee injury may have turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Giants. The lack of their No. 1 receiver forced Eli Manning to turn to fellow Louisiana native Odell Beckham, Jr. as New York’s primary weapon, and you can find the results on the cover of this year’s edition of EA Sports’ Madden video game.

With Cruz and Beckham finally on the field at the same time, the Giants could have the ability to blow the lid off all but the very best defenses in 2015.

-Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals: If Arizona could just get a healthy Carson Palmer, it could become a dangerous machine in the NFC West. Alas, that is probably a big ask. He’s coming off ACL surgery at 35 and has had chronic knee issues in the past.

Yet if the Cardinals could make the playoffs with only six games from their starting quarterback, and some really sketchy play by his backups, one can only imagine what’s possible with a guy who had 11 touchdowns and a QB rating of 95.6 — the second best of his career — when he went down.

-Sam Bradford, QB, Eagles: If Philadelphia wasn’t banking on Bradford’s recovery from back-to-back ACL tears, they wouldn’t have bet the farm on him when they sent Nick Foles to St. Louis. He still hasn’t participated in full-contact drills, but the Eagles will need him unless they truly think The Sanchize can bring a division title.

-NaVarro Bowman, LB, 49ers: In the time since Bowman broke his leg in the 2013 NFC Championship game, virtually everything has changed for San Francisco — the stadium, the coach, and seemingly everyone who played linebacker alongside Bowman retiring.

The Niners look like the obvious division cellar-dweller next season, but a strong year from Bowman after a full year out of football could help them save face.

-Sean Lee, LB, Cowboys: Yeah yeah, we know. Every season is an injury rebound season for Sean Lee. He played 11 games last year and six the year before. But when he is on the field, he is one of the best middle linebackers in the game. And if Dallas could actually keep him healthy come playoff time, the Cowboys might actually be able to make that Super Bowl run they tell us about every year.

-Jerod Mayo, LB, Patriots: Like Sean Lee, only his team wins Super Bowls anyway.

Mayo has played a grand total of 12 games the past two seasons, which gives concern as to whether he’ll ever be back at 100 percent. But when he is, he is a beast, as his 147 combined tackles in 2012 indicate.

With Vince Wilfork no longer eating up the middle of opposing offensive lines, it would behoove New England to have a linebacker with Mayo’s ability to shed blocks back in the mix.

-Jairus Byrd, S, Saints: One small part of the reason Jimmy Graham is no longer a Saint is that the team shelled out a six-year, $56 million deal to Byrd in an effort to make their defense competent.

Unfortunately, he only played the first four games of 2014 before being lost to a torn meniscus. There will be plenty of pressure on Byrd’s plate as he and Rob Ryan try to fix a unit that finished 31st in total defense.

-Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers: Everyone’s favorite Hobbit was limited to three games in 2014 after setting career highs for rushing and receiving yardage in his first year in San Diego. Philip Rivers has always loved using little guys as weapons — don’t forget Darren Sproles got his start in San Diego — so Woodhead could be due for a big year.


About Alex Hickey

Alex Hickey

Alex Hickey can vividly recall most significant NFL events going back to Walter Payton's final game in 1987, including the ones that didn't make him cry. Since 2008, his full-time job has been covering college football, specifically McNeese State, for the Lake Charles (La.) American Press. Free time is spent informing, amusing or annoying you for Football Insiders.