One of the best parts about NFL training camp? It gives players who had a tough season the previous year a chance to start anew. A number of players who had rough 2018 may find themselves on the shortlist to be the 2019 NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Let’s take a look at a few of those players.
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
Acquired from the New England Patriots in 2017, Jimmy Garoppolo finished that season with a pristine 5-0 record, seven touchdowns and 1,560 yards passing. That led to a fair amount of hype around the former Tom Brady-backup heading into 2018. Unfortunately, that potential was not fulfilled. Only three games into the season, Garoppolo was confined to the bench with a torn ACL.
With a nearly a full season and offseason to recover, Garoppolo is back. The Niners are hoping he can recapture some of that spark he showed during his spot starts in New England as well as in 2017 with San Francisco.
Earl Thomas, Baltimore Ravens
The Seattle Seahawks defense of the early 2010s is one of the great defenses and Earl Thomas played a big part of that at safety. He recorded 78 career interceptions as part of the Seahawks’ secondary.
But all good things must come to an end, and Seattle has been stripping away their championship defense piece by piece in recent years. Thomas was one of the last dominoes to fall, becoming a free agent this offseason and signing with the Baltimore Ravens.
Thomas’s relationship with the team went south last season. After a devastating broken leg during his contract year, Thomas flipped a middle finger towards Pete Carroll as he was being carted off the field. According to Thomas, Carroll “wasn’t being honest” with him. Thomas would seem to be more motivated than ever to prove his former team wrong.
Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers
If you haven’t heard of Hunter Henry yet, you will this season. Henry is the tight end for the Los Angeles Chargers and in limited action has looked like he could be a worthy successor to Antonio Gates.
Sadly, he missed all of 2018 with a torn ACL but will be back at full force this year. After two promising years to the start of his career in 2016-2017, he’ll get a chance to show what he can really do if he stays healthy for an entire year.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton is widely thought of as one of the toughest players in the game, regularly absorbing maximum punishment due to his playing style. The Carolina Panthers are a better team when Newton’s being Newton, and that means having him carry the ball more than most QBs.
Unfortunately, the downside is that Newton has been forced to play through injury due to this rough and tumble playing style. Newton toughed it out with a shoulder injury that would have kept most players on the bench. He sat out the last two games of the season once Carolina was out of contention. With a full offseason to rest, Newton is back in position to be one of the league’s most dominant QBs.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Last season the Bengals started 4-1 before finishing the season 2-9 in what became a lost season. QB Andy Dalton went on injured reserve in November with a thumb injury.
After years of mediocrity, Dalton has a new coach in the offensive-minded Zac Taylor that could give him the fresh start he needs to revitalize his career. If AJ Green can overcome a training camp injury to stay in the lineup, Dalton has a great chance to put up some decent numbers this year in a new-look offensive scheme.