The new NFL season offers a fresh start for these seasoned players who were glad to see the back of 2017. Better things likely lie ahead this year.
Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos
The Broncos’ limitations at quarterback hampered Sanders in the 12 games he played last season. But the signing of Case Keenum gives him every chance to hit back with a 1,000-yard season (he reached that mark in 2015 and 2016), especially if Denver struggle to run the ball. Sanders remains a tough man to cover and a useful deep threat.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
This Falcons offense is too good for Ryan to repeat his underwhelming 2017 campaign (20 touchdowns and 12 picks). Rookie receiver Calvin Ridley gives Ryan another weapon, and you can pencil Julio Jones in for 1,400 receiving yards. If Ryan is better in the red zone, the Falcons have all the tools to win the NFC South. A second season with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian should lead to better results.
Eli Manning, New York Giants
With a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. alongside Sterling Shepherd and Evan Engram, Manning is set up for a strong year. Best of all, the arrival of Saquon Barkley and the emphasis on the running game will take some of the strain off Manning’s shoulders. The Giants passed on a quarterback with the number two pick, demonstrating their belief that Manning (now 37) has enough left in the tank for another playoff push.
Pierre Garçon, San Francisco 49ers
Garçon put in solid performances in the eight games he played last season, but he missed out on the 49ers’ dominant finish to the season with Jimmy Garoppolo starting at quarterback. With the benefit of a pre-season and full campaign with Garoppolo, Garçon has every chance of topping 1,000 yards and scoring eight or more touchdowns. He is expected to be the number one option in the passing game.
Michael Crabtree, Baltimore Ravens
Crabtree barely notched 600 yards last year for the Oakland Raiders, though he did grab eight touchdowns. A change of scene may work in his favour, with the Baltimore Ravens in desperate need of a proven pass catcher. Joe Flacco is expected to start the season at quarterback in Baltimore but explosive rookie Lamar Jackson might give Crabtree even more opportunities if he takes over at any point.
Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs
Amid the Chiefs’ statement win in New England to kick off last season and Kareem Hunt’s dramatic arrival, Berry tore his Achilles at Foxborough and was out for the rest of the season. His leadership was missed and his return will be huge for a weakened Chiefs defense.