Each fall, the NFL showcases players attempting to live up to their (sometimes unrealistic) expectations. Every player strives for greatness on the field in order to achieve the two most desired parts of the off-field life: money and respect.
Success breeds expectations, and once a player slips, it is a slippery slope to losing it all. As easy as it is to lose everything, it then becomes even harder to bounce back and regain old form. These four players in particular need to make a big impact on the field this year in an effort to escape the shadows of their previous success.
1.) Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins
After an outstanding rookie campaign, Robert Griffin fell victim to a torn ACL in a wild card game against the Seattle Seahawks. Now, after a disappointing sophomore season, RGIII is in danger of being labeled as a big-time draft bust. This off-season, the Redskins have made improvements to Griffin's supporting cast with the addition of DeSean Jackson. This season, Griffin has all the chance to succeed in a high powered offense featuring the likes of Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, and second year tight end - Jordan Reed. Whenever a team gives up three first rounders to grab you, you have to realize, the bar is going to be set high.
2.) Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
Now to discuss the other NFC East quarterback on the list. Eli Manning, twice a Super Bowl winner has had a clear decline in his play since the magical 2011 title run. When describing Eli Manning's 2013 season in a nutshell, two words come to mind: interception, and sack. Last year, Eli wasn't necessarily the cause for the Giants' failure (as the whole team was pretty bogus), but he definitely played a big role. In 2014, Eli needs to utilize his speedy new weapon, Odell Beckham Jr., and hopefully the improved Giants' offensive line will give him enough time to make strong throws in the pocket.
3.) Trent Richardson, RB, Indianapolis Colts
The number three pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Trent Richardson's rookie season got off to a quick start, and gave Browns fans some hope. But what took the league by surprise was when Richardson was traded to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a first round pick. Some say Richardson's struggles in his sophomore year had to do with Richardson's lack of knowledge regarding the Colts system, but the eyeball test seemed to show that he had lost a step since his rookie year. This year, the 22-year-old has had almost a full season and a full off-season to pickup the system, and now he must turn in an above average season. If he doesn't, there are two hungry backs in Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard craving that RB1 spot.
4.) Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Once the darling of Baltimore, Ray Rice not only didn't show up on the field last season, but has been an absolute mess off the field too Rice, the same player who took public stands to help prevent bullying, was recently arrested for allegedly striking his fiancee unconscious. If Rice wants people to put his off-field issues behind him, he must produce on the field and become a good citizen off the field. Not only does Ray need a stellar year, but the Ravens would love to see Ray produce, in the hopes of making a strong playoff push this season.