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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

10 NFL players who need a big turnaround

Dak Prescott

Through five week of the NFL season, we’re getting a much better sense of the contenders and teams that will be picking high in next year’s draft. Some players’ seasons have taken off, while others are struggling. For those in the latter group, there is still time for a turnaround.

Here’s a look at 10 players who badly need to turn things around.

Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys

The Cowboys looked like they were set at the quarterback position for a very long time when Prescott burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2016, but he has been quite underwhelming since. Dallas has basically had no passing game this season, and that is one of the main reasons they are off to a 2-3 start. Prescott has just five touchdowns compared to four interceptions in five starts. Teams are challenging the Cowboys to throw by loading up to stop Ezekiel Elliott, and Prescott hasn’t looked up to the challenge. That could have a lot to do with not having playmakers like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten to throw to, but Dak needs to pick things up if the Cowboys want to make a run at the postseason. Luckily the NFC East is in bad enough shape where there’s still time.

Derek Carr, QB, Raiders

A lot of people expected Carr to thrive in Jon Gruden’s system — including Gruden himself — and that has not been the case through the first five weeks of the season. Carr, who appeared to take a step back in 2017, has continued his struggles. He has eight interceptions on the year and has thrown a pick in all but one game. The Raiders have not shown any consistency in the passing game, with Carr seemingly forcing the issue and making crucial mistakes in big moments. His latest mishap was a brutal interception on the 1-yard line in Sunday’s loss to the Chargers — one that Gruden had no problem criticizing his QB for. If Carr doesn’t show signs of improvement, Gruden may think about cutting ties with him after the season.

Case Keenum, QB, Broncos

The Broncos were one of the teams interest in free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins last offseason, but they felt they could get better value by signing Keenum. So far, it looks like they were wrong. Keenum has thrown seven interceptions compared to just five touchdowns this season, and his 78.1 passer rating ranks 30th in the NFL out of 35 qualifying quarterbacks. He’s also lost three fumbles, which means he is accounting for about two turnovers per game. He had just eight turnovers all of last season, so it goes without saying that the Broncos have not gotten the production they hoped for from Keenum, which may have led to discontent in the locker room.

Lamar Miller, RB, Texans

Miller looked like he was ready for a breakout when Deshaun Watson was torching defenses last year, so the sky was seemingly the limit for him in 2018 with a healthy Watson under center. He has not made the most of the opportunity. Miller is averaging a mediocre 3.9 yards per carry and has caught just eight passes in four games. Between Alfred Blue’s presence and former third-round pick D’Onta Foreman expected to return in the next couple of weeks, Miller needs to be looking over his shoulder. Bill O’Brien needs someone to provide a spark for his offense, and Miller has failed to do that.

LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills

McCoy had a decent game on Sunday after a horrible start to the season, though he still turned 24 carries into just 85 rushing yards. He added another 23 yards on two receptions, but you have to wonder if the dreaded age-30 season is rearing its ugly head with the star running back. While an abysmal offensive line certainly isn’t helping McCoy or rookie quarterback Josh Allen, McCoy used to be able to make defenders miss with regularity and create enormous plays. We have not seen him do that with consistency this season, and he is scheduled to carry a salary cap hit of $9 million next year. Unless he finds the Fountain of Youth, McCoy seems destined for free agency.

Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots

The Patriots have come alive on offense over the past two games, yet Hogan continues to command very little attention from Tom Brady. Hogan looked like one of Brady’s favorite targets last season before he missed time with a shoulder injury, and things really haven’t been the same since. With Josh Gordon now in the fold and Julian Edelman having returned from suspension, Hogan had just five targets in the past two games. The Patriots put up 38 points in each of those games, so that gives you an indication of how far he has fallen down the depth chart. Brady seems to be looking to Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and even running back James White before Hogan, who is seemingly the odd man out in New England.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans

Mariota’s NFL career has been plagued by nagging injuries thus far, and that trend has continued with his elbow issue this season. It’s hard to say how much of a role that has played in his uninspiring play, but Mariota isn’t doing enough to put the Titans in positions to win. Tennessee had numerous chances to put up points against the Bills on Sunday, but they managed just 12 and ended up losing. Mariota completed just 53.8 percent of his passes, and he now has two touchdown passes compared to two interceptions on the season. The former No. 2 overall pick is in no danger of losing his job, but the 3-2 Titans need him to start making more plays.

Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars

The story with Bortles this season has been the “Tale of Two Blakes,” but we have seen the bad one more often than the good one. The Jaguars had an opportunity on Sunday to show the NFL they are once again for real when they traveled to take on the Chiefs, who look like the best team in the AFC. Bortles turned in his worst performance of the season with four interceptions and completed just 54.1 percent of his passes. To give you an idea of how inconsistent he has been, six of Bortles’ eight touchdown passes this season have come in two games. Jacksonville is such a better team when he plays well, but they’re in danger of being blown out any team he plays like he did on Sunday.

David Johnson, RB, Cardinals

The Cardinals signed David Johnson to a three-year, $39 million extension right before the season, and their investment has not paid off in the short-term. Johnson is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry in what has been a surprisingly bad season for a dynamic player who racked up nearly 2,000 yards from scrimmage in 2016. Johnson underwent surgery for a wrist injury last year and is said to be completely healthy, but he just can’t seem to get it going. A lot of that has to do with Arizona being a bad team that’s suffered from poor QB play. Some of it also has to do with play-calling, but the Cardinals go as Johnson goes. So far, Johnson has gone close to nowhere.

Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars

If the Jags are to make another postseason run, they’re going to need Leonard Fournette healthy and running well, which is something they haven’t gotten all season. Fournette suffered a hamstring injury in Week 1 and missed the team’s next two games. He returned in Week 4 but re-aggravated the injury. The second-year back missed Week 5 and seems likely to miss Week 6 as well. Fournette only has 24 touches for 90 yards this season, a year after putting up over 1,300 total yards as a rookie. The Jags have managed without him, but will probably be in much better shape with him on the field.



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