At this time of year, training camps are less than a month away. Training camps are a popular time to figure out who will take their games to the next level in the upcoming year. With time leading up to it, now is a great time to look back at the players who I projected to take their breakout in 2013. What I wrote about the players last year can be found here.
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins: From a statistical standpoint, Tannehill made major improvements from his rookie year to year two. He finished top ten in the league in passing yards with 3,913, saw his completion percentage go up over two points, and greatly improved his touchdown to interception ratio. Going into the season, I wrote that the main concern surrounding the Dolphins was their offensive line and that proved to be true. Tannehill was sacked a league high 58 times and was constantly under duress when making throws.
While most teams would be thrilled with this growth from year one to year two, the Dolphins are in an interesting position. They controlled their own destiny to make the playoffs this past year and with two poor performances from Tannehill (he went a combined 30 of 67 for 286 yards with one touchdown in three interceptions), lost out on a golden opportunity. The roster has the talent of a playoff team so a 2014 season that doesn’t end in a playoff berth could lead coach Joe Philbin out of town. A new head coach usually means a new building block at quarterback which may not bode well for Tannehill.
The weapons are in place for Tannehill to have a big 2014 season. New offensive coordinator Bill Lazor worked with a young quarterback in Nick Foles (who doesn’t have the physical skillset of Tannehill) and helped him break out in a big way in 2013. While there could be a learning curve from the systems having worked with previous coordinator Mike Sherman at Texas A&M and the pros, Tannehill has weapons to ease the transition. Mike Wallace still has the skills to be a dynamic player although he and Tannehill must gain better chemistry on the deep ball. The team added Knowshon Moreno who can catch out of the backfield and both Brian Hartline and Charles Clay are nice secondary pieces.
While Tannehill succeeded in building off his rookie year, the Dolphins will be hard pressed to call his third season a success with anything less than a spot in the playoffs.
Hit or miss: Push
Sam Bradford, Rams: Despite finishing up just his fourth year in the league, it seems as if Bradford has been talked about as a breakout candidate for years. Before tearing his ACL, midway through the season, 2013 looked like the year it was going to happen. In the seven games he played, Bradford completed nearly 61 percent of his passes for 1,687 yards to go along with 14 touchdowns and four interceptions. While it is unlikely he kept that pace up (he didn’t face the Seahawks and only played the 49ers once), over the course of a full season that amounts to 3,856 yards, 32 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Regardless of your views of Bradford, those would be Pro Bowl caliber numbers.
Things get interesting here because as a team, the Rams played their best ball when Bradford wasn’t under center. In the games he played, the Rams went 3-4 but played their best in games where he was not playing. A big part of this could be the emergence of Zac Stacy and the Rams ground game. Stacy first started getting first team reps a few weeks before Bradford went down, so he was not there to also have a formidable rushing attack at his disposal.
This could very well be Bradford’s last shot with the Rams. After this year, he still has one left on his ridiculous rookie contract but the team might want to get a head start on bringing in a new, cheaper quarterback option. Bradford has all of his same targets returning this season, but entering his fifth year this one is “make or break” for him to make the playoffs in a loaded NFC.
Hit or miss: Push
Brandon Weeden, Browns: Entering his second year at age 30 for a front office that wasn’t sold on him, I wrote that 2013 was a “make or break” year for Weeden. Considering the Browns went 0-5 in games he started (even though he did lead a come from behind victory on Thursday night against the Bills), it qualifies as break. Weeden managed to regress from his rookie year numbers in a big way. His completion percentage dropped over four points and his decision making in the pocket also regressed. Despite only appearing in eight games, his pocket presence (which was an issue beforehand) also declined. Weeden was sacked only one less time than he was in the 15 games he started his rookie campaign.
Weeden also impressively managed to lose his starting job twice over the course of the year to two different quarterbacks. After being benched for Brian Hoyer, Weeden regained the starting job back when Hoyer’s season ended with a torn ACL. Weeden then got benched for Jason Campbell and regained the job back when Campbell suffered a concussion. Weeden also went on to suffer a concussion and then lost his starting job to Campbell for the rest of the year. The Browns cut Weeden this offseason but he got picked up by the Cowboys in free agency to serve as a backup to Tony Romo.
Hit or miss: Miss