The NFL officially returns on Thursday, and Shutdown Corner is rolling out the red carpet, previewing everything to come for the 2013 season. We’ll finish it off by picking our individual awards and the Super Bowl winner on Thursday before the Ravens and Broncos kick off the season.
Most NFL fans would love to say a player on the team they support led a statistical category. It is a badge of honor for some players to break records. There is nothing like being regarded as one of the top NFL players at their position.
However, it is a gift and a curse.
While it may sound like a great idea to have a player who can do it all, that does not always lead to success in team sports. One man can change the outcome of a game in the NBA, but Calvin Johnson can post one of the most prolific NFL seasons ever and his team still lose eight straight games and finish 4-12.
Here are 10 players who need to do less for more team success in 2013:
10. London Fletcher, LB, Washington
Fletcher will take over as the active NFL leader in consecutive games played (241) and consecutive games started (200) on Monday Night Football. This iron-man has enjoyed an incredible career, which includes a Super Bowl title. The addition of veteran Nick Barnett should provide depth at linebacker, while the return of Brian Orakpo from a season-ending pectoral muscle injury in 2012 improves Fletcher’s unit.
9. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle
Russell Wilson was a pleasant surprise as a rookie, but Lynch carried this team once again. Lynch had 315 attempts last season, and is currently 27-years old. The good news is Lynch has Robert Turbin and Christine Michael behind him, and once Percy Harvin returns from injury he will make this team more potent offensively.
8. James Laurinaitis, LB, St. Louis.
Talk about a guy who has carried the load. Laurinaitis had 120 tackles in 2009, 114 in 2010, 142 in 2011 and 142 in 2012. Why is this guy not a Pro Bowler every year? St. Louis added linebacker Alec Ogletree in the draft this offseason, and Laurinaitis may another linebacker to lean on.
7. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay
He is arguably the NFL’s best quarterback, but has been forced to carry this team forever without a reliable running back. Rodgers is good enough to win games with his arm, but a little balance never hurts. Packers rookie running back Eddie Lacy has the ability to make opposing defenses more honest, and if plays like he did in the preseason, Green Bay’s offense will have the diversity of New England’s.
6. Darrelle Revis, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Revis’ presence meant everything to the Jets the past few seasons, but he joins a team which is arguably as talented defensively as his previous playoff squads. Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is a Pro Bowler, while safety Dashon Goldson is a two-time Pro Bowler and coming off a Super Bowl appearance last season. Revis just needs to blend into a very good defense.
5. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
There is no questioning Peterson’s ability, but after an incredible performance last season following knee surgery, he is the one guy Minnesota cannot afford to lose. Minnesota added Greg Jennings in free agency, and it is time for Christian Ponder to step up and make plays.
4. Steven Jackson, RB, Atlanta Falcons
For the past eight seasons, Jackson was St. Louis’ offense. He rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of those seasons, but his efforts usually did not reflect in the win column. Now Jackson has Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez to ease the offensive pressure off his shoulders.
3. Wes Welker, WR, Denver Broncos
Welker has enjoyed at least 100 receptions in five of the past six seasons, but that will not be necessary in Denver. Demaryius Thomas runs the receiving show, while Eric Decker is arguably the best complementary receiver in the NFL. Even if Welker's receptions decreased to 70, he would have an instant impact in Denver.
2. Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans
Foster had 327 carries in 2010 (third in the NFL), 278 in 2011 (sixth in the NFL), and a league-leading 351 carries last season. As a result, he has been fighting injuries leading up to the season opener. Houston needs to get Ben Tate more involved in its offense to ensure Foster is ready for a playoff run. Texans rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins' possible emergence could help preserve Foster and receiver Andre Johnson.
1. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
There should not be any debate that he is the NFL’s best receiver after last season. Unfortunately, for Johnson, a record-setting 1,964 receiving yards could not offset Detroit’s terrible season. Heck, Johnson’s tremendous skills could not prevent Detroit’s infamous 0-16 season, either. Detroit needs running back Reggie Bush and at least one receiver - paging Ryan Broyles, Nate Burleson and Patrick Edwards - to step up and diversify the Lions’ offense.
Maybe Diddy can help?