NFL players on the rise in 2010 -- By Chris Wesseling
Tim Hightower, Cardinals RB
That disparity will only increase with Wells improving his pass protection and receiving skills in his second season. Even if Hightower starts the game, Wells will dominate the backfield as the Cardinals shift to a run-heavy attack in the post-Kurt Warner era.
Santonio Holmes, Jets WR
To make matters worse, he downgraded from one of the league's top five quarterbacks to a below-average passer in an offense heavily tilted to the ground game. While he and Hines Ward shared to the go-to role in Pittsburgh, he'll be battling Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery, and Dustin Keller for passing-game scraps this year.
Brandon Jacobs, Giants RB
The Giants aren't giving him the benefit of the doubt now that he's healthy, though. After taking the majority of first-team camp reps, Ahmad Bradshaw also started the first preseason game. It's Bradshaw, not the behemoth Jacobs, who is expected to open the season as the feature back.
Thomas Jones, Chiefs RB
Jones' counting stats masked an average back who was force-fed during the regular season. While Shonn Greene boasted 20 tackles avoided or broken on 163 attempts, Jones managed just 16 on 377 attempts. He's running on fumes, and the contrast will be stark next to premier playmaker Jamaal Charles.
Derrick Mason, Ravens WR
The second/third receiver role suits Mason at this stage of his career. His receptions have dropped for three successive years, and his catch rate plummeted in 2009. The unsung Mason is no longer capable of holding down the go-to role for a contending offense.
Donovan McNabb, Redskins QB
His offensive line nearly got him killed against the Ravens last week, his wideouts are major step down from DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, and his running game inspires no respect from opposing defenses.
Greg Olsen, Bears TE
If Olsen wants to play starter's snaps, he's going to have to dramatically improve his blocking. The best season ever posted by a Martz tight end was Ernie Conwell's 38/431/4 line in 2001, and 2009 Pro Bowler Vernon Davis was limited to 31/358/2 in the same scheme. The position has been unfailingly neglected at all of Martz's coaching stops
Sidney Rice, Vikings WR
Though Rice has proven that he's a legitimate playmaker with a catch radius suited to Brett Favre's strengths, he's now in danger of missing half the season.
Reggie Wayne, Colts WR
Perhaps more troubling, Wayne recorded just one game over 50 yards in the last six weeks of the regular season while posting his lowest yards per catch (12.6) since 2003. He was also outplayed by Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon, and Austin Collie throughout the playoffs. Not only are those three not going away, they're also joined by a healthy Anthony Gonzalez this year.
Ricky Williams, Dolphins RB
He has more than just the effects of age working against a repeat. Ronnie Brown has already been reinstalled as the starter, pushing Williams back into complementary role as opposed to a starring one.