SI's All-Prove It Team: Players under pressure to shine in 2015by Chris Burke SI.comPosted: Tue Aug. 11, 2015Patience is not a virtue the NFL possesses in abundant supply. From rookies to high-priced veterans and everyone in between, the window for a player to prove he belongs does not stay open for long.Who needs to step up this season? Our annual All-Prove It Team shines the spotlight on 15 players:Sam Bradford, QB, Eagles: No pressure, Sam, but the fate of the 2015 Eagles and possibly that of Chip Kelly as an NFL coach and personnel man rest on your shoulders. Or is it on your knees?As part of the Great Chip Kelly Rebuild™, Philadelphia acquired Bradford in a trade with the Rams, fully expecting the former No. 1 pick to push its offense to the next level. Talent-wise, Bradford may be capable of doing so. Unfortunately, his history of injuries—including his latest torn ACL, which cost him the entire 2014 season—makes it tough to know which Bradford will show up.Bradford also has the little business of his next contract to hold his attention. Recent reports had the Eagles and their new QB working on a short-term extension, although nothing has yet been finalized.Two seasons ago, the NFL got a glimpse of how Kelly's offense can help a quarterback when Nick Foles threw 27 touchdown passes to just two interceptions. Last season, the combination of Foles and Mark Sanchez showed why Kelly needed a better option to make his system work. Bradford could be the guy, and he has to be if the Eagles are to contend in the NFC East.Tavon Austin, WR, Rams and Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings: Two players taken 21 picks apart at the 2013 draft (Austin No. 8 and Patterson No. 29), who as of yet have not come close to meeting the hype. Austin was close to a non-entity in the St. Louis offense last season, catching just 31 passes for 242 yards. Patterson did not fare much better: 33 receptions, 384 yards and one touchdown.Both actually have been far more effective as return men than receivers. That's especially true for Patterson, who was a 2013 Pro Bowler and All-Pro after leading the NFL with a 32.4 yards-per-kick-return average.Is either player capable of more? Austin appears to be in better position right now—coach Jeff Fisher recently told SI's Don Banks that he expects Austin's production to increase and that Foles could be key to force-feeding Austin the ball. Austin and Patterson are running out of chances with their current teams.Cary Williams, CB, Seahawks: In order to pay the likes of Marshawn Lynch, Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner, Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman, Seattle has had to let a few complementary pieces walk. Cornerback Brandon Browner was one such case, following the 2013 season, and Byron Maxwell signed a lucrative deal with Philadelphia this past off-season.Swapping locales with Maxwell was Williams, a 6'1" corner coming off a miserable season as an Eagle. His contract (three years, $18 million) is less a concern for Seattle than his ability to get the job done. If he or Tharold Simon (currently sidelined by off-season shoulder surgery) cannot thrive opposite Richard Sherman, the Seahawks' secondary could lose some of its mystique.DJ Fluker, OT, Chargers: The 2014 season was a struggle for Fluker, who allowed more sacks (seven) and more hurries (36) than any other Chargers offensive lineman. If his pass protection continues to falter, Fluker could be ticketed for a move inside with ex-Bronco Orlando Franklin kicking out to tackle. On paper, San Diego's offense looks quite formidable, with Franklin and rookie running back Melvin Gordon among the additions to what already was a solid unit. Fluker is one of the few question marks headed into 2015.Cortez Allen, CB, Steelers: Of the 108 cornerbacks that played at least 25% of their defense's snaps last season, Allen graded out No. 103 on Pro Football Focus. After signing a $26 million extension in September, Allen lost his starting job in October and then landed on injured reserve after breaking his thumb in November.The Steelers want him to rejoin the starting lineup this season, but they've also made alternate plans. They used a second-round pick on CB Senquez Golson (his 2015 status is in doubt due to a shoulder injury), then recently traded for ex-Eagles corner Brandon Boykin. The latter has done his best work in the slot, but he is an option to move outside if Allen flops again.Michael Crabtree, WR, Raiders: Believe it or not, Crabtree is still just 27 years old. There may be something left in the tank after all, even if it did not look that way last season.Three years ago, Crabtree was an 1,100-yard receiver, but a torn Achilles prior to the 2013 season changed the situation. He returned for five games that season and played a full slate last year but was sluggish, at best. Oakland believes he can regain some of his old form—for now, Crabtree is slotted in as a starter alongside rookie Amari Cooper. Crabtree's contract, however, is of the prove-it variety: one year, $3 million.Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, Giants: One of the oddest situations in recent NFL history. Pierre-Paul wanted a long-term extension from the Giants, received the franchise tag instead, then blew off one of his fingers in a Fourth of July fireworks accident. Only this week did he finally speak with coach Tom Coughlin again, ending a one-sided standoff.Who knows when Pierre-Paul might be ready to return to the field? When he does, he'll still be subject to the franchise tag, which would mean a nice payday this season ($14.8 million) but free agency next off-season. If Pierre-Paul has any hope of scoring that lucrative, multi-year deal, he's going to need to silence a bevy of doubts.Jairus Byrd, S, Saints: Byrd was the Saints' big score last off-season, signing a six-year, $54 million deal to join a defense that believed it was set up for big things. He played four games before being shut down, and the Saints posted a 1–3 mark in those outings, allowing an average of 27.5 points.Bigger things are expected in Year Two, but Byrd opened training camp on the PUP list as he eased back from last season's knee injury, with no firm return date in sight. Should Byrd's 2015 season unfold in similar fashion to '14, he would enter the conversation as one of the most disappointing free-agent signings ever.Matt Kalil, OT, Vikings: Minnesota's former first-rounder underwent surgery on both knees this off-season and added upwards of 15 pounds, all in hopes of rebounding from his train wreck 2014 season. Kalil committed more penalties (12) and allowed more sacks (12) and QB hurries (36) than any other Viking, by far. This is a team with playoff aspirations, so should Kalil falter again early, a change at left tackle—perhaps in the form of rookie T.J. Clemmings—would not be far off.Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers: Martin made the Pro Bowl as a rookie back in 2012, thanks to a brilliant 1,926-total yard, 16-touchdown season. He has 1,080 yards and three touchdowns combined in the two seasons since.A shoulder injury limited Martin to just six games in 2013, and he was banged up throughout much of the '14 campaign, too. Now, with free agency approaching, Martin is penciled in again as the Buccaneers' starting back. He reportedly has shed some weight—around 15 pounds or so, down to 210. Will the change help?Tampa Bay declined the fifth-year option on Martin's rookie contract, meaning he could hit the open market come next March. Teams are extremely wary of committing to veteran running backs as it is, so another injury-plagued season would limit Martin's appeal.
You haven't made your statement very clear. But if you are saying he is done, as in his pro career is over, you have another thing coming. Martin will sign somewhere and play a role on some team in some capacity. If you are saying he is done, as in his days as a Buc are numbered, well, I couldn't agree more. Let's say Martin goes out and has a season like he had in 2012. In that case, he will command way too much money in FA to retain. On the flip side, if the guy goes out there and is just mediocre all season, there is no way Lovie Smith will want him around. To me, Lovie Smith seems like a coach who likes to find & develop young RBs. He will sign another rookie (or two) next offseason and want Sims to assume the lead role.In either case, Martin comes on the cheap this year so the gamble to start him is low risk. Just my 2...
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