NFL Spotlight: Players to Watch

Buccaneers Starting QB Josh McCown

The 35-year-old veteran put on a show last season, filling in for Bears QB Jay Cutler. McCown started six games, stepping into two more games that Cutler exited early from. Granted, he was surrounded by elite weapons in Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Matt Forte, the quarterback threw a trio of 300-yard games while rating above 90 in every start. This guy wasn’t in the league in 2012, today he is starting for the Buccaneers and grooming Mike Glennon. Now he has targets in Vincent Jackson and rookie Mike Evans, with workhorse Doug Martin in the backfield. The transition form the NFC North to the NFC South doesn’t get any easier: Carolina won the division, and New Orleans reached the postseason as a wildcard.

Chiefs #1 WR Dwayne Bowe

Kansas City may be going back and forth about whether Bowe is a bust or not. Word is that the big target dropped a dozen pounds this off-season. Every receiver drops passes, the issue with the possession receiver is that he doesn’t get much separation to even get thrown to. Watching the games, defenses aren’t shading extra coverage to his side of the field, nor are they double-teaming him. All eyes will continue to be focused on All-Pro RB Jamaal Charles, this is the year Bowe has to tke advantage and flourish in Andy Reid’s offense. Alex Smith will hand the rock and dink the ball to Charles all season long, he’ll move the chains with his feet some too, but they need Bowe to be a #1 receiver to even have payoff hopes again. If he has another so-so season, I would not be shocked if the Chiefs moved on from the former first round pick.

Cowboys #2 QB Brandon Weeden

Sure, Tony Romo is a Pro Bowler at the helm of “America’s Team.” Romo is also coming off a serious back surgery, and even though he’s probable to return to camp in a couple weeks, Weeden the backup could have a golden opportunity. We all know Romo is tough, but sometimes being that guy means you take extra risks that make you miss games. Weeden was a first round pick of the Cleveland Browns, who he just parted ways with before joining the Cowboys. The offense isn’t much to talk about beyond receiver Dez Bryant. RB DeMarco Murray missed time every season, the offensive line is slowly improving but inconsistent up to this point, and tight end Jason Witten looks 32 years of age despite his grit. Weeden should expect to get snaps during the season and possibly start, maybe the former first rounder can give Jason Garrett’s offense a shot in the arm in a wide-open NFC East.

Eagles #3 WR Jordan Matthews

The rookie from Vanderbuilt is quickly turning heads in Philly. Right now he is behind Riley Cooper, who could very well be a one-hit wonder or merely a system player, and Jeremy Maclin, who is returning from a knee injury. Matthews is catching everything thrown his way, and the 4-year college wideout looks well-rounded. His route running is said to be polished, and he looks fearless across the middle making catches in traffic. Matthews will get snaps in the slot but also push Cooper and Maclin, he will definitely cut into snaps on the outside throughout the year. He may be entrenching himself as a starter later in the year or heading into the following season.

Bills #3 RB Bryce Brown

This kid broke out a coupe years ago, back in Philadelphia spelling LeSean McCoy. His struggles last season led to him being traded to Buffalo, which could be a good thing. The two-headed backfield that has ranked the ground game near the top for a few years, well they aren’t the most durable players. Fred Jackson can still take the pounding, but not getting double-digit touches every week for an entire season at age 33. C.J. Spiller is the exciting home-run threat with the moves and speed to thrust his name to elite potential, but he too has missed games since coming into the league. Insert Brown, he’s flashed his talent and although the plan is to feature Spiller with 20 touches per game, he was “overused” at 15 touches on average last year. When Brown runs between the tackles, he tends to bounce outside a little too much. Opportunities will be there for him, it’s a long season and the guys in front of him are known to get sidelined.