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NFL comeback candidates: Saquon Barkley among veterans who could experience resurgence in 2024

Written by on June 15, 2024

Established veterans returning to their previous star form — it doesn’t happen often in the NFL, but when it does, it’s a huge boost for any team. Which players who labored through tough, relatively unproductive seasons last year are aligned to rebound in 2024? 

Before I begin, I did not include players who simply were injured for all or most of 2023. Can’t cop out like that. These are players who struggled for other reasons. Alright, let’s get to the list. 

Samuel’s hardly been a second-round bust in the NFL. And, heck, he began his time as a professional receiver less than a month after his 21st birthday back in 2017, which in NFL years is like four decades ago. 

But his time in Washington, like many with him there, was a disappointment production-wise, and it wasn’t entirely his fault. In 2021, Samuel battled through a litany of injuries. Then the past two seasons, he hovered in the 60-catch, 600-yard range. At nearly 6-foot and 200 pounds with 4.31 speed and high-end explosiveness, obvious jet-sweep, backfield, and pre-snap alignment versatility, Samuel can be much better than a 60-catch, 600-yard wideout in this league. 

Now he’ll catch passes from one Josh Allen, who’s been the QB1, QB1, QB2, and QB1 in fantasy football the past four seasons. AND, Samuel enters a Buffalo offense without Stefon Diggs. Only the Chargers have more “available” targets and percentage of targets from 2023 to replace. 

The cherry on top — Samuel will be coordinated by Joe Brady. Why does that matter? With Brady, during the coach’s his first OC NFL gig back in 2020, the former Ohio State star had his finest professional season to date — 77 catches for 851 yards. Samuel is oh so very aligned to have a career resurgence at the ripe age of 28 in Buffalo. 

Barkley nearly reached 1,000 yards last season — which has become a real milestone in today’s NFL — but it came without much efficiency. His 3.9 yards-per-carry average was the second-lowest for a full season the uber-talented runner has accomplished. Heck, in 2021, Barkley averaged a mere 3.7 yards per. And today, that low of a YPC average will absolutely deter any club from running the football. 

But, fortunately for Barkley, bouncing from New York to Philadelphia inside the NFC East means he goes from one of the worst, more porous offensive lines with essentially no continuity to one of the finest blocking collectives in football. Sure, no Jason Kelce will probably lead to some growing pains inside to begin the season, but the Eagles prudently prepared for the post-Kelce era — Cam Jurgens should be able to do many of the same things Kelce did on the move from the center position. 

Last year, D’Andre Swift averaged 4.6 yards per and all of the Eagles reserve runners were over 4.2 yards per. And, vitally, Barkley isn’t technically “old” by NFL running back standards in that he still hasn’t hit the dreaded age-28 season yet. Philadelphia is going to want to run it with Barkley and Jalen Hurts. Often. I expect well over 1,000 yards for Saquon at well north of 4.0 yards per tote in 2024. 

Just a few years ago, Chinn was a prototype. A new-age model for what teams wanted and needed at the safety position. At 6-foot-3 and 221 pounds with 4.45 speed and elite explosiveness traits, Chinn proved capable of doing it all in the back seven. Covering tight ends in man, playing linebacker and halting inside and outside runs, blitzing. He was tremendous as a rookie in 2020, finishing second in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting on the heels of a 117-tackle, five pass-breakup, two-return score season. 

He went over 100 tackles in 2021 but afterward battled injuries and played on a low-level defense without much help — beyond Derrick Brown — around him in Carolina. In his final season with the Panthers, Chinn played on just 27% of the defensive snaps, mostly due to health issues. 

And now he’s part of the Dan Quinn Takeover in Washington under new ownership. And let’s just say Quinn has experience coaching productive safeties in his past, particularly safety-linebacker hybrids like Kam Chancellor, Keanu Neal, and most recently Donovan Wilson and Markquese Bell in Dallas. 

Chinn is only 26 years old. And Washington’s defense will be better than its No. 26 finish in DVOA a season ago — the club has added many serious additions to that side of the ball this offseason. Chinn will be a key element to that improvement in 2024. 

Davis was so incredibly productive in Tampa Bay, it almost got to the point in which it was easy to take him for granted in that secondary. He had 19 pass breakups in his second season the stayed in the double-digit range for the next four seasons before registering nine in 2023. But he did have a pair of interceptions last season, the most since his four-pick 2020 campaign, and while it feels like Davis has played for a decade, he only turns 28 in December. 

The former Auburn lockdown corner certainly played on defenses with quality pass-rush units in Tampa Bay, but most of those were early in his professional career, and we know how strong the marriage is between pass rush and coverage in the NFL. Last year, the Buccaneers had the 21st-best pressure-creation rate at 33.6%. 

His new team, the Lions, were fourth at 41.6%, and Detroit added D.J. Reader at nose tackle this offseason. The once budding superstar cornerback, who dealt with injuries during his downturn, is primed to rebound in 2024 in the Motor City as the club’s No. 1 boundary defender. 

The post NFL comeback candidates: Saquon Barkley among veterans who could experience resurgence in 2024 first appeared on CBS Sports.


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