Sometimes it’s hard to discern differences between the “Most Improved Player” versus “Comeback Player of the Year”, but they are different categories. Usually the latter points to someone coming back from injury to play quality football the following year, but there are exceptions.
Remember Jon Kitna’s 2003 season? He wasn’t injured in 2002, but because he improved so heavily in just one year, he won the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award. Both returning from injury and playing better after a subpar are the criteria for this award, so cast your vote and sound off on your winner for these Bengals’ nominees.
William Jackson: The biggest example of a nominee from this list returning from a 2016 injury is in Jackson. He missed his entire rookie season with a shoulder injury and it didn’t seem as if he’d get much playing time in 2017.
Well, injuries and his eye-opening performances paved the way for talk of him starting this season. He had a pick-six on Aaron Rodgers and 14 passes defended. Four of those came against the Steelers and Antonio Brown, as he proved to be able to lock down one of the best receivers in the league.
Tyler Kroft: The three-year veteran missed a couple of games in 2016 because of injury, and even though Tyler Eifert was injured throughout most of last season, Kroft still took a back seat to C.J. Uzomah. He was essentially a non-factor in the offense last year, as evidenced by his 10 catches and zero touchdowns.
Eifert went down with injury once again this year, but Kroft became one of the most reliable weapons in the Bengals’ offense. He had 42 catches for 404 yards and seven scores—good for second-highest on the team.
Darqueze Dennard: It finally seems as if the former first round pick is shaping into a solid NFL veteran. There was evidence of Dennard turning the corner in 2016, but he didn’t log an interception and had just one pass defended.
In 2017, Dennard had two interceptions (one for a pick-six), two sacks and six passes defended. He also logged 59 total tackles—which is over two times better than his career-best.
Michael Johnson: Going into this season, many fans wanted to see Johnson become a salary cap casualty, after getting just 3.5 sacks and 32 tackles in 2016. These numbers weren’t great for a full-time starter playing most of the downs on defense.
The Bengals’ coaching staff took Johnson off of the field a bit more in 2017, while also kicking him inside for effectiveness. In less snaps, Johnson had five sacks and 35 total tackles this past season.
Randy Bullock: The veteran kicker has bounced around the league over the past few seasons, but ended the 2016 season with the Bengals. He was re-signed and won the kicking job in the preseason, even though he didn’t have a fantastic three games with Cincinnati in 2016.
Bullock hit 90 percent of his field goal attempts this year (18-of-20), while also hitting 31-of-33 extra points. He was 5-of-6 on field goals last year, with the lone miss being a potential game-winner on Christmas Eve against the Texans.
Who gets your vote for the Bengals’ Comeback Player of the Year?
This poll is closed
CB William Jackson
TE Tyler Kroft
CB Darqueze Dennard
DL Michael Johnson
K Randy Bullock