Each year the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award is given to a player that has performed at a high level after overcoming adversity in the form of performance, injury, or even a return to the league. Quarterbacks Jimmy Garappolo and Josh Rosen seemingly would have a leg up heading into the 2019 season, while incoming New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell has his own strong chance of earning the award after a year away from the game.
From the Green Bay Packers’ perspective, a pair of players on each side of the ball could also state their cases for this year’s award.
Offensively, Jimmy Graham could be a candidate for more targets and a higher contribution in the Packers’ passing game. But his teammate, Geronimo Allison provides the better option for Comeback Player of the Year. Allison was off to a productive 19-catch, 289-yard, two-touchdown start to the 2018 season before injuries (concussion and then groin) slowed him in week four and eventually sidelined him for good after week eight.
But Allison had reeled in a handful of 20-plus yard receptions prior to the injuries while becoming a favorite target of Aaron Rodgers. He is in line for an enhanced role from the slot this season that should only help that stat line. One of Green Bay’s most veteran receivers at this point in time, Allison’s understanding of the offense to find soft spots in coverage and his big frame to catch a ball in traffic could lead to a breakout season in that new role. That becomes especially true if the injury sustained by fellow receiver Equanimeous St. Brown in Thursday night’s game against Oakland is a long-term one.
Defensively, if healthy (and that is a big if), Kevin King is a legitimate contender for the award. King has played in just 15 total games since being drafted with the first pick of the second round two years ago and has one lone interception. Yet, King, who is close to returning to action after another injury this camp, earned rave reviews when on the field this summer. His size and athleticism is rare for the position and King’s length in particular can lead to a lot of pass breakups and opportunities for plays on the ball that other cornerbacks just cannot make.
King is an obvious choice to gain playing time on the side of the field opposite Jaire Alexander with Tony Brown and Tramon Williams covering the slot. With Alexander proving capable of being a lockdown corner at times last season, it is likely King could see a lot more passes thrown to his side of the field in 2019. If so, King could see a quick rise in reputation and turnovers if he can capitalize on the attention paid to him.
Admittedly, a quarterback or recognizable skill position player like Bell will be the front-liners for the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. But if they can get and stay healthy, there is no reason Allison and King cannot make a run for the award as well. If they do, both sides of the ball for the Packers will be better for it in 2019.