Posted by Andy Benoit
With the first quarter of the NFL season in the books, several big name players will be returning from league-mandated four-game suspensions. The headliner, of course, is Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers relied on three different quarterbacks and wound up going 3-1 without their star.
Santonio Holmes returns to a Jets offense that’s riding a three-game winning streak and has put up big passing numbers in two of those games. Holmes will replace Jerricho Cotchery in the starting lineup and instantly become Mark Sanchez’s primary deep target. (Holmes is also a spectacular route runner who can play underneath.)
Brian Cushing returns to a Texans defense that is 3-1 but getting gashed through the air. Cushing is an assertive blitzer who can defend tight ends in the flats. He won’t fix Houston’s problems, but he could at least alleviate them.
There are also two smaller name players of significance coming back. The Titans will have brash outside linebacker Gerald McRath bolster their linebacking depth. McRath is a tad inconsistent in the open field but he’s a better athlete than veteran Jamie Winborn at this point. Expect McRath to start at some point, if not right away.
Supple second-year tight end Shawn Nelson returns to a Bills offense that pretty much hasn’t existed through four games. Nelson, thanks to fluid agility, has star potential, though it’s a question whether he can stay focused and be properly utilized in Chan Gailey’s offense.
The underlining story of these suspension is that the teams of the three stars – Roethlisberger, Holmes and Cushing – all went 3-1 during this early stretch.