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The Schein Nine

Robert Griffin III, Sam Bradford among guys who must deliver

It's go time.

As we get set for the unofficial start of summer this Memorial Day weekend, let's turn up the heat on some notable folks across the NFL.

No more underachievement. No more excuses. No more drama. It's time to put up or shut up.

Here's my Schein Nine on eight players -- and one coordinator -- who must take the next step forward in the 2014 season.

1) Robert Griffin III, quarterback, Washington Redskins

He won the power struggle with Mike Shanahan. Now RGIII needs to prove he's worth it.

For the most part, Griffin's rookie year in 2012 was flat-out majestic. But everything went south after RGIII injured his knee down the stretch, eventually blowing it out in a playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks. This set off an overly aggressive -- and ill-fated -- "All in for Week 1" rehab effort. There was the way-too-public timeline for return, the impromptu press conferences and the eventual rush back to playing after barely practicing; it all led to a failed sophomore campaign. RGIII clearly wasn't healthy and never should've started the season under center for the Redskins.

Rock bottom came in December, when Griffin was publically embarrassed by Shanahan; the now ex-coach shut down his star pupil for the final three games of the regular season, handing the reins to backup quarterback Kirk Cousins. RGIII's reputation, on the field and in the locker room, took a major hit.

I love the appointment of Jay Gruden as the Redskins' new head man. Griffin would be wise to listen to his new coach. Griffin also would be wise to be wiser around the press and his teammates.

Was last season a blip or a trend? This is the year when we get an answer.

2) Mike Wallace, wide receiver, Miami Dolphins

Wallace was never worth $60 million; the pact that brought him to Miami was a bad deal for the Dolphins. The purported crown jewel of last year's free agency crop, Wallace is a guy I *first*-guessed long before pen hit paper. And he's one of the many reasons that Jeff Ireland is now a former general manager.

OK, in the interest of fairness, I'll point out that the raw statistics from Wallace's first year in Miami -- 73 catches for 930 yards and five touchdowns -- aren't catastrophic. But that's a shortsighted way to look at this. The truth is, Wallace did a lot of complaining last fall and came down with a case of the yips. While he isn't worth the money -- particularly the $27 million guaranteed -- Wallace is a much better player than what he showed last year. It's time to stop talking and start catching the ball.

3) Trent Richardson, running back, Indianapolis Colts

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I'm willing to give Richardson a semi-pass for last season. I'm sure his head was swimming after the stunning trade away from Cleveland. Suddenly, the second-year pro had to get acclimated to a new playbook (and new teammates) while simultaneously getting past the shock of being tossed aside by a franchise that had selected him with the No. 3 overall pick less than 17 months prior.

Of course, Richardson also had trouble staying on his feet, which is rather problematic for a running back. In 14 regular-season games with the Colts last year, he averaged 2.9 yards per carry. That's gross.

The guy has skills, and he's a nice fit in offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton's blue-collar offense. There is no excuse. It's not hyperbole to say Richardson's career is hanging in the balance. Which makes him similar to ...

4) Sam Bradford, quarterback, St. Louis Rams

When it comes to this former No. 1 overall pick not living up to expectations, you can talk injuries or multiple offensive coordinators. You can reference poor offensive lines and receiving corps.

There's always an excuse for the Bradford apologists, but honestly, it's on Bradford himself. The quarterback hasn't been available, and when he has been on the field, he hasn't played great.

The Rams have talent and excellent coaching. In theory, Jeff Fisher's squad is ready to make a jump. Unfortunately, St. Louis plays in the NFC West -- the best division in the NFL. But hey, this is a results-based industry. If Bradford can't get this team over the hump in 2014, the Bradford era will be over in St. Louis. That's fair.

5) Matthew Stafford, quarterback, Detroit Lions

Detroit rightly fired Jim Schwartz, replacing him with offensive/quarterback guru Jim Caldwell. The Lions then signed receiver Golden Tate in free agency. And in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, they eschewed many talented defenders -- wrongly, in my humble opinion -- to take tight end Eric Ebron. All of that was done for Stafford, a guy I seriously question.

The Lions quarterback makes suspect in-game decisions and throws too many picks. I don't think he's close to being elite. The time is now for Stafford to prove me wrong.

6) Jay Cutler, quarterback, Chicago Bears

On the flip side, I really like the Jay Cutler-Marc Trestman marriage. Signing Cutler to a long-term contract was a no-brainer, as I wrote before the deal was consummated. I believe in Cutler. Now he needs to deliver.

GM Phil Emery was a wizard this offseason, locking up Cutler while vastly improving the defense via free agency and the draft. The offense is loaded with talent. Cutler must continue to work with Trestman and become the top-10 quarterback this organization is paying him to be. If he doesn't, the intensity in the football hotbed of Chicago -- and the heat from media nationwide -- will ratchet up quickly.

This team is ready for prime time. Cutler has to prove he can lead, dominate and get the Bears to the promised land.

7) Morris Claiborne, cornerback, Dallas Cowboys

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When Claiborne was coming out of college, I thought he was going to be fantastic. So did the Cowboys, who traded up to take him with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. He's been adequate, at best, and most certainly not an elite corner. In his first two NFL seasons, Claiborne's play has been spotty and he's battled a bevy of injuries.

Now, to be fair, I should note that Dallas' defense was a complete mess last season, as I touched on earlier this week. I fault former coordinator Monte Kiffin. Cowboys COO Stephen Jones understandably pointed a finger at the front seven on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports." But now, there's a new coordinator and new players up front. This defense, which ranked 30th against the pass, can significantly improve in 2014, but Claiborne has to take that next step. I expect it to happen.

8) Dom Capers, defensive coordinator, Green Bay Packers

I must admit, I am befuddled. I think Capers is a tremendous defensive football coach, and Green Bay has talent on that side of the ball. So why has this Packers unit been a sieve for two of the past three seasons?

Aaron Rodgers is healthy and ready to regain his rightful place as the game's best quarterback. This team is poised to do big things, but ...

... the defense, at the least, has to be adequate. Green Bay added pass rusher Julius Peppers in free agency and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the draft. If the D can't hold up its end of the bargain, the Packers will need a new coordinator.

9) David DeCastro, offensive guard, Pittsburgh Steelers

Everyone once called DeCastro -- a steady, sturdy offensive guard from Stanford -- one of the safest picks of the 2012 NFL Draft. Well, a knee injury claimed his first season and poor play marred 2013.

Pittsburgh hired O-line guru Mike Munchak this offseason. DeCastro must live up to the billing.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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