The NFL is an ever-changing playing field. Players adapt. Coaches adapt. The game adapts. Each season is different and it takes a special kind of athlete to keep up with the changes.
We’ve heard so much about the players who are destined for breakout seasons, but we haven’t quite thought about those primed for a major collapse.
The bottom line is these five players who were stars in 2014 will regress during the coming season. They will not put up the same production as they did a year ago.
5. DeSean Jackson, Washington
Well he obviously isn’t able to produce with a hamstring injury, but let’s not pretend that is the reason why DeSean Jackson will regress in 2015.
Jackson finished last season with over 1,100 yards receiving. That was due in large part to his absurd 20.9 yards per catch. That number would be very tough for him to reproduce this season even if Washington had a competent quarterback under center.
If Washington’s first game was any indication, it looks like it will be focusing more on keeping the ball on the ground this year. Jay Gruden’s team ran the ball more than anyone other than the 49ers. That does not bode well for Jackson.
4. Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks
Viewed as one of the biggest moves of the offseason, Jimmy Graham was supposed to be a major asset to this Seahawks offense.
Graham has immense talent but he also had plenty of opportunities to catch the ball in New Orleans. In his five years in the Bayou, Drew Brees finished in the top three in passing attempts every season. Meanwhile, since 2012, when Russell Wilson entered the league, Wilson has attempted 727 fewer passes than Brees.
Marshawn Lynch is the centerpiece of the offense in the Pacific Northwest and Graham’s presence does not change that. I do not think he will replicate the production he had last year in New Orleans. He simply will not have enough opportunities to produce at that level.
3. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Peyton doesn’t need to be his vintage self for the Broncos to make the playoffs. This defense has shown through two games that it more than capable of holding its own and winning Denver football games.
Already, Manning has thrown already two pick-sixes on the year and his completion percentage is down to 59. His yards per game average is down by roughly 80 yards as well. His throws are no longer as crisp, which makes you wonder how much longer he can really hold up.
He is still Peyton Manning, and looked it at the end of Thursday’s game, so he will have a decent year. By his own standards though, he will definitely finish below average.
2. CJ Anderson, Denver Broncos
Say hello to the 2015 version of Montee Ball. Anderson is following very closely in his predecessor’s footsteps. He had a great run to end 2014, averaging about 96 yards per game during the second half of the year. Everyone figured that it would carry over into this season.
However, through two games this year, Anderson has amassed 56 yards on the ground on a meager 2.3 yards per carry.
Denver, for as long as I can remember, tends to ride the hot hand in their backfield. We’re already seeing Ronnie Hillman vulture carries from Anderson and it’s only been two weeks. Anderson might have a few good weeks here or there but he will not consistently be a bellcow runner that the Broncos can rely on with confidence.
1. DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia Eagles
Murray was great last season because of his dependability. He averaged 5.03 yards per touch and thrived on 28.1 touches per game. However, Monday night saw Murray struggle to 1.67 yards per touch on just 12 touches. That is far from dependable.
There is simply no way that Murray replicates his production from a season ago. It would have been hard if he had stayed in Dallas running behind the league’s best offensive line. Now, he doesn’t even have those Pro Bowl blockers clearing the way.
I doubt Murray will eclipse 1,000 yards rushing this season. The Eagles threw the ball 52 times on Monday and kept it on the ground 16. That play calling is not conducive to Murray being a productive running back.