The NFL All-Disappointment Team

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.

DeSean_Jackson5. 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.

Jimmy_Graham4. 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.

Peyton_Manning3. 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.

C._J._Anderson2. 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.

DeMarco Murray1. 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.

Note: All stats used in this article are from pro-football-reference.com. All images are from commons.wikimedia.org.

Advertisements

Murray made a major mistake

DeMarco MurrayDeMarco Murray has to be reconsidering his decision to leave Dallas right now.

Murray jumped ship on the Cowboys after the 2014 season, despite winning the Offensive Player of the Year Award and leading the league in both rushing yards and yards from scrimmage. He credited his decision to feeling undervalued by the Cowboys. He wanted to be paid an exorbitant amount of money, which Dallas could not provide after signing Dez Bryant to a huge deal.

So Murray went north to the City of Brotherly Love to join Chip Kelly and the new look Eagles. People were excited to see Murray in the fast paced offense and Murray was pleased to be paid like the franchise running back he thought he deserved to be.

The signing made a ton of sense for the Eagles as well. They had just traded their lead back LeSean McCoy to Buffalo in exchange for Kiko Alonso. However, Philly also went out and signed Ryan Mathews as well from San Diego to add to the stable of runners that featured Kenjon Barner and Darren Sproles.

I had concerns about Murray in this new Eagles offense. First, he was going from a team that sold out on the run to a team that loved to throw the ball. He also went from having the league’s best offensive line to a line that featured two new starters. Murray also had 390 carries in 2014 and no running back has excelled the following season after toting the ball that many times.

Demarco_MurrayHeading into tonight, I was apprehensive as to how Murray would play. I figured he would have decent success though as the Eagles faced the Falcons who had the league’s worst defense a year ago. I kind of expected though that he would see fewer touches because they wanted to pace him for the season and because both Mathews and Sproles would vulture some carries.

However, I hardly expected that Murray would only run the ball eight times in the game. I was shocked even more that he only picked up nine yards on those eight carries. He did catch the ball four times but only picked up 11 yards there. So on the night, Murray finished with a miserable 1.67 yards per touch. That is a far cry from a season ago when he averaged 5.03 yards per touch.

He still scored twice but both times were in short yardage situations. You also cannot count on him scoring two touchdowns every week. Without that second touchdown, the stat line seems a lot less impressive. He will no doubt get opportunities to score in the Philly offense. He just cannot think he will put up the same ground production.

Obviously, it is a very small sample size for Murray and the Eagles but it was not an encouraging start. Either way, Murray made the wrong call when he chose which team. He obviously got paid more but by putting his pride ahead of his production. There is no way Murray will every be as productive as he was going away from Dallas. It was the best spot in the league for a running back. The defense was sturdy and the offense often got them leads early on. That led to plenty of situations for Murray to run the clock behind a bulldozing offensive line.

The Eagles on the other hand, tend throw the ball a ton and Murray has never been known for being a premier pass catcher. That means that Kelly will often sub him off on obvious passing downs. The offensive line also isn’t as reliable. There is just no way Murray is in a better situation. His wallet is just a bit more swollen. He passed up the chance to make a title run with the Cowboys, who, had they retained Murray, would be a popular pick to win the NFC.

He could go on to have a really good year, but in my mind, unless he eclipses his numbers from last year or the Eagles go deeper into the playoffs than the Cowboys, I will definitely chalk this up as a selfish mistake by DeMarco Murray.

Determining the NFL MVP

Week 17 concludes the NFL season tomorrow and usually by this point, we all have a good sense of who the league MVP will be. For example, last year it was obvious that Peyton Manning would be named the most valuable player following his record-breaking performance where he topped the single season passing yards and passing touchdown records. Manning is still in the mix this year but it definitely not as clear-cut. I figured it would be fun to have a breakdown of some of the candidates for this year’s award.

We will stick with the reigning MVP from a year ago and start with Manning. The Broncos quarterback began the season right where he left off in the previous one (well minus the Super Bowl) and looked like he was on his way to his sixth MVP award. He averaged 305 yards and 3 touchdowns per game over the first seven he played. Then the Broncos visited New England and Peyton had his worst performance of the season at that time. In the seven games since the trip to Foxboro, Peyton has averaged only 269 yards and 2 touchdowns per game. Those are still good numbers, but they do not scream MVP either. Not to mention after throwing only three interceptions in the first seven games, he has thrown 12 in his last eight appearances. Sure Manning is still in the conversation but I do not think he is a legitimate contender this season. He does have a game against Oakland tomorrow, which he beat up to the tune of 340 yards and 5 touchdowns, but I do not think he will repeat the performance.

To another former league MVP, Aaron Rodgers might have the best chance to win this year’s trophy. He has been nothing but efficient so far this year, save two games in New Orleans and Buffalo. Rodgers got off to a “rocky start” or about as rocky as it ever gets for the Packers’ quarterback. Rodgers only has two games this year where he has thrown two interceptions. He has never thrown more than that all year and only has five in total on the season. Rodgers has also been the focal point of an offense that averages the second most points per game behind only the Patriots. The Packers’ game against Detroit tomorrow could be crucial to his MVP chances. He struggled the first time he played the Lions throwing for only 162 yards and 1 touchdown in a loss. Putting up a good performance against one of the best defenses in the league could cement Rodgers as the front-runner for the award.

It is time to look at the surprise of this year’s MVP race, Tony Romo. If I had told you this time last year that Romo would be a top candidate for this year’s award, you would have laughed at me. Romo has had a very good campaign though and has lead what many felt was a talent deprived Dallas Cowboys team to an 11-4 record so far this year. The things that stand out for Romo are his league leading completion percentage (70.3) his league leading yards per attempt (8.49) and his league leading quarterback rating (114.1). The things that hold Tony back are his yards per game average of 243, which ranks 18th in the league and the existence of Demarco Murray. Murray has rushed for the most yards in the league by over 400, which puts a bit of a damper on Romo’s campaign for most valuable player with teammate who has stolen a lot of the spotlight and offensive production. Still, Romo has a great touchdown to interception ratio (4:1) and has been stellar in the month of December. I think heading into the final week of the season, Romo is Rodgers’ greatest competition for the award.

We have a defensive player on this list as well. J.J Watt is having a season to remember, mainly due to the highlight reel has put on which includes two defensive scores and three offensive touchdown catches. Watt has been great though on the defensive side of the ball. He has recorded the most tackles by a defensive lineman this year, tied with Jason Pierre-Paul at 72. The Texans’ superstar also ranks second in sacks, just a half sack behind the league leader with 17.5 on the year. Watt also has the most pass deflections by a defensive lineman with ten. He has additionally racked up three forced fumbles and a league-high five fumble recoveries. The issue is that Watt has not done enough to even guarantee that his team will be in the playoffs. It is hard as a defensive player to make such a huge impact that you can carry your team. Watt definitely has my vote for defensive player of the year but I do not think he will be the league MVP.

I am including one darkhorse candidate as well who has not really garnered much media attention as an MVP option but I think he deserves to be in the conversation. LeVeon Bell has been the most complete back in the NFL this season. He rushed for over 1300 yards, caught 77 passes for 774 yards and scored 11 total touchdowns. His 1341 rushing yards rank second only behind Demarco Murray. His 77 receptions are tied for 21st among all players, not just running backs, and are the most by any back. His 774 receiving yards also rank second only behind Matt Forte among running backs. His 4.8 yards per carry land him third among players with more than 200 attempts. Bell also has not fumbled the ball this season. So, the guy never turns the ball over and he has generated more yards from scrimmage than any other player except Murray, by only 35 yards mind you. Bell racked up over 225 yards of offense and accounted for 3 total touchdowns the last time he met the Bengals. If he can even come close to reciprocating those numbers, he has a chance at being in the conversation for MVP.

There are other players you can make cases for in the MVP race, (most notably Tom Brady or Murray) but these are the ones I think have the best chance to win it. It will be interesting to see how Week 17 affects this tight race. I am curious to know who you think should be the MVP. Feel free to comment and tell me why. Enjoy watching on Sunday.