I won't lie: All three of the Washington Redskins that I can see falling off in 2012 are extremely obvious candidates to lose ground. The problem is that it's a young, improving roster with few veterans in the range of decline.
It would be just as easy to lazily give you more controversial names like Barry Cofield or DeAngelo Hall, but I honestly don't see those guys sliding this season.
So I guess this is a good thing for 'Skins fans. They have contingency plans already in place for two of these three players, and the other one seems to be immortal.
Is there a more effective 37-year-old in football than the super-consistent and reliable London Fletcher?
Remember back when the versatile but undersized linebacker went undrafted, back in like 1973, and everyone said he just didn't have the physical ability to be great?
Fourteen years into his over-achieving career, Fletcher has yet to miss a single game. His production hasn't dipped more than a tad, and he's earned Pro Bowl berths each of the last three seasons (after being a perennial snub for nearly a decade).
Thus, the only reason Fletcher makes this list is his age, combined with the lack of tread on his tires.
He signed a new contract this offseason, and he sets the tone on defense, but you'd have to think that his ridiculous tackle numbers will drop off soon.
Maybe, with the Redskins able to count on Perry Riley more in 2012, this'll be the year for Fletcher to take a step back.
Again, there are signs pointing to Santana Moss actually experiencing a revival in 2012. After all, he finally has enough support in the receiving corps and at quarterback to remove some of the pressure. Also, it looks like the Redskins are still leaning toward using him as a starter opposite newcomer Pierre Garcon.
Plus, he's apparently 15 pounds lighter this year.
Still, Moss is 33 now, and he's struggled quite a bit the last few years. A broken hand forced him to miss games last year for the first time since 2007, and his trademark speed has faded.
In all likelihood, 1,000-yard seasons are securely in Moss' past. And if he isn't careful, a crowded, deep receiving corps could bury him. It's still not a certainty that he makes the roster.
The last time Chris Cooley played a full season, in 2010, he caught 77 passes, accumulated 849 yards and was one of the most productive tight ends in football. The problem is that the soon-to-be 30-year-old has missed large chunks of the last two seasons, and he's quickly losing ground to younger, more talented tight ends in Fred Davis and Niles Paul.
Like Moss, he's lost weight and is apparently completely healthy now, but it might be too late for Cooley.
Fred Davis is 26 and is entering his prime. Had he not been suspended four games last year, Davis probably would have gone over the 1,000-yard mark. And Paul, who's converting from wide receiver, is probably more athletically gifted than either of his tight end peers.
With those two likely to play significant or semi-significant roles in 2012, where does that leave Cooley? His roster spot is far from guaranteed at this point. And even if he does make the cut and stay healthy, don't expect him to be enough of a factor to regain his 2010 form.